Friday, 28 February 2014

Margaret Beaufort Review

Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII, must rank as one of the most important people in late medieval England. It was through her efforts that her son, who claimed the throne through her, was able to present himself as a credible candidate for the throne.

Susan Abernethy has just published a great review of Margaret Beaufort: Mother of the Tudor Dynasty (Amberley, 2010) on her blog, The Freelance History Writer. 'Norton has certainly done her research and her writing style makes this an informative and pleasant read' and 'I enjoyed the book very much and came to admire Margaret Beaufort as the formidable survivor that she was'.

It has been a good week for reviews!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

27 February 1531 - The foundation of the Schmalkaldic League

27 February is the anniversary of the foundation of the Schmalkaldic League, which was established in 1531. Although this German Protestant defensive league only endured for a few short years in the first half of the sixteenth century, it was of major importance. There is an excellent book on the League by R. McEntegart - Henry VIII, The League of Schmalkalden and the English Reformation (Woodbridge, 2002), which looks at the League in relation to English history.

It was the Schmalkaldic League that led to the marriage of Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII in 1540. Although Cleves was a Catholic duchy, it had close links to the Schmalkaldic League due to the marriage of John Frederick, Elector of Saxony and Anne's elder sister, Sibylla of Cleves. John Frederick was the co-founder of the League and one of its leaders.

The Schmalkaldic League had its origins in an attempt to preserve Protestantism in Germany. In the summer of 1530, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, summoned an Imperial Diet (or council) at Ausburg in an attempt to resolve the religious differences that had developed in Germany. In preparation for the meeting, the German Protestants produced the Confession of Ausburg, which was a comprehensive statement of their faith. Charles, however, a committed Catholic, ignored this, instead calling for the German states to return to the Catholic church. In response to this, the representatives of six German princes and ten city states met at the town of Schmalkalden in late 1530 and, on 27 February 1531, they concluded a treaty to provide for the formation of a defensive league known as the Schmalkaldic League.

On 12 January 1539 Charles V and Francis I of France signed the Treaty of Toledo in which they agreed to ally themselves and make no new agreement with Henry VIII without the other's consent. Henry had been negotiating with both monarchs for some time in the hope of obtaining a fourth wife from one of their families. This treaty ended these hopes and, casting around for allies, he turned his attention to the Schmalkaldic League. Anne of Cleves, as John Frederick's sister-in-law was the best match they had to offer.

You can read more about the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves and English relations with the Schmalkaldic League in my book, Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII's Discarded Bride (Amberley, 2009)

Sibylla of Cleves, Duchess of Saxony. Anne of Cleves' elder sister.

Elfrida in BBC History Magazine

The new issue of BBC History Magazine (March 2014) contains a review of Elfrida: The First Crowned Queen of England by the leading Anglo-Sxon historian, Ryan Lavelle. 'Norton attempts to tell the life-story of this remarkable figure, if not precisely from the time of her birth, then certainly from a young age, all the way up until her death' and Norton 'shows a queen mother in her final years evidently remaining active as well as legally and socially influential. It is this picture of Aelfhtryth that deserves to endure'.

It's always lovely to get positive reviews and this makes it the second month in a row that I have been featured in BBC History Magazine!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

25 February 1601 - The Execution of the Earl of Essex

25 February marks the anniversary of the execution of Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, who was the last favourite of Elizabeth I. The young man, who was a great-grandson of Mary Boleyn, had first come to court in the company of his stepfather, Robert Leicester, Earl of Essex, in the 1580s.

The peer was thirty years younger than the queen and handsome, something which helped Elizabeth to overlook the fact that he was also vain, ambitious and highly unstable. She gave him command of her army in Ireland, but the young man's behaviour became increasingly outrageous. In September 1598, for example, he returned to England without permission from the queen and burst into her chamber while she was dressing.

Essex had plans to take power from Elizabeth, intending to imprison her and rule through her as Lord Protector. On 8 February 1601, he locked some members of the queen's council into his London residence, before taking to the streets with a party of dissaffected friends, including his Catholic stepfather, Christopher Blount. He hoped to attract support to his rebellion from the people of London, but met with no success. Instead, finding himself with only his initial 150 armed men, Essex locked himself in his house.

Although she had been fond of Essex, Elizabeth was prepared to show him no mercy, threatening to go out in person to arrest him and refusing to sleep until he had been apprehended. Finally, when she ordered cannons to be brought from the Tower to be fired on his house, the defeated Earl surrendered. Essex was executed on 25 February 1601.

The Tower of London, where the Earl of Essex died on 25 February 1601

Margaret Skipwith, Mistress of Henry VIII

Although he had six wives, Henry VIII had few long-lasting extra-marital relationships, with no prominent mistresses in his later years. While single following the death of his third wife, Jane Seymour, he began to look around for a new mistress and, perhaps, another queen. Did his choice fall on Margaret Skipwith, a woman who would later become Bessie Blount's daughter-in-law? You can find out more in my guest post over at The Anne Boleyn Files.

You can also read more about Margaret Skipwith and her marriage to the short-lived George Tailboys in my book, Bessie Blount (Amberley, 2011).

Saturday, 22 February 2014

22 February 1511 - Death of Prince Henry

Today marks the anniversary of a personal and dynastic tragedy. Prince Henry, the eldest son of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, is one of the great what-ifs of English history. He was born on 1 January 1511 to much rejoicing. In London, bonfires were lit and wine freely distributed to the citizens.

Henry VIII was only nineteen years old when his first son was born and was overjoyed. It was proof to the world of his virility and the stability of his dynasty. On 12 February 1511 he took part in a grand tournament before the queen and court, jousting in a livery decorated with his initials and those of his wife. He also took the name 'Sir Loyal Heart' to show his gratitude and love for the queen.

The little prince, who would be named as Prince of Wales in due course, was given his own household to attend him at Richmond. Appointments included a clerk of the signet and keeper of the prince's wardrobe, who were appointed on 21 February 1511. Unfortunately, these two men enjoyed their posts for only a matter of hours and, on 22 February 1511, the baby died.

Although infant mortality was high in Tudor England, the prince's death was a shock and a great personal blow to his parents. Catherine, who had already lost a baby through miscarriage, was devastated, taking the loss 'heavily'. Henry ordered a grand funeral for his son at Westminster Abbey and, touchingly, arranged to pay a pension to Eizabeth Pointes, who had acted as his son's nurse.

Catherine of Aragon conceived several more times during her marriage, but only produced one child - a daughter - who survived infancy. Had Prince Henry lived, English history might well have been very different. There would have been no six wives, since Henry would never have discarded the mother of his beloved son. The Reformation would also have followed a very different course, if it had happened at all. Finally, there would have been no Queen Anne Boleyn or her daugher, the glorious Elizabeth I.

Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife

Friday, 21 February 2014

35 Essential Hints & Tips for Family History

Issue 140 of Your Family Tree magazine goes on sale today. I wrote the cover feature '35 Essential Hints & Tips!', which gives you everything you need to get started with your family tree or go back further. Starting to research your family history can seem daunting, but it has actually never been so easy to go back generations. Who knows, perhaps you will be able to go all the way back to 1066?

Elizabeth Tailboys, Henry VIII's Forgotten Daughter

21 February is the anniversary of the death of Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick, who died in 1590. The son of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and brother of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, lived a life filled with drama at the heart of Tudor England. He may also have been more closely related to the royal family than is usually recognised, thanks to his second marriage, to Elizabeth Tailboys.

Elizabeth Tailboys was the daughter of Henry VIII's mistress, Bessie Blount and born only a year after Bessie's elder son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond. Should she also have been a Fitzroy rather than a Tailboys? The evidence suggests that she should...

You can read more about my identificaton of Elizabeth Tailboys as Henry VIII's illegitimate daughter in my book, Bessie Blount (Amberley, 2011). Alternatively, I also wrote  an article on my findings for The Anne Boleyn Files

Let me kow what you think!

Ambrose Dudley, from his tomb in Warwick

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Anne of Cleves, A Flanders Mare: Part 3

Although only the fourth wife of Henry VIII, Anne of Cleves was the last survivor of the six wives. When her brief marriage was annulled, she still had another seventeen years left to live. Find out how she spent the rest of her life in the final part of my article series over at Royal Central.

You can, of course, also read all this and more in my biography of Anne: Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's Discarded Bride (Amberley, 2009)

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Anne Boleyn Papers in BBC History Magazine

Tracy Borman has reviewed The Anne Boleyn Papers in this month's issue of BBC History Magazine (February 2014): 'A valuable resource for historians and general readers alike' and an 'enlightening collection'.

I'm really glad the book has been so well received. It is the paperback version of Anne Boleyn in Her Own Words and the Words of those who Knew Her' and is a collection of surviving sources for the life of Anne Boleyn. I really wanted to provide all the information - positive or negative - so you will find favourable accounts, such as George Wyatt's, together with the hostile Eustace Chapuys.