Monday, 16 January 2017

A Tudor Poet – Henry Howard III

Princess Mary
Marriage in Mind

Anne Boleyn supported the idea of her cousin Henry marrying Princess Mary; Anne may have thought that the marriage would dilute Mary’s threat to any children Anne might have if and when she married the king.

In the summer of 1529 rumours of the proposed marriage were circulating through the court to the effect that Norfolk was trying to push the marriage through. This may also be correct, as having a Howard married to Henry VIII’s heir would place the family in a very powerful position. And that, taken with Anne’s position as queen in waiting would make Norfolk almost unassailable.

In October 1529 Chapuys reported to his master;

‘This king is so blindly and passionately fond of his Anne that he has, at her persuasion, consented to treat of a marriage between the Princess Mary his daughter, and the son of the Duke of Norfolk.’[i]

Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby
But shortly thereafter Anne changed her mind; she had come to understand that Norfolk would put the good of the family above her needs, a prophetic insight into her uncle’s mind. She now stood between an alliance that would benefit the Howards but do nothing for her.

In 1530 Norfolk arranged a marriage between his younger son Thomas and his ward Elizabeth Marney, heir to John, Lord Marney. The couple wed in 1533 when Thomas was thirteen. On 21st February 1530 Norfolk, having married his eldest daughter Katherine to the under-age Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby, was obliged to seek the king’s pardon;

‘For the abduction of Edward Earl of Derby and [his] marriage to Katherine daughter of the said Thomas without royal licence.’[ii]

It was only a few weeks thereafter that Chapuys was informing his royal master that Lady Katherine had died suddenly of the plague. To ensure that the Stanley connection not be lost to the Howard family, Thomas arranged for Derby to marry his half-sister Dorothy Howard.

Marriage Contracts

Mary Howard
Despite her opposition to the marriage between Mary Tudor and Henry, Anne was prepared to press Henry VIII for a marriage between Fitzroy and Henry’s sister Mary. The king’s agreement to this marriage of his beloved son was finagled by Anne Boleyn. That the Howards were not required to provide a dowry for Mary indicates the strength of Henry VIII’s love for Anne. Later Norfolk was to claim;

‘The marriage was made by his [the king’s] commandment, without that I ever made suit therefor, or yet thought thereon, being fully concluded then with my Lord of Oxford[iii].’[iv]

Mary’s mother preferred the Oxford alliance but her wishes were overruled by Anne. The marriage agreement was finalised in the spring of 1531 and the formal engagement was to take place in June 1533 when Fitzroy was thirteen.

In lieu of Henry’s proposed marriage to the Princess and, possibly, to make up for the loss of Mary to Fitzroy, in April 1532 Norfolk agreed to a marriage between his eldest son and Frances Vere, daughter of Earl of Oxford. Chapuys was not impressed with Norfolk’s choice of daughter-in-law;

Frances Vere
‘The Duke must have had very urgent reasons for acting thus[v]…..the Lady is neither rich nor a very desirable alliance otherwise.’[vi]

In January Norfolk endowed Henry with £300 per annum[vii] while Oxford settled four thousand marks[viii] on his daughter. This princely sum was to be paid in instalments of two hundred marks on the day of the marriage and the remainder in six monthly sums of one hundred marks. Each father was to provide for his child’s personal clothing; the marriage took place in 1535 or 6 at Kenninghall. The young couple were deemed too young to be setting up a household and the bride returned home with her parents while Henry went back to Windsor. Before this happened the young couple sat for Hans Holbein who drew their portraits.

The great divorce too was taking longer than expected. A new mission had been sent to Rome in 1531, the matters to be covered had been agreed by the king, Stephen Gardiner, the Lord Chancellor and Bishop of Winchester, and Norfolk. By 1532 Parliament, under Cromwell’s management, was developing a bias against Rome. The king was also activating intellectual support for his position on the abuses of the church. Sadly none of this procured the desired effect.

A French Adventure

Francois I
In October 1532 Henry and Fitzroy accompanied the king on a trip across the Channel to France[ix]. Also at the king’s side was his paramour and over three thousand nobles, knights, pages and servants who travelled in the king’s train. It took only five hours before the walls of Calais were sighted.

Henry was here to meet François I, the two kings met at Boulogne and Henry was in the party that rode there on 21st October. The get-together lasted four days and then the two kings rode to Calais to continue the summit.

Throughout the visit to the Calais Pale Henry VIII did his best to outdo the French hospitality[x], spending £6,000[xi] on the visit. On 27th October there was bull and bear baiting, which must have pleased Henry and Fitzroy. It was followed by a banquet of one hundred and seventy dishes; the Venetian ambassador, who had not been invited to the party, sniffed at the expense.

‘A superfluous expenditure – entertainments, pageants and nothing else.’[xii]

He was wrong; the two kings agreed an alliance against the infidel Turk while two French cardinals were to leave immediately for Rome to press for Henry VIII’s divorce from his queen. It was also planned that François would arrange to meet Pope Clement somewhere in France with an English representative[xiii] (possibly Norfolk whose pension from the French had just been raised to three thousand crowns[xiv]).

Henry VIII’s gratitude was such that he wrote off the debt the French owed him for the ransom of François’ sons who had been taken hostage after the French defeat at the Battle of Pavia[xv]. In return Fitzroy and Henry were to live at François’ court, an extension of their visit that certainly surprised Fitzroy as he spent his last day in Calais hastily arranging for the disposition of his servants left in England.

To Paris

Chateau of Chantilly
In November 1532, while still in Calais[xvi], Henry contracted a fever which was to hang around for about a month. He was well enough to travel after a few days. He and Fitzroy were accompanied by sixty servants on the journey. Fitzroy’s almoner Richard Tate, reporting back to England, wrote;

‘My Lord of Richmond and my Lord of Surrey in all their journey towards the French court hath been very well welcomed and in all places have had presents of wines with other gentle offers.’[xvii]

François and his court started the return journey in advance of the king’s young guests and Henry and Fitzroy caught up with the court at Chantilly at the end of the month. The two young men were greeted with pleasure by François. A few days later the court moved on to Paris where Henry and Fitzroy were put up in the Dauphin’s lodgings in the Louvre Palace.

The French court was a licentious place where Henry VIII would not have felt out of place. But it was not only licentiousness that the court was renowned for; François was erudite and a man of letters and set up one of the greatest libraries in Europe. A generous patron to the like of the Humanist Guillaume Budé, François attracted refugee academics from Italy after the fall of the Republic of Florence, including the poet Luigi Alamanni. He must have been an inspiration for Henry who was more academic than Fitzroy.


Henry VIII’s Last Victim – Jessie Childs, Vintage Books 2008

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


[i] Henry VIII’s Last Victim - Childs
[ii] Bastard Prince - Murphy      
[iii] Norfolk and Oxford had agreed a marriage between Mary and Lord Bulbeck, Oxford’s son and heir
[iv] Bastard Prince - Murphy
[v] It has been suggested that Anne had realised that a marriage between Henry and Princess Mary would mean the loss of her uncle’s support for her own wedding. She was fast becoming very unpopular with the English who supported their Spanish queen
[vi] Henry VIII’s Last Victim - Childs
[vii] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £162,100.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £2,027,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £5,653,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £77,950,000.00
[viii] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £2,161,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £27,030,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £75,370,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £1,039,000,000.00
[ix] Norfolk was already over in France acting as Henry VIII’s agent making the arrangements for the summit
[x] Echoing the rivalry of the Field of the Cloth of Gold twelve years earlier
[xi] In 2015 the relative: labour cost of that project is £40,540,000.00 economic cost of that project is £1,559,000,000.00
[xii] Henry VIII’s Last Victim - Childs
[xiii] The meeting was made moot by Anne’s pregnancy in December see
[xiv] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £324,200.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £4,054,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £11,310,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £155,900,000.00
[xv] Part of the Italian War 1521-6 between the French and the Hapsburgs
[xvi] The wind was in the wrong direction for Henry VIII to return home
[xvii] Henry VIII’s Last Victim - Childs

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