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  • Henry VII: The Maligned Tudor King by Terry Breverton

    Henry VII by C. E. Kempe (1909) at the church of St Mary the Virgin, inside the town walls near Pembroke Castle. (Henry VII, Amberley Publishing)

    With the exhumed Richard III being given a cathedral service and burial, he seems to have assumed heroic status in the eyes of many, a modern myth, or should I now say ‘fake news’ for those with a knowledge of history. However, the newly aroused interest in one of our most devious and cruel monarchs threw the spotlight upon the man who usurped his throne. In fact, only three major lords supported Richard at his demise, two of them created by him. Over thirty other great barons, who had always followed Richard’s brother Edward IV into battle, stayed away from Bosworth or supported Henry. Edward IV’s bodyguard and closest allies came to Henry’s assistance, along with Edward IV’s widow as her brother-in-law Richard had killed her sons. The people who disagree with this sentence are members of the Richard III Society or readers of modern historical fiction.

    As for usurpation, a glance through all English kings from Athelstan onwards will show a history or violence, revolt of fathers against sons, and no obvious royal bloodline or rightful kings. After a series of Germanic then French kings marrying Germanic then French wives, Henry Tudor was the first king with any British blood in him, via his grandfather Owen Tudor. Owen was descended in direct line from Ednyfed Fychan (1170-1246), Seneschal to Llywelyn the Great, via the Tudors of Anglesey who initiated the Owain Glyndwr war of 1400-1415. Much of his success in succeeding against seemingly overwhelming odds was owing to his march through Wales to meet Richard. The whole nation rose in support, believing that Henry was the mab darogan – the son of prophecy – who had come to take England back from the German and French invaders. Indeed, there had been almost continuous rebellion by the British (i.e. Welsh) and in particular the Tudor family, against the English from the time of the defeat of Llywelyn II in 1282. The fight ended with the coronation of the first king of England with British blood.

    Terry Breverton's new paperback edition of Henry VII: The Maligned Tudor King is available for purchase now.

  • Everyday Life in Tudor London by Stephen Porter

    Life in the City of Thomas Cromwell, William Shakespeare & Anne Boleyn

    London in the late fifteenth century looking west; a painting by John Fulleylove based upon a contemporary illustration. (Author's collection, Everyday Life in Tudor London, Amberley Publishing)

    Tudor London was a large and vibrant city holding an unrivalled position within England as the centre of government, political life and the law; the focus of power and patronage; the hub of overseas and inland trade, with a diverse and flourishing economy. Its wealth and the opportunities which it offered drew aspiring incomers from across the country and attracted a significant inflow of people from abroad, together with new ideas and practices, as London’s overseas trade expanded into new trading regions. Its contacts developed, centred on the commercial world of the City, the court’s artistic interests and patronage, and the humanist intelligentsia’s networks.

    Visitors were aware that the city was inhabited by craftsmen and was not dominated by the aristocracy. Shops lined many of the streets, including the one which crossed the bridge connecting the city with Southwark; an impressive structure which was greatly admired. Cheapside attracted attention for the wealth of its goldsmiths’ and silversmiths’ shops and Watling Street was dominated by wealthy drapers dealing in all sorts of woollen cloth. The houses of the merchants and wealthy craftsmen were impressive but not showy and the streets themselves gave an unfavourable impression, for they were narrow and lined with tall buildings, and so were rather dismal. And their surfaces were foul, because they were badly paved and often wet and muddy, and that carried into the houses. London’s environment was a smelly one, both indoors and out.

    The entrance to Staple Inn, Holborn, erected in 1586, painted by E. W. Haslehust around 1924. The inn was the largest of the Inns of Chancery. (Author's collection, Everyday Life in Tudor London, Amberley Publishing)

    Within the city were more than a hundred parish churches, the great cathedral of St Paul’s and over 30 monastic houses, all of varying sizes. The monastic orders owned many houses across the city and after they were dissolved, in the 1530s, not only were the sites of the monasteries sold, but so too were their properties, and so the mid-century saw a considerable transfer of ownership of property.

    Londoners enjoyed a good and varied diet, with mutton and beef, and plenty of fish, and they were particularly fond of young swans, rabbits, deer, and seabirds. Markets were held along the streets. The principal one was in Cheapside and the names of the adjacent streets indicate their specialities: Honey Lane, Bread Street, Milk Street and Wood Street. A fish market was held in Friday Street on Fridays, although the biggest fish market was at Billingsgate. The poultry dealers traded in the eastwards extension of Cheapside, known as Poultry; at its western end a corn market was held in a churchyard, and beyond that Newgate Street was used by butchers for their slaughter-houses and stalls.

    The Swan playhouse on Bankside, erected in 1595 and sketched by Johannes de Witt in the following year. His sketch was copied and that copy is the only surviving contemporary illustration of a theatre of Shakespeare's time. (Author's collection, Everyday Life in Tudor London, Amberley Publishing)

    To supply the Londoners’ needs, goods, fuel and produce were brought by road, along the Thames and in seagoing and coastal vessels. The carts which supplied the city and those which transported goods from the quaysides along the Thames caused traffic congestion, which worsened during the sixteenth century, as London’s population grew and as the aristocracy, gentry and wealthier merchants took to travelling by coach. Congestion of pedestrians and vehicles was a characteristic and frustrating feature of life in the city. The number of vessels on the river also increased and visitors were impressed by the sheer amount of shipping in the Thames.

    As well as the seagoing vessels and river barges, the Thames seemed to be full of small passenger boats taking two passengers and known as wherries; by the end of the century there were said to be 3,000 of them. They were convenient for theatre-goers who attended performances in the new playhouses on Bankside; others were built in Shoreditch. The late sixteenth century saw the birth of the modern theatre as plays emerged from the court and aristocratic mansions onto a genuinely public stage, where a wide-ranging and constantly expanding repertoire could be enjoyed by everyone for a small charge. But the playhouses were viewed with suspicion, as places which attracted ne’er-do-wells, and the magistrates occasionally tried to suppress them, on moral grounds, and during outbreaks of plague, to deter people from crowding together, which was thought likely to help spread the disease.

    St James's Palace was built by Henry VIII in the 1530s; the Tudor gatehouse survives and was painted by E. W. Haslehust in the early 1920s. (Author's collection, Everyday Life in Tudor London, Amberley Publishing)

    Londoners had a range of other recreations to choose from. That was the period when the Lord Mayor’s show developed into a truly impressive day-long spectacle, with hundreds taking part and thousands lining the route. Bowling alleys, gaming-houses and alehouses were all popular, although the magistrates tried to control the numbers, partly because they were thought to be the resort of idle people who should have been at work. But alehouses were lively meeting places for music and conviviality, with ballads pasted on the walls to encourage communal singing. Inns, taverns and beer gardens were scattered about the city and were used by women as well as men. Women and men mixed freely in Tudor London and travellers commented on the practice of kissing as a greeting, with callers expected to kiss the hostess and her whole household both when they arrived and when they left.

    Tudor London, with its overlapping communities, was a complex, lively and rewarding city in which to live. By the time that the dynasty came to an end in 1603 its population had reached 200,000, having increased fourfold since Henry VII’s accession in 1485. That was just one reflection of how dominant the city was within England, in terms of its economic, social, political, legal and cultural influence. And it had gained a far wider international reach, as its merchants traded with an expanding range of ports across much of the world, and the greater volume and ever-widening variety of fine goods that were imported. Many of them reached London’s myriad shops and households; the congestion in the streets and on the river reflected the city’s industrious and prospering society. Problems remained, for growth brought overcrowding and bad living conditions for the poor, and epidemic diseases could not be prevented, but the rapid recovery from the sporadic outbreaks demonstrated London’s social and economic resilience. A French visitor in 1578 was so enthused by the city that he wrote that ‘rumours of the greatness, prosperity, singularities and splendours of London fly and run to the ends of the whole world’.

    Stephen Porter's new paperback edition of Everyday Life in Tudor London: Life in the City of Thomas Cromwell, William Shakespeare & Anne Boleyn is available for purchase now.

  • Anne Boleyn - A Tudor Victim by Lynda Telford

    Anne Boleyn’s rise to fame as Henry VIII’s second queen is often quoted as a case of a king raising up a commoner for love. The reality is far more complex. While Anne descended from a background of solidly noble maternal ancestors, and upwardly mobile courtiers on her father’s side, Henry’s own antecedents were shaky. His father and mother both had doubts cast on the legitimacy of their bloodlines, and the Tudor seat on the throne was won in battle, not by inheritance.

    Henry’s marriage to the Spanish Katherine of Aragon had produced only a daughter, and his longing for a son to succeed him was becoming desperate. He saw in Anne, not merely an attractive companion, but a woman of strength and intelligence. One, moreover, who could give him the sons he needed, to give permanency to his line.

    Unfortunately, ending his first marriage went through years of delays, during which time Anne’s reputation suffered. She proved fertile when their marriage was finally achieved, and as there was no evidence of her having a pregnancy during the waiting time, it is highly unlikely that their relationship was fully physical during the legal holdups. That Anne was able to keep Henry’s interest, yet keep his impatience in check throughout that time, is a credit to her character and considerable charm. Sadly, the long wait also saw the partners increase in age, and Anne was around 32, to Henry’s 42, when their marriage finally took place. Not old by modern standards, but not young by their own.

    Anne produced their daughter without difficulty, but subsequent pregnancies resulted in miscarriage or stillbirth. Not merely disappointments, but these misadventures allowed detractors to claim that the long struggle had achieved nothing except political unrest.

    The lack of a male heir, and the problems created by the abandonment of Katherine, would eventually damage the harmony of the marriage, with outside pressures proving too great. Although Anne remained a Catholic all her life, she was interested in the New Learning, and frequently imported books from Antwerp for her household to read. This also put the conservative factions against her, particularly as she had many friends among the more progressive courtiers.

    Despite these problems, Henry held on. This was partly due to the alluring sunshine-and-shadow of Anne’s mercurial personality, but also because Katherine was still in the background and separating from Anne may have meant returning to her rival. Katherine was six years Henry’s senior, and any attractions she may once have possessed, had long since faded.

    There was also a strong need, in Henry’s own character, to be seen to be in the right. Any separation from Anne would appear, to an avidly censorious Europe, as an admission that he had made a mistake. Also, he still retained the hope that she would produce the urgently needed son, to justify the earlier struggles.

    Unfortunately, it was not to be. The continuing lack of the male heir, that Henry believed he needed, gradually allowed Anne’s enemies to undermine the security of her position. Henry was not entirely faithful, and in the past his friends – notably Bryan and Carew – had arranged assignations for him with the wives of other gentlemen of his household. These regular adventures did not noticeably add to his known tally of bastards, so it may be assumed that his virility was rather less than he would have liked people to believe. This lack of potency, particularly as he aged, was probably the reason why his wives experienced difficulties in producing many healthy children.

    A faction had been encouraging him to settle all his problems, both personal and political, with another marriage. This would end the prominence of the Boleyn’s, and allow a takeover. As another divorce might make Henry appear fickle, it was decided to charge Anne with adultery. Though this extreme action, which would result in a trial for treason, was ostensibly to defend the king’s honour, it was actually entirely motivated by a desire to replace the Boleyn’s at the centre of power.

    Anne was arrested, not even knowing the full charges against her, which were still being formulated. Even so, a headsman from France (who used a sword) had been sent for, at a cost of £23.6s.8d.  before her travesty of a trial began.

    The men accused of being her lovers, except her brother Lord Rochford, were tried first. The fact that their condemnation would seriously compromise her trial was of no concern. She defended herself with courage, proving at several points that the “incidents” did not take place, as she was elsewhere at the time. This also cast grave doubts on the veracity of other charges made against her. The Lord Mayor of London, present at her trial, said he “could see no evidence against her, except that they wanted an occasion to be rid of her.” However, the result was a foregone conclusion.

    Her brother and the other condemned men were executed on the 17th May, leaving Anne to face alone the full horror of a public death, beheaded by a sword. To the very end, she appeared convinced that she would be reprieved, but she was executed within the precincts of the Tower, on Friday the 19th May 1536.

    Henry’s many further marital adventures proved irrelevant. His son, by his third wife Jane Seymour, who had plotted with her family against Anne, did not live to adulthood. Katherine’s daughter Mary married a Spanish Prince, and embroiled England in Spain’s war in the Netherlands.

    It was Anne’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, who restored England’s pride and made her a force to be reckoned with. With her splendidly successful reign, that Anne’s place in history was fully justified.

    Ref: “Tudor Victims of the Reformation” by Lynda Telford.

    Published: Pen and Sword. 2016.

  • The Tudor Dynasty by Terry Breverton

    Non-fiction writing is all about fascination – learning intriguing facts and delving to find what is true, misguided or simply wrong. It’s a voyage of discovery but where you have to divest preconceived notions and query everything as you go along. The problem with historical non-fiction is that much material has been hidden, or hijacked with a predictable slant to sell historical fiction books. As a former management consultant I was almost always called in when there were major problems, and then faced the board with unpalatable facts about how they had been running their companies. What I’m trying to say is that you had to go into a company with no preconceived notions, and come up with something acceptable in order to be paid. The way to achieve that was to feed board members with one’s findings as the research progressed, and they could individually say at the final presentation that they agreed with you, as that was what they had been thinking all along. The process saved their faces and ensured full payment for the consultancy was a foregone conclusion.

    The same process applies to writing historical non-fiction – you have to take the reader along with you – following the same research path as yourself. In my book ‘Richard III – the King in the Car Park’, it was pointless decrying his recent cathedral burial until the end of the book, where hopefully all those who are not convinced Ricardians would agree with myself, and with just about every current history academic and writer. I sometimes wonder why people write historical novels – the facts are far, far more interesting and even entertaining.  The Tudors for instance – WOW! What a story. An unknown Welshman, later known as Owen Tudor, impoverished because his father and uncles fought in the Owain Glyndŵr war of 1400-1415, secretly married Henry V’s young widow. He was imprisoned, but one son, Edmond, Earl of Richmond, died fighting for his step-brother Richard II in the so-called Wars of the Roses. Another son, Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, rescued Henry, the son of Edmond, born after his father’s death.  Jasper then was the only peer to fight throughout the civil wars, from the First Battle of St Albans in 1455 to Stoke Field in 1487.

    Jasper’s life was spent fighting and escaping, and his father Owen Tudor was executed after being captured at Jasper’s defeat at Mortimer’s Cross in 1461. Jasper managed to secure his nephew Henry from captivity and they escaped to Brittany and then France, but their lives in exile were at constant threat from Edward IV and then Richard III trying to have them killed. The Tudors’ choice was to either die or try and take the throne of England. With massive unrest against Richard III, their small army landed in Pembroke and swelled in numbers, supported by nearly all of Edward IV’s closest followers. They knew that Richard III had killed his brother’s sons and Edward’s closest friend Hastings, and hardly any lords now followed Richard into battle at Bosworth Field in 1485. Henry’s victory led to general peace across the land and a period of prosperity for the nation. I wrote ‘Everything You Wanted to Know about the Tudors but were Afraid to Ask’, detailing interesting facts about the new dynasty, England’s greatest. My trilogy of books upon the Tudors includes the first biographies of ‘Jasper Tudor – Dynasty Maker’ and ‘Owen Tudor – Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty’. In between them I wrote ‘Henry VII – the Maligned Tudor King.’ They were enjoyable to research and write, and I hope that readers will be informed as well as entertained by them.

      

    Terry Breverton's books Richard III: The King in the Car Park, Owen Tudor: Founding Father of the Tudor Dynasty, Jasper Tudor: Dynasty Maker, Henry VII: The Maligned Tudor King and Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Tudors But Were Afraid to Ask are all available for purchase now.

  • The Wars of the Roses by John Ashdown-Hill

    History is full of myths – and a prime example is the so-called WARS OF THE ROSES - a name which has now become so well-known that it is difficult to avoid using it, but a name which was only invented two or three hundred years after the event it purports to describe.

    The traditional story of THE WARS OF THE ROSES depicts a fight between the rival royal houses of Lancaster and York. But this takes little account of other families such as the Mortimers, the Beauforts, the Woodvilles and the so-called ‘Tudors’ who played an important role in the contest – and who therefore figure significantly in this book.

    rose A modern reproduction of one version of the rose-en-soleil badge of Edward, Earl of March (Edward IV) (The Wars of the Roses, Amberley Publising)

    And of course, the traditional WARS OF THE ROSES story depicts the two rival armies as wearing respectively either red or white roses. However, there is not a shred of surviving evidence that any single one of the three kings of the house of Lancaster ever used a red rose badge. As for the house of York, it certainly did use a rose badge – but as for the COLOUR of that Yorkist rose, the evidence is less clear.

    In the modern world the word WAR means a continuous and ongoing series of battles. But THE WARS OF THE ROSES had no such continuity. There were sometimes many years of peace between the fighting. Also, a modern war normally has fairly clear dates of starting and finishing. But in the case of THE WARS OF THE ROSES we have no such clear dates. The royal dynastic conflict actually began towards the end of the fourteenth century, as the childless King Richard II confronted arguments in parliament as to who should be regarded as the heir to his throne. As for the ending of the contest, this is often dated to the battle of Bosworth in 1485, at which the last Yorkist reigning monarch, King Richard III, was killed. But that is based on hindsight, and the fact that the winner – King Henry VII – thereafter remained king of England until his natural death, and was succeeded by one of his sons. However, that takes no account of the ongoing Yorkist attempts to regain the throne. Although all of these were ultimately unsuccessful, such attempts went on well into the sixteenth century.

    So we need to take a new look at THE WARS OF THE ROSES – a look which goes back to primary contemporary evidence. This book does so, and the result is an authentic – but intriguingly different account of the famous contests for the English crown.

    9781445645247

    John Ashdown-Hill's new book The Wars of the Roses is available for purchase now.

  • The Descent of the Tudor Dynasty, by Teresa Cole

     

    The recent reburial of Richard III at Leicester has perhaps reminded us of the great clear out of English nobility that took place at the Battle of Bosworth Field where Richard met his death, and at the preceding battles of the so-called Wars of the Roses. The winner at Bosworth, Henry Tudor, was the last remaining Lancastrian candidate for the throne and though his claim was very flimsy he was duly crowned Henry VII.

    He was the founder of the Tudor dynasty of kings and queens of England, but you have to go back five generations to reach Henry’s direct connection to a previous king, and at that it was an illegitimate link on his mother’s side through the Beauforts, who had been barred from any claim to the throne by an Act of Parliament. Henry did, however, have a closer link to a queen of England: he was the grandson of Katherine de Valois, who was the widow of King Henry V.

    Elizabeth of York was the queen chosen by Lancastrian Henry VII to mend the rifts caused by the recent wars. She became the mother of the Tudor dynasty, and by one of history’s strange quirks, she was also the granddaughter of Jacquetta of Luxembourg, the widow of Henry V’s younger brother, John. The Tudor dynasty, therefore, was descended from the widows of both Henry V and his brother.

    Tudor - The marriage of Henry V and Katherine of France, 2 June 1420. The marriage of Henry V and Katherine of France, 2 June 1420.

    When Henry V died of dysentery in 1422, his wife Katherine de Valois was left at the age of 21 with an 8 month old baby son who then became Henry VI. Under her husband’s will there was no role for his widow, even the upbringing of her son was entrusted to others, but, as the mother of the new king, she was required to remain at court in England instead of returning to France.

    Sometime later, it appeared that the young widow was falling in love with one of her husband’s cousins, Edmund Beaufort. A law was passed to say that Katherine could not remarry without the consent of the king, and furthermore that the king could not give his consent until he had reached the age of 21. He was at the time six years old. Any man who did marry her without consent would lose all his lands for life.

    Beaufort quickly withdrew, but a bolder man, Owen Tudor, soon took his place in the queen’s affections. He has been credited with various roles in the queen’s household, including Master of the Horse, but was probably some kind of senior steward. It has never been definitely proved that the two married, but they certainly had a number of children together, one of whom was Edmund Tudor.

    Katherine died in 1437, a few days after the birth of her last child, and for a while the Tudor family seemed destined for obscurity. Soon, however, her firstborn son, the king, Henry VI began to take an interest in his young half-brothers. Edmund was given a place at court and the title Earl of Pembroke. When the so-called Wars of the Roses broke out Owen Tudor was a strong supporter of Henry, leading an army on his behalf. He was defeated at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross in 1461, and was beheaded at Hereford a few days later, bemoaning that he was to lose ‘the head that had lain in Queen Katherine’s lap.’

    Before this time Edmund Tudor had married Lady Margaret Beaufort – coincidentally the niece of that Edmund Beaufort Katherine had loved before. Margaret was twelve years old at the time of the marriage and only thirteen when her husband died just over a year later. She was, however, around six months pregnant at the time, and in January 1457 gave birth to a son, Henry Tudor. Unsurprisingly the birth was a difficult one and Margaret never had another child, but her son would go on to become King Henry VII of England in 1485.

    Tudor - Elizabeth of York Elizabeth of York

    The descent of Elizabeth of York is an even stranger story. John, Duke of Bedford, was the brother of Henry V and some three years younger. He spent almost his entire life as a capable and loyal deputy, first of his father, then his brother and finally of his baby nephew. Even his marriages, though apparently happy, were made to further royal policy. From 1422 he spent much of his time in France acting as Regent for Henry VI, and in his forties married the seventeen year old Jacquetta of Luxembourg as his second wife. When he died two years later his chamberlain, Sir Richard Woodville, was instructed to accompany the widowed duchess back to England, where she had been granted lands on condition that she did not remarry without the king’s permission. However the story is told that they fell in love on the journey and were secretly married soon after.

    Strange tales are told about Jacquetta. Her family claimed a connection to a legendary female water spirit, Melusine, half woman, half fish, and sometimes shown with wings as well. Melusine, the spirit of fresh waters and sacred springs was said to be fiercely protective of her descendants, and certainly Jacquetta seemed to prosper in England. Her marriage was later accepted by the king – she was, after all, his aunt by marriage – and was long and fruitful.

    The eldest daughter, Elizabeth, was reputedly very beautiful. She made a first marriage to Sir John Grey who was killed at the battle of St. Albans in 1461. Thereafter she so enchanted the new Yorkist king, Edward IV (with or without the assistance of Melusine), that he risked his throne by marrying her in secret – something of a family tradition. When later accusations of witchcraft were made against Jacquetta, some said she had used the dark arts to ensnare the king for her daughter.

    Whether she had or not, the marriage was long-lasting, surviving not only the outrage of Edward’s chief supporters when it was made public, but also the promotion of Elizabeth’s numerous brothers and sisters into positions of prominence at court. It produced two royal princes, Edward and Richard, later to be the Princes in the Tower, and a daughter, Elizabeth of York.

    It was the marriage of Henry VII to this Elizabeth of York which finally united the rival Lancastrian and Yorkist factions and founded the Tudor dynasty descended on both sides from the widows of Henry V and his brother John.

    It is strange to think that, but for the secret marriages of two women who should not have married at all, we would never have had the brilliant, violent, colourful Tudors whose actions changed the whole course of British history.

    Tudor - 9781445636795 Henry V by Teresa Cole

     

     

    A great deal more can be discovered about Henry V and his brother John in my book Henry V
    which is out now.

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