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Book review – Lady Katherine Knollys: The Unacknowledged Daughter of Henry VIII by Sarah-Beth Watkins.

The paternity of Lady Katherine Knollys and her brother Henry Carey have long been discussed and debated by historians and enthusiasts alike. Were they the children of Mary Boleyn’s husband William Carey or were they in fact the illegitimate children of King Henry VIII?

Lady Katherine Knollys: The Unacknowledged Daughter of Henry VIII looks at the life of Mary’s daughter and how she grew up in close proximity to the Tudor court and her alleged family.

The book begins with a look at Katherine’s mother, Mary, and her upbringing starting with her time in France in the service of Mary Tudor and her introduction to the Tudor court. It wasn’t long before Mary caught the eye of the King of England and became his mistress at the same time Mary was also married to William Carey. Between being a wife and a mistress to the most powerful man in England any children that were born from her relationship with Henry they would be brought up as her husband’s. Watkins puts forward a strong and easy to understand reason as to why William would be declared their father along with why Katherine would be Henry’s daughter.

If Katherine was Henry’s child then why didn’t he recognise her like he did with his illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy? As Watkins so eloquently puts forward Katherine wasn’t a boy and so would have served no purpose for Henry another reason was that it was not long after Katherine’s birth that Henry began pursuing her mother’s sister, Anne. If Katherine was formally recognised as Henry’s daughter then any children he would have with Anne would be illegitimate due to his past relationship so as it is put forward here it was better to not acknowledge her.

Sarah-Beth Watkins talks through the relationship between Henry and Anne but places the Carey children at the centre of it. With Anne providing for Henry Carey and Katherine at home with her mother where she stayed until she was placed in the new household of Princess Elizabeth. This would be the start of a close relationship that would survive until Katherine’s death.

Watkins has done a great job including many letters and diary entries regarding events that were close to Katherine’s life these add great insight into the type of life Katherine would have had.

Watkins continues through Katherine’s adolescence as a companion to Elizabeth, her mother’s marriage to her new husband William Stafford that caused outrage within her own family and the breakdown of Anne’s marriage with Henry that led to Anne’s execution.

Henry declared Elizabeth illegitimate after Anne’s execution and Katherine was sent to court to serve as maid of honour to Anne of Cleves, a position that was highly sought after and an honour to serve the new Queen. Watkins puts forward the suggestion that Henry was always looking after Katherine and placed her in prestigious roles that would allow him to provide for her.

Watkins navigates the reader and Katherine through the ups and downs of Henry’s court until Katherine marries Francis Knollys and begins her family away from court. Upon her marriage her new husband was well rewarded as well, was this again Henry quietly looking after his family?

Watkins also talks about Katherine’s brother Henry as well and his paternity. Anne provided an education for her nephew at the prestigious Syon Abbey, where the young Henry Carey’s paternity was called into question where his likeness to the King was a talking point. Again Watkins reinforces that Henry was potentially the father to both Carey children but also points out that those that spoke about Carey’s resemblance to the King as words from the anti Boleyn faction who were always out to discredit Henry’s second wife.

The last half of Watkins book covers Katherine’s adult life after the death of her mother, Mary. Katherine and Francis had 14 children and mostly lived away from court until Henry’s death in 1547. With Edward VI on the throne Francis Knollys was knighted and Katherine was now able to go by Lady Knollys.

Life was great for Katherine and the Knollys family. That is until Mary took the throne, with Watkins showing how Katherine was brought up in a detailed and easy to follow manner it is easy to see how her later life was influenced by her upbringing as a Protestant. Being a Protestant meant that they were a target for Mary and the persecution that followed. Watkins shows how the Knollys were forced the flee England for the continent. Katherine and Elizabeth remained in constant communication with Elizabeth writing to Katherine before she left the country. By including the letters it gives an insight into the unique relationship the potential sisters had. With that the Knollys left England and fled to Frankfurt.

Watkins really shows how close the future Queen and Katherine were and with that the book moves into Queen Elizabeth’s reign and how she bought the exiled Protestants home including her closest friend, Katherine. Watkins goes on to show just how much Elizabeth relied on Katherine and how valued Katherine was. Watkins goes to explain how Elizabeth surrounded herself with family but that she could still not acknowledge Katherine as her sister as she would be illegitimate so instead Katherine and Henry were cousins and richly rewarded for it.

As Katherine was moving towards the end of her life Watkins talks about a significant event that happened, Sir Francis was asked to be a custodian of Mary Queen of Scots but Elizabeth would not allow Katherine to go with him. Watkins again includes letters from Francis to Lord Cecil asking to visit his wife time and again. These letters that have been included show how much Katherine meant to her husband.

With the death of Katherine Watkins shows how not only Francis dealt with her death but also Elizabeth who had lost possibly her cousin and companion, if not sister.

Watkins could have easily have left the book with Katherine’s death but she talks about Katherine’s children and their life’s particularly focusing on Lettice Knollys and her marriage to Sir Robert Dudley to the anger of the Queen. Each of the Knollys children are talked about even if there is little to know, this is a great inclusion as it shows the legacy of the Carey and Knollys name.

Watkins has put together a clear and concise account of Lady Katherine Knollys and how she fitted into the court around her with her uncertain parentage. If she was the daughter of Henry VIII then she had a life that was a step away from her siblings who were in and out of the succession and legitimacy. Katherine’s life is an interesting one that often gets overlooked so it is great to see a book dedicated to her in an easy to follow way that includes the key events of her lifetime.

Lady Katherine KnollysLady Katherine Knollys: The Unacknowledged Daughter of Henry VIII by Sarah-Beth Watkins is available now and is published by Chronos Books

On this day in 1560 – Sir Edward Hoby born

Sir Edward Hoby was born on 20th March 1560 to Thomas Hoby and Elizabeth Cooke. Hoby was also the nephew of William Cecil, Lord Burghley and eventually the son in law of Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, Queen Elizabeth’s cousin.

Hoby was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Oxford. With his uncle’s guidance he quickly rose in the Elizabethan court and was sent on many confidential missions as a spy.

Hoby married Elizabeth Paulet, the daughter of William 1st Marquess of Winchester but then in 1582 remarried Margaret Carey, daughter of Elizabeth’s cousin, Henry Carey 1st Baron Hunsdon. The day after his wedding to Margaret he was knighted by the Queen.

In 1584 Hoby was sent on a mission to Scotland with his new father in law and greatly impressed King James VI, later the King of England. He was commended and highly praised in writing by the king and was asked to wear a token of appreciation and their brotherhood. Elizabeth’s disapproval of this relationship was a reason for Hoby to stay away from court for a time.

In July 1588 Hoby was again selected again to check on the progress on the preparation for the Spanish Armada.

Hoby received many accolades serving in Elizabeth’s court some of these included being made a knight of the shire in Berkshire in 1588, justice of the peace for Middlesex in 1591 and constable of Queenborough Castle, Kent in 1597.

Upon the ascension of King James I Hoby was made a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and had his debts wiped cleaned.

Hoby died at Queenborough Castle on 1st March 1617.

Sir Edward Hoby

On this day in 1526 – Henry Carey, Baron Hundson, born

Henry Carey was born on 4th March 1526 to William Carey and Mary Boleyn.

His father died when he was just two years old. With the death her husband Mary found herself in financial difficulty. As Mary’s husband was a close courtier of Henry VIII and herself the King’s former mistress she wrote to the King for help. Henry did what he could and ensured that Mary received financial support from her father and helped further by granting her sister, Anne, wardship of her son Henry. Anne was chosen as she was in a position of financial security that she could help her struggling sister. Anne provided her nephew with the best education with him studying under Nicholas Bourbon, a renowned French poet and a fellow reformer. Anne was beheaded when Carey was only 10 years old.

Henry Carey received many royal appointments during adulthood. It began at the age of 21, in 1547, when he became a Member of Parliament for Buckinghamshire a role he repeated in 1554. Carey was highly honoured when his cousin, Elizabeth, ascended the throne. Elizabeth treated her Boleyn relatives well with Carey’s sister, Catherine, as one of Elizabeth’s closest ladies-in-waiting.

In 1558 Elizabeth created Carey Baron Hundson and he was granted properties in Herfordshire as well as Kent. In 1560 she appointed Carey to the role of Master of the Queen’s Hawks followed a year later by his induction to the Knights of the Garter.

In 1564 Elizabeth appointed Carey Captain of the Gentlemen Pensioners, which essentially meant that the four years that he spent in this role he was the Queen’s personal bodyguard. A role that helped his next appointment in 1568, when he was appointed Governor of Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland. The role of Governor was not an easy one as less than a year in the position the nobles in the North were preparing to rise up against the crown. In February 1560 Carey defeated Lord Dacre, an event that helped bring an end to the rebellion.

As reward for his success Carey was awarded more prestigious positions on 31st July 1574 he became the Keeper of Somerset House, London, Elizabeth’s former residence. In 1577 he became a member of the Privy Council, advising Elizabeth on the politics and running of the country.

In 1585 Carey was granted the role of Lord Chamberlain of the Household, the most senior office in the Royal household. Whilst in this role he became the patron of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the acting company that was the home of William Shakespeare.

Henry Carey died at Somerset House on 23rd July 1596 and was buried in Westminster Abbey on the 12th August. Upon his death he left his family with debt that was acquired at the expense of serving the Queen. Due to this and the love she showed her relatives Elizabeth covered the costs of Carey’s funeral and granted his widow a one off payment along with a yearly pension from her Exchequer along with the keepership of Somerset House for the remainder of her life.

Henry Carey had a life having honours bestowed upon him by his cousin. His life has always been highly talked about from the moment he was born with constant rumours that his father was not William Carey but in fact Henry VIII’s illegitimate son with Mary Boleyn. It is known that Mary was the King’s mistress before he married her sister; Henry had to get a papal dispensation to marry Anne due to his previous relationship with Mary. Historians continue to argue for each side about the paternity of the Carey children. What do you think? Is Henry and his sister Catherine the children of Henry VIII or are they the children of a loving marriage between Mary and her husband William? Comment below with your thoughts.

Henry Carey