On this day in Tudor time…

  

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 in Tudor time…

  
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.

5 surprising Tudor facts

5 surprising Tudor facts

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1) The Tudors wore spectacles

In 1541, the grandmother of Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Katherine Howard, under suspicion for her knowledge of the queen’s pre-marital sexual affairs, broke into coffers belonging to two of the men involved and sent for her spectacles to read the letters that she found. Since she was doing this by candlelight in the middle of the night, it’s not surprising she needed a little help to read – and then burn – these incriminating documents.

Spectacles at this time were usually armless, designed to sit on the bridge of the nose or to be handheld. Although they were useful for reading, they wouldn’t have been particularly helpful for people who needed to wear them all the time. Poor eyesight was common in Tudor England and there was little that could be done about it. The many remedies for eye conditions that can be found in early modern medical recipe books show that people certainly tried to cure themselves – but the vast array of remedies suggests none of them were very effective!

 

2) The official penalty for brawling within the royal court was the loss of a hand

With a court full of young and rowdy men, Henry VIII felt that a deterrent was necessary to control his courtiers, and he chose to make the punishment fit the crime. In 1541 Sir Edmund Knyvett [the eldest son of distinguished courtier and sea captain Sir Thomas Knyvet] had a fight on the tennis court with one of the Earl of Surrey’s servants, Thomas Clere, and landed a punch on Clere’s nose. Knyvett was arraigned for this later in the year and sentenced to lose his hand.

Apparently the royal surgeon would be the one to sever the hand; the king’s mastercook supplied the knife; and the sergeant farrier [the person in charge of providing horses with shoes] the hot iron to sear the wound, while the sergeant of the cellar [the person in charge of the court’s alcohol] supplied alcohol (for the spectators, not the victim).

Knyvett is said to have pleaded that his left hand be cut off, so that he could continue to serve the king with his right. Happily for Knyvett, in the end he was pardoned, but the king put out a proclamation then and there that in future, anyone found brawling within the precincts of the court would definitely lose a hand.

 

3) Elizabeth I could be violent

She may not have borne arms or led an army, but Elizabeth I could be quite violent in a domestic setting. When in a rage, she swore like a trooper and could apparently be heard several rooms away.

Elizabeth was not above abusing her ladies-in-waiting; in 1576, when she discovered that Mary Shelton had secretly married courtier Sir John Scudamore two years previously, she flew into a rage and rained blows on the unfortunate Mary, and according to some sources may have broken her finger.

Elizabeth I wasn’t above throwing things either; there is a story that she once threw a slipper at her spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham. Elizabeth also had no toleration for lack of respect: one day in 1598, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, turned his back on the queen during a heated argument. For this unthinkable breach of court etiquette, Elizabeth promptly boxed his ears, at which point Essex placed his hand on his sword hilt [handle]. Shocked courtiers scrambled to put themselves between him and the queen, and Essex stormed out of the room.

 

4) Tudor aristocrats gave each another some interesting presents

Gift-giving was a key element of the patronage system; if you wanted something done, you gave the relevant person a gift, since this would in theory force them to reciprocate by doing whatever it was that you wanted. Gifts could be very personal, such as jewellery worn by the giver, or clothing.

Food items could also be given as gifts; for example, noblewoman Lady Honor Lisle prided herself on her homemade quince marmalade [quince is a fruit similar in appearance to a pear]. Some food items were rather more exotic, and letters testify to attempts to transport seal and porpoise before they went bad.

Sometimes even live animals were given as gifts. Lady Lisle sought advice on a gift for Anne Boleyn in the 1530s and was told that the queen hated monkeys, but liked spaniels. Plus, Princess Mary (later Mary I) was given a parrot by the Countess of Derby in 1538.

New Year’s Day, rather than Christmas, was the biggest gift-giving day for the Tudors, and nobles competed to give the king or queen the best present. Such gifts usually involved vast quantities of gold and jewels, but were sometimes more inventive: the Duke of Norfolk gave Henry VIII a chess set in 1532, and in 1557 Mary I and her husband, Philip II of Spain, were given “a Map of England, stayned upon cloth of silver in a frame of wood”. It is also said that Elizabeth I’s courtiers indulged her love of clothes with gifts of gowns and fabric.

 

5) All Tudor monarchs, and many aristocrats, adopted or inherited mottos that would be used alongside their personal symbol or ‘badge’ on their servants’ livery [uniform]

These mottos could change to reflect important events or occasions, such as a marriage, and temporary mottos were worn during tournaments.

Some of these mottos are well known: Henry VIII’s ‘Coeur Loyale’ (Loyal Heart) in 1511 after the birth of Prince Henry; ‘Declare, I Dare Not’ in 1526, which is thought to relate to Anne Boleyn; and the royal motto still used by our queen today, ‘Dieu et mon droit’ (God and my right)’. Some mottos are less well known – for example, Mary I’s was ‘Truth, the daughter of time’.

Some Tudor mottos have a peculiarly modern feel. Philip II’s motto when king of Spain was ‘The world is not enough’ – apt for a man who controlled Spain, the Netherlands, parts of Italy, and swathes of Germany! Anne Boleyn used the motto ‘Ainsi sera, groigne qui groigne’, during the Christmas period in 1530, which in modern idiom is more or less ‘Haters gonna hate’ – a clear reference to her intention to marry Henry VIII.

Dr Nicola Clark is an early modern historian specialising in gender and court history at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the University of Chichester. Her book, Gender, Family and Politics: The Howard Women, 1485–1558 is forthcoming with Oxford University Press.

On this day in the midst of Tudor time…

  

On This Day 28th November 1489

On 28th November 1489, Elizabeth of York, Queen of England, gave birth to her second child, a daughter named Margaret, presumably for her grandmother, (who was also her godmother) Lady Margaret Beaufort. Margaret was married to James IV, King of Scots at the age of fourteen, as part of the Treaty of Perpetual Peace, which, unfortunately, did not live up to its name. With her husband killed at the Battle of Flodden, Margaret, aged twenty-four, became Governor of Scotland for her son, the infant James V. She quickly married again, and thereby forfeited the Regency.

Her second marriage, to the Earl of Angus, was less successful than her first, and she finally obtained a divorce, remarrying a third time to Henry Stewart, Lord Methven. Margaret spent much of her life trying to encourage her son to follow a pro-English policy, but the heavy-handed tactics of Angus, and Margaret’s brother, Henry VIII, inculcated a deep resentment of them both in James V. Margaret was the grandmother of both Mary, Queen of Scots, and Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley, and it is thus from Margaret that the British Royal Family is descended.

Tudor tidbits 

  

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.