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ANNA AND HER SISTERSWhilst doing a bit of research for another post I found out a little more about Anne of Cleves. Anne is well known to us because of the famous Holbein portrait, she is also remembered because of Henry VIII’s famously negative reaction to her.

A powerful family

Born on the 22nd September 1515, Anne was the second daughter of Johann (or John) III – known as ‘the peaceful’. John ruled the duchy of Juliers-Cleves an independent part of the Holy Roman Empire and a territory he partly inherited and partly acquired through marriage to his wife Maria.

Although she came from a relatively small territory, Anne had an impeccable royal lineage – she was descended from Edward I of England and John II of France.

John III Dule of Cleves – Annes father

Annes brothers and sisters.

Anne was the second of four children, her oldest sister Sybille was born in 1512 (top of post on the right) William, born in 1516 who succeded his father as Duke (pictured below) and Amelia (pictured top of post in the middle/rear).

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William, Duke of Cleves, brother of Anne of Cleves (Borrowed from Lisby1 on Flickr : click image))

Juliers-Cleves

Juliers-Cleves occupied a strategically important area within the empire – it maintained it’s own armed forces and conducted it’s foreign affairs independently -it also had it’s own official state religion. This area now lies partly in the modern German State called North Rhine-Westphalia and partly in the Dutch province of Gelderland.The river Rhine meets the river Lippe within it’s borders – there is an online map of the area here

The next bit is trivial, superficial and trashy!

Look at the pictures above – don’t you think that they are a fine looking bunch of people?History has arguably been a little unkind to Anne – the famous  ‘Flanders Mare’ jibe  was not in fact uttered by Henry VIII. This was actually made by the historian Bishop Gilbert Burnet writing in the 17th Century.

Gilbert Burnet historian, bishop & lets be honest here - no right to criticise anyone about their physical appearance!

Gilbert Burnet historian, bishop & lets be honest here - no right to criticise anyone about their physical appearance!

See our earlier post about Anne of Cleves

Check out this article on the Raucous Royals blog – it does a good job here

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Anne Of Cleeves

Anne Of Cleves

‘Nothing so fair as she has been reported’

Anne was in many ways the luckiest of all Henry’s wives.  She outlived all of the others – and outlived Henry VIII himself by ten years.  Her more peaceful and fortunate life can be put down to the fact that she just wasn’t Henry’s type.  She was described by the French ambassador, Charles de Marillac, as tall and slim and ‘of middling beauty’; however when Henry rode out to meet his betrothed at Rochester he complained that ‘She is nothing so fair as she hath been reported’.

Despite these misgivings the couple were married at Greenwich in 1540 by Thomas Cranmer.  Their first night as husband and wife was not a happy one. Henry confided to Cromwell that the marriage had not been consummated, saying, ‘I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse’.

Thomas Cromwell arranged the marriage his relationship with the King was fatally damaged by this

Thomas Cromwell arranged the marriage: his relationship with the King was fatally damaged

Annulment

Whereas Henry admired educated women, Anne could not play a musical instrument, nor was she very literary or cultured – preferring needlework and cards.  She had received no formal education as a child.  She could read and write, but only in German.  She is described as having a peaceable personality; and although it may not to have sparked passion in Henry it seems to have led to a lasting friendship.

Thomas Cromwell had brokered the marriage to try to form an alliance with Anne’s family against Emperor Charles V.  After first meeting Anne, Henry urged Cromwell to find a way of breaking off the arrangement without endangering the alliance – but at the time this seemed impossible.  When the marriage was not consummated on the wedding night Henry had cause to seek an annulment.  Anne did not contest it.

Hever Castle: Photo by Sez D onFlickr ( Click image)

Hever Castle: Photo by Sez D onFlickr ( Click image)

A Lasting Friendship

Henry was very grateful for Anne’s co-operation, and she received a generous settlement.  She was given Richmond Palace, and Hever Castle, home of Henry’s former in-laws, the Boleyns.  Henry and Anne became good friends – she was referred to as ‘the King’s Beloved Sister’, and Henry decreed that she would be given precedence over all women in England save his own wife and daughters.

Better perhaps to be ‘not so fair’ and ‘of midding beauty’ after all!

See more about Anne of Cleves & her family in another post

PS Take a look at more of Sez D’s excellent photos here – it is well worth a look!

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Prince Arthur: Oldest son of King Henry VII. Died aged 15 in 1502

Prince Arthur: Oldest son of King Henry VII. Died aged 15 in 1502

Despite overthrowing Richard III in battle, Henry’s claim to the throne was weak, and he was surrounded by pretenders to the throne.  Henry’s first action was to declare himself King, and to state that his reign began before the Battle of Bosworth field.  This meant that all challenges to his supremacy since then – including that of Richard III, were to be counted as treason.

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Catherine of Aragon

Henry VII consolidates his postition

In order to secure his position internationally he made a treaty with France, and recognised the new county of Spain in arranging for his son Arthur Tudor to marry Catherine of Aragon.  Arthur died in an epidemic in 1502, and Henry’s wife, Elizabeth of York, died a year later in childbirth.  Henry tried to maintain the relationship between England and Spain by obtaining a Papal dispensation for his son, who would become Henry VIII, to marry Catherine in Arthur’s place.  It was not normally permitted for a man to marry his brother’s widow.  People said that the  blow of losing his son and wife in quick succession led Henry to die of a broken heart.

Henry VIII

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Henry VIII became king as the only surviving male heir of Henry VII, despite being one of six siblings.  Henry VIII was married to Catherine of Aragon at only 17 years old.  Henry married Catherine on 11 June 1509, and on 24 June 1509, the two were crowned at Westminster Abbey.  By today’s standards this seems very young – both for marriage and kingship, however only two days after his coronation, Henry had two of his father’s ministers arrested on groundless charges of high treason and executed. This was to become Henry’s primary tactic for dealing with those who stood in his way.

It is sometimes very difficult to unravel human behaviour in our everyday lives let alone in the lives of those who lived hundreds of years ago; to work out why someone develops a particular character.  It seems that from the very outset Henry VIII was a ruthless monarch; but set against the background of relentless wars, rivalry, plots, threats from within and from overseas powers it seems difficult to see how this could have been otherwise?

Westminster Abbey: picture by René Ehrhardt on Flickr (Click image)

Westminster Abbey: picture by René Ehrhardt on Flickr (Click image)

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Henry VII and the Tudor Heritage
There has been some discussion on the blog about Henry VIII’s ruthlessness in his desire to obtain a male heir to the throne.  We decided to try to trace Henry’s history back to his father to see if the story of Henry VII’s rise to power might shed some light on the man Henry VIII came to be.
Henry’s Lineage
Henry Tudor, as he was known, before becoming King Henry VII, was born at Pembroke Castle in Wales.  He was the only son of a widow, Margaret Beaufort.  Margaret was the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster, and his mistress Katherine Sywnford.  Katherine eventually became third wife to John of Gaunt in 1396, and their children were made legitimate by papal decree, however their descendants were to be forever barred from taking the throne.  John of Gaunt’s legitimate heirs included Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI – however Henry VII came to the throne by a more complex route.
The War of the Roses
Henry VII’s rise to power is set against a background of strife between the Houses of Lancaster and York.  Henry usurped the crown on 22nd August 1485 after the Battle of Bosworth Field, which marked the culmination of the War of the Roses, the demise of the House of York and the end of the Plantagenet Dynasty.  Henry Tudor was a Lancastrian, and had been hurried away to Brittany when the Yorkist Edward IV returned to the throne following an overthrow of his rule.
The Princes in the Tower
Following the death of Edward, Richard III came to the throne by very dubious means; and proved to be an unpopular monarch When Edward IV died on 9 April 1483, his sons King Edward V, aged 12, and Richard, Duke of York, aged 9, were next in line to the throne. Richard, however, had the king’s guardian and other advisors arrested and taken to Pontefract Castle, where they were later executed, allegedly for planning to assassinate Edward V. Richard then took Edward and his younger brother to the Tower of London, having declared them to be illegitimate.  The fate of the boy princes remains unknown however they were never seen again. It is presumed that they either died or were killed there. There is no record of a funeral.  In 1674, the skeletons of two children were discovered under the staircase leading to the chapel.  These were believed to be the remains of the two princes.
The Battle of Bosworth Field
Henry waited in Brittany, aware of Richard III’s lack of popular support, and making alliances with France and Scotland, and Lancastrian supporters in England and Wales in preparation for his invasion at Mill Bay in Pembrokeshire – not far from his birthplace.  Henry amassed an army of 5,000 soldiers as he marched north from Wales to Bosworth.  Richard met him with an army of 8,000, Richard, who was the tallest monarch in English history at 6’4, astride a white courser.  Richard is said to have fought very bravely and ably, however he was deserted by several of his nobles during the battle who switched sides to join Henry.
Richard fell, having killed Henry’s standard bearer – and as he was preparing to strike Henry himself.  He was surrounded before this could happen, and died as the last king to lead his troops in battle on English soil.  Tradition holds that his final words were “treason, treason, treason, treason, treason”.  Richard’s naked body was exposed for public view before being buried in Leicestershire.
Henry VII

Henry VII

There has been some discussion on the blog about Henry VIII’s ruthlessness in his desire to obtain a male heir to the throne.  We decided to try to trace Henry’s history back to his father to see if the story of Henry VII’s rise to power might shed some light on the man Henry VIII came to be.

Pembroke Castle: Birthplace of Henry VII (Photo by Matt West on Flickr: Click image)

Pembroke Castle: Birthplace of Henry VII (Photo by Matt West on Flickr: Click image)

Henry’s Lineage

Henry Tudor, as he was known, before becoming King Henry VII, was born at Pembroke Castle in Wales.  He was the only son of a widow, Margaret Beaufort.  Margaret was the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster, and his mistress Katherine Sywnford.  Katherine eventually became third wife to John of Gaunt in 1396, and their children were made legitimate by papal decree, however their descendants were to be forever barred from taking the throne.  John of Gaunt’s legitimate heirs included Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI – however Henry VII came to the throne by a more complex route.

The War of the RosesKing_Richard_III

Henry VII’s rise to power is set against a background of strife between the Houses of Lancaster and York.  Henry usurped the crown on 22nd August 1485 after the Battle of Bosworth Field, which marked the culmination of the War of the Roses, the demise of the House of York and the end of the Plantagenet Dynasty.  Henry Tudor was a Lancastrian, and had been hurried away to Brittany when the Yorkist Edward IV returned to the throne following an overthrow of his rule.

The Princes in the Tower

The Princes in the Tower : John Everett Millais 1878

The Princes in the Tower : John Everett Millais 1878

Following the death of Edward, Richard III came to the throne by very dubious means; and proved to be an unpopular monarch When Edward IV died on 9 April 1483, his sons King Edward V, aged 12, and Richard, Duke of York, aged 9, were next in line to the throne. Richard, however, had the king’s guardian and other advisors arrested and taken to Pontefract Castle, where they were later executed, allegedly for planning to assassinate Edward V. Richard then took Edward and his younger brother to the Tower of London, having declared them to be illegitimate.  The fate of the boy princes remains unknown however they were never seen again. It is presumed that they either died or were killed there. There is no record of a funeral.  In 1674, the skeletons of two children were discovered under the staircase leading to the chapel.  These were believed to be the remains of the two princes (*See below)

The Battle of Bosworth Field

Henry waited in Brittany, aware of Richard III’s lack of popular support, and making alliances with France and Scotland, and Lancastrian supporters in England and Wales in preparation for his invasion at Mill Bay in Pembrokeshire – not far from his birthplace.  Henry amassed an army of 5,000 soldiers as he marched north from Wales to Bosworth.  Richard met him with an army of 8,000, Richard, who was the tallest monarch in English history at 6’4, astride a white courser.  Richard is said to have fought very bravely and ably, however he was deserted by several of his nobles during the battle who switched sides to join Henry.

Bosworth Skirmish : Tancread on Flickr (CLick image)

Bosworth Skirmish : Tancread on Flickr (CLick image)

Richard fell, having killed Henry’s standard bearer – and as he was preparing to strike Henry himself.  He was surrounded before this could happen, and died as the last king to lead his troops in battle on English soil.  Tradition holds that his final words were “treason, treason, treason, treason, treason”.  Richard’s naked body was exposed for public view before being buried in Leicestershire.

Bosworth Battlefield : Jams_123 on Flickr - Click image)

Bosworth Battlefield, tranquil now but once the scene of a Kings death: Jams_123 on Flickr - Click image)

(* By the way – we know this is controversial! See this link for an alternate view)

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Coughton Court has an impressive west front which is shown at its best in the warm evening light. (Photo by Kate & Drew on Flickr: Click image)

Coughton Court has an impressive west front which is shown at its best in the warm evening light. (Photo by Kate & Drew on Flickr: Click image)

On Saturday I paid a visit to Coughton Court in Warwickshire.  I have often driven past it on my way out of Birmingham into the countryside, but had never stopped before to have a look round.  I have to admit it has always distracted me from driving as I should, as it looks spectacular from the road.

The Throckmortons

Like Harvington Hall Coughton (pronounced Coe-ton) was home to a Catholic family who refused to renounce their faith and practice during the reformation.  The Throckmorton family were very highly connected.  henry8england-50pc-smallerSir George Throckmorton (d. 1553) was a knight at the court of Henry VIII, and was in charge of the royal Forest of Arden.  He spoke out vociferously against the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and was imprisoned several times without trial for his outspoken views – being released once Henry believed he had calmed down – only to end up back in prison again!

George’s aunt, Elizabeth, the abbess of Denny, came to live at Coughton when her convent was closed in 1537 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  Another sister came with her, and together they lived a secluded life, continuing with the daily office in two rooms in the house.  The dole-gate from the convent is now at Coughton Court, having been found relatively recently.  You can see the hatch through which the sisters would have spoken to visitors, and given out alms.

Coughton Court (Kate & Drew on Flickr: Click image)

Coughton Court (Kate & Drew on Flickr: Click image)

Recusants

In the time of Sir Robert Throckmorton, and his son and heir Thomas (1533-1614), Coughton became a centre for Catholic recusants. It is believed that Mass was celebrated in the Tower Room from which you can see in all directions.  There is a priest hole there, built by Nicholas Owen who made many of the priest holes at Harvington Hall.  The hide at Coughton was so secret that members of the Throckmorton family did not know where it was even when it was in use.  Its location was so closely guarded that it was not discovered until work on the house in 1945.

The family were subjected to heavy fines for their non-attendance at the established Church of England, and Thomas spent 16 years in prison (on and off) for the same offence.  In the Tower Room you can see the Tabula Eliensis – rediscovered in the mid-twentieth century – which is a tapestry showing the names and portraits of Catholics imprisoned for their faith.  It is believed this was displayed during mass in the house.

Coughton Court Bluebell wood (Ruthsophe on Flickr: Click image)

Coughton Court Bluebell wood (Ruthsophe on Flickr: Click image)

Other Treasures

Coughton Court houses many other historical treasures including a chair reputed to be made of the wood of the bed where Richard III spent his last night before the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, a chemise which has stitched upon it ‘of the holy martyr, Mary, Queen of Scots’ (carbon dating tests prove that the linen was woven in the year of Mary’s death in 1587), a perfectly preserved and beautiful velvet cope embroidered in gold by Queen Catherine of Aragon and her ladies-in-waiting, and the original abdication letter of King Edward VIII in 1936.

NB See the second part of this post

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Wroxall

Wrens Chapel at Wroxall

Wrens Chapel at Wroxall

Question: What connection is there between the Shakespeare family and Christopher Wren, the architect of St Paul’s Cathedral? Don’t know the answer? neither did I.

I recently had to attend a meeting at Wroxall Abbey which is situated in the countryside a few miles outside away from the town of Warwick.  I had passed this way before but had never noticed the Wroxall estate which lies at the end of a long drive.

The estate is in a lovely setting, surrounded by trees and fields and at the time of my visit there were masses of snowdrops to be seen amongst the trees.

Snowdrops

As I passed an old church I noticed that there were some ruins across the road from it, and I decided to have a look around. I found out that the Church which is known as Wrens Chapel was once attached to the ruined buildings I had seen.

If you look at the side of the Church you can see where it must have once been attached to these other buildings. A little more research revealed that this was once the site of a Benedictine Priory founded in 1141. This Priory was demolished in the time of Henry VIII, the only part that was left was the Nuns Chapel which became St Leonards parish church. There is an interesting Shakespeare connection here.

Shakespeares Grandfather came from a place called Snitterfield which is to the north east of Stratford. (According to Google maps this is a 7 1/2 mile – 2 1/2 hours  walk). Apparently, at the time of the dissolution, Richard Shakespeare was the Bailiff to Prioress, Agnes Little.

An Elizabethan house was built nearby by the Burgoyne family who bought the land in 1544, this house was demolished in 1861 and was replaced by the current building.

St Pauls Cathedral (Clive Jones on Flickr - Click image)

St Pauls Cathedral (Clive Jones on Flickr - Click image)

Another famous connection came about when the land was bought by Sir Christopher Wren in 1713. Wren is especially well known as the designer of St Pauls cathedral in London.

As I drove away after the meeting, I reflected on the fact that in a very short time I had touched upon so many historical paths in such a small area. As I mentioned above, this was an area that  I have passed so many times without knowing anything about it and I was pleased I had stumbled upon this little piece of the past.

Ruins at Wroxall

Ruins at Wroxall

(See also this link)

PS I have just started using Twitter – if anyone wants to follow this see ‘About Tudor stuff’ above or click here – I am not sure if I really ‘get’ Twitter but thought I would give it a go. My following/ followers bit looks a little thin right now so please feel free to help me out!

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Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein - 1536/37

Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein – 1536/37

When the future Edward VI was born in 1537 there was much rejoicing – for his father King Henry VIII, the birth of a son was especially important. The joy at the birth was of course overshadowed by tragedy because it was to lead to the death of the mother of the child, Jane Seymour.

A trouble free pregnancy –  a difficult birth

Jane’s pregnancy was announced in February 1537 and she experienced a trouble free pregnancy up to the time that she went into labour. The birth of the child however was long and difficult, taking two days and three nights to be delivered. The baby was eventually delivered at around two o’clock on the morning of the 12th October. As this is the eve of the Feast day of Edward the Confessor the baby was named after this Saint.

Jane was able to sit and greet guests prior to the christening on the 15th October at Hampton Court but two days later her health had seriously deteriorated and she was given the last rites. By the 24th of October, Jane was dead.

A Midwifes view

I asked a Midwife colleague at Birmingham City University to consider what is known about Jane Seymour’s death, to give her opinion about what happened to Jane Seymour and how this would be handled if it happened today.

Hampton Court by FrankLong on Flickr (Click Image)

Because of her elevated social position we can perhaps assume that Jane was a relatively fit and well nourished young lady. It is very likely that the complications which led to her death were caused by the difficult labour and especially the length of time it took to give birth.

The most likely cause of the extended labour would be that the baby was not positioned well in the womb – making it more difficult for the woman to give birth. The uterus is the muscle that does the job of pushing the baby out of the womb and after a long labour it can become exhausted. Because this muscle was exhausted it is more likely that the placenta surrounding the baby would not be completely expelled. Even though remaining placenta might only be the size of a thumbnail, this would always cause an infection once it began to decay.

Edward VI

Edward VI

Further problems would be caused by the fact that internally, Jane would have been left with open wounds. She had experienced a lot of pain, lost a lot of blood, and would have been physically and mentally exhausted. In this physical state she would have been  more open to infection and once infected, her body would have been less able to fight it. There was no understanding of microbial infection and no effective treatment for infection. The presence of dirty cloths and hands during and after the labour would be a very likely cause of infection.

Modern times

In a modern situation things would be much different.  Firstly, the mother and baby would be closely observed by the Midwife who would record the mothers blood pressure and temperature as well as the baby’s vital signs. Any sign of undue distress would lead to a hospital admission and probably a caesarean section ( there are records of this operation being performed in this period to save a baby when the mother was dying – there are no known instances of a mother surviving such a procedure). Modern knowledge of drug treatments to help labour as well as understanding of causes of infection and the use of antibiotics mean that in developed countries such deaths from infection are rare.

The death of Jane Seymour by Eugene Deveria

Women are still dying.

When writing about Tudor times we often find ourselves telling stories that still have some relevance today and sadly, this story is no exception. The problems that killed Jane Seymour nearly 500 years ago are still causing women to die every day. According to the World Health Organisation(WHO) maternal mortality is still very high in some countries. The WHO estimates that pregnancy or childbirth related problems cause around 1500 deaths a day!  – these deaths are mostly from avoidable causes.

See this blog posting for more information about Tudor Childbirth

See link for World Health Organisation information on maternal mortality

Also White Ribbon Alliance an international coalition campaigning to ensure that pregnancy and childbirth are safe for all women and newborns in every country around the world.

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