Monday, January 28, 2013

The Death of Henry VIII and the Birth of Henry VII

A portrait of King Henry VIII as he would have looked close to his death. Portrait after Hans Holbein, circa 1542. Image acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in Tudor history in 1547, the King who had struck both awe and fear into the lives of the English people for nearly 38 years, Henry VIII, died at Whitehall Palace. Years ago and on the very same day in 1457, his father, Henry Tudor, who eventually became Henry VII, had been born at Pembroke Castle.

A portrait of King Henry VII by an unknown artist, circa 1505. Image public domain through Creative Commons licensing, NPG, London.

14 years earlier, also in the very same week, King Henry VIII had married his second wife, Anne Boleyn, also in Whitehall Palace. It is frivolous to speculate what thoughts occurred, or what memories re-played through Henry VIII's mind as he lay dying; but I would like to think that the significance of being in these familiar surroundings within the same week in January was not lost on Henry.

"Henry's reconciliation with Anne Boleyn", an etching published by Cunningham & Mortimer in 1842. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Most who study the Tudor period would agree that Anne Boleyn was the great love of King Henry VIII's life, and that their daughter, Elizabeth, was the greatest off the Tudor monarchs. 
The Whitehall Family Grouping, or, The Family of King Henry VIII, painted circa 1544. Discover the significance of this portrait here. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Author Nancy Bilyeau wrote an article last year dispelling the myths that still prevail about King Henry VIII's final days and death. The article on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, was shared via Facebook by Stephanie Tracy, The Tudor Enthusiast, and I highly recommend it.

~Dear readers, it should be mentioned that I am hard at work on three new articles for the BeingBess blog; two are almost at completion! I am also starting my second masters course today, entitled "Tudor England". The irony that the first seminar is held on the very day King Henry VII was born and King Henry VIII died is not lost on me!~

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Secret Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn

A composite image of King Henry VIII by Hans Holbein and Anne Boleyn by an unknown artist. Image by Inor19 on Flickr.

On this day in Tudor history in 1533, King Henry VIII secretly wed his longtime love, Anne Boleyn, at Whitehall Palace.

In the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church, King Henry VIII was still legally married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon; Henry was awaiting his annulment (which would be granted by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer on 23rd May, 1533) to make his marriage to Catherine, his brother's widow, null and void. Anne Boleyn, who had resisted consummating her relationship with Henry VIII for so long, was now pregnant with his child after their trip abroad to Calais; it was imperative that they be married so that their child,which they both expected to be a boy, would be legitimate upon its birth. The child would not be the long awaited male heir; the child would be the future Queen Elizabeth I of England.

A detail from a portrait of the Princess Elizabeth Tudor from 1546, at thirteen years of age. Portrait attributed to William Scrots. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

On This Day in Elizabethan History: Shane O'Neill Visits England; Walter Raleigh is Honored

Two important events occurred on this day in Elizabethan history, in 1562 and 1585.

In 1562, Queen Elizabeth I hosted the Irish Chieftain of Ulster, Shane O'Neill, at her court. Queen Elizabeth hoped that this diplomatic gesture, made in good faith, would help to remedy the Anglo-Irish tensions that were by now centuries old.

A miniature attributed to court painter Levina Teerlinc and probably of Queen Elizabeth I, circa 1565. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

You can read more about Shane O'Neill, 16th century Irish uprisings, and the Elizabethan presence in Ireland, in our BeingBess article here.

Also on this day, in 1585, Queen Elizabeth knighted Walter Raleigh, making him a "sir". 

You can read more about Sir Walter Raleigh and his illustrious career, as well as his horrible demise, here.

A portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh, circa 1588, the year of the attempted invasion of England by the Spanish Armada. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
Also, on this day in Tudor history, in 1540, Henry VIII married his fourth wife, Anna of Cleves, at the Palace of Placentia, Greenwich. The marriage lasted roughly six months; no fool, Anna agreed to a divorce, and retired in comfort, living in England with the preferential status of "the King's sister".

A letter signed by Anna during her brief tenure as Queen: "Anna the Quenen". Image courtesy of Matthew Ward/History Needs You via Pinterest. Image public domain.
For more information on Henry VIII's oft-overlooked but fascinating wife, we recommend reading: Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII's Discarded Bride by Elizabeth Norton.

Also, please visit my Anna von Kleves Pinterest board.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

On This Day in Elizabethan History: The Death of Catherine de Medicis

A miniature of Catherine de Medicis, attributed to Francois Clouet. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Image public domain.

On this day in Elizabethan history, in 1589, Catherine de Medicis, dowager Queen of France, died at the age of 69. Catherine had been the consort of King Henri II of France; their marriage was an unhappy one, since Henri had carried on a life-long emotional and physical affair with the much-older Diane de Poitiers. On the 30th of June, 1559, Henri was wounded by a lance shard, in a tournament that was held to celebrate the marriage of his daughter, Elizabeth of Valois, to King Philip II of Spain. Henri died as a result on the 10th of July, 1559; Catherine banished Diane de Poitiers from court.

A 16th century German print of the fateful tournament between King Henri II and Gabriel Montgomery, Lord of Lorges, that led to Henri II's demise. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

After her husband died, Catherine de Medicis held considerable influence over her sons and French politics. Catherine's name will forever be associated with the infamous St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, which began on the 23rd of August, the eve of the feast day of St. Bartholomew the Apostle. The massacre began with the assassinations of key leaders of the French Huguenot party (Protestants), and ended with mob violence by Roman Catholics against Huguenot civilians. While Catherine held great contempt for the French Protestants, and likely gave her consent to the massacre, she cannot be held solely accountable for this tragedy; the French Wars of Religion were a far more complex matter.

One Morning at the Gates of the Louvre, a 19th century painting by Edouard Debat-Ponsan, showing Catherine de Medicis surveying the bodies of dead Huguenots. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In 1579, Catherine de Medicis and Henri II's youngest son, Francis, Duc d'Anjou, began courting Queen Elizabeth I of England. Elizabeth I seriously considered marrying the Duc d'Anjou, son of "the Jezebel of our age" (according to Sir Philip Sidney, in a letter to the Queen), but the marriage negotiations came to naught. In 1581, Queen Elizabeth bid the man she called her "frog" adieu forever. Catherine de Medicis died just eight years later, and was buried next to her husband, with whom she had had such a contentious marriage, at the Basilica of St. Denis.

The effigies of Catherine de Medicis and Henri II of France in the Basilica of St. Denis. Picture shared for public use by Myrabella on Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Theatre Thursday: The Star of 'Maria Stuarda' Speaks

A portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots, circa 1565. The Blairs Museum. Image public domain.

For the first Theatre Thursday of the new year, I bring you an interview with the star of Donizetti's tragic opera, 'Maria Stuarda', mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato. The interview examines the history behind the script, Italian censorship, and the strict regimen of a professional opera singer. For those who are not lucky enough to see the show in person, 'Maria Stuarda' will be broadcast live in HD on January 19th.