Changing CircumstancesThomas was one of the knights who took part in a great tournament in February 1511, to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Wales. A few weeks later he was honoured to be bearing the coffin at the baby’s funeral. By now Thomas figured prominently in Henry’s circle of intimates.
In May1512 Thomas undertook an embassy to Maximilian, the Holy Roman Emperor, alongside were Sir Richard Wingfield and John Young. The following Spring took Thomas and Sir Edward Poynings to Rome, where they concluded a treaty on 5th April 1513 with Pope Julius II[i]. This was despite a diplomatic incident when Thomas’s dog bit the Pope’s toe which Thomas then refused to kiss, as was the custom at the time, as his spaniel had defiled it. Henry VIII was now joined in an anti-French Holy League[ii] with Pope Julius, the Archduchess Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands and Maximilian.
|Henry & Maximilian meet at the siege of Therouanne|
Thomas returned home in June and when Henry VIII invaded France later in the summer, Thomas led a company of a hundred men and took part in the siege of Thérouanne and the Battle of the Spurs.
Thomas’s father-in-law meanwhile had recovered the family dukedom, being made Duke of Norfolk in 1514 alongside the king’s great friend Charles Brandon who became the Duke of Suffolk;
‘The King being at Lambeth, were create these estates following: that is to say, the Earl of Surrey, Sir Thomas Howard senior, Earl Marshal and Treasurer of England, create Duke of Norfolk; the Viscount Lisle, Sir Charles Brandon, late Marshal of the king’s army, was create Duke of Suffolk; the Lord Howard, Sir Thomas Howard the younger, Lord Admiral of England, was create Earl of Surrey.’[iii]
|Ferdinand of Aragon|
In June 1514 Henry fell out with Katherine’s father and spat out complaints about her. There had already been problems between the two kings, when Ferdinand had failed to support an English expedition to take Bayonne[iv]; instead he’d sent his troops into Navarre, leaving the English to mutiny and return home. A mortified Henry had to accept his father-in-law’s caustic comments on English reliability.
In the following year Ferdinand made peace with Louis XII, just as Henry was about to attack France. But in 1514, under the guiding hand of Henry’s new adviser Thomas Wolsey, English policy changed. Henry made his peace with France, turning the tables on Ferdinand and Maximilian, both of whom had used Henry’s naivety about foreign affairs to extend their power bases at the expense of the English.
Wolsey was able to negotiate possession of Tournai, a large amount of gold and the marriage between Henry’s sister Mary and Louis[v]. Henry now felt able to tell the Spanish ambassador some home truths, the poor man even complained that he was;
‘A bull, at whom everyone throws darts.’[vi]
And although Katherine was again pregnant, there was talk of a divorce. As a result of Wolsey’s diplomacy England was recognised once again as a power to be taken into consideration. Henry wrote to Pope Leo X requesting a cardinal’s hat for Wolsey;
‘Such are his merits that I esteem him above my dearest friends, and can do nothing of importance without him.’[vii]
The request was refused.
A Tudor Courtly Education
|Margaret of Austria|
Anne at least of the Boleyn girls had a relatively broad education for a girl. Both girls were trained for a life at court and marriage. The composer Richard Davy was Thomas’s chaplain from 1506-15 and may have taught the two girls music; Anne was an excellent musician, singer and dancer, a skilled needlewoman as well as being competent at poetry. The poet Thomas Wyatt lived at nearby Allington.
All the Boleyn children were taught to speak fluent French, a language with which Anne apparently struggled, unlike her father, and it was living in the courts of France and Brussels that gave her some proficiency. The children of the nobility were also taught to ride, hunt and hawk; a skill that Thomas excelled in.
On an embassy to Archduchess Margaret at her court in Mechelen Thomas ingratiated himself with Margaret. He extolled the virtues of Anne and Margaret offered her a place at her court as one of her eighteen maids of honour. Returning home in the spring of 1513 Thomas immediately despatched Anne to Mechelen in the care of a knight named Broughton.
Margaret was delighted with her new maid, writing to Thomas;
‘A present more than welcome in my sight. I hope to treat her in such a way that you shall be quite satisfied with me.…….I am more beholden to you for sending her than you can be to me for receiving her.’[viii]
The French Marriage
In the autumn of 1514 the 18 year old Princess Mary was chosen, as the victim of her brother’s new foreign policy, to marry the 52 year old Louis of France, to be his third wife[ix],. For the sake of peace with France Henry had jettisoned the proposed marriage between Princess Mary to Margaret’s nephew Charles[x].
Mary needed ladies who could speak French and one of those chosen to go with her to France was Mary. Anne was also to go at the special request of Princess Mary, as Thomas wrote to Margaret;
‘To this request I could not, nor did I know how to refuse.’[xi]
That Thomas had two daughters as ladies of Mary’s court was an indication of just how high he had climbed.
Anne wrote to her father;
‘I understand by your letter that you desire that I shall be a worthy woman when I come into the court, and you inform me that the Queen will take the trouble to converse with me………..this will make me have the greater desire to speak French.’[xii]
|Hotel des Tournelles|
Louis and Mary were married by proxy on 14th August at Greenwich Palace and then again on 9th October at Abbeville. Mary was one of the queen’s ‘Chamberers’, serving in the queen’s private suite doing the menial tasks that were above the dignity of the ladies-in-waiting. Lady Guildford[xiii] was the queen’s Lady of Honour and had charge of the maids-of-honour.
Louis was suffering from leprosy and his ravaged face must have been a shock to the young queen. After the wedding the Duke of Norfolk visited Queen Mary to discuss which of her English ladies would be sent home. But this meeting was pre-empted by Louis who dismissed Lady Guildford and most of Mary’s servants, causing much distress to his young wife. Mary was one of those retained, probably due to the intervention of her grandfather.
Following the wedding a series of jousts and tourneys were held at which the new Duke of Suffolk, Charles Brandon, excelled. The tournaments were organised by Louis’ heir and cousin François. Christmas was celebrated at the Hôtel de Tournelles. François showed a clear interest in his new queen, although this did not seem to bother Louis.
The Royal Widow
|Louise de Savoie|
Anne rejoined the queen and her ladies sometime after Christmas. By the time she arrived Mary was a widow; Louis died on 1st January 1515 during a fit of vomiting. Mary and her ladies were sent to the Hôtel de Cluny at the order of Louise de Savoie[xiv] for the prescribed 40 days of mourning, where Mary could be scrutinised to ensure that she was not pregnant with Louis’ child.
Mary’s letters home to her brother became more and more frantic as she received the unwelcome attentions of the new French king. François indicated that he would be happy to divorce his wife Claude, his intimations were not well received. François dismissed Mary’s English ladies, replacing them with French maids of honour. He was hoping to organise a second marriage for Mary that would be advantageous for France, knowing that Henry was once again looking for an alliance with the Hapsburgs.
Henry had promised Mary that she could choose her second husband for herself, but had every intention of breaking this promise. Henry decided to reinstate his plans for Mary to marry Katherine’s nephew Charles, plans that horrified Mary who, thinking him the ugliest man in Europe, declared;
‘I would rather be torn to pieces.’[xv]
Mary took advantage of Suffolk’s presence in France and, with the possible encouragement of François[xvi], the couple were secretly married on 5th March 1515. Henry was enraged and it took much work on the part of Thomas Wolsey before the king’s wrath was assuaged[xvii]. Mary and Brandon were remarried on 13th May at Greenwich.
Cardinal Wolsey – Mandell Creighton, McMillan & Co 1891
Henry VIII – Robert Lacey, George Weidenfeld & Nicholson & Book Club Associates 1992
The Earlier Tudors – JD Mackie, Oxford University Press 1992
Rivals in Power – David Starkey (ed), Toucan Books 1990
The Six Wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir, Pimlico 1992
Mary Boleyn – Alison Weir, AudioGO Ltd 2012The Hapsburgs – Andrew Wheatcroft
[ii] The latest in a series of leagues set up by Julius; this aim of this one was to throw the French (Julius’ pervious allies against the Venetians) out of Italy
[iii] Rivals in Power - Starkey
[iv] In south-west France
[v] She was his third wife
[vi] Henry VIII - Lacey
[vii] Cardinal Wolsey - Creighton
[viii] The Six Wives of Hnery VIII - Weir
[ix] His second wife had died in the January and it was known that he was looking out for a young wife
[xi] Mary Boleyn - Weir
[xiv] François’ mother
[xv] Henry VIII - Lacey
[xvi] Hoping to forestall Henry’s planned alliance with the Holy Roman Emperor
[xvii] Henry was eventually persuaded by Wolsey to fine the couple an enormous amount of money, eliminating Brandon as one of the king’s advisers and leaving Wolsey as Henry’s sole confidant