Guest Article – Tudor Myths by Terry Breverton

The Henry Tudor Society

An exclusive extract from the new book ‘Everything you Wanted to Know About The Tudors But Were Afraid to Ask’ by Terry Breverton.

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Tudor Myths

HENRY VIII THREW BONES OVER HIS SHOULDER. Tudor etiquette at court and in the great houses was to place one’s leftovers in a common ‘voiding bowl.’ Dogs, to which the bones were allegedly thrown, were not allowed in court.

LADY JANE GREY WAS THE ‘NINE DAYS QUEEN’. She was the de facto ‘thirteen days queen’. Edward VI died 6 July but his death was not proclaimed until 10 July, when she was announced queen. The Privy Council changed sides and announced Mary I as queen upon 19 July 1553, but Jane had been queen since 6 July, or there was a period where England had no monarch.

GREENWICH PALACE WAS IN LONDON. The palace was in Kent until 1889 when the county of London was…

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Margaret Clifford, Countess of Cumberland

If you enjoyed reading about Anne Dudley, Countess of Warwick I’d now like to introduce you to her younger sister Margaret, who is just as interesting!

Margaret Clifford, Countess of Cumberland

Margaret Clifford, Countess of Cumberland

Margaret was born on July 7, 1560 at Bedford House, Exeter. Her mother, the former Margaret St John died at Woburn from smallpox when Margaret was about a year old. The little girl was placed in the care of her mother’s younger sister Alice, wife of Edmund Elmes and spent the next seven years at their Manor House in Lilford, Northamptonshire.

An Elizabethan childhood was short and before she was 10 years old Margaret went to join her sister Anne as a Maid of Honour at the Queen’s court.

Margaret married a distant St John cousin, George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, on June 24 1577 at St Mary Overies, Southwark in a double wedding with George’s sister Frances to Philip, Lord Wharton in the presence of the Queen.

George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland

George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland

It hadn’t been exactly love at first sight for the teenage Margaret, but I suppose on paper it made good sense. The couple had two sons, Francis and Robert, and a daughter Anne (the subject of a soon-to-be-published blog post) but sadly the boys died young and the Ear sought solace in the ladies of the court.

Lady Anne Clifford

Lady Anne Clifford

Margaret wasn’t prepared to hang around and be humiliated so taking her daughter she upped and left the Clifford home, spending time at her brother’s estate in Cookham and with her widowed sister Anne in her property at Austin Friars. the former priory made even more famous by Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s right hand man.

Like all the women in her family (I like to think it’s those St John genes) Margaret had a love of learning. She was described as a pious, even zealous puritan and well read with a keen interest in alchemy and science. She distilled her own medicines (as did Lady Johanna St John from Lydiard House) and invested in lead mining on the Clifford estates at Craven, experimenting in the smelting of iron with coal.

Margaret Clifford, Countess of Cumberland

Margaret Clifford, Countess of Cumberland

The entry for Margaret in the Historical Memoirs of the House of Russell – Vol 1 reads as follows:

‘This Margaret Russell, Countess of Cumberland, was endowed with many perfections of mind and body. The was naturally of a high spirit, though she tempered it well by grace; having a very well favoured face, with sweet and quick grey eyes, and of a comely personage. She was of a graceful behaviour, which she increased the more by being civil and courteous to all ranks of people. She had a discerning spirit, both into the disposition of human creatures and natural causes, and into the affairs of the world. She had a great, sharp, natural wit so as there were few worthy sciences but she had some insight into them; for though she had no language but that her own yet were there few books of worth translated into English but she read them … She was dearly beloved by those of her friends and acquaintance that had excellent wits and were worthy and good; so as towards her latter end she would often say, that the kindness of her friends towards her had been one of the most comfortable parts of her life, and particularly of her husband’s two sisters. She was also very happy in the dear love and affection of her eldest and excellent sister, Anne Russell, Countess of Warwick (who being almost thirteen years older than herself, was a kind of mother to her), as well as in that of their middle sister, Countess of Bath for these three sisters in those times were the most remarkable ladies for their greatness and goodness of any three sisters in the kingdom.’

Margaret famously fought her daughter’s corner when George Clifford left his estates to his brother Francis. A tenacious family historian Margaret produced documentary evidence to undermine Francis’s claims to the Clifford estates in the north. Although Margaret’s findings proved insufficient to retain her daughter’s inheritance at the time they later came in good use when Anne Clifford took on the battle.

Anne Clifford's memorial to  mother Margaret, Countess  of Cumberland in St Lawrence's Church, Appleby.

Anne Clifford’s memorial to mother Margaret, Countess of Cumberland in St Lawrence’s Church, Appleby.

Mother and daughter enjoyed a close relationship. Following Margaret’s death at Brougham Castle on May 24, 1616, her grieving daughter erected a memorial – the Countess Pillar at the gateway to the castle where she last parted from her mother on April 2, 1616.

The Countess Pillar

The Countess Pillar

Ursula Pole, Baroness Stafford

Calling all lovers of Tudor history – countdown begins to the eagerly anticipated Wolf Hall. This six part series adapted from the novels by Man Booker prize winning author Hilary Mantel begins Wednesday January 21, 9 pm on  BBC2. 

Meanwhile – catch up with some Tudor news from the extended St John family …

Keeping one’s head in a crisis had a whole different connotation in the 16th century. And the more closely one was related to the King, the more difficult it became.

Ursula Pole, Baroness Stafford

Ursula Pole, Baroness Stafford

Ursula was born in c1504 the daughter of Sir Richard Pole and Margaret Plantagenet, the daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, brother of two Yorkist Kings Edward IV and Richard III. A close cousin to the Henry VIII (her grandmother Edith St John was half sister to his grandmother, Margaret Beaufort) you could be forgiven for thinking this would have stood the Pole family in good stead.

But despite her impeccable pedigree, Ursula Pole watched as member of her family fell like nine pins.

One of their problems was their continued adherence to the old religion and their allegiance to Catherine of Aragon and her daughter the Princess Mary.

Henry VIII

Henry VIII

And the other problem was they were just too darn royal. The Pole family were too close to the new Tudor crown for comfort and Henry VIII took every opportunity to weed them out.

As a member of the royal family, Ursula’s marriage was keenly debated. At one point the Duke of Milan was a possible contender but then a match with Henry Stafford, son of the Duke of Buckingham, was suggested by Cardinal Wolsey. The marriage took place on February 16, 1519 when Ursula was about 15 years old and Henry 18.

The couple set up home in her father in law’s household and remained at the centre of court life. Four months pregnant Ursula even joined the royal entourage at Henry’s big show off shindig at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham

Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham

But Ursula and Henry had been married barely two years when the first fall of the axe occurred. Henry’s father, Edward 3rd Duke of Buckingham, was charged with treason and executed on Tower Hill on May 17. His crime was his intention to kill the King, however it was more likely his descent from Katherine Woodville, the sister of Elizabeth, Edward IV’s Queen, that sealed his fate. Edward was posthumously attainted by an Act of Parliament and his title and estates, including the Duke’s fabulous castle at Thornbury, were seized by the crown.

Next for the chopping block was Henry Pole, Lord Montagu, Ursula’s eldest brother. On November 4, 1538 Henry, along with his various Neville in laws, was arrested for treason and beheaded on January 9 the following year.

That same year Ursula’s mother Margaret was arrested and charged with colluding with her treacherous sons Henry and Reginald. On May 27, 1541 she was also beheaded. An inexperienced executioner hacked to pieces the head and shoulders of the 68 year old Countess until the job was done.

Portrait of a woman said to be Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury.

Portrait of a woman said to be Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury.

And when it came to her 9th son Thomas Stafford, poor Ursula must have hung her head. At best a fantasist, Thomas considered himself to be a serious contender for the throne. In league with Wyatt, Thomas rebelled against Queen Mary and the Spanish marriage. Having lived in France for several years, Thomas sailed from Dieppe and on April 18 1557 seized Scarborough Castle, declaring himself Lord Protector. Ten days later he was captured and on May 28 was executed at Tyburn.

Ursula and Henry had 14 children and with the family estates rapidly disappearing they were kept on the move. There is evidence to suggest they lived in a property in Sussex and spent four years in an identified abbey property. They may even have lived in the castle at Stafford granted to them in 1531.

Mary Tudor

Mary Tudor

Henry continued to support Queen Mary and was later to reconvert to Catholicism, although whether Ursula followed him remains unknown.

Henry died on April 30, 1563 at Caus Castle, Shropshire and was buried at Worthen Church. Ursula died on August 12, 1570 – further research is required to establish where she was buried.

An enigmatic woman, it can be safely said that Ursula kept her head when all about her others were losing theirs.

 

 

Wolf Hall

Tudor fans this side of he pond are eagerly awaiting the launch of Wolf Hall, a major new BBC drama based on the Man Booker prize winning novels by Hilary Mantel, with the six week series due to air later this month.

Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell

Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell

Wolf Hall, published in 2009 and the sequel, Bring Up the Bodies published in 2012 saw Hilary Mantel become the first woman to win the prestigious Man Booker prize twice. The Tudor trilogy tells of the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s right hand man, with the third volume, The Mirror and the Light, due out this year.

Damien Lewis as Henry VIII

Damien Lewis as Henry VIII

The TV series is written by Peter Straughan and directed by Peter Kosminsky. Mark Rylance plays the part of Thomas Cromwell while Damien Lewis is Henry VIII and Jonathan Price is Cardinal Wolsey. Joanne Whalley plays Hal’s unwanted wife Catherine of Aragon and Claire Foy plays Anne Boleyn.

Joanne Whalley as Catherine of Aragon

Joanne Whalley as Catherine of Aragon

Lucy Worsley, historian, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces and TV presenter assures us that the attention to detail is phenomenal. No sign of zips on costumes and down pipes on Palaces this time then.

American viewers will not have to wait too long either as the Public Broadcasting Service will be screening the series from April 2015. And for theatre goers the Royal Shakespeare Company’s stage production begins a 15 week run on Broadway beginning March 20, 2015.

Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn

Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn

For readers of this blog here is a reminder of some of the St John women who were on the scene around the same time.

Margaret Beaufort, Henry VIII’s grandmother, lived long enough to see her grandson accede to the throne in 1509.

Alice St John, Lady Morley, got to go on that great Tudor gig, the Field of the Cloth of Gold, but her daughter Jane was less fortunate.

Then there was poor old Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury, who met her fate at the hands of Thomas Cromwell and what about Catherine St John and her artful sister Jane?

Those St John gals are pretty phenomenal themselves.

 

Hilary Mantel with Wolf Hall

Hilary Mantel with Wolf Hall