Tag Archives: Tower of London

On this day in 1536 – Anne Boleyn wrote a letter to Henry VIII from the Tower of London

On 6th May 1536 a letter was sent to King Henry VIII allegedly from Anne Boleyn, the letter was found amongst Cromwell’s belongings after his execution. It is unsure whether the letter was in fact from the Queen or someone else. The controversy comes from the fact that the letter was not in Anne’s handwriting, which is documented elsewhere. There are many arguments for and against whether the letter came from Anne herself. It could easily be explained away that Cromwell had made a copy of the letter and that the letter was different in tone as Anne was bargaining for her life. Others believe that the letter was a forgery and written during the reign of her daughter, Queen Elizabeth I.

Anne’s letter read as follows

To the King from the Lady in the Tower

Sir, your Grace’s displeasure, and my imprisonment are things so strange unto me, as what to write, or what to excuse, I am altogether ignorant; whereas you sent unto me (willing me to confess a truth, and so obtain your favour) by such a one, whom you know to be my ancient and professed enemy; I no sooner received the message by him, than I rightly conceived your meaning; and if, as you say, confessing truth indeed may procure my safety, I shall with all willingness and duty perform your command.

But let not your Grace ever imagine that your poor wife will ever be bought to acknowledge a fault, where not so much as thought thereof proceeded. And to speak a truth, never Prince had wife more loyal in all duty, and in all true affection, than you have found in Anne Boleyn, with which name and place could willingly have contented my self, as if God, and your Grace’s pleasure had been so pleased. Neither did I at any time so far forge myself in my exaltation, or received Queenship, but that I always looked for such an alteration as now I find; for the ground of my preferment being on no surer foundation than your Grace’s fancy, the least alteration, I knew, was fit and sufficient to draw that fancy to another subject.

You have chosen me, from a low estate, to be your Queen and companion, far beyond my desert or desire. If then you found me worthy of such honour, good your Grace, let not any light fancy, or bad counsel of mine enemies, withdraw your princely favour from me; neither let that stain, that unworthy stain of a disloyal heart towards your good Grace, ever cast so foul a blot on your most dutiful wife, and the infant Princess your daughter.

Try me, good King, but let me have a lawful trial, and let not my sworn enemies sit as my accusers and judges; yes, let me receive an open trial, for my truth shall fear no open shame; then shall you see, either mine innocency cleared, your suspicion and conscience satisfied, the ignominy and slander of the world stopped, or my guilt openly declared. So that whatsoever God or you ,ay determine of me, your Grace may be freed from an open censure; and mine offense being so lawfully proved, your Grace is at liberty, both before God and man, not only to execute worthy punishment on me as an unlawful wife, but to follow your affection already settled on that party, for whose sake I am now as I am, whose name I could some good while since have pointed unto: Your Grace being not ignorant of my suspicion therein.

But if you have already determined of me, and that not only my death, but an infamous slander must bring you the enjoying of your desired happiness; then I desire of God, that he will pardon your great sin therein, and likewise mine enemies, the instruments thereof; that he will not call you to a strict account for your unprincely and cruel usage of me, at his general judgement-seat, where both you and my self must shortly appear, and in whose judgement, I doubt not, (whatsoever the world may think of me) mine innocence shall be openly known, and sufficiently cleared.

My last and only request shall be, that my self may only bear the burthen of your Grace’s displeasure, and that it may not touch the innocent souls of those poor gentlemen, who (as I understand) are likewise in strait imprisonment for my sake. If ever I have found favour in your sight; if ever the name of Anne Boleyn hath been pleasing to your ears, then let me obtain this request; and I will so leave to trouble your Grace any further, with mine earnest prayers to the trinity o have your Grace in his good keeping, and to direct you in all your actions.

Your most loyal and ever faithful wife

Anne Bullen

Anne Boleyns letter

On this day in 1596 – Sir Henry Hastings was buried

Sir Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, was born in 1535 in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire to Francis Hastings and his wife Catherine Pole.

Hastings grew up in companionship with the future King Edward VI where they were tutored Richard Cox, John Cheke and Jean Belmain. The tutors provided the boys with an education in humanism, language and history. In 1548 Hastings briefly attended Queen’s College, Cambridge.

On 21st May 1553 Hastings was married to Katherine Dudley, daughter of the Duke of Northumberland, John Dudley. This marriage was arranged through their father’s who were political allies. It was an alliance that would draw Hastings into a family that would be remembered forever.

With the young King Edward VI dying he named his cousin Lady Jane Grey his heir, going against his father’s final act of succession. Lady Jane Grey was also John Dudley’s daughter in law via his son Guildford. Lady Jane’s reign only lasted nine days when Edward’s sister, Mary, claimed the throne.

Hastings backed his father in law in his attempt to keep Jane on the throne and keep the country out of the hands of the Catholic Mary. Dudley and his supporters, including Hastings, found themselves imprisoned in the Tower of London. Hastings was freed after swearing loyalty to Mary and her reign.

With Hastings free he entered into the service of Cardinal Reginald Pole and followed him around the continent to Flanders, Calais and London. They also escorted Philip II of Spain from Spain to England for his marriage to Mary.

When Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1558 Hastings and his family were welcomed into her court and gained their loyalty. Hastings was in attendance at Elizabeth’s first parliament and during his time at court he witnessed the readings of the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity. Elizabeth also named Hastings as a Knight of the Bath. Hastings inherited the title of 3rd Earl of Huntingdon when his father died on 25th January 1560.

Hastings family name would come in to question once again in 1562 when Elizabeth contracted smallpox. Hastings was named as a potential rival heir, through his ancestor George Plantagenet and was favoured by the Protestants and those who were enemies of Mary Queen of Scots. Although he convinced Elizabeth of his loyalty she was sceptical in employing him.

Although Elizabeth no longer had full trust in Hastings, she still used him in important missions. In 1569 he helped George Talbot in escorting Mary Queen of Scots from Wingfield Manor to Tutbury. Hastings would later act as one of the judges in her trial in 1586.

In 1570 Hastings was inducted into the Knight of the Garter and through this in 1572 Hastings was appointed president of the Council of the North where he helped protect Enland’s borders from Scotland.

Whilst in Newcastle in November 1595 Hastings fell ill with a fever and died on 14th December 1595. Elizabeth spent time comforting Hastings wife. As they were childless Hastings had named his nephew Francis as his heir. Hastings was buried on 26th April 1596 at St Helen’s Church, Ashby-de-la-Zouch alongside his nephew, Francis, who died three days after Hastings.

Henry Hastings

On this day in 1601 – Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, is executed

Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, was beheaded on 25th February 1601 after a failed attempt to overthrow Elizabeth I.

Devereux was one of the Queen’s favourites, however they had a fiery relationship, in 1598 Elizabeth refused to grant one of Devereux’s requests and as a result Devereux turned his back on the Queen. Seen as a breach of etiqutte which saw Elizabeth loose her temper and slapped Devereux, who in retaliation reached for his sword. He was soon banished from the court.

A year later he was sent to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, forgiven by the Queen, to help stop an uprising. Devereux failed to fulfil his role y not putting a stop to the rebellion, fighting inrelevant fights and wasting the army’s funds. He also signed a truce with the leader of the rebellion, which caused concern back in England. Concerned at what was being said back in England, Devereux left his troops in Ireland and set off to England, disobeying strict orders from Elizabeth herself. He arrived at Nonsuch Palace on 28th September 1599 and stormed into the Queen’s bedchamber where she was unclothed and without her wig. Devereux was interogated by the Privy Council for five hours the following day to explain his actions. He was placed under house arrest at York House.

By August 1600 Devereux was freed but without his sweet wine monopoly, this was his main source of income. Furious at the Queen taking away his income Devereux began plotting to overthrow the Queen and government and began defending Essex House. On 8th February 1601 Devereux with a small army of just over 100 men carrying swords departed from Essex House on the Strand. They headed into the city via Ludgate Hill where a barricade was placed by a troop under the leadership of Sir John Leveson in an attempt to stop Devereux. Both sides began to fight but when Devereux’s step father, Sir Christopher Blount, was injured he soon retreated back to Essex House only to be arrested and sent to the Tower of London.

Devereux was tried on charges of treason on 19th February and found guilty. Devereux begged to be executed privately away from the baying mobs that executions bring. Standing on the scaffold before the block he removed his cap and coat before kneeling and indicting that he was ready. It took three attempts from the axemen to sever his head before his head was held up to the small audience watching.

Devereux was the last person to be beheaded within the Tower of London.

Robert Devereux

On this day in 1503 – Elizabeth of York is buried in Westminster Abbey

Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and mother to Henry VIII, was buried in Westminster Abbey on 23rd February 1503.

Elizabeth was betrothed to Henry Tudor whilst he was in exile planning his return to England to face Richard III. Henry defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth on 22nd August 1485 and was proclaimed king.

Henry took Elizabeth for his wife on 18th January 1486 with a service in Westminster Abbey. Their marriage united the Houses of York and Lancashire and ended the Wars of the Roses.

Elizabeth died on 11th February 1503 on her 37th birthday, days after giving birth to a daughter, Katherine, who unfortunately also died just a few days after being born. After her death Elizabeth lay in state at the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London before being interred to Westminster Abbey. Henry VII gave his wife a magnificent state funeral and spared no expense.

Elizabeth’s funeral procession began on 22nd February and was led by 200 men and women dressed in black and carrying torches. Behind them followed Elizabeth’s household members and clerics and then came Elizabeth’s coffin on a horsedrawn carriage accompanied by knights and nobles.

Behind the carriage were the Queen’s four sisters on horseback with four other noblewomen in single file each escorted by a gentleman dressed in black damansk. The procession was followed further by noblewomen and members of the royal household.

Following a night resting within the Abbey, masses were said with the Bishop of Lincoln presiding over the final requiem mass. When all the sermons and masses were over the Bishop of London sanctified the grave for the coffin to be lowered into the ground. The Queen’s chamberlain and gentlemen ushers broke their staffs of offie and threw them into the grave to signify the end of their employment in her name.

Henry VII declared that every 11th February a requiem mass was to be sung, bells tolled and 100 candles lit in honour of his Queen.

Work on the Tudor vault in Westminster Abbey had only just begun at the time of Elizabeth’s death and so she could not be interred here, instead she was temporarily laid to rest in a specially built vault made just for her between the high altar and the choir in the Abbey. It was only after the death of Henry VII in 1509 that she was re-interred to her final resting place in the Lady Chapel.

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