Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tudor Persecution of the Carthusian Monks

On February 1, 1535, King Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy came into force, and one of the first groups he proceeded against were the Carthusian monks. Although this order had long been a respected and peaceful group, Henry labeling himself 'Supreme Head on Earth of the Church of England' made it possible for him to charge them with treason for their failure to accept his self-proclaimed level of spiritual power. His retribution was fierce and intended to be an example of any who considered refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy.

Three representatives of a Carthusian house attempted to compromise with Cromwell regarding the oath, but on April 26, 1535, they were sent to the Tower. On May 4th, after a farce of a trial, they were dragged by hurdle to Tyburn where they were hanged while still wearing their religious habits. Taken down while still alive, they were disemboweled, beheaded, and dismembered. Far from traitors, the monks were seen as martyrs of their faith.

Roman broadsheet of the martyrdom of the English Carthusians


Persecution of the Carthusian order was far from complete. Three more monks who refused the oath were chained to posts around the neck and legs and left in this state for weeks. They continued to refuse the oath, but the king and Cromwell were aware that the savagery of the first execution had created public sympathy for the men of faith rather than the king. Efforts to convert the men continued through house arrest, threats, and lectures on the king's supremacy. The monks who continued to refuse the oath were chained to pillars in the dungeon of Newgate and starved to death. Two more were hanged in chains from the city walls at York until they died.

The Carthusian houses fell to King Henry as some took the oath in fear and others fled to Bruges for safety. A small community of English Carthusians remained in Bruges until the reign of Queen Mary. When they began to arrive, they were housed in the Savoy by Queen Mary's Controller, Robert Rochester, whose brother had been one of the monks martyred at York. Mary and her key counselor on religious reform, Cardinal Reginald Pole, wished to reestablish the Carthusians but had also made promises to the purchasers of dissolved religious property that it would not be confiscated.

On November 17, 1555, The House of Jesus of Bethlehem of Shene was reestablished with Maurice Chauncy as Prior. Unfortunately, the restoration did not last long. Queen Mary and Reginald Pole, who was by that time Archbishop of Canterbury, both died on November 17, 1558. Queen Elizabeth forced the Carthusians into exile once more on July 1, 1559. There would be no return to England for them this time.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Fine Line Between Bastard and Queen

The Tudor era was a difficult time to live. While we are attracted to stories of the glittering court and soap opera type drama, no one was immune to the shifts of power and turning of fortune’s wheel that could, and often did, bring one from the pinnacle of power to the depths of despair. Being born close to the throne was almost as much of a curse as it was a blessing.

Elizabeth of York was not born a Tudor but she became the mother of the new dynasty through a series of events that few could have foretold. Edward IV had come through the Wars of the Roses victorious, usurping the position of Henry VI to shift the Plantagenet crown to the York branch of the family. His eldest daughter, Elizabeth, may never thought to be England’s queen, but she was certain to be wed to one of the powerful leaders of Europe while her brother served as their father’s heir.

A giant of a man and an unmatched soldier, Edward IV gave few people reason to doubt the strength of his rule, especially once he rid himself of Henry VI and his son, leaving none but the most distant Lancastrian claimants. Then Edward died in 1483, leaving a twelve-year-old heir to a kingdom that had reason to dread the accession of a child king.

In a whirlwind of events, all of Edward IV’s children were declared bastards, and Richard III was proclaimed. Elizabeth went from princess to bastard in a dramatic fall that would be repeated by her descendants. However, the drama did not end there. Thanks to brilliant planning - or devious scheming, depending upon your view of Elizabeth Woodville - Elizabeth soon found herself the wife of Henry VII, the first Tudor king.

The path from princess to bastard to queen for Elizabeth of York was one littered with scandal, mystery, and tough decision making. Rather than press her own claim for the crown once her brothers went missing, Elizabeth chose peace with a husband she had been raised to think of as an enemy. Not too much time would pass before Elizabeth’s granddaughters faced similar strife.

Mary Tudor was the long-awaited daughter of Henry VIII, Elizabeth of York’s son, and his wife, Katherine of Aragon. While Katherine was thrilled that she had finally bore a child who survived after seven years of marriage, Henry celebrated it as a sign that sons would follow. Never was he content to name a girl as his heir. In fact, when it was clear that Katherine would bear no more children, he set her aside in one of the most dramatic political moves of the era.

Katherine did not go away quietly, but spent the remainder of her life fighting the annulment that Henry had obtained by breaking with Rome and creating his own Church of England. She may not have anticipated the devastating effects that this fight would have on her daughter. Mary’s teenage years were consumed with the battle between her parents and watching her father take as wife a woman known by her enemies as The Concubine.

During Anne Boleyn’s short tenure as Henry’s wife, she gave him another daughter. We shall never know if she would have survived longer had she given him the desire of his heart, but her story would likely not have endured so long if she had. Anne’s notoriety as the woman who went to her death with the five men she was accused of committing adultery with has made her one of the most frequently discussed historical figures of the era. Did she? Didn’t she? Even with her brother?!

Probably not. Her sin was much more grievous. She had not given Henry a son. Therefore, Anne was executed, and her daughter, Elizabeth, was granted bastard status to match her older half-sister’s.
These girls grew up with a sort of forced closeness. Mary’s household had been dissolved in order to place her in a position to serve Elizabeth until that girl, too, was stripped of the princess title. Once Jane Seymour gave Henry his son, he could afford to be more generous toward the girls he had discarded.

Mary and Elizabeth were treated well but not legitimized by their father or their brother. King Edward VI actually attempted to take their disinheritance even further by excluding them from the succession. Mary, who had been a rather submissive and pious girl up to this point, determined to exert her authority and refused to sit back and let Lady Jane Grey usurp her throne.

By the time Mary’s parliament retracted her father’s act making her a bastard, she was already comforted by the fact that she held the title of queen. Unfortunately, Mary’s reign was short and tragic, filled with disappointments in both the personal and political domain. The relationship between Mary and Elizabeth had so disintegrated during this time, that Mary made some attempt to convince people that Elizabeth was not their father’s daughter at all.

In the end, Mary was forced to name Elizabeth her heir, though Elizabeth also had never been legitimized by law. When Elizabeth became queen, she followed the example of the women before her who had gone from princess, to bastard, to queen.

Elizabeth I is the one who is remembered and celebrated as a victorious example of womanhood, but she had the inspiration of the women who had gone before her to pave her way. Her striving for peace was much like her grandmother’s, while her pledges to love her subjects and consider herself espoused to her country are taken from speeches given by her sister. These women proved that you can bastardize a princess, but she will come back as queen.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Other Mary

Many of you have enjoyed my novel featuring Queen Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII. Now, you can learn more about the 'other Mary,' Henry's sister who has an amazing story of her own. Author Tony Riches has done an amazing job of bringing historical figures who often are left on the sidelines into the spotlight. Following his highly acclaimed Tudor Trilogy, he has turned his attention to the Tudor Princess Mary.

Happy Reading!
~ Samantha



MARYTudor Princess
by Tony Riches

From the author of the international best-selling Tudor Trilogy, the true story of the Tudor dynasty continues with the daughter of King Henry VII, sister to King Henry VIII. Mary Tudor watches her elder brother become King of England and wonders what the future holds for her.
Born into great privilege, Mary has beauty and intelligence beyond her years and is the most marriageable princess in Europe. Henry plans to use her marriage to build a powerful alliance against his enemies. Will she dare risk his anger by marrying for love?
Meticulously researched and based on actual events, this ‘sequel’ follows Mary’s story from book three of the Tudor Trilogy and is set during the reign of King Henry VIII.



About the Author
Tony Riches is a full time author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the fifteenth century, with a particular interest in the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his popular blog, The Writing Desk and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Anne Boleyn's apology to Princess Mary

Anne Boleyn in the Tower
by Edouard Cibot
Anne Boleyn enjoys much popularity today, almost certainly more than she did while alive. From our modern, enlightened point-of-view, we like to make her out to be a proud, independent woman in a time when women were told to be submissive. The only woman often held up as a better example of 16th century feminism is her daughter, who became Queen Elizabeth I.

Although I do not admire neither Anne nor Elizabeth anywhere near as much as some, I can appreciate that both did make their mark on history. If I see them as a little more self-serving than bold, I hope their fervent fans will forgive me.

Clearly, Anne realized that she had indeed been wrong in her treatment of Henry VIII's eldest daughter, Mary. Anne caused Mary to lose the title of princess that she had held since birth, and Mary refused to recognize Anne as queen. It was a relationship doomed from the start, and neither desired to make any effort toward improving it. Both were known to wish for the death of the other.

However, when Anne's execution was approaching, she decided to apologize to Lady Mary. She had no reason to go out of her way to do so in her last hours, but she called for Lady Kingstone, wife of the Constable of the Tower, and asked her to relay her message of repentance. According to Martin Haile, Anne knelt before Lady Kingstone and requested that she, 'throw herself in like manner at the feet of Lady Mary, and beseech her to forgive the many wrongs which the pride of a thoughtless, unfortunate woman had brought upon her.'

Since she applied for permission to visit Lady Mary after Anne Boleyn's execution, it is believed that Lady Kingstone delivered the message. While Anne may have owed Mary that apology, one can easily argue that both women's problems were much more due to Henry VIII than each other. A bastardized daughter and insecure queen were unlikely to ever make amends before faced with their own mortality.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Reginald Pole and the Papal Conclave of 1550

Reginald Pole
Cardinal, Archbishop, & almost Pope
Reginald Pole is possibly best known for daring to reprimand King Henry VIII with his De Unitate, in which Pole strongly protested the Tudor king’s break from Rome. It was a brave stance to take and resulted in Henry tasking Cromwell with hiring assassins to rid him of the troublesome cardinal. Clearly, these efforts were unsuccessful, because in 1549, shortly following Henry’s death, Reginald was a favorite to fill the role of pope after the death of Pope Paul III.

Cardinal Pole may have had royal blood flowing through his veins (his mother was Margaret Pole, daughter of George of Clarence), but he believed firmly in attending to whatever work God intended for him rather than seeking out his own glory. At a time when papal positions were lobbied and bribed for, he declined to actively seek the highest office. Instead, Reginald refused to campaign even as Inquisitors worked to blacken his name and factions within Rome took advantage of his inaction. Despite his lack of ambition, Pole missed being elected by only one vote.

Pope Paul III had been elected in 1534 to lead the Counter Reformation. His predecessor, Clement VII, had struggled to cope with his role as nations fell away at an increasing rate from Rome, a catastrophe that none before him had been forced to manage. Clement was indecisive and ineffective, as evinced by the sacking of Rome during his tenure. Before Clement, Adrian VI, had hoped to reconcile with Martin Luther and his followers, but by the time Paul was elected it was deemed necessary to change tactics. Cardinal Pole believed strongly in discussion and reconciliation between reformists and Catholics, and it was this open-mindedness that led to charges of heresy against him.

However, in 1549, Pole was considered the natural choice to lead Rome. Bankers, who openly took wagers on the outcome of the sacred process, placed Pole’s chances of obtaining the papal tiara between 90-95%. When Pope Paul died on November 10, 1549, forty-nine cardinals attended the conclave, which lasted an arduous seventy-two days, to elect his successor. During this time, the cardinals resided in hastily built wooden cells that were set up in the Sistine Chapel and other halls of the Vatican.

Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Henry II of France were each determined to see their own man elected. Reginald Pole was the choice of neither. While not a first choice, Reginald was said to be acceptable to Charles V, who shared Pole’s interest in continuing discussions that could lead to compromise with German Lutherans. Accepted by Imperials and esteemed by his fellow cardinals, Pole’s chances seemed good. Alessandro Farnese, who would go on to participate in several more controversial papal conclaves, called for a public vote believing that a majority would select the highly respected Pole if votes were not secret.

Instead, a secret vote was held in the Pauline Chapel on December 3, 1549. When the first two votes brought Pole up just short of the number he needed, the Imperialists pressed to continue before additional French cardinals could arrive, but Pole refused to be a part of this. Confidence in him remained high enough that Papal vestments were tailored for him.

Giovanni del Monte
Pope Julius III
On the third vote, Reginald was expected to gain the required votes. When he again fell short, it was determined that Giovanni del Monte, who had been expected to vote for him, had chosen not to due to a minor breach in etiquette, and three others held back with him. By the end of the conclave, the other cardinals would learn that del Monte had a very different plan in mind.

Although Pole seemed the clear choice to many, others saw flaws with the potential of his papacy for a variety of reasons. First, Reginald was not Italian. He was a close blood relation of England’s Tudors, and this was not seen by everyone as a strength. Second, he was young. At age forty-five, he had the potential for a very long reign indeed. Finally, there were some who believed the charges of heresy against him and were afraid they would be electing a reformer to Saint Peter’s chair.

After weeks of political intrigue, bribes, and negotiations, the conclave elected Giovanni del Monte on February 8, 1550. He was considered a compromise candidate and no one’s ideal choice. Sixty-three years old at the time of his election, Pope Julius III lived only five more years. By the time of del Monte’s death, Reginald Pole was serving in England where he became Queen Mary I’s Archbishop of Canterbury in 1556, two years before his death.