The Lady Mary Submits To Her Father

22 June 1536 was a black day for the Lady Mary, the only surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. She finally submitted to her father’s request to accept him as the Supreme Head of the Church in England, and, even worse for the young girl, the invalidity of her parents’ marriage.

Mary had stubbornly refused to do so for years, enraging her father who, as punishment, had refused to see her and prevented her from having any contact with her sick and dying mother. If Mary now agreed was because members from her father’s council had started threatening her and even arrested a member of her household.

Even Chapuys, the Spanish ambassador and her and her mother’s champion, had advised Mary to make the sacrifice and submit. He was worried for Mary’s safety and that some harm may come to her if she kept refusing. Bitterly and with a heavy heart, Mary signed her submission:

Moste humbly prostrete before the feete of Your most excellent Majestie, your most homble, faythefull, and obediente subjecte, which hath so extremely offended Your most gratyous Highnes, that my heavie and fearfull hert dare not presume to calle you Father, ne Your Majesty hathe any cause by my desertes, saving the benignetye of your moste blessed nature dothe surmounte all evelles offences and trespasses, and is ever mercyfulle and redy to accepte the penytente callynge for grace, in any convenyente tyme.

Havinge receaved this Thursdaye, at nighte, certene letteres from Mr. Secretary, aswell advisyng me to make my homble submyssyone immedyatly to your selfe, which because I durste not, without your gracyous lycence, presume to doe befor, I latly sente unto him, as sygnefyenge that your moste mercyfull harte and fatherly pyttye had graunted me your blessyng, with condissyone that I should persevere in that I had commenced and begoone; and that I should not eftsones offend Your Majesty by the denyall or reffusalle of any suche artycles and commaundementes, as it maye please Your Highenes to addresse unto me, for the perfite triall of myne harte and inward affectyone, for the perfait declaratyon of the bottome of my herte and stomake.

Fyrste, I knowledge my selfe to have most unkyndly and unnaturally offended Your most excellent Highenes, in that I have not submytted myselfe to your moste juste and vertuous lawes; and for myne offence thearin, which I must confesse wear in me a thousand folde more greevous, then they could be in any other lyving creature, I put myselfe holly and entyrely to your gratyous mercy; at whos handes I cannot receave that punishment for the same, that I have deserved.

Secondly, to opene my herte to Your Grace, in theis thinges, which I have heartofore refused to condiscend unto, and have nowe writtene with myne owne hand, sending the same to Your Highenes hearwith; I shall never beseeche Your Grace to have pyttye and compassyon of me, yf ever you shall perceave that I shall prively or appertly, vary or alter from one pece of that I have writtene and subscribed, or refuse to confyrme, ratefy, or declare the same, wher Your Majesty shall appointe me.

Thurdly, as I have and shall, knowinge your excelent learnynge, vertue, wisdome, and knoledge, put my soulle into your directyone; and, by the same, hathe and will, in all thinges, from hence foarthe directe my consyence, so my body I do holly commyte to your mercye and fatherlye pyttye; desiringe no state, no condissyone, nor no mannore degre of lyvinge, but suche as Your Grace shall appoynte unto me; knoledging and confessynge, that my state cane not be so ville, as ether the extremyty of justice wold appoynte unto me, or as myne offences have required and deserved.

And what soever Your Grace shall comaunde me to doe, touchinge any of theyse pointes, ethere for thinges paste, presente, or to come, I shall as gladly doe the same, as Your Majestie cane comaund me.

Moste homblye, therfor, beseeching your mercy, most gratyous Soveraine Lord and benigne Father, to have pyttye and compassyon of your myserable and sorowfull child; and, with the aboundance of your inestymable goodnes, so to overcome my iniquitie towardes God, Your Grace, and your holle realme, as I maye feele some sensyble tokene of reconsyllyation; which, God is my judge, I onely desyre, without other respect, to whome I shall dayly praye for the preservation of Your Highenes, with the Queenes Grace, and that it may please him to send you issue. From Hownsdon, this Thursdaye, at 11 of the clocke at nighte.

Your Graces moste humble and obedient Daughter and Handmayd,


Further reading:
Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5

Loyalty Repaid

When Cardinal Wolsey lost the favour of Henry VIII he was despised by the great, and hated by the people. Fitz-Williams, a man whom the cardinal had highly favoured when in power, was the only one who attempted to defend the cause, and praise the talents and great qualifications of the disgraced minister. He did more; he offered Wolsey his country-house, and begged him to pass one day there at least. The cardinal, sensible of his zeal, went to Fitz-Williams’s house, who received his master with the most distinguished marks of respect and gratitude.

The king being informed of the reception which this man only had not been afraid to give such a man as Wolsey, ordered Fitz-Williams to be brought before him, and asked him, with much emotion, and an angry tone of voice, from what motive he had the audacity to receive the cardinal at his house, who was accused and declared guilty of high treason?

“Sir,” replied Fitz-Williams,”I feel the most respectful submission for your majesty; I am neither a bad citizen nor an unfaithful subject. It is not the disgraced minister, nor the state criminal, I received at my house; it is my old and respected master, my protector, him who gave me bread, and through whose means I possess the fortune and tranquillity which I now enjoy; and should I abandon in his misfortunes this generous master, this magnificent benefactor? Ah! no, sir; I should be the most ungrateful of men.”

Surprised and full of admiration, the king at that moment conceived the highest esteem for the generous Fitz-Williams. He instantly knighted him, and shortly after named him a privy counsellor.

Further reading:
Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions &c

Book Reviews: Napoleon, Wynfield’s Kingdom, Did Victoria & Prince Albert Kill The Romanov Royal Family?, & It Happened On Broadway

Hello everyone,

are you ready for the first reviews of the year? Here we go:

Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts
Love him or hate him, Napoleon was one of the greatest soldier-statesmen of all times. He was a successful general by age 24 and became an emperor at 35. A brilliant military genius who conquered half of Europe, he reformed the administration of his empire and gave its people laws that are, sometimes, still in place today. Obsessed with micromanaging, the multitasker Napoleon was very interested in the sciences and literature, and understood the importance of telling your own story. He was always very willing to forgive both his unfaithful wife, his incompetent brothers, and his betraying friends and colleagues.
This book, Napoleon: A Life is his ultimate biography. While doing his research, Roberts has visited fifty-three of Napoleon’s sixty battle sites, as well as other places associated with the French Emperor, including the far-away island of St Helena, where he was exiled. He was also able to take advantage of the recent publication of Napoleon’s thirty-three thousand letters, most of which had never been used before, and which give us a new understanding of his complex, multi-faceted personality. The book is decidedly pro-Napoleon. It is clear the author loves his subject, but not so much not to be able to see his mistakes and weaknesses. He criticizes him for it. Therefore, despite the bias, it offers a fascinating and accurate (at least as accurate as it can possibly be) portrayal of Napoleon.
Roberts has minutely and diligently done his research, and it shows in each page. The book is packed full of details, and constantly keeps throwing new information at you. This can sometimes make for some dry reading. Especially, if like me, you are more interested in the man behind the emperor rather than the soldier-statesman. A huge chunk of the book focuses on the military campaigns and wars Napoleon fought, while his personal life and his relationship with his wife and siblings take a back seat. But then, packing such an extraordinary life in just more than 800+ pages is no easy feat, and, all things considered, Roberts did it quite skilfully. Casual readers may find it difficult to get through some sections of it, but for any true Napoleon fan, this insightful biography is a must read.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Wynfield’s Kingdom by Marina Julia Neary
1830s Bermondsey, London’s most notorious slum. After losing his licence to practice medicine, the self professed misanthrope Dr. Thomas Grant opens a tavern in Bermondsey. Everything goes well until one day Wynfiled, a 10 year old orphan badly beaten-up, breaks into his tavern to seek refuge. Once his injuries are treated, Wynfield leades the doctor and police to another orphan, two year old Diana, who is so weak everyone despairs for her life. Diana makes it, but her health will always remain fragile. Her spirit, though, never recovers, and she perceives the world and everyone it bar Wynfield (the two have a complex and dysfunctional romantic relationship, full of love, jealousy, and even hate), as more hostile and evil than they are.
Wynfield, on the other hand, is a tragicomic figure. He knows life will never be easy for him and those in Bermonsdey, and he gets involved in some illegal activities, but his idealism, many talents, such as his knife-throwing and dancing abilities, and affable personality gain him friends and the title of “King of Bermondsey”. Despite his nickname, though, Wynfield is a staunch republican who reveres Victor Hugo. His political sympathies attract the attention of influential people who want to use him for their own agendas. Through them, Wynfield learns a few secrets about his past.
Wynfield’s Kingdom is a gripping and enthralling tale full of twists and turns. The author vividly brings to life the slums and its inhabitants, stripping all the romanticism from the Victorian era to reveal its darkest side, such as its high crime rate, the deep poverty, and the many orphans that roamed the streets of the capital. Yet, there is a sort of humour that permeates the whole novel, lightening the story somewhat. The impeccable attention to details is shown in the language too. The novel is written in a 19th century style, with characters talking like they would have at the time, giving the novel an old-fashioned vibe that, however, thanks to its humour and the witty dialogue. The novels flows easily and is a pleasure to read.
A dark novel with a Dickens vibe, Wynfield’s Kingdom features an engaging plot full of surprises, interesting and nuanced characters, witty dialogues, and a rich, vivid setting that evoke powerful emotions. Highly recommended.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Did Queen Victoria & Prince Albert Kill the Romanov Royal Family: How King Henry VIII breaking with Rome in the 16th Century ended the Russian Royals in the 20th Century by Nikola Vukoja
Who doesn’t know of the tragic fate of the Romanov family, the romantic love story of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and the tumultuous relationship between Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn, who cost the latter her head? But what if all these stories were somehow linked and what if, hadn’t it been for Henry and Anne, Queen Victoria and Albert would haven’t been able to marry and, in turn, the Romanov family wouldn’t have lost their lives and throne?
It sounds like the plot of a fascinating historical novel, but it is actually the blurb of a non-fiction book. Actually, book is not the right word here. Did Queen Victoria & Prince Albert Kill the Romanov Royal Family is a very short work, and reads more like a short essay, or even just the proposal of a book, rather than a book.
The author doesn’t invent anything. All the facts, dates, names, events, people, and places are or were real. And the thesis that connects them all is very interesting. But pretty much anything can be linked to something else one way or another, which is why historical sources are needed to back up the claims. Unfortunately, Vukoya doesn’t provide any. She just explains her theory and leaves it at that. Because of that, it fails to fully convince.
Although I am unable to give this short work a positive rating, I wish the author expanded it. If it were longer and better documented, it would be a lot more interesting.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 2/5

It Happened on Broadway: An Oral History of the Great White Way by Myrna Katz Frommer, Myrna Katz Frommer
Although I have never seen a musical or play on Broadway, it is one of the things on my bucket list. The theatre and its history has fascinated me ever since I was a little girl, so of course I couldn’t let this book pass me by.
It Happened on Broadway: An Oral History of the Great White Way is just that, an oral history. No, the paper edition doesn’t speak. That’d be quite disturbing! No, it’s an oral story because the recollections of the theater veterans such as Carol Channing, Hal Prince, and Donna McKechnie, aren’t woven into a seamless narrative, but quickly follow one other. Imagine a group of friends meeting up 20 years later for a reunion and each of them, in succession, start sharing his/her memories. Each chapter covers a different topic – their first steps in the industry, the choreography, the flops, etc – so each memory flows well into the next, avoiding confusion or random thoughts that may puzzle the reader.
The book offers a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of Broadway during its beginnings, heyday, and decline, but, in my opinion, it has a major flaw. It doesn’t provide any background information. At the beginning, you can find very short biographies of the theater veterans who have shared their contributions, but there is no further information about the shows they have taken part in and the people they have worked with. As such, it presupposes the reader to be already familiar with several decades of Broadway history.
Because of this, it is difficult to say who this book is for. It will definitely make a charming addition to the library of every theatre lover, but the hard die fans may already be familiar with some of the anecdotes mentioned here. Casual reader, instead, will easily be frustrated by the lack of background information and having to google this show or that composer to have a better idea of what the veterans are talking about in the book. But if you love the theatre, it is certainly worth a look.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3/5

What do you think of these books?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Movie Review: Anne Of The Thousand Days

For six years, this year, and this, and this, and this, I did not love him. And then I did. Then I was his. I can count the days I was his in hundreds. The days we bedded. Married. Were Happy. Bore Elizabeth. Hated. Lusted. Bore a dead child… which condemned me… to death. In all one thousand days. Just a thousand. Strange. And of those thousand, one when we were both in love, only one, when our loves met and overlapped and were both mine and his. And when I no longer hated him, he began to hate me. Except for that one day.

I’ve always been fascinated about Anne Boleyn and have been reading anything I could lay my hands on about her, but when it comes to movies, I tend to procrastinate. It took me almost 32 years to finally watch Anne Of The Thousand Days, the famous movie adapted from a Broadway play of the same name, and when I did, I was somewhat disappointed. It’s not bad at all, but I guess, after all the hype, I expected something different… better. I can see why the movie got mixed reviews when it came out because I have mixed feelings about it too.

Let’s start with the good. Richard Burton is the best Henry VIII I have ever seen. He just exudes the Tudor monarch from every pore. He perfectly portrays Henry’s obsessive lust for Anne, his desperate determination to have a son, and his tendency to blame others for his problems and justify his cruel actions towards them. Had they died his hair red, his transformation would have been complete.

Genevieve Bujold was equally good. Her Anne is fiery and beautiful, not afraid to speak her mind about what she thinks nor to fight for her rights and those of her daughter. You would have never guessed this was her first role in Englis. She is my second favourite Anne Boleyn after Anne Dormer, although that’s mostly because of limitations imposed by Bujold’s Anne by the script. Whereas Dormer played Anne in a mini series that allowed her character to develop and show all its facets, Bujould had only two hours and a half to portray Anne Boleyn.

Because of that, you don’t get to see the vivacious charms, quick wit, and gracefulness that so captivated men. Henry is already captivated by Anne when the movie starts, not giving the viewers any reason about what caught his eye about her other than her beauty. And Anne’s wit comes out only to rebuff Henry’s advances and makes fun of him, his clumsy attempts at courting her, and his failures to get his first marriage annulled. The movie doesn’t even show her interest in religious reform. It was Anne who gave Henry a book arguing for the supremacy of kings over Popes, but in the movie it’s actually Cromwell that points that out to him.

Anne Boleyn should be the star of the movie, and although she has many great lines, like the one mentioned at the top of this post, her portrayal only shows us some sides of her character. That’s why I felt that this movie was mostly about Henry VIII and his obsessive lust for Anne than Anne herself. Bujold’s performance, though, is too good to relegate her Anne in the background.

Because the movie “only” lasted almost two hours and a half, it is quite rushed. Some parts of the movie, such as that about the divorce proceedings, are too condensed, short, and, to someone who’s not familiar with the whole story, a little confusing too. There are also quite a lot of inaccuracies. While it’s perfectly normal and acceptable for liberties to be taken in movies, there are some of them that are harder for me to forgive. Two examples are Henry’s presence at Anne’s trial, during which he personally interrogates Mark Smeaton, and his last meeting with Anne while the jury is deliberating. In reality, once Anne was arrested, he never saw her again.

Overall, Anne Of The Thousand Days features brilliant actors that make their characters come to life again, beautiful costumes, and poignant quotes. But it is too rushed, takes too many liberties with history, and, most importantly, doesn’t portray all the complex facets of Anne’s personality that made her such a fascinating and charming woman and allowed her to both rise so high and fall so low.

Have you seen this movie? If so, what did you think of it?

Historical Reads: Mary Boleyn And Henry VIII

Over at the Anne Boleyn Files, Claire Ridgway discusses Henry VIII’s relationship with Mary Boleyn. To quote:

It appears to have been a known fact that Henry VIII had slept with Anne’s sister, but this doesn’t help us to date the relationship in any way. Most historians date the relationship to the 1520s, beginning in 1522. This is because at the Shrovetide joust of 2nd March 1522 Henry VIII rode out with the motto Elle mon Coeur a navera, or “She has wounded my Heart”, embroidered on the trappings of his horse. A woman had obviously rebuffed his advances, but we cannot be sure that it was Mary, who, by this time, was married to William Carey. Mary could well have been just a one night stand when Elizabeth Blount, the King’s former mistress, was pregnant with the King’s son in 1519, they may not have had a long-lasting affair at all but the King still needed to declare the impediment whether the relationship had been one night, two nights or many nights.

Evidence that is used to back up the idea that Mary was Henry VIII’s mistress from 1522, during her marriage to William Carey, and that one or both of her children were fathered by the King, is the list of grants and offices that Carey was granted between 1522 and his death in 1528. Carey was indeed awarded many lucrative grants and offices, including keeperships and manors, and he also kept his post of Gentleman of the Privy Chamber through Cardinal Wolsey’s 1526 purge, the Eltham Ordinances. However, Carey was related to the King and was a favourite. Henry Norris, another Gentleman of the Privy Chamber at this time, also survived the Eltham Ordinances, being promoted to Groom of the Stool, and was granted a host of royal grants, keeperships and offices, but nobody suggests that his wife, Mary Fiennes, was sleeping with the King or that his children, born between 1524 and 1526, were the King’s bastards. Henry VIII was generous to those who served him and William Carey was a loyal servant to him. We can’t read too much into these rewards.

To read the entire article, click here.

At Last He Grew So Enormously Corpulent

In his later years, Henry VIII, due to the large amount of food he ate at banquets and a nasty wound in his leg that prevented him from exercising, grew fat. Here’s how historian Lingard described the King and the problems his obesity caused him:

“The king had long indulged without restraint in the pleasures of the table. At last he grew so enormously corpulent, that he could neither support the weight of his own body, nor remove without the aid of machinery into the different apartments of his palace. Even the fatigue of subscribing his name to the writings which required his signature, was more than he could bear; and to relieve him from this duty, three commissioners were appointed, of whom two had authority to apply to the paper a dry stamp, bearing the letters of the king’s name, and the third to draw a pen furnished with ink over the blank impression. An inveterate ulcer in the thigh which had more than once threatened his life, and which now seemed to baffle all the skill of the surgeons, added to the irascibility of his temper.”

Further reading:
The Town by Leigh Hunt

Anne Gainsford

Originally identified as Anne Zouche, the sitter
is now thought to be Mary Zouche

Anne Gainsford was born at Crowhurst, Surrey. The date of her birth is unknown. She was the daughter of John Gainsford and his second wife, Anne Hawte, and had a sister, Mary. Anne, or Nan as she was commonly called, joined Anne Boleyn’s household around 1528, and the two women became close friends.

Anne Boleyn lent Nan her copy of Tyndale’s The Obedience of a Christian Man, which advocated the divine right of kings and stated that it was the sovereign of a country, not the pope, who was the rightful head of that country’s church. The book was banned, so, when, after being stolen by Nan’s fiancé George Zouche, it ended up in Cardinal Wolsey’s hands, Anne could have gotten in serious trouble.

But instead than being angry with her friend, Anne went to the king to complain about its confiscation. The book was soon duly returned to her. Then, Anne encouraged Henry to read it, and he declared it to be a book “for me and all kings to read”*. Henry at this time was trying, without success, to get the pope to annull his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and it is believed that this book greatly influenced him to split from the Catholic Church and have Parliament pass the Act Of Supremacy. Tyndale, though, opposed Henry’s divorce, believing it to be unscriptural. He was later executed.

Anne also showed her friend Nan a “book of prophecy” that had been left in her apartments. It depicted a man labelled with an “H”, a woman labelled with a “K”, and another woman labelled with an “A”. The latter was headless. Nan commented: “If I thought it true, though he were an emperor, I would not myself marry him”. Anne, instead, dismissed it as nonsense, saying: “I think the book a bauble, yet for the hope I have that the realm may be happy by my issue, I am resolved to have him whatsoever might become of me.”**

When Anne finally became Queen in 1533, Nan went on to serve her as her lady-in-waiting. That same year, Nan married her fiancé Sir George Zouche and the couple is said to have had 8 children. Three years after their marriages, Nan was forced to testify against the Queen at her trial. After Anne’s execution, Nan serves her rival and successor, Queen Jane Seymour. When, years later, George Wyatt, the grandson of the poet, decided to write a biography of the unfortunate Queen, his main source was Nan. Anne Zouche died in about 1590.

* The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
**The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives

Who Killed Anne Boleyn?

Next month marks the anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s death. The unfortunate Queen was condemned and executed on trumped-up charges of adultery and incest clearly meant to blacken her reputation forever. And yet few, then as now, believed she was guilty.

So what happened during that fateful May 1536? Who orchestrated the plot against her, and why? Due to the scarcity of primary sources that has survived to our day, it is impossible to say for certain, but theories, and suspects, abound. Let’s examine them one by one, shall we?

Suspect 1: Henry VIII

The theory
Although the King, in public, acted as if all was well, there were signs that he had already begun to tire of Anne. When Anne complained about Henry’s affairs, he simply told her to “shut her eyes and endure as more worthy persons had done” and that “she ought to know that he could at any time lower her as much as he had raised her.”¹ Anne had also failed in her promise, and duty, to give him a son. She had miscarried of “her saviour” in either late January or early February 1536. It’s around this time that Henry probably became convinced that this marriage too was cursed by God. But, having moved heaven and earth to marry Anne, Henry couldn’t easily dismiss her without losing face. He also knew that, like Catherine of Aragon, Anne wouldn’t go away quietly without a fight, and he didn’t want to waste anymore years trying to get another annulment or divorce. Therefore, Anne had to die.

Supporting evidence

  • According to Chapuys, the Spanish ambassador, Henry had told a courtier “that he had been seduced and forced into this second marriage by means of sortileges and charms, and that, owing to that, he held it as nul. God (he said) had well shown his displeasure at it by denying him male children. He, therefore, considered that he could take a third wife, which he said he wished much to do.”²
  • Cromwell would never had dared to move against Anne without the King’s consent and, in a letter to Bishop Stephen Gardiner, he referred to the affair as “The King’s proceeding”.³
  • Henry was happy that Anne had been arrested. During her imprisonment, he had “been going about banqueting with ladies, sometimes remaining after midnight, and returning by the river” and was in a joyous mood. A very different reaction to that he would have after learning of Catherine Howards’ affairs. Then, he would be inconsolable.
  • There were many inconsistencies in the case against Anne. The dates on which Anne had supposedly committed adultery seem to have been picked at random as, on many of them, she was either pregnant, recovering from childbirth, or in a different place, away from her alleged lover. Henry also had had the marriage annulled, which should have absolved Anne from any crime she was supposed to have committed. After all, how can you cheat on a man you’re not married to? But she was condemned and executed anyway.
  • Henry had told Jane Seymour not to meddle with his affairs, as that had caused the late Queen’s downfall. He also warned Archibshop Cranmer, when his enemies were hatching a plot to bring him down, that false knaves could easily be procured to witness against him and condemn him. Had he procured them to testify against Anne?

Suspect 2: Thomas Cromwell

The theory
Cromwell and Anne disagreed on how the money resulting from the dissolution of the monasteries should be spent. Anne wanted it to go to the poor, while Cromwell to the crown and the King. Fearing that Anne would persuade Henry to bring him down, he chose to strike first. So, he went to Henry claiming he had found information that Anne had been unfaithful to him. A suggestible, paranoid, and malleable man, Henry asked him to investigate. Evidence was made up and Anne condemned to death.

Supporting evidence

  • Cromwell and Anne had disagreed on how to spend the wealth from the dissolution of the monasteries.
  • Chapuys mentioned in a letter that Cromwell had told him he “had planned and brought about the whole affair.”²
  • Cromwell took advantage of this opportunity to bring down men who, like Sir William Brereton, were standing in the way of his policies.

Suspect 3: The anti-Boleyn faction

The theory
Jealous of the Boleyns’ rise to power and their influence, especially in matters of religion, on the king, their enemies hatched a plot, which included supporting the cause of Jane Seymour, to bring the family down. The conspirators were the Seymours, the Marquis of Exeter, Sir Nicholas Carew, Baron Montagu and the Countess of Kildare. Cromwell was involved too. Therefore, as Eric Ives put it, “Anne’s fall was the consequence of a political coup and a classic example of Tudor faction in operation.”*

Supporting evidence

  • Jane Seymour was groomed by her family on how to catch and keep Henry’s interest.
  • All the plotters disliked the Boleyns, saw them as a threat to their influence and power at court, and had only to gain from their fall.

Suspect 4: Anne Boleyn

Anne was incapable of making the transition from feisty mistress to obedient wife. She had a temper, was nagging, and jealous of Henry, even going as far as to blame his affair with Jane Seymour as the reason for her miscarriage. She also indulged in courtly-love flirtations which, albeit innocent, could be construed as evidence for her alleged affairs. Worse, she had failed to give Henry a son and heir. So, Henry quickly tired of her. Her behaviour was then twisted to justify her trial and execution.

Supporting evidence

  • Anne’s jealous personality.
  • Anne’s failure to give birth to a son.
  • Anne’s courtly love comments, such as “you look for dead men’s shoes, for if aught came to the King but good, you would look to have me”** when talking to Norris, gave her enemies the ammunition they needed to construe a case against her.

My thoughts
Personally, I believe there is some truth in all these theories. Henry had tired of Anne and wanted to get rid of her fairly quickly; the Boleyn’s enemies were willing and ready to exploit any problems between the royal couple for their own advantages; Cromwell had something to gain from Anne’s fall; and Anne certainly didn’t do herself any favours by not trying to curb her behaviour. But, ultimately, I believe that Henry is the real culprit. Whether he asked Cromwell to create false charges against Anne, decided to twist Anne’s innocent courtly love comments when they started to circulate around court to frame her, or went along with a plot hatched by her enemies, pretending to believe Anne was really guilty of what she was accused of, doesn’t matter much. What matter is that he was the one calling the shots, the only one who could stop a plot against Anne. And he didn’t. Instead, he let her die.

What about you? Who do you think was responsible for Anne’s death?

¹ LP vi.1069
² Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5 Part 2: 1536-1538,
³ LP x. 873
* Ives, Eric (1992) The Fall of Anne Boleyn Reconsidered
** LP x.793

Further reading:
The Lady In The Tower by Alison Weir
The Life And Death Of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives

Henry VIII’s First Jousting Accident

On 10th March 1524, King Henry VIII had his first serious jousting accident. George Cavendish, Cardinal Wolsey’s gentleman-usher, related the event thus:

On 10 March the king, having a new armor made to his own design and fashion, such as no armorer before that time had seen, though to test the same at the tilt, and ordered a joust for the purpose. The lord marquis of Dorset and the earl of Dorset and the earl of Surrey were appointed to be on foot: the king came to one end of the tilt and the duke of Suffolk to the other. Then a gentleman said to the duke: ‘Sir the king is come to the end of the tilt.’ ‘I see him not,’ said the duke, ‘by my faith, for my headpiece blocks my sight.’ With these words, God knows by what chance, the king had his spear delivered to him by the lord Marquis, the visor of his headpiece being up and not down or fastened, so that his face as quite naked. The gentleman said to the duke: ‘Sir the king is coming.’

Then the duke set forward and charged with his spear, and the king likewise unadvisedly set off towards the duke. The people, seeing the king’s face bare, cried hold, hold; the duke neither saw nor heard, and whether the king remembered his visor was up or not few could tell. Alas, what sorrow was it to the people when they saw the splinters of duke’s spear strike the king’s headpiece. For most certainly the duke struck the king on the brow right under the guard of the headpiece on the very skull cap or basinet piece to which the barbette is hinged for strength and safety, which skull cap or basinet no armorer takes heed of, for it is always covered by the visor, barbette and volant piece, and thus that piece is so protected that it takes no weight. But when the spear landed on that place there was great danger of death since the face was bare, for the duke’s spear broke into splinters and pushed the king’s visor or barbette so far back with the counter blow that all the King’s head piece was full of splinters. The armorers were much blamed for this, and so was the lord marquise for delivering the spear blow when his face was open, but the king said that no one was to blame but himself, for he intended to have saved himself and his sight.

The duke immediately disarmed and came to the king, showing him the closeness of his sight, and he swore that he would never run against the king again. But if the king had been even a little hurt, his servants would have put the duke in jeopardy. Then the king called his armorers and put all his pieces of armor together and then took a spear and ran six courses very well, by which all men could see that he had taken no hurt, which was a great joy and comfort to all his subjects present.

Further reading:

Book Review: Queen’s Gambit By Elizabeth Freemantle

Widowed for the second time at age thirty-one Katherine Parr falls deeply for the dashing courtier Thomas Seymour and hopes at last to marry for love. However, obliged to return to court, she attracts the attentions of the ailing, egotistical, and dangerously powerful Henry VIII, who dispatches his love rival, Seymour, to the Continent. No one is in a position to refuse a royal proposal so, haunted by the fates of his previous wives—two executions, two annulments, one death in childbirth—Katherine must wed Henry and become his sixth queen.

Katherine has to employ all her instincts to navigate the treachery of the court, drawing a tight circle of women around her, including her stepdaughter, Meg, traumatized by events from their past that are shrouded in secrecy, and their loyal servant Dot, who knows and sees more than she understands. With the Catholic faction on the rise once more, reformers being burned for heresy, and those close to the king vying for position, Katherine’s survival seems unlikely. Yet as she treads the razor’s edge of court intrigue, she never quite gives up on love.

We’ve been inundated with Tudors novels lately, haven’t we? I can’t blame anyone who feels like they need a break from them. But, please, if you must, take one only after you’ve read Queen’s Gambit, Elizabeth Freemantle’s first, and excellent, effort at historical fiction. Beautifully written and (mostly) historically accurate, Queen’s Gambit tells the story of Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last queen.

When her second husband dies, Katherine Parr, who would rather live out a quiet existence in the country, is briefly summoned to court. Here, despite her better judgment, she falls in love with the dashing Thomas Seymour and hopes to marry him. But the King has other plans for her. The old, fat and ailing Henry VIII, still smarting after the betrayal of his fifth young wife, Catherine Howard, is looking for an older wife with good nursing skills. Katherine perfectly fits the bill.

Katherine can’t refuse to marry the King. While her brother is ecstatic at the prospect of wealth and advancement for the Parr family, Katherine realises she will have to pay a high price for it. She won’t just have to set her feelings for Seymour aside, but she’ll enter a world of power and intrigues where losing means death. Katherine is not ambitious, but smart, canny and interested in religion. A fervent religious reformer, she hopes to influence her husband, who is slowly reverting back to Catholicism, to continue his work to reform the English Church.

Although Katherine is good at manipulating Henry, her outspoken behaviour and protestant leanings attract her the enmity of the Catholic faction, then on the rise at court, and almost have her arrested as an heretic. Freemantle does a great job at depicting the atmosphere of fear Katherine, and the rest of the court, constantly lived in, knowing that their lives depended on the whim of a king who was becoming more irrational and paranoid as his health worsened.

Fremantle also makes the court, with its smells, its sights, its intrigues hidden behind its magnificence, come alive. The reader truly feels like he/she’s right there, next to Katherine, as her story unfolds. We also get to see her story through a different perspective, that of her maid Dot. Dot is a poor and illiterate servant who became very close to Meg, Katherine’s stepdaughter, when they were held hostage during the Pilgrimage of Grace, a tragic event that left deep scars on all three women. Katherine has come to consider Dot, despite their difference in rank, as a daughter.

Of course, Fremantle takes, every now and then, artistic license to fill up the gaps in Katherine’s life. Although I don’t always agree with her interpretations and plot twists, they are realistic (apart from one instance in the end where I thought she went a bit too far) and make the story even more interesting. The book is also very well-researched and chockfull of details about life at the Tudor court, but these are woven into the story so seamlessly that they enhance it rather than bogging it down. I only found the stylistic choice of using the present tense to tell the story a bit weird. It works here, but I guess I’m just not that used to read historical fiction written in this way.

Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Freemantle is a beautifully written, and meticulously researched, fictional account of the life of Catherine’s Parr, Henry VIII’s last queen. Freemantle really brings the characters, which are all well-rounded, and the Tudor court, to life. Although the author takes artistic liberties, her plots twists, save for one occasion, are realistic enough and make the story more interesting. The book is written in the present tense, which is a weird choice, but one that works.

Available at: amazon, barnes & noble and book depository

Rating: 4.5/5

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.