Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Henry Fitzroy – a Tudor Prince V

Henry Fitzroy
Weighty Matters

By January 1534 Henry and Anne were expecting their second child. For the New Year exchange of gifts Fitzroy gave his father a ‘great spoon of gold’ weighing 4 oz[i]. In return Fitzroy received more silver gilt and Anne gave her stepson a silver salt and ring. Fitzroy took a liking to the ring and wore it frequently. This could of course have been a political ‘liking’. Mary gave her father-in-law a ‘tablet’ of gold and in return was given something from his store of gifts he kept squirrelled away.

In March 1534 Henry downgraded Catherine’s status to that of his brother’s widow and his marriage to Anne was ratified. The succession was secured on the first male child of Henry’s union with Anne. In the event of no male children then Elizabeth was to inherit the throne. The Act of Succession made it clear that only legitimate children could inherit the throne, putting paid to any ideas Fitzroy may have had.

Henry Courtenay (2nd left)
Fitzroy started taking part in official occasions; he attended parliament 33 times out of 46. He took the sovereign’s chair at the Order of the Garter at the annual Feast of St George in April at Windsor, deputising for his father. That summer Fitzroy visited his manor of Canford[ii] in Dorset and then one of his manors in Sheffield.

Eight months into her pregnancy Anne miscarried and she and Henry set out on the annual progress. Anne objected to her husband taking his pleasures with the ladies of the court and Henry rebuked her. Meanwhile he was getting very touchy about others claiming the right of inheritance. When the king’s cousin Henry Courtenay[iii] claimed that he would be next in line to the throne he was thrown into prison.

Towards Adulthood

Philippes de Chabot
Henry increased Fitzroy’s visibility at court; he played host at the St Andrew’s Day Feast in honour of the French Admiral Philippe de Chabot. In February 1535 he hosted Chapuys when Henry was in council; in May he attended the execution at Tyburn of three Carthusian monks, along with

‘Several other lords, and gentlemen courtiers, were present at the execution, openly and quite close to the victims’[iv]

a shocked Chapuys recorded.

Norfolk was now a power in Fitzroy’s life; he was Fitzroy’s Vice-Admiral and he was guardian of Fitzroy’s half-brother George Tailboys, who had been adjudged a lunatic. In addition Norfolk held the wardship of Fitzroy’s uncle George. Many of Fitzroy’s servants had links to the Howard family.

Norfolk helped Fitzroy out with his household matters. In 1535, when there were problems in Fitzroy’s landholdings in the Welsh Marches, Norfolk travelled with him to Holt to advise on addressing the issues. In 1536 Henry gave Fitzroy Baynards’ Castle as his London home. He and Mary were to take up residence there, an indication that at 17, Fitzroy was to be considered an adult.

Death of a Queen

Jane Seymour
It did not take long for Henry to tire of his new wife, who, as her insecurities grew, lashed out at her husband when things did not go her way. She also hit out at her uncle Norfolk. Henry for his part soon tired of these outbursts of temper and the continued failure on Anne’s part to deliver herself of a son. Once again in early 1536 Anne disappointed her husband with another miscarriage; the child was a boy.

By early 1536, Henry had found himself a new love; one of Anne’s ladies-in-waiting, Jane Seymour. He needed a reason for a divorce and his henchman Cromwell soon found one for him; Anne was guilty of adultery with four other men and into the bargain was guilty of incest with her brother Rochford.

On the night of Anne’s arrest Henry had Fitzroy brought to him to say goodnight. The king embraced his son and wept as he told him that he and his half-sister Mary should thank God for escaping;

‘That cursed and venomous whore, who tried to poison you both.’[v]

On 19th May Anne was beheaded[vi]; the clearly ailing Fitzroy was one of the nobles present at the execution. Others witnessing Anne’s death were Cromwell and his son, the Lord Chancellor and the Duke of Suffolk[vii]. Anne’s uncle stayed away.

Death of a Blameless Youth

In May 1536 the news that Fitzroy had been made Chamberlain of Chester[viii] and North Wales was sent to the king’s uncle, Arthur Plantagenet, in Calais; by his man Husee;

‘My Lord of Richmond is Chamberlain of Chester and North Wales.’[ix]

In addition Fitzroy was given the post of Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle[x]. He also busied himself trying to obtain, the stewardship of Banbury, for his servant Giles Forster. Unfortunately the post had already been promised to Cromwell.

In June 1536 the Second Act of Succession was passed; making Elizabeth illegitimate as well as Mary. This left Henry without any legitimate children, but the act gave Henry ‘full and plenary power and authority’ to choose who would succeed him if he died without an heir of his body, by naming his successor in letters patent or in his last will[xi]. Fitzroy attended parliament on 8th June; carrying his father’s ‘cap of maintenance’. After the proceedings Fitzroy joined the lords for dinner at York Place.

St James Palace
In July Fitzroy fell sick and his condition deteriorated daily; on 23rd July Fitzroy died suddenly, at St James Palace, of an acute pulmonary complaint. Henry was convinced that Anne had poisoned his son by means of a slow-acting poison, a suspicion shared by others. The chronicler Charles Wriothesley wrote;

‘It was thought that he [Richmond] was privily poisoned by the means of Queen Anne and her brother Lord Rochford, for he pined inwardly in his body long before he died. God knows the truth: he was a goodly young lord and [forward] in many qualities and feats.’[xii]

Henry ordered that Norfolk organise the funeral, while Cromwell’s man John Gostwick was to make an inventory of Richmond’s goods and chattels. Most of Richmond’s goods were sent direct to the King’s Jewel House in Westminster.

The day before Fitzroy’s death Chapuys reported to his master;

‘He [Henry] has no hope of the Duke of Richmond, whom he certainly intended to be his heir, living long; so fully did he mean this, that, had he [Richmond] not fallen ill, he would have had him proclaimed by parliament.’[xiii]

Henry appears to have ordered Norfolk to bury the body secretly; Fitzroy’s body was wrapped in lead and hidden under a bundle of straw in a wagon. The body was carried to Thetford, accompanied by two servants dressed in green. Norfolk had Fitzroy buried at Thetford Priory where the Howards were entombed. Surrey was at his father’s side during the funeral of his childhood friend.

Faithful to the End

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
Surrey grieved for the loss of his friend; over a year later he was still in mourning and, according to his father, was;

‘Very weak, his nature running from him abundantly [whenever Surrey] thought of my lord of Richmond.’[xiv]

The marriage between Mary and Fitzroy had never been consummated and Henry used that excuse to now deny Mary her dower rights. In 1537 Fitzroy’s playmate Surrey was imprisoned in Windsor Castle for treason[xv]. While there he wrote a lament recalling happier days playing with Fitzroy;

‘So cruel prison how could betide, alas!

As proud Windsor? where I in lust and joy,

With a King’s son my childish years did pass,

In greater feast than Priam’s sons of Troy…

O place of bliss! Renewer of my woes!

Give me account! Where is my noble fere [Duke of Richmond]

Whom in thy walls thou didst each night enclose.’[xvi]


The Lisle Letters – Muriel St Clare Byrne (ed), Penguin Books Ltd 1989

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

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] Promptly deposited in the Jewel House; in today’s prices worth £3,479.80
[ii] Possibly either Canford Heath or Canford Magna
[iv] Bastard Prince - Murphy
[v] The Six Wives of Henry VIII - Weir
[vii] Husband of Henry’s sister
[viii] An office formerly held by one of Anne’s alleged lovers Henry Norris.
[ix] The Lisle Letters - Byrne
[x] Previously held by Anne’s brother George
[xi] It was superseded in 1543 by the Third Succession Act, which returned Henry's daughters into the line of succession to the throne, but did not restore their legitimacy.
[xii] House of Treason - Hutchinson
[xiii] The Lost Tudor Princess - Weir
[xiv] House of Treason - Hutchinson
[xv] Surrey was to find himself in the Tower on a number of occasions due to his rash behaviour and was executed on 19th January 1547, nine days before Henry VIII’s death
[xvi] Rivals in Power – Starkey

1 comment:

  1. unfortunately in those days any minor complaint could become serious and turn to pneumonia. i wonder whether there's enough remains if he was wrapped in lead to determine a cause of death; it would be interesting to exhume him and do an autopsy.