The Portraits of Robert Dudley (3)

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, in red, and with a characteristic wart on his right cheek

The portrait of Robert Dudley in silver brocade, painted in c.1563 and with his dog by his side, seems to have been copied a lot. One particular set of copies shows Robert wearing red sleeves under a slashed leather jerkin, as well as a red trunk hose. The dog has vanished.

The headgear is the same as in the silver brocade portrait. It again shows the mythical Roman hero, Marcus Curtius, on horseback. Marcus was famed for saving his hometown (Rome) from the abyss by riding into a chasm that had opened in the Forum. It was a fitting allusion to the Master of the Horse, Robert Dudley’s chief office at Elizabeth’s court.

All these paintings have sometimes been attributed to the Flemish painter Steven van der Meulen or his workshop (Steven may be the same Steven an artist called Steven van Herwijck).

Another version without the wart in the Yale Center for British Art

A version that was cut down to head and shoulders of the above portrait now in the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia). The wart is clearly visible.

Further reading:
Elizabeth Goldring, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and the World of Elizabethan Art: Painting and Patronage at the Court of Elizabeth I, 2014.

Karen Hearn (ed.), Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530–1630, 1995.,-Earl-of-Leicester-

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Did Lady Jane Grey Wear Chopines?

The following supposed eyewitness description of Lady Jane Grey is from a 1909 book, Lady Jane Grey, by Richard Davey: ‘”This Jane is very short and thin, but prettily shaped and graceful. … The new Queen was mounted on very high chopines [clogs] to make her look much taller, which were concealed by her robes, as she is very small and short.”‘ (Davey, Lady Jane Grey, 1909, p. 253)

As many of you will be aware, this alleged description by a certain Benedict Spinola has been shown to be a fake, by the Jane scholars Leanda de Lisle and John Stephan Edwards. This Benedict Spinola seems not to have existed. I was therefore surprised to find the following in a book by Agnes Strickland:

‘In regard to the person of the Lady Jane, her features and her form were alike diminutive. Our Italian authority, Luca Cortile, who was in England during her lifetime, asserts: – “Jane was beautiful, but very small.” Her sister, Lady Mary, was a dwarf. Disraeli the elder, in one of his clever works, mentions gilt chopines, a sort of cork shoe, about four inches in height, worn by Lady Jane Grey to raise her to a more majestic altitude.’ (Strickland, Lives of the Tudor Princesses, 1868, p. 138)

Lady Jane Gray in the Tower, by William Frederick Yeames, c.1860

The elder Disraeli must be the father of the prime minister, Isaac D’Israeli (1766–1848), who wrote some historical works. Did he really mention the chopines? Strickland wrote some 40 years before Davey, and did Davey use her book for his Spinola ‘eyewitness report’?

And who was Luca Cortile, the man Strickland quoted as speaking of Jane as ‘very small’? Eric Ives mentioned him as Luca Contile, and he apparently wrote or edited a version of an Italian text otherwise known as being written by Giulio Raviglio Rosso. Rosso, however, apparently only plagiarized a report by the papal envoy to England during the summer of 1553, Giovanni Francesco Commendone. Since Rosso was a Ferrarese diplomat and there were also Ferrarese diplomats called Cortile in the later 16th century, Luca’s name may indeed have been Cortile.

Further reading:
Eric Ives: Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery (2009)
Leanda de Lisle: The Sisters Who Would Be Queen (2009)
John Stephan Edwards:

Posted in 1553, errors & myths, sources & historians | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The Portraits of Robert Dudley (2)

Robert Dudley, c.1563

The portrait of Robert Dudley dressed in silver brocade now at Waddesdon Manor (Buckinghamshire) is believed to have been painted c.1563. The Flemish painter Steven van der Meulen is sometimes believed to be the artist, and he died in 1563 or early 1564. Other than in the other surviving portraits of Robert Dudley, he has a dog at his side, although this portrait was not the only one with a dog, originally: In the early 1580s Robert commissioned a likeness of himself in “full proportion [full-length] … with Boy his dog by him”, as well as “my lady’s whole proportion … and my young lord standing by her”.

In the earlier portrait with his dog Robert Dudley is wearing a jewel in his hat depicting the mythical heroic Roman Marcus Curtius on horseback. According to legend, Marcus literally saved Rome from the abyss by riding into a chasm that had opened in the Forum. The allusion was particularly fitting for the queen’s Master of the Horse (an office Robert had held from the second day of the reign, 18 November 1558).

The portrait also has a pair of Ionic columns in the background; they were possibly intended to symbolize the Pillars of Hercules, the emblem of the Emperor Charles V. Robert Dudley’s left arm rests on a chair upholstered in red velvet, and he is holding a pair of gloves in his left hand. Both the pillars and the dog looking up to his master, perhaps even the red chair, art connoisseurs could associate with the iconography of Charles V, as the Imperial portraits were well-known at the time (through copies, but mostly through woodcuts and prints).

Robert Dudley was raised to be Earl of Leicester on 29 September 1564 and on this occasion a coronet was added to the coat of arms representing his membership in the Order of the Garter, on the right. The other coat of arms, on the left, was only added later, in 1566, after Robert Dudley had also become a member of the prestigious French Order of St. Michael. The Order of St. Michael had been founded in 1469 as a French counterpart to the Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece and the English Order of the Garter.

Further reading:
Elizabeth Goldring, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and the World of Elizabethan Art: Painting and Patronage at the Court of Elizabeth I, 2014.

Karen Hearn (ed.), Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530–1630, 1995.

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The Portraits of Robert Dudley (1)

Robert Dudley, c.1560

Apart from the queen herself, the most portrayed person of Elizabethan England was none other than Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. As the most often painted Englishman of his time, Leicester sat for a new portrait about every two years, which was really a lot. He started in about 1560, when the first known portrait can be dated (it is unlikely that he had ever have himself painted before).

The painting, which forms now part of the Wallace Collection, London, consists of a panel of wood with an inscription on its back, “AETATIS 28 156-“. The inscription, if correct, would mean that the portrait was executed when Robert Dudley was 28, which in turn would indicate a date between 24 June 1560 and 23 June 1561. His birth date has been a subject of speculation, due to William Camden’s claim that Elizabeth and Robert Dudley were born under the same star; but Robert himself makes clear in a letter that he was born on 24 June, although he regrettably forgot to mention the year. However, another likeness of his, a 1576 miniature by Nicholas Hilliard, gives his age as 44, so 1532 is likely the year of his birth.

In the portrait, Robert Dudley proudly displays his Garter chain with his “George” (he had recieved the order in 1559), and his hand rests on his helmet, indicating his military achievements (he had served as Master of the Ordnance in King Philip’s expedition to France in 1557).

Further reading:
Elizabeth Goldring, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and the World of Elizabethan Art: Painting and Patronage at the Court of Elizabeth I, 2014.

Posted in paintings, Robert Dudley

Handkerchiefs and Tennis

On 31 March 1565, the English ambassador in Scotland reported to the former English ambassador in France an incident that had (probably) occurred at Hampton Court. He had heard it from the Earl of Atholl, a grandee at the court of Mary Queen of Scots. Thomas Randolph, the ambassador in Edinburgh, described a scene between the Earl of Leicester, Elizabeth I, and the Duke of Norfolk:

That early the Duke’s grace and my lord of Leicester were playing at tennis, the Queen beholding of them, and my Lord Robert being hot and sweating took the Queen’s napkin out of her hand and wiped his face, which the duke seeing said that he was too saucy, and swore that he would lay his racket upon his face; whereup rose a great trouble and the Queen offended sore with the Duke.

Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk. He has got a handkerchief in his purse.

Since a nobleman in Scotland had told him what had happened in an English tennis court (as opposed to a courier from England), Randolph concluded that “What is most secret among you is so soon at this Queen’s ears, that some would think it should be out of the Privy Chamber door where you are.”

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. He has the same kind of purse hanging from his belt as Norfolk, with handkerchief.

In fact, nothing about this incident has survived in any other source than Randolph’s letter to Throckmorton (who was at that time at the English court). Still, this story has often been cited as evidence of both Elizabeth’s intimacy with Dudley and Norfolk’s enmity with him (although they were friends enough to play tennis). Leicester also stayed at Norfolk’s house in 1567 and Norfolk came upon him while Leicester was fishing in the Thames in 1569.

Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, with purse and handkerchief

Kendall, Alan (1980): Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Cassell.
Williams, Neville (1964): Thomas Howard, Fourth Duke of Norfolk. Barrie & Rockliff.

Posted in Elizabeth I, errors & myths, Robert Dudley, sources & historians | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Did Good Queen Bess Kill More People for Religion than Bloody Mary?

Did Mary I kill fewer people because of religion than Elizabeth I? – The short answer is no.

I have seen many claims over the last few years on the internet that Mary I executed fewer people on grounds of religion than Henry VIII and/or Elizabeth I, or even Edward VI. I thought this to be an alarming trend, as my gut feeling told me this couldn’t be true; from reading several books it seemed to me that Mary executed a good deal more people than either Henry VIII or Elizabeth. I decided to count the beans (as best as I could) and here is the result, as derived from Wikipedia’s

List of Protestant martyrs of the English Reformation


List of Catholic martyrs of the English Reformation

Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland, a leader of the great northern rebellion of 1570. Executed at York in 1572, he was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1895.

The Wikipedia list of persecuted Protestants is entirely based on John Foxe’s famous Book of Martyrs for the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I. The Wikipedia list of Catholic martyrs during the English Reformation enumerates people who died because of their faith between the reigns of Henry VIII and Charles II, according to the statistics of the Catholic Church. I have here included only the persons persecuted under the Tudors (until 1603).

I didn’t count in Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland, executed in York 1572 for his leading part in the Northern Rebellion and beatified in 1895. Neither did I count in Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, executed for his part in Wyatt’s Rebellion in 1554; though his story is related in Foxe’s book, he is not listed by historians as a victim of religious persecution. A handful of other political rebels later beatified are included in the list of Elizabeth’s victims, though. This list, unlike the Foxe list, also includes many people who died while incarcerated for their faith.

Henry VIII:
4 Lollards
63 Protestants
65 Catholics
Total 132

Edward VI:
2 Protestants (“Anabaptists”)
Total 2

Mary I:
284 Protestants
Total 284

Elizabeth I:
6 Protestants (“Puritans”)
184 Catholics
Total 190

Posted in Edward VI, Elizabeth I, errors & myths, religion | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Sir Clements Markham on John Dudley

Sir Clements Markham (1830–1916) was Secretary and later President of the Royal Geographical Society, a sailor, explorer and geographer, but also a prolific author and translator. Friends of Richard III will always love him for his 1906 biography, Richard III: His Life & Character, in which, as one reviewer wrote at the time, “he has done something to clear the character of an unhappy king”. Oddly enough, the one other monarch Markham wrote a book about was the boy king, Edward VI.

Bust of Sir Clements Markham at the Royal Geographical Society. Photo by Geographer CC BY-SA 3.0

Markham, who had travelled widely in Peru where he researched the history of the Incas, also edited and translated many volumes of original Spanish reports for the Hakluyt Society, whose president he became after his time as President of the Royal Geographical Society. Markham’s work for the Hakluyt Society’s early text editions ranged from Early Spanish Voyages to the Straits of Magellan to the Embassy of Ruy González de Clavijo at the Court of Timour at Samarcand, 1403–1406.

He also translated a Spanish novel, first printed at Burgos in 1554, by Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, a Spanish intellectual and diplomat from an illustrious family of magnates. While staying in Venice as the Emperor Charles V’s ambassador, Mendoza was even portrayed by the great Titian. As it happens, the same Diego de Mendoza also became Guildford Dudley’s godfather on his stay in England in 1537/1538. In 1553, Mendoza congratulated Guildford on becoming king.

Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, by Titian

The book Markham translated was The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes. It relates the adventures of a boy who starts life as a beggar, one chapter being entitled: “Success of the poor should be a lesson to the rich”. There were no less than two translations in Elizabethan England, and the book turned out very popular.

In his biography, King Edward VI: His Life & Character, Clements Markham observed that

THE reign of King Edward VI. in our histories is the reign of Somerset and the reign of Northumberland, not the reign of Edward, who is left in the background, quite overshadowed by less noteworthy personages. The result of my studies has been the conviction that the young King was by no means a cypher.

Nevertheless, and very remarkably for the time he wrote, Markham believed that Northumberland had been unfairly treated by historians:

The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes by Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, translated by Clements Markham

JOHN DUDLEY, Baron de Somerie, Viscount Lisle, Earl of Warwick, and Duke of Northumberland, was a man of mark. He guided the destinies of England for three years and eight months. It was the happiest period of King Edward’s short life, and an advancing time for the country. The work done was destroyed by Mary for a time, but only for a time. Yet hitherto historians have dealt out nothing but abuse to this remarkable and very able man. He may have committed many faults in the last three years of his life. He was brought up in a bad school. He was as rapacious as Somerset. But, as has truly been said of the Emperor Tiberius, a man does not live to the verge of old age in high repute, and then suddenly become a monster without a redeeming virtue. This is the picture history draws of John Dudley. It conveys a false impression.

Clements Markham was also sympathetic towards Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, in his book, The Fighting Veres, about two notable soldiers of the de Vere family who fought in the Dutch war of independence.

You can find the books by Clements Markham at or google books.

Wikipedia: Clements Markham

Posted in Edward VI, Guildford Dudley, John Dudley, Robert Dudley, sources & historians | Tagged , , ,

The Sieur de Vieilleville’s Memoirs – A 16th Century Fake?

The French ambassadors, who in early 1547 observed the strange habits of the English when serving their monarch at table and spoke to a mysterious but very outspoken English nobleman, were led by François de Scépeaux, Sieur de Vieilleville, who later became also Marshal of France. François de Scépeaux’s grandfather served as chamberlain to Charles VIII, and he himself was raised in the household of Louise of Savoy, the mother of Francis I. With his king he served in the Battle of Pavia in 1525, and many other military feats followed.

Francois de Scepeaux, Sieur de Vieilleville, Marshal of France, by Francois Clouet, 1566

Early in Elizabeth I’s reign the Sieur de Vieilleville made another diplomatic trip to England, trying unsuccessfully to dissuade her from sending help to the French Protestants. He was greatly trusted by King Charles IX, who employed him with the enforcement of several pacification edicts between Protestants and Catholics, a task to which Vieilleville was well-suited because of his moderation and desire for peace. The King of France visited him at least three times at his feudal castle of Durtal, and it was during such a royal visit that he died there in November 1571 – it was claimed by poison.

As we have seen in the two previous articles on this blog, François de Scépeaux, Sieur de Vieilleville and Marshall of France, is supposed to have left memoirs; such memoirs were an extremely popular literary genre in France from the 16th right into the 19th century. Very often they were not actually written by the person whose life they purported to relate. In the case of the Sieur de Vieilleville’s memoirs they are believed to have been written by Vincent Carloix (1535–1571), secretary to the Sieur de Vieilleville.

The Jesuit Abbé Griffet prepared a printed edition in 1757, with a foreword and notes – however only 21 years later, in 1778, the Abbé Garnier (another Jesuit) expressed doubts about the veracity of some of Vieilleville’s adventures. In 1893 a third abbé, Father Ch. Marchand, published a book in which he demonstrated that many stories were simply fakes, taken directly out of other contemporary works about other war heroes. Whether such fakes also concerned Vieilleville’s diplomatic missions is hard to tell. Marchand accepted the facts “with caution”. The matter probably hinges on whether Carloix (Vieilleville’s secretary and an eye-witness) was actually the author at all.

Vieilleville’s colourful life as reported by the memoirs inspired a 19th century biography by Mme Goignet, which was published in English in 1887; the embassy to the court of Edward VI is missing from this account, though.

Anglophone historians have made use of Vieilleville’s “memoirs” in a few instances. The Lord Vartich of the memoires (the mysterious English courtier who gave a very long and detailed talk in French to the ambassadors) has been assumed to be the Earl of Warwick (John Dudley) by those authors who have made use of this episode. They are Hester Chapman (in 1958 and 1961) and Alison Weir (in 1996). Neither, though, has taken in account the whole story of the French embassy in England – not the weird report of Henry VIII’s love life, not the odd view of the English succession to the throne, not even the erroneous chronology.

Wikipedia: François de Scépeaux

Wikipedia: Vincent Carloix

Revue Historique Vol. 48, Janvier-Avril 1892, pp. 215-216

Some books making use of Carloix’s memoirs:
C. Coignet: A Gentleman of Olden Time (1887)
Hester Chapman: Edward VI: The Last Tudor King (1958)
Hester Chapman: Lady Jane Grey (1961)
W.K. Jordan: Edward VI: The Young King (1968)
Alison Weir: The Children of England (1996)
Jennifer Loach: Edward VI (1999)

continued from:
How Henry VIII Got Rid of His Wives

Posted in John Dudley, sources & historians, strange facts from popular books | Tagged , ,

How Henry VIII Got Rid Of His Wives

We left the Ambassador Extraordinary of France, François de Scépeaux, Sieur de Vieilleville, and his companions at the court of Edward VI in early 1547 amazed at how English noblemen behaved towards their sovereign; they even knelt when serving the king meals. Vieilleville’s secretary, Vincent Carloix, who supposedly wrote down these memories later, then reported how the French guests were accosted by a mysterious English courtier who explained to them why these strange habits went unchallenged: Out of fear of the Duke of Somerset, the young king’s uncle, who has established a veritable tyranny over England. However, resistance is a-brewing …

I’ll now give you the rest of the English gentleman’s speech, first in the original French and then in translation. Secretary Carloix’ understanding of English history may appear somewhat garbled, yet it certainly shows how Henry VIII’s marital problems were perceived from a foreign (and Catholic) perspective not so long after the events:

car estants parens et creatures de feues roynes meres des infantes Marie et Elizabeth, ils crevent de deplaisir de voir l’usurpation que ce duc, par son authorité, a fait sur elles de la couronne, qui appartient premierement à Marie, et puis par son decès à Elizabeth ; se targuant du testament du feu Roy Henry, qu’il a basty à sa poste, auquel il ne s’est pas oublyé, car il s’y est trouvé le premier, après l’Empereur, de saeze tuteurs de ce jeune Roy ordonnez par son pere; mais les quinze luy ont bientost quitté toute la charge, les connoissant incompatible, ou bien par remords de conscience de la falsité de ce testament, et du tort que l’on faisoit à ses deux très-excellentes princesses.

After getting in trouble having married the emperor’s aunt, Henry VIII afterwards “only ever married the daughters of dukes and simple gentlewomen”

Car ledit feu roy Henry, qui estoit un prince voluptueux, et auquel un serail de femmes n’eust pas suffi, repudia la reine Catherine, mere de l’infante Marie, pour épouser Anne de Boulan, de l’aquelle il eust Elizabeth, les accusant fort iniquement toutes deux d’impudicité et d’adultere, sans pouvoir dire ny prouver, encore moins les convaincre du fait ; qu’il fit neantmois mourir la premiere entre quatre murailles, et l’autre sur un échafaut (car un roy n’a jamais faute de juges ny de temoins), pour épouser Janne Semer, sœur de ce duc, et mère du Roy que yous voyez, de laquelle il fust un an amoureux : en quoy elle se maintint si vertueusement, que la force d’amour contraignit ce Roy, n’en pouvant rien tirer que par [durch] mariage, de faire insignes meschancetez :

la premiere, de repudier ainsi à la vollée des princesses de bien et d’honneur, foulant leur reputation, et, contre sa conscience, leur ravir la vie pour épouser cellecy ; la seconde, de priver, contre tout droit divin et humain, ces deux rare princesses en toute vertu de leur vraye, legitime et naturelle succession, pour y préferer ce petit Roy que le gens de bien et d’esprit de ce royaume tiennet pour bastard ; et la troisieme, que, non voulant le Pape approuver ce fornicatoire mariage, il laissa sa religion ancienne et catholique pour adherer et suivre celle de Luther, par depit d’avoir esté debouté de sa demande, comme injuste, en plein consistoire des cardinaux; et s’oublia tant qu’il écrivit et fit publier un petit meschant livre contre ce très-sacré senat, perdant par cette folie un fort saint et honorable titre que ses predecesseurs et luy avoient entre les roys chrestiens; car vostre roy s’appelle Très-Chrestien, celuy d’Espagne Catholique, et le nostre se nommoit Protecteur de la foy. Et croyez que cestuy-cy ne rendra pas ce titre à sa posterité: car son pere le fit instruire et nourrir en ce nouvelle secte, en laquelle il persiste, et y est, par commandement du duc son oncle, entretenu.

Vous voyez donc, messieurs, par ce discours, que la paillardise de feu son pere le fit forvoyer en sa religion, de laquelle il n’eust jamais changé si le Pape luy eust accordé la dispense d’épouser Anne de Boulan : et s’il eust ausé faire mourir Catherine, il n’eust pas esté en la peine de faire la poursuite ; mais elle estoit tante de l’empereur Charles cinquieme. Aussi depuis ce refus il n’épousa jamais que des filles de ducs ou simple damoiselles, pour plus librement exercer sur leur honneur et sur leur vie sa detestable volonté ; et en épousa jusques à cinq depuis ladite Catherine, qu’il fit tout passer ou par la mort ou par la honte de repudiation, excepté Janne Semer, mere de ce Roy, qui mourat incontinant après en estre delivrée ; dont bien luy en print, car elle eust esté mise au rang des autres : encore dit-on qu’il la fit empoisonner pour épouser la quatrieme, qu’il repudia un an après ; et fit trancher la teste à la cinquieme, forcené de l’amour d’une vefve nommé Catherine Parre, à laquelle, s’il ne fust mort, il fasoit déjà faire le procès, la accusant faussement d’avoir conspiré à sa mort avec la princesse Marie sa fille : ne nous estant demeuré autre fruit de cette bruslante luxure; que l’usurpation de la couronne que vous voyez, je vous laissez à juger, messieurs, si ce royaume doit prosperer. »

Etat de la cour d’Angleterre

Lors l’un de nostres, nommé Vausurhosne, dit à ce gentilhomme anglais, qui s’appelloit Vartich, qu’il estoit fort esbahy qu’ayant tant de droit de leur costé, et la pluspart des millorts favorables qu’ils ne hazardoient une battaille, y et attirer le peuple par quelque menée secrette, s’assurant que s’il se presentoit quelque magnanime seigneur qui s’en voulust entremettre, il seroit suivy de tous les estats, « veu, millort Vartich, ce que vous nous venez de discourir, car Dieu ayde au bon droit. … «

Cela est très-certain, rèpondit Vartich : mais le duc de Sommerset, qui est un prince fort provide, y a prevenu merveilleusement, car il a osté à tous les grands de ce royaume tous les moyens de rien innover. Premierement il a donné l’estat d’amiral à son frere, qui est la principale force d’Angleterre ; le gouvernement d’Irlande à un autre parent qui luy est du tout voué …; et faut necessairement attendre ce coup de la main de Dieu, qui ne laissera pas regner long-temps cette tirannie sans faire rendre, par sa grande justice, ce que l’on à usurpé sur ces dignes princesses. … »

Cela dit, il print congé de nous et se retira, sans que jamais l’ayons pu trouver ny revoir depuis ; et les cherchasmes tant que nous fumes là, parce que nous le tenions pour fort habile homme, et qui avoit grande envie de remuer estaindre cette usurpation, et remettre sus la religion catholique.

Il sembla, à ce qui est advenu depuis, que ce Vartich estoit touché de l’esprit de prophetie ; car au commencement de l’année 1547 il nous tint ce langage, et sur la fin de l’année 1550 ce petit Roy mourut ; par la mort duquel la couronne revint à l’Infante Marie, qui fit mourir assez bon nombre de millorts qui avoient assisté et favorisé le couronnement de son feu frere.

(Mémoires de la vie de François de Scépeaux, Sieur de Vieilleville. Vol I. Edited by C. B. Petitot, 1822, pp. 155–160)

For they [the gentlemen who would like to cut the Duke of Somerset’s and the king’s throats] are creatures of the deceased queens, the mothers of the princesses Mary and Elizabeth, and they are bursting with displeasure to see the usurpation of this duke, his authority, and how he achieved it against the crown, which belongs first to Mary, and after her death to Elizabeth. He bases his claim on the last will of the deceased King Henry, who built him up in his office, which he never forgot as he found himself the first, after the emperor, of the tutors of this young king as his father ordained; thus, the fifteen [other executors of Henry VIII’s will] discharged him for good as incompatible or out of a bad conscience about this false testament and the wrong done to these two excellent princesses.

As the said King Henry deceased was a voluptuous prince to whom a seraglio of women did not suffice, he repudiated Queen Catherine, mother of the princess Mary, to marry Anne Boleyn, by whom he had Elizabeth: And he accused them both most iniquitously of impudicity and adultery, without being able to prove anything or convince anybody. He made the first die in prison and the other upon the scaffold (for a king is never in need of judges or witnesses) in order to marry Jane Seymour, sister of this duke and mother of the king you see. With her he had been in love for a year in which she maintained herself so virtuously that the power of love constrained this king to marry her, not having achieved anything, yet having committed several iniquities:

Princess Mary, repudiated, took revenge on those who “assisted and favoured the crowning of her deceased brother”

First, he repudiated the princesses and trampled upon their reputation, and, against his conscience, took a life in order to marry Jane; second, to deprive against every human and divine right these two rare princesses of their true, legitimate, and natural succession, he preferred this little king whom the good people of this realm hold for a bastard; third, as the pope did not approve this fornicatory marriage, he abandoned his ancient and catholic religion in order to adhere and follow the religion of Luther, for he was angry that his demand was rejected as injust by the full consistory of the cardinals; and he forgot himself so much that he wrote and published a malignant little book against this very holy senate – thereby losing through this folly a very holy and honourable title, which his predecessors and he himself had between the Christian kings; for your king is named the Most Christian King, the King of Spain His Catholic Majesty, and our king was named Defender of the Faith. And believe me, this title will not be bequeathed to posterity, for his father raised him in this new sect, in which he persists and is entertained by order of the duke his uncle.

You see, gentlemen, by this discourse how his father lit this fire in his religion, which he never would have changed had the pope accorded him the marriage of Anne Boleyn. And if he had not dared to put to death Katherine, he would not have bothered to do the rest; alas, she was the aunt of the Emperor Charles V. He therefore after this rebuff only ever married the daughters of dukes and simple gentlewomen in order to exercise more freely his detestable will over their honours and their lives. And he married up to five ladies after Katherine, whom he either killed or repudiated, with the exception of Jane Seymour, the mother of this king, who died in childbirth – which turned out well for her, for she would have been treated like the others. It is even said that he had her poisoned in order to marry the fourth, whom he repudiated after a year. And he beheaded the fifth, crazy of love for a widow named Katherine Parr; if she had not died, he would have accused her of conspiring against his life together with Mary his daughter. Thus in view of the only fruit of this burning wantonness – the usurpation which you see – I let you judge, gentlemen, if this realm should prosper.”

The State of the English Court

Now, one of us, named Vausurhosne, said to this English gentleman named Vartich that he was speechless that with so much right and so many millorts on their side they did not dare risk a battle instead of attracting people by secret plots, thinking that a great man would present himself who would like to take part, all the estates following him: “Look, my Lord Vartich, all you told us about the Lord may grant.” […] “That’s all very well,” answered Vartich, “but the Duke of Somerset is a cautious prince, for he has taken away all the means from all the great of this realm. First he gave the office of Admiral to his brother, which post is the principal mainstay of England. The government of Ireland he gave to another relative who is very devoted to him […]; we must needs wait for the Lord’s coup de main, who will not suffer this tyranny for long without, in his great justice, giving back what has been taken away from these worthy princesses.” […]

With this he took leave from us and retired, and we never could find or see him again; and we were looking for him all the time we were there, because we thought him a very clever man who very much wished to undo this usurpation and to re-institute the catholic religion.

It seemed by what happened afterwards that Vartich was touched by the spirit of prophecy; for at the beginning of the year 1547 he spoke to us and by the end of 1550 this little king died. By his death the crown reverted to the Princess Mary, who put to death a good number of millorts who had assisted and favoured the crowning of her deceased brother.

(Translation copyright © 2018 Christine Hartweg)

It is believed that Lord Vartich was none other than John Dudley, the Earl of Warwick and father of Robert Dudley …

coninued here

Posted in Edward VI, Elizabeth I, John Dudley, religion, sources & historians | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Why the English Serve Their King on Bended Knee

A few weeks into the reign of Edward VI, in early 1547, a French embassy arrived at the English court. They stayed for six days. François de Scépeaux, Sieur de Vieilleville (1509–1571), the special ambassador, was received by the Duke of Somerset, recently appointed Lord Protector, and the whole court. Allegedly, Vieilleville’s secretary, Carloix, later wrote memoires. To what extent these memoirs have been embellished in the early 17th century we shall discuss in a later post, however it is probably safest not to take them too seriously as a historical source.

On this tapestry King Ahasverus is served on bended knee; two members of some order of chivalry also attend, on their knees and bare-headed. The great master of the household (or someone like him) receives the food on a plate from a kneeling page (c.1500)

I’ve been working to copy (not copy & paste) parts of Carloix’s text and give you a full translation, however I also put it here in the French original. It’s fun to read! Please enjoy!

Carloix reports:

Ce duc de Sommerset n’estoit gueres bien voulu des milorts et autres seigneurs d’Angleterre, ny même du Roy, car il entreprenoit sur l’Etat, et s’en fasoit si bien accroire, que son opinion, bonne ou mauvaise, effaçoit toutes les autres; et ce qui le rendoit plus odieux à tous les etats du royaume, estoit que, de sa seule et privée authorité, il s’estoit qualifié Protecteur d’Angleterre, pour lequel estat il tiroit plus de vingt milles nobles a la roze par an; et outre ce, il avoit de la même puissance et authorité, créé et estably Thomas Semer, son frere puisné, amiral de toute la mer.

Coutume de servir les rois d’Angleterre à genoux

Monsieur de Vieilleville sejourna six jours à Londres, durant lesquel il fut fort magnifiquement festoyé des princes et milorts, et principalment en un festin royal où il disna entre le Roy et le dit duc de Sommerset, aprés lequel estoit assis M. de Thevalle, beaufrere de M. de Vieilleville, fort vaillant et sage chevalier, qui avoit epousé madame Françoise de Scepeaulx, tres-vertueuse et tres-belle dame; et au dessous de luy Thomas, amiral, sans qu’il y en eust d’autres à table.

Et servirent les millorts chevaliers de l’ordre de la Jartiere, portans les plates après le grand-maître, les testes nuës; mais, approchant de la table, ils se mettoient à genoux, et venoit le grand-maître prendre le service de leurs mains, estant ainsi agenoilez: ce que nous trouvasmes fort ètrange, de voir ainsi anciens chevaliers, gens de valeur et grands capitaines de plus illustres maisons d’Angleterre, faire l’estat que font les enfans d’honneur et pages de la chambre devant nostre Roy, qui ont seulement les testes nuës portant les service, mais ils ne s’agenoillent nullement, et en sont quites pour une reverance d’entrée et d’issuë de la salle où se fait le festin. Et estans en difficulté de juger de qui approchoit le plus cette façon, ou de la tirannie, ou de l’idolatrie, un gentilhomme anglais qui nous écoutoit nous y satisfit fort promptement, disant en bonne langage française qu’elle participoit de tous les deux, avec cette raison:

«Si vous faites aux vieilles gens, si experimentez en toutes choses qu’ils n’ont plus besoing de rien apprendre, faire des choses puerilles, vous pouvez bien penser qu’ils sont contrains d’y obeyr, car le vieillart n’a rien si odieux que de contrefaire l’enfant; par ainsi il faut conclure que s’ils refusoient ce commandement quand nostre Roy veut monstrer ses magnificences et grandeurs, qu’il seroient d’estre chassez de la Cour, privez de leur estat, et peut estre de la vie: doncques est tirannie.

Et quant aux testes nuës et agenoillements quis sont ordinaires devant la face de nostre Roy, puisque cela appartient à un seul Dieu; vous ne pouvez ignorer que ce ne soit idolâtrie. Mais vostre Roy en use plus chrestiennement, et ne tient pas une si turquesque rigueur à ses sujets et serviteurs; aussi il n’y a pas un de vous autres Français qui ne voulust librement sacrifier sa vie pour son prince. Icy tout au contraire: car des douze que sont à genoulx, les sept que voyez derniers voudroient avoir coupé la gorge au Roy et au duc de Sommerset son oncle maternel:»

(Mémoires de la vie de François de Scépeaux, Sieur de Vieilleville. Vol I. Edited by C. B. Petitot, 1822, pp. 153–155)

That Duke of Somerset was hardly well-liked by the milorts and other gentlemen of England, because it was he who ran the state and because he only let his own opinion – whether good or bad – prevail over all others. And thus it happened that the Duke of Somerset became hated by all the estates of England, because he, by his own private authority, made himself Protector of England, which also made him throw over 20 million nobles out of the window per annum. And of the same authority, he also created and established Thomas Seymour, his little brother, Lord Admiral of all the Seas.

The custom to serve the Kings of England on bended knee

Monsieur de Vieilleville stayed six days in London, during which he was very magnificently entertained by the princes and milorts, and principally with a royal feast where he dined between the king and the said Duke of Somerset, the latter of whom was assisted at table by M. de Thevalle, brother-in-law of M. de Vieilleville and a very valient and wise knight who had married Madame Françoise de Scepeaux, a very virtuous and beautiful lady; and below him [was seated] Thomas, the admiral, without any others at the table.

And the milorts were served by knights of the Garter, who brought the dishes behind the great master of the household, bare-headed; but, approaching the table, they went on their knees, and the grand master came and took the dishes out of their hands, while they remained on their knees: We found this very strange, thus to see these worthy knights and gentlemen, and great captains, of the greatest houses of England, to do that which the children of honour and pages do before our king; they, however, only carry the dishes bare-headed, but do never kneel, and are done with curtsying at entering and leaving the hall where the feast is taking place. While we were thus having difficulty judging whether this be tyranny or idolatry, an English gentleman who had overheard us approached us, saying in good French that he participated in the two, the tyranny and the idolatry, for this reason:

“If you find these worthy people, so experienced in everything that they need not learn anything more, to engage in such childish things, you may well think that they are constrained to obey, as they would be chased from court, lose their estates, and even their lives, if they would refuse to proclaim the greatness of our king with these fooleries: So much for tyranny.

As for the bared heads and bended knees before our king, they should be for God only; you cannot ignore this is idolatry! But your king is of most Christian habits, nor does he use such Turkish rigour towards his subjects and servants; so among you there will be no Frenchman who will not freely sacrifice his life for his prince. Here it is the other way round! For of the twelve who knelt, the last seven would gladly cut the king’s and the Duke of Somerset’s throat!”

(Translation copyright © 2018 Christine Hartweg)

The mysterious Englishman’s speech goes on quite a bit, and we shall see in the next post what else he had to say, about Henry VIII and his wives, among other things; we’ll also find out who he was …

coninued here

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