Its the beginning of the week, and this week we have a new featured author! This week I’m happy to announce it is Sylvia Barbara Soberton! She has sent in the first chapter of her book, Forgotten Tudor Women. Below I have posted the first half of it, the next will be Friday! This is a fantastic overview of Tudor England, so if you have friends looking to get into learning about it, this is a fantastic starting point!
*Very tired posting this, and had some formatting issues, so if anyone happens to see something, please let me know 🙂
Forgotten Tudor Women
Chapter 1: Lady-in-waiting
The court was the place to be for any noblewoman who wished to carve out a successful
career in royal service and find an eligible husband. Anne Stanhope, born in 1510 to Sir Edward Stanhope and Elizabeth Bourchier, joined the household of Henry VIII’s first wife, Katharine of Aragon, at some point after she reached her sixteenth year, the minimum age required to become a maid of honour. She was well-positioned to become the Queen’s maid—her father fought for Henry VII at the Battle of Stoke Field in 1487 and helped quash the Cornish Rebellion of 1497, after which he received a knighthood. Sir Edward died when Anne was an infant, but her mother remarried; her second
husband was Sir Richard Page, a member of Henry VIII’s Privy Chamber and a seasoned courtier.
The Queen’s ladies were required by oath to be loyal to their royal mistress, and they received regular wages and livery that signalled their membership in her household. Materials used for livery gowns for the female servants throughout the
entire reign of Henry VIII were usually damasks, velvets and satins, often russet in colour, trimmed with various furs depending on the wearer’s social status. One of the most important perquisites was the “bouche of court”, the right to receive food, drink and day-to-day materials according to one’s rank.
As a maid of honour, Anne Stanhope was entitled to receive breakfasts and suppers as well as candles and timber for her fireplace. Anne would not have the luxury of a private chamber at court—privacy being a rare commodity at the Tudor court—but she shared a room and sometimes even a bed with other maids. Serving the Queen required waking up early in the morning and being ready for her every beck and call.
Katharine of Aragon was an accomplishedprincess who spoke fluent Flemish, French and English. She was very religious, rising each midnight to be present at matins and waking up early to attend morning prayers. She prayed on her knees without cushions and wore a penitential hair shirt beneath her opulent clothes made of luxurious materials imported from Spain, France, Italy and the Netherlands. Life within Katharine’s household has often been characterised as dull, but there was nothing dull about the Queen’s lifestyle. Her piety deepened as she grew older, but her love of finery and entertainment was still there: she employed her own minstrels and enjoyed watching masques and dances performed in her chambers.
By 1527, Henry VIII, the second Tudor monarch, had no male heir despite being married to Katharine of Aragon for eighteen years. The royal couple had only one surviving child, Princess Mary, who was born on 18 February 1516. The Queen, who reached her forty-second birthday on 16 December 1527, was deemed unable to bring forth any more children. The King, six years younger than his wife, was still in his prime, but without a legitimate heir to succeed him, he felt cursed. The biblical book of Leviticus forbade a man to marry his brother’s widow, and Katharine of Aragon was briefly married to the King’s elder brother, Arthur, who died in 1501. When Henry married Katharine in 1509, two months after his accession, he believed Katharine’s assurances thatafter six months of marriage to Arthur she was still a virgin. But eighteen years and six pregnancies later, the King came to the startling conclusion that his marriage was cursed: “If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing . . . he shall be childless” (Leviticus 20: 21). Having a daughter instead of a son was as good as having no heirs at all in Henry VIII’s
view. In the spring of 1527, he set in motion his “great matter”, as the King’s divorce case was referred to in its early stages.
Henry VIII’s decision to repudiate Katharine ofAragon coincided with his infatuation with one of the Queen’s maids of honour, Anne Boleyn. Daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard, Anne was related to the earls of Ormond and dukes of Norfolk. Brought up at the French court since 1514, she was not among the most beautiful ladies of Henry VIII’s court, but she was certainly one of the best educated. She caught the King’s attention when she was first placed in the Queen’s service in 1522 and intrigued him when she refused to become his mistress in 1526. The infatuated King tried to convince Mistress Boleyn to give in to his advances, but she stood her ground, hoping, perhaps, that Henry would grow tired of pursuing her. Yet the King’s infatuation turned into obsession, and he decided to make Anne Boleyn his next wife.
By December 1528, Anne was well ensconced in the King’s affections and recognized as Queen in all but name. The French ambassador remarked that “greater court is now paid to her every day than has been to the Queen for a long time”. 2 Katharine of Aragon was highly popular among the King’s subjects. She was perceived as the wronged wife of a philandering husband who paraded publicly with his royal mistress and had the audacity to claim his motives for divorce were pure. The Queen’s ladies-in-waiting and maids of honour were quick to defend their royal mistress’s honour and said that Anne Boleyn “so enticed the King, and brought him in such amours, that only for her sake and occasion he would be divorced from his Queen”.
Mistress Boleyn had many enemies at court. Chief among them was Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Henry VIII’s chief advisor. Boleyn hated Wolsey for breaking up her match with Henry Percy, heir of the Earl of Northumberland, in the early 1520s. At the beginning of the King’s infatuation with Anne, Wolsey assisted Henry in the divorce case but hoped that the King would eventually grow tired of his mistress. This did not happen, and after the disastrous Blackfriars trial of 1529, when Katharine of Aragon triumphed over the King, Wolsey was in disgrace. Anne Boleyn and her allies convinced the King that the cardinal “has not done as much as he could have done to promote the marriage”.
On 9 October 1529, he was accused of praemunire—favouring the papal authority over the royal supremacy—and sent away from court in disgrace. On 18 October, the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk arrived at Wolsey’s home in York Palace and demanded the surrender of the Great Seal. On 26 October, Sir Thomas More filled Wolsey’s post of Lord
Chancellor. Wolsey had submissively retired from court in hope of softening the King’s anger, surrendering his property into Henry’s hands. Among the spoils was his episcopal palace in York, which later became known as Whitehall Palace.
Come back next week for part 2!