Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Tudor England - The Importance of Being Thomas VII

Princess Mary
The Birth of a Princess

Three months later Anne presented Henry, not with the longed for son, but another daughter; the princess Elizabeth. Elizabeth was christened on 10th September. Thomas carried the train of his granddaughter’s baptismal gown and George was one of those carrying the canopy of estate above Elizabeth’s head.

Anne’s paternal aunts, Anne Shelton and Alice Clere, were appointed to take charge of Princess Mary’s household. Anne was unkind to the young princess, harping on about her half-sister Elizabeth’s superior status, while Alice allegedly treated their charge less unkindly.

When Henry was undertaking the process to disinherit Mary Anne Shelton informed her charge that the king did not care what she did;

‘And if I were in the King’s place I would kick you out of the King’s house for your disobedience.’[i]

Anne also claimed that Henry was planning to behead his daughter for failing to take the oath agreeing that the young Elizabeth was to take Mary’s place as the heir to the throne. Anne’s bullying had its effect; Mary became ill, but even so would not agree to take the oath.

The Enchantment Fails

Edward Seymour
The enchantment wrought by Anne was fast disappearing and Henry, disappointed in the sex of his heir and Anne’s miscarriage in the late summer of 1534 , was soon looking around for a new love and in the September found her in one of Anne’s ladies; the young Jane Seymour, the daughter of Sir John Seymour of Wolf Hall[ii]. Jane, like Anne, refused Henry’s advances and the gifts and honours bestowed upon her and her family, especially her brother Edward[iii], grew in splendour the longer Henry was thwarted.

Anne was becoming a termagant; nothing could be better used to destroy any love that Henry, a man notorious for his foul temper, felt for his new wife. When Anne discovered that Henry was flirting with one of her ladies and threw a tantrum Henry told her to put up with it.

In October 1535 Anne fell pregnant again and Henry was solicitous in public, but the Bishop of Tarbes, a visitor to the court, observed;

‘The King’s love for his wife is less than it has been, and diminishes every day because he has new amours.’[iv]

 Anne knew about Jane and the knowledge fed her depression.

The  Second Fall of Mary Boleyn

Viscount Lisle
Sometime in 1534[v] Mary Boleyn, by now pregnant, married William Stafford; Stafford was a second son and a common soldier; no match for the queen’s sister. Stafford transferred to working at the Calais garrison under the command of Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle[vi], the king’s uncle. Stafford’s move came after attending in the king’s train on his 1532 visit to France with Anne. Mary had failed to request permission from her father and from Henry.

Thomas was angered by this second marriage of his eldest daughter’s, as was her uncle Norfolk. Once Thomas realised that Mary’s child had been conceived out of wedlock he cut off her allowance. And he and Anne persuaded Henry to banish Mary from court. Mary wrote to Cromwell begging him to intercede with her sister and brother-in-law and also her parents;

‘Also I beseech you, good Master Secretary, pray my Lord my father and my Lady my mother to be good to us and to let us have their blessings, and my husband their goodwill; and I will never desire more of them.’[vii]

It would appear that Mary then moved to live in Calais with her new husband.

The Fall of Anne Boleyn

In early 1536 Thomas was loaning monies to the value of £400[viii] to Lord Henry Daubeny[ix]. A correspondent of Viscount Lisle wrote;

‘I have inquired of my Lord Daubeny’s demeanour as secretly as I can……I have perfect knowledge that he hath made shift with my Lord of Wiltshire for four hundred pounds.’[x]

Clearly, whatever other storm clouds were on the horizon, Thomas’s financial affairs were still in good order. 

Thomas Cromwell
But on 29th January Anne gave birth to a still-born son; her last hope. Cromwell was instructed to look for grounds for a second divorce. It was not until 24th April 1536 that a secret commission headed by Cromwell and Anne’s uncle Norfolk started work to find fault with the queen to enable Henry to divorce her and marry Jane.

It took the Commission a whole week to draw up a list of Anne’s alleged lovers; first and foremost was her brother George closely followed by Mark Smeaton a court musician, Sir Henry Norris[xi] a courtier, Sir Francis Weston a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and William Brereton[xii] a Groom of the Privy Chamber.

Within the month Anne was on trial for treason; she was taken to the Tower in the first week of May and and placed in the care of her paternal aunts, Anne Shelton and Alice Clere, who were there to spy on her and report to the Commission.

On 12th May Norris, Smeaton, Brereton and Weston were tried and condemned[xiii]. On 17 May 1536, George and his fellow accused were executed for treason, and all George’s titles were forfeited[xiv].  After her husband's execution, George’s wife was absent from court for several months. She was negotiating with Thomas; he eventually allocated her a pension of £100[xv].  Anne went to the block on 19th. Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn retired to Hever and Thomas was replaced as Lord Privy Seal by Cromwell;

The Downward Trajectory

Pilgrim's banner
Thomas suffered a final indignity as the claims of Piers Butler to the Earldom of Ormond were recognized and he was styled earl of Ormond from 22 January 1538. There were two earls of Ormond in the Kingdom until Thomas’s death on 12 March 1539.

Two years after the deaths of two of his children Thomas wrote to Erasmus requesting him to write a short commentary on the 23rd psalm to be dedicated to himself. Although no longer Lord Privy Seal, Thomas did retain his place on the king’s council. Two months after Anne and George’s death Thomas was helping suppress the Pilgrimage of Grace[xvi].

Prince Edward
Thomas was recorded as attending the funeral obsequies of the woman who supplanted his daughter; Jane Seymour died in childbirth on 24th October 1537, leaving Henry with his longed for son Edward. Thomas was as an agile a politician as his brother-in-law Norfolk;

‘These noblemen, we trust, will be ready to give attendance at Hampton Court, and so to Windsor:-

My Lords of Norfolk, Suffolk, Marquess [of] Dorset, Marquess [of] Exeter, the Earls of Surrey, Oxford, Rutland, Wiltshire, Sussex, Hertford, Southampton, the Lord Privy Seal, the Lord Chamberlain[xvii], if your Lordship have passed letters for them, as we trust you have.’[xviii]

Thomas then attended the christening of Prince Edward; he kept in with Cromwell and other influential politicians and attended the ceremonies of the Order of the Garter.

The Death of Doubting Thomas

Lady Margaret Douglas
Thomas’s wife Elizabeth died on 3rd April 1538 and Thomas’s younger sister Alice died in the November; Thomas now only had two siblings still alive; Anne[xix] and James[xx] and of his children only Mary was left. He had grandchildren; Anne’s daughter Elizabeth and Mary’s four children[xxi]. By the end of 1538 Thomas was being ‘well entertained’ at court; there were rumours that he was to wed Lady Margaret Douglas[xxii], the king’s niece.

While contemplating his mortality Thomas considered cutting Mary out of his will and leaving his money to his granddaughter Elizabeth. Thomas died on 12th March 1539 and was buried at Hever church. After Thomas’s death Hever Castle reverted to the Crown. Henry ordered masses to be said for Thomas’s soul. Thomas’s auditor wrote to Cromwell;

My good lord and master is dead, he made the end of a good Christian man.’[xxiii]


Thomas Cromwell – Robert Hutchinson, Phoenix 2008

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

Elizabeth – David Starkey, Chatto & Windus 2000

The Lisle Letters – Muriel St Clare Byrne (ed), Penguin Books Ltd 1985 1533

The Six Wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir, Pimlico 1992

Mary Boleyn – Alison Weir, AudioGO Ltd 2012

[i] Mary Tudor - Prescott
[ii] A soldier who had served both Henry and his father, Seymour lived in the Savernake Forest
[iii] Cromwell was thrown out of his apartments at court so that Edward could be housed close to his sister
[iv] The Six Wives of Henry VIII - Weir
[v] Probably in the summer
[vi] An illegitimate son of Edward IV
[vii] Mary Boleyn - Weir
[viii] In 2013 the relative:  historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £204,300.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £6,188,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £71,670,000.00
[ix] Created Earl of Bridgewater two years later
[x] The Lisle Letters – St Clare Byrne (ed)
[xi] Anne was accused of soliciting and having sex with Norris just ONE month after the birth of Elizabeth; along with the other accusations this is extremely unlikely given the number of servants, and attendants who would be scrutinising Anne’s every move. Unlike Catherine Howard, Anne was not a stupid woman.
[xii] Anne was accused of soliciting and having sex with Brereton a mere two months after the birth of Elizabeth
[xiii] Weir claims that Thomas was ‘probably’ involved in George and Anne’s trials
[xiv] His widow Jane continued to use the title after her husband's death. Lady Rochford was herself attainted for treason and beheaded on Tower Hill on 13 February 1542 with Queen Katherine Howard, the King's fifth wife
[xv] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £51,080.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £1,547,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £17,920,000.00
[xvi] An uprising in the north, protesting against the break from the Catholic Church
[xviii] Rivals in Power – Starkey (ed)
[xix] Who lived until 1555
[xx] Who died in 1561
[xxi]  His granddaughter Anne Stafford was born in 1536 and may still have been alive
[xxii] Mother of Henry Darnley, who married Mary Queen of Scots and grandmother of Arbella Stuart
[xxiii] Mary Boleyn - Weir

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for this detailed series. It's a great piece of research!