Princess Elizabeth’s Christening

Today in 1533 Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was christened at the Church of Observant Friars in Greenwich. There is a wonderful description of the christening celebrations in “Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 6: 1533” that I want to share with you.

The account describes how, after Elizabeth’s birth 3 days earlier,

“The mayor, Sir Stephen Pecock, with his brethren and 40 of the chief citizens, were ordered to be at the christening on the Wednesday following ; on which day the mayor and council, in scarlet, with their collars, rowed to Greenwich, and the citizens went in another barge.”

Greenwich Palace

Greenwich Palace

It goes on to say

“All the walls between the King’s place and the Friars were hanged with arras, and the way strewed with rushes. The Friars’ church was also hanged with arras. The font, of silver, stood in the midst of the church three steps high, covered with a fine cloth, and surrounded by gentlewomen with aprons and towels about their necks, that no filth should come into it. Over it hung a crimson satin canopy fringed with gold, and round it was a rail covered with red say.
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The Battle of Flodden

James IV of Scotland

James IV of Scotland

Today is the 500 year anniversary of the Battle of Flodden, an epic battle between England and Scotland that led to the death of the Scottish king, James IV. He had been Henry VIII’s brother in law and would be the last British king to die on a battlefield.

Henry VIII was away fighting a campaign in France at the time of the Battle of Flodden and had announced that his wife, Catherine of Aragon, would be Governor of the Realm and Captain General of the Forces in his absence. She would be helped to run the country by a handful of Councillors. The Scots were an old time ally of the French, in what was known as the Auld Alliance. Catherine and her Councillors were sure that Scotland would honour this alliance and exploit Henry’s absence so they all had growing concerns about England’s northern borders.

Catherine’s fears were soon realised when James IV declared war on England, he was going to support his ‘Auld’ ally and help divert English troops away from France. By this time Henry was camped outside Therouanne laying siege to the city, on the 11th August 1513 James sent a herald to Henry who passed on the message that he should abandon his efforts in France and go back to England. Henry was extremely angry about this, he felt James should be on England’s side considering he was married to his sister, Margaret. Henry responded back to the messenger:

“And now, for a conclusion, recommend me to your master and tell him if he be so hardy to invade my realm or cause to enter one foot of my ground I shall make him as weary of his part as ever was man that began any such business. And one thing I ensure him by the faith that I have to the Crown of England and by the word of a King, there shall never King nor Prince make peace with me that ever his part shall be in it. Moreover, fellow, I care for nothing but for misentreating of my sister, that would God she were in England on a condition she cost the Schottes King not a penny.”

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The Birth of Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I aged around 13 by William Scrots

Elizabeth I aged around 13 by William Scrots

Today in 1533 the future Queen Elizabeth I was born at Greenwich Palace, she was the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. The birth was quick and the baby was healthy, it was said she had her father’s complexion and her mother’s dark black eyes.

Preparations for Elizabeth’s arrival had begun in early August. Greenwich was the palace of choice for the birth, it had been a favourite of Henry’s mother, Elizabeth of York, and was the place of his own birth 42 years earlier. As was customary for the time a chamber was prepared at Greenwich for Anne’s confinement. Historian David Starkey describes how the walls and ceilings of the chamber were hung and tented with precious tapestries called arras which were woven with gold or silver thread and there were rich carpets laid on the floor. Anne’s bed was also richly hung with tapestries that matched the rest of the room. At the last minute gold and silver plate was brought into the chamber, there were cups and bowls to stand on the cupboard and crucifixes, candlesticks and images for the alter. Starkey describes the chamber as being like a “cross between a chapel and a luxuriously padded cell”

Greenwich Palace

Greenwich Palace

Anne entered her confinement on the 26th August. There had been a lot of anxiety leading up to this date as it appears Anne had some difficulties in the later stages of her pregnancy. Eric Ives explains how Henry was said to have “been at his wits end, even hoping for a miscarriage if it would save Anne’s life”. Anne eventually gave birth to Elizabeth less than 2 weeks into her confinement. The birth was straightforward and Henry was hugely relieved that his wife and child were safe. Henry and Anne named their baby Elizabeth, after both their mothers.
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Margaret Tudor and Scotland

Margaret Tudor

Margaret Tudor by Daniël Mijtens

Today in 1514 Margaret Tudor, the older sister of Henry VIII and widow of James IV of Scotland, married Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, which forced her to give up her Regency in Scotland. Margaret’s intriguing story is very much intertwined with Scottish politics and is explored further in this article.

Margaret, like all daughters of monarchs, had been a political pawn for her father Henry VII and her first marriage to James IV, which happened by proxy on 25th January 1502 and in person on 8th August 1503, was made in an effort to end Scottish support for the pretender Perkin Warbeck. Scotland at this time was an enemy of England and an ancient supporter of France in what had become known as the Auld Alliance so this marriage was a real diplomatic coup for Henry VII. A treaty of perpetual peace had been agreed between England and Scotland on 24th January the previous year with the marriage a guarantee of this peace. It was the first peace treaty between the two countries for 170 years but sadly it didn’t last long after the death of Henry VII in 1509.

Henry’s successor and son, Henry VIII, was far more interested in military glory than cautious diplomacy and soon declared war on Scotland’s old ally France. English troops unsuccessfully invaded France in 1512 and then again in 1513 with greater success, capturing the towns of Therouanne and Tournai. That same year Margaret’s husband James IV entered the war as France’s ally and attacked England’s northern border on 22nd August, while Henry was away fighting in France. The Scots were eventually defeated at the Battle of Flodden and James IV was killed. Continue reading

Anne of Cleves – The Lucky One?

Anne of Cleves by Holbein

Anne of Cleves by Holbein

Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII’s 4th wife, was buried in Westminster Abbey on this day in 1557, outliving Henry by 10 years. Whenever we talk of Henry VIII’s wives it is often said that Catherine Parr was the wife who outlived him and that this somehow makes her the lucky one. This is indeed true although Catherine only managed to outlive Henry by 1 year 7 months, dying herself in September 1548. I believe out of all of Henry’s wives, the one who got the best deal was in fact Anne.

Let’s take Catherine Parr as the contrasting example. Catherine spent 3 and a half years married to Henry and spent much of that time being his nursemaid as well as helping him reconcile with his children, who she had a close relationship with. This was a marriage based on duty to her King and country.

After Henry’s death she was finally able to marry her true love, Thomas Seymour, although this itself was marred by a certain tragedy as he was a bit of cad who flirted with her step daughter, the young princess Elizabeth, entering her room at night and stealing kisses. There is a famous and strange incident when Catherine herself held Elizabeth down while Seymour cut off her black gown. In the end Catherine decided enough was enough and sent Elizabeth away. They continued to show affection through letters, which shows that Catherine probably followed this course of action to protect Elizabeth’s reputation rather than out of spite, although it’s very sad to think she never saw her beloved step daughter again. Continue reading