Monday, 26 September 2016

Henry Fitzroy – a Tudor Prince III

17th century painting of Pontefract Castle
Financial Matters

In 1528, as the sweating sickness swept across the country, six people died locally from the illness. Fitzroy’s council decided to move Fitzroy from Pontefract Castle[i] to Ledstone three miles away. Fitzroy and six attendants stayed at a house belonging to the Prior of St John’s. Fitzroy’s household was meant to include a doctor, but one had never been appointed by Wolsey. And now the council worried that Fitzroy was without medical care at this ‘time of strange infirmities’.

Throughout Fitzroy’s absence in the north Henry had continued to write to his son and sent messengers with messages and gifts. On one occasion Fitzroy received a collar of gold set with seven white enamel roses; in this emergency Henry sent a selection of medical remedies for which Fitzroy thanked his father and assured him that they had made all the difference in ensuring his continued good health.

Henry and Wolsey’s concern over the cost of the household in the north was borne out by the continual over-expenditure. Much of this was for unbudgeted items; in October 1527 a band of 60 soldiers had to be hired to deal with outlaws. The cost of the troop came to £120[ii] for two months, expensive especially as the intended outlaw, Sir William Lisle, made no appearance.

Failure to collect rents on Richmond’s behalf only added to the difficulties and officers of the crown went unpaid. At one point the council had to borrow £500[iii] from the Abbot of St Mary’s in York. More than once the council applied to Wolsey in arrears, anticipating that the debt might be forgiven.

The dire straits the council found itself in, was not helped by the lack of a Clerk of the Green Cloth. The position was not filled until August 1526 and it took the clerk and Thomas Magnus until February the following year to ascertain exactly where economies could be made. Eighteen members of the household were discharged.

Henry immediately demanded that some of the discharged officers be readmitted to their duties. Fitzroy’s steward Sir William Bulmer[iv] and his comptroller Sir Thomas Tempest defended their actions and complaining that these new instructions;.

‘[Made] all our orders and directions to be of little regard; and we and all other officers and Councilors here be lightly esteemed among our Lord’s servants.’[v]

Fitzroy’s tenure as Warden of the Marches was finished when he handed over the reins to Lord William Dacre and returned to court in June 1529.

At Court

Lord Ferrers' arms
On 22nd June Fitzroy was named Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; a three man executive board made up of members of the Irish Privy Council was created to run Ireland on Fitzroy’s behalf. A year later, Henry appointed Sir William Skeffington as Lord Deputy; Skeffington was sent to Ireland accompanied by an armed retinue to rule in Fitzroy’s name[vi].

On 9th August the 10 year old Fitzroy attended the first parliament called since he became duke; he sat in his ducal robes in prime position between his father and Norfolk. During the proceedings the granting of Fitzroy’s lands and possessions, were confirmed.

During the time Fitzroy was in London he was given ‘a grey trotting nag’ by Lord Ferrers. Courtiers were more than happy to pay attention to the small boy who was clearly in his father’s good books. Ferrers was not the only courtier to give Fitzroy gifts.

Hatfield House Old Palace
At Christmas Fitzroy attended the festivities at Greenwich where his father bestowed upon him a two handled gilt cup and two little gilt pots as his New Year’s gift. Henry not only gave Fitzroy gifts, he spent time with him, when Henry could divert attention from Anne Boleyn. In the spring of 1531 Fitzroy stayed at Hatfield with his father and the following year he stayed at Grafton with the king.

Fitzroy’s return to court meant an overhaul of his wardrobe and household items; many of his furnishings were shabby and needed replacing. His robes of state had been made for a six-year old boy; they were too small. Norfolk was involved in the giving away of Fitzroy’s cast off furniture and household ephemera. Several pieces were given to Fitzroy’s half-brother George, now Lord Tailboys. Norfolk also paid for some replacement items out of his own purse. When not at court, Fitzroy spent time at Wolsey’s manor of the More[vii] in Hertfordshire.

Loss of a Godfather

Anne Boleyn by Holbein
By the time of Fitzroy’s return Henry had become restless under Wolsey’s rule. To add to his sins Wolsey appeared unable to produce the necessary divorce from Queen Catherine, so that Henry could marry that beguiling witch Anne Boleyn, Norfolk’s niece. Henry had come under Anne’s spell in 1526[viii]. Fitzroy’s return to court was virtually unnoticed as all attention was on the Legatine court, convened at Blackfriars, considering Henry’s demand for a divorce.

As Anne’s power waxed, so Wolsey’s waned. And as the great divorce issue, ongoing since 1527, continued unresolved so Wolsey’s hold on Henry slackened. The pope, a prisoner of the Emperor’s, was not going to allow Henry to divorce the Emperor’s aunt. Croke’s recall from Sherriff Hutton eighteen months earlier had been to help put together a legal case for the divorce.

Additionally by 1529 Henry was concerned about the direction of his chancellor’s foreign policy, in direct opposition to his own; Wolsey favoured the French while Henry became increasingly desperate for a union with the Hapsburgs[ix].

Living at Windsor

The Duke of Norfolk by Holbein
With Wolsey’s fall from grace and subsequent death in November 1530[x] the Duke of Norfolk seized the chance of gaining influence over the king’s son. He angled for his 12 year old son Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, to become Fitzroy’s companion. Norfolk confided in Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador; Norfolk hoped that Surrey;

‘May in time become [Richmond’s] preceptor and tutor that he may attain both knowledge and virtue.’[xi]

Norfolk was given the custody and control of Fitzroy’s education that had formerly been Wolsey’s prerogative. Norfolk took care to ensure that Surrey and Fitzroy spent a lot of time together; the pair became inseparable friends despite the age difference. The unsuitable George Cotton was named as Fitzroy’s Governor, but Norfolk took over the matters that Wolsey had previously arranged for Fitzroy.

Fitzroy was given apartments[xii] in Windsor Castle that he shared with Surrey who, along with other young sprigs of the nobility, joined Fitzroy for classes, tennis, dancing and sport. Fitzroy enjoyed hunting and pursued prowess in the tiltyard in emulation of his father. In 1530 the court came to Windsor when the king held a chapter of the Order of the Garter at the castle to mark St George’s Day.

Henry VIII gateway, Windsor Castle
After the formalities of the Order’s celebration of mass in the St George’s Chapel Henry spent time with his son. Fitzroy may have impressed his father with his archery skills as Henry paid 20 shillings[xiii] out of his privy purse, to his fletcher for new arrows for Fitzroy.

Henry’s affection for Fitzroy was obvious and was remarked on by foreign ambassadors reporting back to their courts. Even during the height of his affair with Anne, Henry spent time with his son. In May 1531 Henry was back at Windsor and bought Fitzroy a lute.

For her part Anne Boleyn did not seem as taken with Fitzroy; the horse she gave him upon his return to court was considered unsuitable for a young boy and was passed on to Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare and former Lord Deputy of Ireland.


The Ebbs and Flows of Fortune – David M Head, University of Georgia Press 2009

House of Treason – Robert Hutchinson, Phoenix 2009

Henry VIII – Robert Lacey, Weidenfeld & Nicholson & Book Club Associates 1972

The Earlier Tudors – J D Mackie, Oxford University Press 1992

Cardinal Wolsey – Mandell Creighton, MacMillan & Co 1891

Bastard Prince – Beverley A Murphy, Sutton Publishing 2001

Rivals in Power – David Starkey, MacMillan London Ltd 1990

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

The Lost Tudor Princess – Alison Weir, Vintage 2015


[i] Where Fitzroy and his entourage spent the winters
[ii] In 2014 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £73,480.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £809,600.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £2,459,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £35,410,000.00
[iii] In 2014 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £340,800.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £3,311,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £10,610,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £154,300,000.00
[v] Bastard Prince - Murphy
[vi] There is no evidence to show why Henry removed the council and returned to the old style of governance; he may have been concerned that Ireland could be used as marshalling point for any foreign invasion of his realm. Skeffington had a small army to see off anyone so inclined
[vii] Queen Catherine lived here after the annulment of her marriage
[ix] The major power on the continent
[x] See for further details of Wolsey’s fall
[xi] Bastard Prince - Murphy
[xii] A new lodging known as the prince’s lodging was later built on the western side of the north front
[xiii] In 2015 the relative: real price of that commodity is £555.90 labour value of that commodity is £5,703.00 income value of that commodity is £18,090.00

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Henry Fitzroy – a Tudor Prince II

Sherriff Hutton Castle
Sherriff Hutton

Fitzroy was given a great Household with head officers and a council. Henry sent his son to Sherriff Hutton Castle in Yorkshire as nominal head of the regional government for the north[i]. Meanwhile Mary was given her own household and made Warden of the Welsh Marches. She too left court to live at Thornbury Castle[ii].

Fitzroy was sent north, in part to wrest the area from the control of the feudal magnates, in particular Henry Percy[iii], the Earl of Northumberland. The arrangement was probably conceived and organised by Wolsey; he was the dominant cleric in the north being Archbishop of York and Bishop of Durham and into the bargain had care of the young duke.

Fitzroy’s council was headed by Brian Higdon, Dean of York, one of Wolsey’s men. The treasurer, Sir Godfrey Foljambe, his Chamberlain was Sir William Parr, the vice-Chamberlain Richard Page and the Cofferer Sir George Lawson[iv] were all the king’s men. Many of the more minor posts were filled with men dependent on Wolsey who controlled who was to serve the young duke. Wolsey was very offhand when Norfolk tried to place one of his men in Fitzroy’s household.

Wolsey was intent on keeping some measure of control of the council and regularly sent commissions and instructions to them. He kept most control of the decision making to himself. The council, eager to make a good impression, set up court sessions at Newcastle, made enquiries into the state of Northumberland and took recognizances from the local gentry.

Fitzroy had four gentlemen ushers to control his visitors whom he received sitting on a cloth of gold chair of estate with a matching canopy overhead. His rooms were furnished with chairs of crimson velvet embroidered with Fitzroy’s arms. Other chairs, in black velvet, were embroidered with the king’s arms.  

‘All the noble men and other worshipful men of all these north counties daily resorted to his lordship in great numbers….and he [is] as highly esteemed in honour as ever any young Prince in these parts.’[v]

The council was not only responsible for Yorkshire and the borders but for the running of Fitzroy’s lands. In 1527 the surveyor and receiver general of his estates Thomas Magnus surveyed Fitzroy’s lands in Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire while William Franklyn, Archdeacon of Durham, surveyed his properties in the north.

A Noble Upbringing

Sir Thomas More
Bessie Tailboys had some input to her son’s life and education as John Palsgrave, who was made Fitzroy’s tutor in 1525, acknowledged. Palsgrave, formerly one of Henry’s secretaries, enlisted the assistance of his patron, Sir Thomas More the Lord Chancellor, to ensure that Fitzroy was inculcated with moral values by means of a classical education.

Fitzroy’s education was now put on a formal footing; his programme of studies was ambitious[vi] and included music, taught by William Saunders, another of Wolsey’s protogées, and Latin [vii] and Greek, studying Virgil and other classical writers. Palsgrave was concerned about Fitzroy’s lisp, which it was hoped would be lost once the boy lost his milk teeth. After he fell into financial difficulties in 1526 Palsgrave was succeeded in the post by Richard Croke.

Fitzroy had the company of his 12 year old uncle George Blount and his younger brother Henry and William Parr[viii] . The boys all studied together and along with studying the schoolroom were taught dancing, archery and basic skills for jousting. No scholar, Fitzroy developed a love of hunting, keeping hawks, greyhounds and bloodhounds.

Bad Influences

Both Palsgrave and Croke complained that Fitzroy’s servants interrupted Fitzroy’s studies. One, Sir George Cotton[ix], was spending time with Fitzroy, time that Fitzroy should have been spending on his studies; a timetable devised by Wolsey. Cotton clearly hoped to influence the child and obtain some of the patronage that he was able to provide. Cotton had Fitzroy write to the local nobles to obtain hawks and favours for Cotton and his cronies.

15th century copy of Caesar's Commentaries
Croke alleged that Cotton brought in minstrels to sing bawdy songs to Fitzroy, although what the child made of that is not known. As a result of Cotton’s machinations Croke found that Fitzroy was often too tired to study. Sir William Parr was also interfering with Fitzroy’s studies by insisting that he hear daily matins and vespers in company with young William Parr.

Fitzroy took advantage of the disunity of the adults around him and refused to mind his ushers and nurse. Croke claimed that

‘A disposition of the best promise….may at last be ruined under such masters, who measure everything for their own pleasure and profit and nothing for the advantage of their lord.’[x]

Nothing could make Fitzroy to his studies until he was overcome by a desire for a suit of armour to enable him to exceed in the exploits of war, such as those he had read about in Caesar’s commentaries. Fitzroy was tempted back to his books by texts of warlike exploits designed to appeal to an active child. Fitzroy wrote to both Henry and Wolsey assuring them of his new-found diligence. He lost Croke as a tutor in October 1527 when Henry recalled him. Croke’s replacement may have been one of Croke’s contemporaries at Cambridge, George Folbury.

Marriage Plans

Henry VIII circa 1530
A year later in 1526, Henry and Wolsey were bemoaning the cost of the two princely households. That New Year Henry gave Fitzroy sets of gold cups, a gold salt (purportedly made from a unicorn’s horn) set with pearls and turquoises, and cups ‘graven with antiques’[xi]. Not to do be outdone Wolsey gave him a gold and enamelled garter.

There was talk of making Fitzroy King of Ireland and marrying him off to a foreign princess. Ambassadors were to explain that;

‘[Fitzroy] is near of the King’s blood and of excellent qualities, and is already furnished to the state of a great prince.’[xii]

Catherine objected to these plans which would diminish her daughter’s standing. The proposal also interfered with the search for a husband for Mary. The Spanish ambassador in England claimed that the idea was very unpopular in the country and that;

The Queen is very dissatisfied with these proceedings.’[xiii]

But to all this, the queen outwardly acquiesced.

Among those mentioned as prospective brides for Fitzroy was Catherine de’Medici[xiv], a young lady with plenty of suitors including James V of Scotland, with whom Fitzroy had exchanged gifts and letters. The lady’s marital potential was brought to Henry’s attention by the ambassadors to the court of Spain, Sir Gregory Casale and John Russell.

Henri, Duc d'Orleans
The plans came to nothing and Fitzroy stayed in the north. Wolsey had his eye on Charles V’s niece the Infanta Maria of Portugal for Fitzroy, but she was affianced to the French Dauphin and that idea too fell by the wayside. Wolsey was determined to strengthen ties with the imperial court and dangled both Fitzroy and Mary before Charles V.

Wolsey’s fall-back position was an alliance with the French, trying to detach one power from the other. On 30th April 1527 the two ancient enemies came to an agreement; Mary was to marry the Duc d’Orléans[xv], but Fitzroy was left without a prospective bride.

Towards the end of the summer the marriage with the Portuguese Infanta was back on the table, following events in Italy. Henry was wishful for Fitzroy to marry a Hapsburg princess while Wolsey believed that the overtures from Charles V, offering Maria as a bait, were an attempt to overset the alliance with France. He was right, but Henry was never a man to admit he was wrong.


The Ebbs and Flows of Fortune – David M Head, University of Georgia Press 2009

House of Treason – Robert Hutchinson, Phoenix 2009

Henry VIII – Robert Lacey, Weidenfeld & Nicholson & Book Club Associates 1972

The Earlier Tudors – J D Mackie, Oxford University Press 1992

Cardinal Wolsey – Mandell Creighton, MacMillan & Co 1891

Bastard Prince – Beverley A Murphy, Sutton Publishing 2001

Six Wives – David Starkey, Chatto & Windus 2003

Henry VIII – David Starkey (ed), Collins & Brown 1991

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

The Lost Tudor Princess – Alison Weir, Vintage 2015


[i] The cost to Henry was to be £4,845 per annum; in 2014 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £3,226,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £32,250,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £97,740,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £1,436,000,000.00
[ii] North east of Bristol
[iii] The Percys had long held sway in the north
[iv] Later MP for York and Mayor of the city
[v] Bastard Prince - Murphy
[vi] Following lines suggested by More, Stephen Gardiner and Thomas Elyot,
[vii] Palsgrave claimed that he had devised a new and easier way for Fitzroy to learn Latin
[viii] Nephew of Fitzroy’s Chamberlain, Sir William Parr
[ix] Possibly the same Sir George Cotton to whom Henry granted Poulton Chapel in Cheshire in 1544
[x] Bastard Prince - Murphy
[xi] In 1532 Henry gave Fitzroy 95 ounces of gold; in 1534 the king’s standing cup, given by his father for New Year, was given by Fitzroy to his mother-in-law, the Duchess of Norfolk
[xii] Henry VIII - Lacey
[xiii] Six Wives - Starkey
[xiv] Later to marry Henry II of France
[xv] Later Henry II of France