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 www.measuringwealth.com
[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

1 comment:

  1. would have liked to have known what date he was dispatched to Sheriff Hutton, and a reminder of his age at this point [and Mary's when packed off to Wales]. Poor brats, the matches suggested included no consideration for any of those involved.