The Month of May


In the Tudor world, the month of May tends to be seen as Anne Boleyn month where the internet (and me, I have to admit!) goes a bit bananas over Henry VIII’s second wife. Of course, she was executed on the 19th of the month in 1536 on what is now generally accepted as fabricated charges of adultery, incest and treason. Those hellish weeks were immortalised in verse by Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger:

“These bloody days have broken my heart.

My lust, my youth did them depart,

And blind desire of estate.

Who hastes to climb seeks to revert.

Of truth, circa Regna tonat.”

Thomas Wyatt, ‘Circa Regna Tonat’

Those chilling last words translate from the Latin to “thunder rolls around the throne” – well it certainly did when Henry VIII was sitting on the throne.

But what else happened in May in England in the Tudor period?

  • 3rd May 1544 – Thomas Wriothesley was made Lord Chancellor of England
  • 4th May 1547 – Katherine Parr married her fourth husband, Thomas Seymour
  • 6th May 1541 – Henry VIII ordered a new Bible placed in every church
  • 8th May 1559 – Elizabeth I assented to new Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity
  • 9th May 1509 – Henry VII’s body was taken to St Paul’s Cathedral from his place of death at Richmond Palace
  • 10th May 1533 – The Dunstable enquiry opened under Archbishop Cranmer which resulted in the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon
  • 11th May 1500 – Birth of Reginald Pole, later Archbishop of Canterbury under Mary I
  • 13th May 1516 – Henry VIII’s sister, Mary Tudor, married Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk at Greenwich Palace
  • 15th May 1567 – Mary Queen of Scots married James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell
  • 16th May 1532 – Thomas More resigned as Lord Chancellor of England
  • 17th May 1521 – Execution of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, for treason
  • 19th May 1499 – Katherine of Aragon was married by proxy to Prince Arthur, elder brother of Henry VIII
  • 19th May 1554 – Mary I released Princess Elizabeth from imprisonment in the Tower of London
  • 25th May 1553 – Jane Grey married Guildford Dudley
  • 26th May 1520 – Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon met the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at Dover
  • 27th May 1541 – Execution of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, for treason
  • 29th May 1543 – Katherine Parr’s ‘Prayers’ or ‘Meditations’ was published
  • 30th May 1529 – The court at Blackfriars opened to try the marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon
  • 30th May 1536 – Henry VIII married Jane Seymour

So why Anne Boleyn?

With all these other events happening in May, why the focus on Anne Boleyn? Possibly because her fall was so spectacular and her execution so unexpected. Never before had an English queen been executed, and there was so much controversy surrounding the charges and the men accused with her. I mean, incest? And not just adultery with one man, but five, one her own brother? Unparalleled and shocking and still so many unanswered questions which draw historians back to her time after time, year after year.

Fascination with the unanswered and inherently shocking will never go away, no matter how old the mystery, and this one is now 484 years old.

Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
Portrait of Anne Boleyn kept at Hever Castle, Kent

Other posts which discuss Anne Boleyn

Undergraduate Dissertation Chapter – Why Did Anne Boleyn Fall from Power?

https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/undergrad-dissertation-chapter-1/

In Memory of Anne Boleyn – Why Does She Still Fascinate Us?

https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2019/05/19/in-memory-of-anne-boleyn/

The Legacy of Anne Boleyn

https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/the-legacy-of-anne-boleyn-died-19th-may-1536/

Historical Inaccuracies in ‘The Tudors’ Season 4


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Tamsin Merchant as Katherine Howard and Torrance Coombs as Thomas Culpeper

Episode 1 – Moment of Nostalgia

  • Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and his wife, Katherine, are separated – later on in the series he has an affair. In reality, there is no evidence that the marriage of the Brandons was unstable, it seems to have been relatively happy.
  • On screen, Henry Howard, is shown as being in his mid-forties and calls Katherine Howard his niece. In reality, Henry and Katherine were cousins, and he was actually only in his mid-twenties at this time.
  • When Princess Elizabeth meets Katherine Howard she looks around 13/14 years old, but in reality she would only have been around 6/7.
  • Henry VIII speaks of the death of the French dauphin just after his marriage to Katherine in 1540, but the dauphin died in 1536.
  • Henry VIII is shown condemning Viscount Lisle to death, but he actually died in 1542 when being given news of his release.
  • A marriage between Princess Mary and the Duke of Orleans is proposed on screen, but the duke was already married in reality by this point.
  • There is no evidence that Anne Stanhope cheated on her husband, the Earl of Hertford, let alone with his brother. This perhaps parallels the supposed affair of Hertford’s first wife with his own father.

Continue reading “Historical Inaccuracies in ‘The Tudors’ Season 4”

Discussion Questions – The Fallen Queen by Emily Purdy


  1. Discuss the personalities of the three sisters – Jane, Kate and Mary. Who do you like best and why?

Streatham Portrait of Jane Grey, copy of a lost original.
Streatham Portrait of Jane Grey, copy of a lost original.

Jane comes across as serious, studious, intelligent, logical, quiet, impassioned, determined and resolved. Katherine, on the other hand, comes across as flighty, flirty, likes to be the centre of attention, loved, passionate and impetuous. Mary comes across as the outsider, serious, logical, strong-willed and determined, though most of these only towards the end of her life. The three are completely different and contrasting, and perhaps that it why they get on so well. Mary is the most like me, she is the one that I can most identify with as she is an outsider, but is strong and determined, although people don’t always see it. I like Mary the best, then Jane and then Katherine, possibly because that is the order in which I identify most with them.

  1. The Grey sisters have a little ritual in which they stand before the mirror and identify themselves as “the brilliant one”, “the beautiful one” and “the beastly little one”, making fun of the way other people see them. Discuss the outside world’s perceptions of the three sisters and how they see themselves. Discuss their relationship with each other. If they weren’t united by blood and family ties, would these three girls have been friends?

Making light of harmful comments (“the beastly little one”) or idle gossip means that they don’t have as much power to hurt you. It means that you know how the world sees you but you don’t really care, or seem not to care – it’s a form of armour. The world sees the sisters as very one-sided, but the girls themselves know that there is more to each of them than meets the eye. For example, Katherine is beautiful and seems flighty, but is steadfast in what she wants in the end. Jane has a loving, caring side when it comes to her sisters, but no one else. I think that, had the girls not been related by blood, they wouldn’t have naturally gravitated towards each other, but I think their relationship with each other enhances their own personalities, so I think if they hadn’t been related to each other they wouldn’t have been the same people. Continue reading “Discussion Questions – The Fallen Queen by Emily Purdy”

Spotlight – Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk


Name: Charles Brandon

Title/s: Duke of Suffolk / Viscount Lisle / Lord President of the Council / Knight of the Garter

Birth / Death: c.1484 – 22 August 1545

Spouse: Margaret Neville 1466-? (annulled 1507) / Anne Browne ?-1511 / Mary Tudor Queen Dowager of France 1496-1533 / Catherine Willoughby 12th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby 1520-1580

Children: Anne Grey, Baroness Grey 1507-1557 / Mary Stanley, Baroness Monteagle 1510-c.1542 (by Anne Browne) / Henry Brandon 1516-1522 / Frances Grey, Marchioness of Dorset 1517-1559 / Eleanor Clifford, Countess of Cumberland 1519-1547 / Henry Brandon, 1st Earl of Lincoln c.1523-1534 (by Mary Tudor) / Henry Brandon, 2nd Duke of Suffolk 1535-1551 / Charles Brandon, 3rd Duke of Suffolk 1537-1551 (by Catherine Willoughby) Continue reading “Spotlight – Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk”

The Fall of Thomas Cromwell 1540


Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein.
Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein.

So I’ve had several people saying that they want to read more about Thomas Cromwell. This is me obliging and trying to widen my field of knowledge (it can never hurt!), but bear in mind I don’t really know a lot about him, so you’re bound to disagree with things. Don’t be afraid to comment and pull me out on something! In this post, I intend to focus solely on his fall from power in 1540. (I apologise for the lack of page numbers for the Hutchinson text, but I’m using an e-book, so it doesn’t have page numbers).

Robert Hutchinson has written a biography of Thomas Cromwell, saying that his arrest was ‘as ruthless as it was sudden’.[i] Cromwell was only made Earl of Essex in April 1540 and at the beginning of June 1540 Henry VIII gave the command for his arrest. So, sudden, it definitely was. From this point of view, we can also see it as ruthless – how did Cromwell go in that short space of time from being Henry’s favourite minister and really high in royal favour, to being accused of undermining Henry’s intention for a religious settlement? Continue reading “The Fall of Thomas Cromwell 1540”

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