Documentary Notes – ‘Elizabeth’ with David Starkey – Part 1, From the Prison to the Palace


Elizabeth I c.1546 by William Scrots
Elizabeth I c.1546 by William Scrots
  • January 1559 Elizabeth I was crowned Queen of England
  • She was the last of the Tudor dynasty and dazzled the nation and the world
  • Elizabeth reigned for 45 years and her ships sailed round the world and defeated the Armada, Shakespeare wrote plays and Spenser wrote poems
  • English noblemen and foreign princes wooed her
  • Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII
  • The right of women to succeed to the throne was still in doubt
  • Her father would kill her mother and she would be disinherited.
  • Her sister would imprison her in the Tower and threaten to execute her
  • She would be molested by her own stepfather
  • Most monarch have their crowns handed to them on a plate, but Elizabeth would get hers by cunning and courage
  • Elizabeth’s sex was a disappointment to Henry VIII when she was born in September 1533
  • Henry already had a daughter, Mary, aged 17
  • Elizabeth had a magnificent christening with every detail seen to
  • She was declared princess as heir to the throne
  • According to the French ambassador the occasion was perfect, and nothing was lacking
  • But things were far from perfect as Elizabeth was the child of a second marriage
  • The Imperial ambassador refused to attend the baptism and refused to recognise Anne Boleyn as Henry VIII’s wife – referring to Anne as whore and Elizabeth as bastard
  • “Hot but not hot enough” – one ambassador when asked if the baby Elizabeth had been baptised in hot or cold water
  • Henry VIII divorced his first wife Katherine of Aragon because she didn’t give him a son
  • Anne had a stillborn baby boy after 2 miscarriages
  • Anne had failed in her principle duty and Henry had fallen in love with another woman
  • Anne was accused of multiple adultery with 4 men and incest with her brother
  • Anne was executed on Tower Green on 19 May 1536 with a single stroke of a sword rather than an axe
  • Elizabeth was only aged 3 when her mother was executed
  • Elizabeth seems to have airbrushed her mother from her memory and her father filled her world instead
  • Henry and Anne’s marriage was declared null and void
  • Elizabeth was made illegitimate and unable to inherit the throne
  • She became Lady Elizabeth, second bastard daughter of the king
  • Elizabeth’s governess didn’t know what to do and wrote to Cromwell for guidance on Elizabeth’s treatment and clothes
  • No one could forget that Elizabeth was Anne’s daughter and it was to marry Anne that Henry had broken with Rome
  • The monasteries had fallen victim to Henry’s desire to marry Anne – assets were seized, and the buildings destroyed
  • Glastonbury Abbey was one of those that fell
  • There was also spiritual damage – out of the ruins would form a new faith which would divide his country and his family
  • Just over a year after his marriage to Jane Seymour she gave him a son and heir – Edward
  • Elizabeth and Mary were minor royals
  • Elizabeth also lost her governess, Lady Bryan, who was transferred to look after the new baby prince
  • Kat Ashley replaced Lady Bryan and she became close to Elizabeth
  • Her father rarely saw her as she was brought up away from the court
Continue reading “Documentary Notes – ‘Elizabeth’ with David Starkey – Part 1, From the Prison to the Palace”

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/

Who Was … Thomas Wyatt, Tudor Poet?


Thomas Wyatt was a Tudor poet at the court of Henry VIII. It was rumoured that he was once the lover of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. He was arrested in May 1536 at the same time as Anne but wasn’t charged and later released. Wyatt’s poetry included ‘Whoso List to Hunt’, ‘Sometime I Fled the Fire’ and ‘Circa Regna Tonat’. The latter was written while Wyatt was in the Tower and translates as “about the throne the thunder rolls”.

Name: Thomas Wyatt 

Title/s: Knight (Sir) 

Birth: c. 1503 at Allington Castle, Kent, England 

Death: 11 October 1542 at Clifton Maybank House, Dorset, England 

Buried: Sherborne Abbey, Dorset, England 

Spouse: Elizabeth Brooke 1503-1560 

Children: Thomas Wyatt the Younger 1521-1554 

Parents: Sir Henry Wyatt 1460-1537 & Anne Skinner ?-? 

Siblings: Henry Wyatt ?-? / Margaret Lee c.1506-1543 

Noble Connections: Wyatt supposedly had a relationship with Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. Wyatt was arrested along with George Boleyn, Henry Norris, William Brereton, Francis Weston and Mark Smeaton, accused of adultery with Anne but eventually released. Wyatt’s son, also called Thomas Wyatt, led a rebellion against Mary I in 1554 to restore Jane Grey to the throne or put Princess Elizabeth on the throne. 

Continue reading “Who Was … Thomas Wyatt, Tudor Poet?”

On This Day in History – 19 May – Execution of Anne Boleyn


White Tower at the Tower of London
White Tower at the Tower of London

Event– Execution of Anne Boleyn

Year– 1536

Location– Tower of London (England)

Anne Boleyn was arrested on 2 May 1536 and sent to the Tower of London, accused of adultery, incest and treason. She was tried and found guilty of all charges against her on 15 May 1536 with the sentence pronounced as burning or beheading at the king’s pleasure.

Anne’s so-called lovers were executed on 17 May – Mark Smeaton, Henry Norris, William Brereton, Francis Weston and her brother, George Boleyn. All had been found guilty of adultery with Anne. Richard Page and Thomas Wyatt were arrested but never charged with anything. They were released after the executions.

It is generally accepted that Anne Boleyn wasn’t guilty of the charges against her. Perhaps she had been a little reckless in her speech, and a little too flirtatious, but that doesn’t automatically convert to adultery. From what I have read, the only historian who thinks it possible that Anne was in fact guilty was G.W. Bernard, though I personally don’t buy his arguments.

Anne was beheaded on Tower Green within the Tower of London on 19 May 1536 by the swordsman of Calais, rather than the more cumbersome English axe, and was buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula within the Tower grounds. There is a memorial slab commemorating her place of burial there today.

Further Reading

  • Paul Friedmann, Anne Boleyn (1884)
  • Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (1986)
  • Retha Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn (1989)
  • Alison Weir, The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn (2009)

Discussion Questions – ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ by Hilary Mantel


  1. The novel starts off with a description of hawks soaring in the sky and swooping in to slaughter their prey. In the same manner, the novel closes off with an image of a fox attacking a hen coop. What is the significance of these animals and what do they symbolise?

'Bring Up the Bodies' by Hilary Mantel (2012).
‘Bring Up the Bodies’ by Hilary Mantel (2012).

Hawks tend to symbolise awareness, intelligence and a regal bearing. Possibly this is a sense of what is to come – the intelligent and ambitious Anne Boleyn losing awareness of her position as queen and what it relies on (Henry VIII’s love) and ending up being beheaded on the orders of her husband, the king. In the case of the fall of Anne Boleyn the fox represents Cromwell, and the hens are Anne and her faction who are brought down. However, this could also foreshadow what is to come for Cromwell when he becomes one of the hens, along with the rest of the reformist party, and they are attacked by the foxes (the conservative faction).

2. How has Cromwell’s upbringing influenced him to become the shrewd and ambitious man that he is? What is the significance of Cromwell refusing to adopt the coat of arms belonging to a noble Cromwell family even as he widens the chasm between his father and himself? How does Cromwell view family and how is it different from his own experience growing up?

I think the fact that Cromwell had such a difficult relationship with his father encourages him to get away and prove himself. He wants to be a better person than his father. I think this difficult relationship also enhances Cromwell’s ambition and desire for power – he wants to feel the power that he didn’t have when at the mercy of his father. Cromwell doesn’t want to be a part of the inherited nobility – his religious beliefs encourage the rise of self-made men, and promoting them on the basis of their abilities and not their wealth or title. I think Cromwell doesn’t want his own wife and children to experience the family life he had when he was younger – he tries very hard not to exhibit the same characteristics as his father did, and tries to create a happier home. Continue reading “Discussion Questions – ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ by Hilary Mantel”

What were the Aims, Causes and Consequences of the Tudor Rebellions?


Lambert Simnel / Perkin Warbeck 1487-1499

Henry VII 1505 at the National Portrait Gallery.
Henry VII 1505 at the National Portrait Gallery.

The aims of the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions were to replace Henry VII on the English throne with what the people saw as the “true heir”.[1] Henry VII was a usurper, and the only Lancastrian claimant left since the death of Henry VI in 1471.

The cause of the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions was the fact that Henry VII was a usurper with no real claim to the throne. He had taken the throne from the Yorkist Richard III, who had usurped it from the rightful heir, the son of Edward IV – Edward V – and supposedly then had Edward and his younger brother, Richard, killed in the Tower of London. Henry’s claim to the throne came through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, who was descended from the illegitimate line of John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine Swynford. The Beaufort line had been legitimised but barred from succeeding to the throne.[2] The people of England weren’t entirely convinced that the Princes in the Tower were dead and, even if they were, the Earl of Warwick was another contender with a claim to the throne. Simnel pretended to be the Earl of Warwick, the son of Richard III’s elder brother, George Duke of Clarence.[3] Warbeck pretended to be Richard Duke of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower.[4] Neither were entirely convincing. Continue reading “What were the Aims, Causes and Consequences of the Tudor Rebellions?”

Historical Inaccuracies in ‘The Tudors’ Season 1


Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII in 'The Tudors (2007-2010).
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII in ‘The Tudors (2007-2010).

Episode 1 “In Cold Blood”
Assassination of the Duke of Urbino – Henry VIII had no uncle at this time, and so the scene that was included was completely made up.
Charles Brandon and the daughter of the Duke of Buckingham – there is no evidence of Brandon having an affair with any daughter of Buckingham.
Richard Pace – Pace was never accused of spying and was never imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Thomas Tallis – there is no record of Tallis being at court until 1543, not as early as is portrayed in ‘The Tudors’.
Katherine of Aragon’s first son – in the television show, Katherine of Aragon says that he lived for four weeks, but it was actually seven and a half weeks.
Marriage of Bessie Blount – in the television show, Bessie Blount is already married during her affair with the king, but in reality she didn’t marry until 1522.
Thomas Boleyn’s family – Buckingham refers to Boleyn’s family as “old” but in reality his grandfather was Mayor of London, and before that the family was rather obscure. Boleyn only had noble connections because his wife was the sister of the Duke of Norfolk. Continue reading “Historical Inaccuracies in ‘The Tudors’ Season 1”

Important Tudor Executions on Tower Hill


Memorial on Tower Hill to those executed there.
Memorial on Tower Hill to those executed there.

Very few executions actually took place within the walls of the Tower of London. Most executions took place on the nearby Tower Hill. This post will cover the latter executions. A different post covers the former executions in the Tower itself. The executions on Tower Hill were more of a spectator sport, whereas the Tower dealt with potentially dangerous or controversial executions like Queens of England and prominent nobles.

Edward Stafford 3rd Duke of Buckingham c.1520
Edward Stafford 3rd Duke of Buckingham c.1520

Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham 1521 – Edward Stafford was executed on 17th May 1521. Henry VIII knew that Stafford probably had a stronger legitimate claim to the throne than he did as the Tudor descended from the illegitimate Beaufort line. In 1520 Henry authorised an investigation against him and he was tried before a group of seventeen of his peers, as was customary for the nobility. It is suggested his opposition to the King stemmed from his hatred of Wolsey. Continue reading “Important Tudor Executions on Tower Hill”

My Masters Thesis


My Masters Thesis

A small snippet of what I’ve been working on lately, and why I haven’t updated much – my Masters thesis!

Thomas Wyatt’s Poetry Analysis


 

Thomas Wyatt Sketch by Hans Holbein.
Thomas Wyatt Sketch by Hans Holbein.

‘Whoso List to Hunt’ and ‘Sometime I Fled the Fire’

In this post, I will analyse two of Wyatt’s poems supposedly pertaining to Anne Boleyn, Whoso List to Hunt and Sometime I Fled the Fire. Later posts will examine They Flee From Me, And Wilt Thou Leave Me Thus and Circa Regna Tonat.

Whoso List to Hunt
Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, helas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest come behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow.
I leave off therefore Sithens in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I may spend his time in vain.
And graven with diamonds in letters plain Continue reading “Thomas Wyatt’s Poetry Analysis”