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

1 comment:

  1. a strange and lonely life, no wonder he took to a companion not too many years his senior. if he was reared like Henry he probably came across as old for his years anyway.