On This Day 17th December 1538
On 17th December 1538, Pope Paul III published a bull of excommunication against Henry VIII. The original bull had been drawn up on 30 August 1535, but held in abeyance in the hope that Henry would be reconciled to Rome. But, having tasted the power of being the head of both Church and state in England, there was no turning back for the King. The particular act that Paul III cited as provoking the excommunication, was the desecration of the shrine of Thomas a Becket at Canterbury, and the burning of the saint’s bones.
On This Day 6th December 1491
On 6th December 1491 fourteen year old Anne, Duchess of Brittany, was married to Charles VIII of France in completion of the Treaty of Vergers. Anne had inherited the duchy from her father, Francois II, who had spent the greater part of his life trying to protect the independence of Brittany from a France newly resurgent after the misery and costs of the Hundred Years War began to recede. The Regent of France, Anne of Beaujeu, had pursued the policy of her father, Louis XI, to surround and incorporate the various independent fiefs surrounding France and control the mighty feudal princes who still controlled large territories, outside crown control. Brittany became involved in internal French struggles,known as the ‘Mad War’ and following defeat in battle in 1488, Francis had been obliged to submit to France as a vassal. Before his death, Francis had tried to arrange for Anne to marry Maximilian, King of the Romans (later Emperor), and a betrothal had taken place. However, Francis died before the marriage could be completed and the French claimed the right to act as Anne’s feudal overlords. The marriage to Maximilian was annulled and Charles, who was twenty-one, became her husband. The marriage was not happy, and produced no children. Charles died in 1498 after hitting his head on a door, and was succeeded by his cousin Louis d’Orleans, as both king and husband.
On This Day 8th November 1576
On 8th November 1576, the provinces of the Netherlands, regardless of their religious affiliations, signed an agreement whereby the whole of the Netherlands agreed to mutiny against the rule of Philip II of Spain, their hereditary duke. Philip’s great-grandmother, Mary of Burgundy, had inherited the lands from her father, Charles the Bold (or Rash, as he was sometimes termed). Mary had died young, falling from a horse, to be succeeded by her son, Philip, then her grandson, the Emperor Charles V. Charles had been brought up largely in Ghent and was therefore accepted as overlord, even though the day to day running of the Netherlands had been left first to his aunt, Marguerite, daughter of Mary, and then to his sister, Mary of Hungary. By the time Philip, born and brought up in Spain, succeeded, the familial link seemed very tenuous. By the 1570s around half the territories had converted to the Calvinist Reformed faith, whilst the southern areas remained largely Catholic. Whilst Philip came to terms with the leaders of the various provinces, peace did not last long.
In the picture, Anne is shown third from left, her older sister Mary, having died before the window was made for Canterbury Cathedral
This Day 2nd November 1475
On 2nd November 1475, a daughter named Anne was born to Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. She was their sixth child, and fourth daughter. During her childhood, Anne was betrothed to Philip of Burgundy, son of the Emperor Maximilian and his wife, Mary of Burgundy, but her father died before the marriage could take place. Anne was just eight when Edward IV died, and her brother, who was never crowned, disappeared to be replaced by her uncle, Richard III. Anne remained in the sanctuary of Westminster with her mother and sisters, until they were persuaded to emerge on receiving promises that, despite having been branded as illegitimate, they would be treated honourably by their uncle.
Richard III arranged a marriage for Anne with Thomas Howard, the grandson of Richard’s close supporter, John Howard, Duke of Norfolk. The marriage had not taken place by the time of Richard’s death at Bosworth in 1485, but was eventually solemnised in 1495 when Anne was twenty, and her husband a couple of years older. Anne and Thomas had several children, but none survived childhood. Anne was frequently in attendance on her sister, Elizabeth of York, and took part in the christenings of Elizabeth’s children. Anne died in 1511, and was buried in the Howard chapel at Thetford Priory, although, following the Dissolution of the Monasteries implemented by her nephew, Henry VIII, her remains were moved to the church at Framlingham.
On This Day 30th October 1600
On 30th October, 1600 Elizabeth I refused to renew Essex’s monopoly on sweet wine with the words ‘an unruly horse must be abated of is provender that he may be the better brought to managing’. Monopolies were a common way for the Crown to give grants to favored courtiers. As the name suggests, all imports and exports of the product in question were routed through the monopolist’s hands, who was then free to take a percentage of the profits. During the 1590s, the practice of granting monopolies was heavily criticised by the House of Commons as being in restraint of trade. In Elizabeth’s last Parliament she promised to look into the matter, but no changes were made. For Essex, the loss of the monopoly effectively bankrupted him and was a contributing factor in his descent into open rebellion.
On This Day 27th October 1485
On 27th October 1485, Jasper Tudor, uncle of the new king, Henry VII, was created Duke of Bedford, and Henry’s step-father, Thomas Stanley, was given the title of Earl of Derby. The two men had been instrumental in Henry’s victory at Bosworth. Jasper, in particular, had devoted his whole life to Henry’s welfare and had shared his exile in Brittany. Jasper was the second son of Owain Tudor and Catherine de Valois (whose relationship had created a furore in the 1420s – more on that here). He had been created Earl of Pembroke by his half-brother, Henry VI, and on the death of his brother, Edmund, had stepped into the role of protector of Edmund’s widow and child.
Preoccupied with the intermittent warfare of the Wars of the Roses, Jasper had not married, but, not long after being elevated to a Dukedom, he was given the hand of Katherine Woodville, sister of Queen Elizabeth Woodville. This was all part of Henry VII’s plan to bind the Yorkists to his new Tudor dynasty. Katherine had previously been married (very unhappily) to the Duke of Buckingham, whose rebellion against Richard III had cost him his life. Jasper and Katherine had no children, and Jasper died in 1495.
Picture is of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, where Jane is buried
On This Day 24th October 1537
On 24th October 1537, Jane Seymour died at Hampton Court, twelve days after an excruciating labour had brought forth Henry VIII’s heir. The exact cause of her death is uncertain – she did not (despite rumours) have a caesarean section. If she had, she certainly would not have made the immediate progress she did after the birth, being able to sit up in bed and receive visitors after the christening of the baby Edward. Modern research suggests that some of the placenta was left behind, leading to septicaemia. Attended by male doctors, rather than midwives, they may well not have understood that all of the necessary matter had not been expelled and thus did not treat her as more experienced midwives would have done.
Henry mourned his wife sincerely, as did the whole court. The King organised a splendid funeral for her. It was not customary for kings to attend funerals (other than their own!) so he withdrew to mourn in private. The role of Chief Mourner was taken by Jane’s step-daughter Mary, who was originally so upset that the Marchioness of Exeter had to undertake the initial duties. Mary and the other ladies, including Lady Frances Brandon, Marchioness of Dorset, rode slowly behind Jane’s coffin to its burial place at Windsor, where she still lies, Henry by her side.