Elizabeth Blount

~ Mother of King Henry VIII's Son ~

Hosted on this page through a somewhat tenuous link with Lincoln Cathedral via Henry VIII's "Dissolution of the Monasteries", which had a tremendous impact on the Church in this "brute and beastly shire", and consequences culminating in the the Lincolnshire Rebellion of 1538, and the Pilgrimage of Grace, stories themselves deserving of a web page!

An original essay by Heather Hobden

Text ©2001 onwards - Heather Hobden

Duke of Richmond - copy of the coloured chalk drawing by Holbein, original is in Kunstmuseum, Basel
Richmond's signature, the same on all his letters from the age of eight

A Male Heir

Every history of King Henry VIII concentrates on his relationship with Anne Boleyn and the political consequences of his efforts to produce a male heir. That the King already had a son, (Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset), not legitimately, but treated by his father as a royal prince, is rarely, if ever mentioned. Nor the fact that the King was actively seeking out legal means to make his son his heir. Both the King's son and his mother were given large amounts of property in Lincolnshire, and gained immense influence in that part of England.

Henry Fitzroy, was to die suddenly in mysterious circumstances, soon after Anne Boleyn's execution and just as an act was going through Parliament enabling the King to nominate him as the heir to the throne.

With five daughters and another baby on the way, 31 year old Katherine Blount must have been pleased to have her two eldest daughters settled. The eldest Anne was to be married to Richard Lacon, heir to a nearby estate. Elizabeth, the second daughter, was to become one of Queen Catherine's maids of honour from May 1512, for which she was to be paid 100 shillings a year. (five pounds).

To the King's Spears

When her parents Katherine Pershall, heiress of Knightly, and John Blount of Kinlet, were married in August 1491, Katherine was ten and John was only seven (and became eldest of twenty four children!). In Spring, 1502, Katherine was Lady in Waiting to Catherine of Aragon, when she was living with her husband Arthur Prince of Wales at Ludlow. Arthur died and was buried in Worcester. Katherine Blount was 21, so she and John moved to Knightly. They were to have eight children. After Elizabeth, came Rose, Albora, Isabella, George (born 1513), Henry and William. Elizabeth's father John Blount, had been appointed one of the "King's Spears" or Royal Body Guard on £60, 16s. 8d. a year. So Elizabeth travelled to the court with her father.


The Queen's maids of honour were given lessons. They were taught French and Latin by John Palsgrave, author of the first English-French textbook. They had lessons in riding, music, singing and dancing, so they could play their part in the court entertainments, indoors and outdoor.

Elizabeth was very bright, and so good at singing and dancing that she partnered the King in the "mummery" which was part of the Christmas celebrations of 1514, while the Queen was still recovering from the loss of a new baby yet again. Elizabeth "wan the King's harte", and her father was promoted to "Esquire of the Body", which meant personal attendance on the King in his bedroom.

Elizabeth was not the first schoolgirl to be Henry VIII's mistress. Her friend, Elizabeth Bryan, was given a diamond necklace, a mink coat and a husband, Nicholas Carewe when she gave birth to a son at the age of twelve, she was called "the young wife". And Henry VIII gave her mother 500 pounds.

Six Courses at the Ring

On Sunday 3rd October 1518, Elizabeth Blount took part in the magnificent display organised by Cardinal Wolsey as part of the celebrations of the treaty with France and the betrothal of their only surviving child, two year old Princess Mary with the seven month old Dauphin of France, François. The Queen was pregnant for the seventh time, and as she had lost yet another baby the year before was taking things quietly. She was not at the masked entertainment where Elizabeth Blount sang a song she had written herself and asked William Cornish Master of the King's Chapel, to set it to music for her to sing to the King.

Whilles lyve or breth is in my brest
My soverayne lord I shall love best.
My soverayne lord, for my poure sake,
Six courses at the ryng dyd make,
Of which four tymes he did it tak;
Wher for my hart I hum beqwest,
And, of all other, for to love best
My soverayne lord.
My soverayne lorde of pursantce pure
As the chefteyne of a waryowere,
With spere & sword at the barryoure
As hardy with the hardyest
He provith hym selfe, that I say, best
My soverayne lorde.
(etc. on a paean of grovelling praise.)

Going To Jericho

This was a very clever move for Elizabeth, who clearly wanted more than a diamond necklace, or a husband, by making the King's actions public. It did not take much skill to notice the hidden agenda, and no doubt this was all reported back to the Queen by ladies who did not fail to notice that Bessie Blount was also plumper and blooming. The Queen was so upset she went into premature labour, and her tiny boy died after a few days. She never fully recovered her health. Cardinal Wolsey arranged for Elizabeth to live in Jericho Priory, Blackmore, Essex. The King visited her so often, and his baby son, it become a standing joke with courtiers that the King had "gone to Jericho".

Off To Lincolnshire

In 1522, Elizabeth was replaced in the King's affections by Mary Boleyn. Just returned from France with her younger sister Anne. She was warmly recommended by François 1e who called her his favourite mare "always good for a ride". Mary and Anne's mother, sister to the Duke of Norfolk had had an affair with Henry VIII years earlier.

Henry had plans for his only son, but they did not include his son's mother. Cardinal Wolsey arranged a marriage for Elizabeth to Gilbert Tailboys. He was the son of Sir George Tailboys of Kyme, a descendant of the Umfravilles, Earls of Angus and the ancient Lords of Kyme, but unfortunately barking mad. Obsessed with wild hunting parties and gambling. His wife, Elizabeth, alarmed that he was squandering all the family wealth, leaving nothing for her and her children, had him certified as a lunatic, and his property placed under the custodianship of Cardinal Wolsey, with her in control, and her son Gilbert placed in the Cardinal's household. She was aghast when the marriage settlement, which included additional property and income, (in Lincoln, Skellingthorpe, Bamburgh, Friskney, Sotby, Faldingworth etc.) was settled to remain with his new bride, Elizabeth Blount, after his death and would never benefit her other children.

Gilbert was knighted in 1524, in 1525, he was appointed Sheriff of Lincolnshire. They had a son, George, to be followed by Robert and Elizabeth (who was to be Baroness Tailboys after the early deaths of her brothers, and married twice, the second time to Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick).

In 1525 Elizabeth and Gilbert were ordered to take up residence in Lincolnshire, and moved into the castle of South Kyme, built by Gilbert's ancestor, Gilbert de Umfraville, Earl of Angus, in the mid 14th century.

South Kyme

South Kyme is between Sleaford and Boston, on the edge of the fens, then undrained. Although it seemed remote, the fens were a rich resource, with duck decoys, fish and eels, and summer grazing providing year round food sources. Easily accessible by boat. The castle, next to the large priory, and surrounded by "mud and stud" thatched cottages was impressive. Moated by the Kyme Eau, tributary of the Slea and giving direct access between Sleaford and Boston, its walls surrounded a great hall with stained glass windows, and four tall, fortified towers, from which lookouts could see for miles. It came with a deer park, a 14th century status symbol, walled with massive banks. (To stop Bambi escaping before the hunting party arrived). Having lived in Wolsey's new modern palaces, Elizabeth and Gilbert must have wanted to update and redecorate the place before giving the hunting parties for which South Kyme was famous. Only a small part of the castle and the priory now remain.

Elizabeth's first action after she moved in, was to move her mother-in-law out - to the smaller manor house of Goltho, a good distance away on the other side of Lincoln. Elizabeth's mother-in-law complained bitterly, not only had she been forced out of the home and estates, farms and cattle herds, that she had managed herself for years, but her son, despite all his new excessive wealth, still insisted that "since his mother was the cause of his going to Court, she must pay for his Costs".

The Prince, Duke of Richmond and Somerset

Henry Fitzroy was left with his nanny, Agnes Partridge, a laid back type fond of hunting and gambling who was paid 50 shillings a quarter (£10 a year). Her own son was being brought up with Henry Fitzroy who was now given his own household of princely status and housed at Durham Place in the Strand.

The King had plans for his two surviving children. In 1525, nine year old Mary was made Princess of Wales and was to live in Ludlow Castle.

Henry was given precedence over all but Princess Mary. In a grand ceremony he was invested as Duke of Richmond and Somerset and given other titles and an income which made him the richest person in the kingdom after the King. He was then dispatched in a royal procession taking nearly a month for the journey, to rule the King's Council in the North, from the castle of Sheriff Hutton. He was referred to as "the prince".


On the way, they stayed with Lady Maud Parr, whose brother-in-law William was in charge of Richmond's household, whose son William was one of Richmond's companions and whose eleven year old daughter Catherine was going with them as far as Lincolnshire, to Gainsborough, where she was to be married to Lord Burgh's son. (First of four husbands, third one was King Henry VIII).

Richmond refused to travel any further in the silver and velvet litter provided by Wolsey, in which he had been sick, and insisted on riding his little pony, provided by his Master of the Horse, Edward Seymour, (whose sister Jane was also to marry Henry VIII and gave him his second son, Edward).

When they arrived at Stamford, they stayed at Collyweston which now belonged to Richmond. (It is ruins now). Here they were joined by five year old William Cecil who was to be educated with Richmond. (Cecil's father, was to withdraw his son and send him to grammar school instead. Cecil was to become a major statesman, and build Burghley house as a palace).

Sherriff Hutton is just north of York. Built of local sandstone, it is now just ruins on a farm. Then it was a royal castle and an important administration centre of the whole of northern England.


Lessons for Richmond and his chosen companions were taken by Richard Croke, aged 36, related to the Blounts, an expert on classical Greek, a renowned academic who had lectured in Paris, Louvain, Cologne and Leipzig to packed and appreciative audiences. Now forced to teach spoilt, undisciplined little boys.

In letters written in Latin, Croke complained to the King and Cardinal Wolsey about abuses in Richmond's household, by Sir William Parr, and by Richard Cotton, the Clerk Comptroller, who fixed the books, giving Parr, himself and his brother also in the household, many extras. He complained the Cottons and Parr changed the hours of the lessons in the summer so the boys could play out of doors, refused to allow the boys to rise before six in the morning, would not allow Croke to see the boys outside lessons, and "admitted fools and players who sang their obscene ballads before the prince in his privy chamber". (The accounts show many payments to actors and minstrels for entertainment). Croke wanted more priority and less interference given to lessons so the prince was not taken out for archery and other sports and games first and was then too tired for his lessons. He wanted more control over the discipline of the classes and to get rid of bullies like the son of Lord Henry Scrope, who shouted rude names at Croke and beat up other boys.

Dangerous Espionage?

Croke's complaints were heeded. A Clerk of the Green Cloth (the board which controlled the King's expenses) was sent to Sherrif Hutton, and found that the household expenses, which had been estimated at between £3,000 and £4,000 a year came to over £5000. Richmond's income was about £4000 a year.

Winter was spent further south at Pontefract Castle in West Yorkshire. (Now ruins in a park). Richmond wrote this letter from there (copy, original: SP I/40,f.210).

Henry VIII attempted to arrange a marriage for his son, with a foreign princess only to keep getting the response "we have enough bastards of our own". It would appear that more legal work needed to be done if Richmond was to be accepted not only as the King's son, but as his heir.

In 1527, the King sent Richard Croke off to the Vatican to check out the possibilities of making his bastard son his legitimate heir. Croke sent Richmond presents, such as a model boat, but must have been relieved to escape Sheriff Hutton. Being paid to browse through Europe's greatest libraries. Croke soon discovered a catch. His brief changed. Henry VIII was now looking into the alternative possibility of divorcing Catherine and remarrying to provide himself with a son. But Catherine had never behaved in any manner that would give her husband a reason for divorce. (Although she would have found plenty of legal reasons to divorce her husband under modern laws.) Croke had to look up any legal loopholes which would make the King's marriage to Catherine null and void. Catherine's nephew was the most powerful man in Europe, the Emperor Charles V. Croke soon found that he was being watched, threatened and had to work undercover, with false names, secret addresses and disguise. What had seemed like an academic exercise was now dangerous espionage. In 1531, he fled back to Cambridge University.

Palsgrave and Holbein

John Palsgrave was now Richmond's tutor, faced with the task of getting his education and behaviour up to the standard demanded by his father, and which had been accomplished by Princess Mary. Palsgrave appealed to Richmond's mother, one of his successful ex-pupils to help. He also asked the King to send a painter to illustrate words, so the Prince (as he was always referred to now) could learn the names of things in Latin by looking at the pictures.

Thomas More recommended a Swiss painter from Basel, who had illustrated a book for Erasmus, and was now staying with More working on portraits of his family. Hans Holbein was sent up to Sheriff Hutton.

The illustrated book does not seem to have survived. Many portrait sketches done by Holbein are difficult to identify as most of his surviving drawings have been wrongly labelled by past archivists. This includes the coloured chalk sketch Holbein did of the Duke of Richmond. Holbein took it with him when returned to his wife and children in Basel. Now in the Kunstmuseum wrongly labelled as Prince Edward. It is a delightful picture, Holbein sketched the nine year old Henry Fitzroy cuddling the marmoset which belonged to his music teacher William Saunders. There could have been a finished portrait for the King, and Richmond's mother is likely to have had a copy too, but all images of Richmond were destroyed on the King's orders when his son died, so this portrait only survived as it was in Basel.

Back At Court

In 1530, Wolsey died at Leicester, having been summoned from York, where he lived after being pushed out of his once powerful position. The government of the country had changed, and this included the King's Council in the North. In 1529, the Duke of Richmond came to live with his father at court and was made Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland.

Richmond's mother was back at court too. Gilbert, who had been made Baron Tailboys, had died. Leaving him to be buried in the Priory at South Kyme, Elizabeth headed back to the court. Her son, Baron George Tailboys was placed with his brother. Elizabeth's brother George Blount, was also one of Richmond's companions. They were joined by the Duke of Norfolk's son, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, who was to become Richmond's closest friend and brother-in-law, as he was to marry his sister Mary Howard.

At Windsor for Christmas 1529, the King had given his son the suite of rooms usually reserved for the Prince of Wales, while Mary, Princess of Wales (who had been recalled from Ludlow in 1528) was given a less grand suite.

Anne Boleyn replaced her sister Mary (who had got married) as the King's mistress. The King put her in a bedroom newly redecorated, with mirrors on the ceiling. And gave her a black satin nightgown edged with fur to wear in it. If Richmond's mother, had hoped, now she was free, that the King now planning his divorce, would marry the mother of his son (this was certainly suggested as a possibility at the court), she had a serious rival. And she was joined by others, Mary Boleyn's husband died and she returned to the court with her two children. Her son was thought to be the King's and this was possible. The Queen was still in her state apartments. Anne discovered Henry VIII making love to Jane Seymour. The Court must have been an interesting place at that time. 11th July 1531, Anne's rivals dispersed.

Henry VIII left Windsor for Hampton Court with Anne Boleyn who he installed into the Queen's apartments there. Queen Catherine, Princess Mary and the Duke of Richmond were all sent to separate palaces. Anne Boleyn's rivals realised it was time for them to be needed at home and left the court. Elizabeth Tailboys went back to South Kyme.

Here she made full use of her renovated deer park and great hall, by holding hunting parties. Elizabeth's father had died in February 1531. Her mother now 50 and enjoying freedom, sent her three younger daughters to live with their sister and find local husbands. Isabella married William Reade and Rosa married William Gresley.

Elizabeth herself had attracted the unwanted attentions of Lord Leonard Grey. This ageing military man, saw the wealthy widow as a way to solve his pressing debts. He came along to one of Elizabeth's hunting parties, and "just happened" to be stranded for the night, making full use of the time to chat up his hostess. Thinking she must have been bowled over by his charm, back in his guest bedroom at 12 o'clock on 24th May he wrote to Cromwell asking him to press his marriage proposal, enclosing £5 in gold, and two more letters for the King and the Duke of Norfolk. Cromwell did write to Elizabeth.

Richmond goes to France

The Duke of Richmond was placed in palaces convenient to the court, to be with his father, who had reformatted his family to include Anne Boleyn and his bastard son, while excluding his wife (sent to Kimbolton) and daughter. Anne Boleyn was not happy with the King's son so close to his father. She was in a vulnerable position as she was not supported by the most influential ladies at the court. Following the example of the Duchess of Norfolk, they had refused to attend Anne. The Duchess of Norfolk, even when her husband ordered their servants to beat her up, still insisted that it was more appropriate that her husband take his mistress Bess Holland, not his wife, to attend the King's mistress. She separated from her husband because of this. Other women thought the same. On the planned state visit to France in October 1532. Instead of the French Queen - Eleanoré, and the King's sister Marguerite, François 1e was accompanied by his mistress Anne d'Heilly.

Although he had been Admiral of England since he was six, this was the first time Richmond had been to sea. In Calais, he went to see the fortifications. His academic lessons had been given up, but his military training increased. He was becoming very interested in military organisation and politics.

Richmond was to remain in France accompanied by the Earl of Surrey, to stay with the French princes, the Dauphin François, and Henri d'Orleans, who were about the same age. Normally Richmond travelled with an entourage of 500 or 600, but only 60 could remain with him in France.

François and Henri hated their father who had left them as hostages, imprisoned in Spain by order of the Emperor Charles V for four years until their grandmother forced her son to pay the ransom. The King tried to make it up to his sons, by given each a mature mistress. The Dauphin, a goth type, who dressed entirely in black, was given Mme d'Estranges, and Henri was given Mme de Bréze (Diane de Poitiers) a widow with two grown-up daughters, who was to remain with him for the rest of his life.

With these two princes Richmond and Surrey joined in gambling, hunting, playing tennis and taking part in tournaments, watching heretics tortured and burnt alive, raping peasant girls (whose families were unable to obtain justice and redress), beat up smaller boys, and ride madly in a gang in the middle of the night through streets firing pistols and throwing stones through windows.

Meanwhile, back in England...

Back in England, Anne Boleyn became pregnant. Her coronation took place, but the King had still not been able to divorce his wife. The Duke of Norfolk, who was Anne's uncle, and her brother George Boleyn, were sent over to France hoping to meet the Pope, to try and get the King's marriage annulled before the birth of Anne's child. Henri d'Orleans was to marry Catherine d'Medici, the Pope's "neice", and the Pope (her grandfather) was to attend the wedding. The Pope heard about Norfolk's mission and stayed in Italy.

On 10th July 1533, Norfolk and George Boleyn, caught up with the French court. While they were there both Surrey and Richmond became violently sick, at the same time. Richmond was so ill, that for a while, it was feared he might die. The boys had shared a cup of wine and the physicians thought the symptoms were characteristic of poisoning. Because the wine had been shared, Richmond had not taken enough to kill him. George Boleyn was found to have departed immediately the boys became ill, leaving all his luggage and entourage behind. Later, George Boleyn's wife stated that Anne and her brother had tried to poison the Duke of Richmond and Princess Mary.

Then news came that the Pope had excommunicated Henry VIII. The English had to leave. The Duke of Norfolk told François 1e that Richmond had to return to England for his wedding to his daughter Mary. But Richmond was reluctant to return to England. When he heard Anne had a daughter (Elizabeth), and he was still the King's only son, he returned.

The King's Son

In January 1534, Parliament was called to pass the new Act of Succession. This would make Princess Mary a bastard, despite the Pope's ruling, received in March, that the King's marriage to Catherine had been lawful. With Mary a bastard and no longer a Princess, Richmond, as the King's son, had precedence over her. He was also old enough to attend Parliament and did so every day.

At the Garter ceremonies and feast at Windsor, in May 1534, Richmond took the place of the King at the head of the procession.

After this he was sent down to Dorset, where he stayed at Canford, near Poole Harbour. As usual this journey was a state procession with an entourage of more than 600 on horseback. At each stage he was greeted with cheering crowds, dignitaries bearing gifts and giving speeches, and entertainments.

Richmond was supposed to be surveying the fortifications at Poole, but he suspected that he was being deliberately kept out of the way of the court and its politics. He asked if he could return to France.

In 1534, Anne's sister Mary fell in love and married William Stafford. Anne was furious he was quite unsuited to the sister of a Queen. Mary retorted that she "would rather beg my bread with him than be the greatest queen christened. My husband would not forsake me!". The King had been having an affair with one of their cousins Margaret Shelton. Anne, who had two miscarriages, felt even more threatened when the King collected Jane Seymour himself from her family home and installed her as Anne's lady in waiting. It made Anne feel sick but there was nothing she could do about it. When she saw Jane wearing a necklace the King had given her, with his portrait on it, she tore it from the woman's neck.

Fiennes, Dymoke and Willoughby

Elizabeth Tailboys decided it was time she remarried. She chose Edward Fiennes, Lord Clinton, much younger than her, but his lands adjoined hers. They were to have three daughters, Bridget (was to marry Robert Dymoke of Scrivelsby and later lived at South Kyme). Katherine (was to marry Lord Burgh of Gainsborough). Margaret (was to marry Charles Lord Willoughby of Parham).

In November 1534, Richmond was called back to Westminster to attend the Parliament. As he was under 18, he did not have to sign the Oath of Succession. But Princess Mary had just turned 18, and the pressure was on her to sign.

On the 30th November, as Admiral of England, Richmond had to entertain the Admiral of France who irritated Henry VIII, not only because he supported Mary, but he did not bother to watch the King performing in entertainments and playing tennis. After the Christmas celebrations, Richmond went to stay in Collyweston.

He was recalled to Court to take the King's place on more occasions. He had to dine with the Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys who supported Princess Mary. Mary had been given a bad time, because she would not sign the Act of Succession. Her much loved governess Lady Salisbury had been replaced by Lady Shelton. Mary had a bad reaction to some pills Lady Shelton had given her to help her periods, and was seriously ill. The King was so worried about his daughter, he went to see her, and interrogated Lady Shelton.

Head of an Armed Force

On the 4th May, 1535, Richmond had been ordered to watch the execution of four Carthusian monks of Zion monastery, who had defied the King's new Acts of Supremacy, making him head of the Church of England, and the new Act of Succession. They were to be made a public example, to scare others. They were dragged from the Fleet Prison (in Faringdon Street), to Tyburn (Marble Arch) on a hurdle, then hung, drawn and quartered, and no mercy was shown. Richmond, as the King's representative had to stand closest to the victims. A full account was taken back to Thomas More and Cardinal John Fisher in the Tower. They did not give in and were beheaded.

The King's actions were making him unpopular and causing disturbances in different parts of the country. There were complaints about his son too. These were mainly of the devastation he and his friends did to the countryside by their hunting and other activities. Trees were felled to make more space for deer, and crops were ruined as Richmond was only interested in the country to provide sport.

The King and Cromwell decided to send Richmond over to Ireland as the head of a large, well equipped army. They planned that Richmond could be made King of Ireland, which would safely get him out of the way and at the same time subdue the country.

Richmond's entourage normally included about 600 armed mounted men, so with an army too, he must have now been accompanied by a large and potentially powerful force. He and his army were first sent to Sheffield. Richmond was accommodated at the Castle of Sheffield which belonged to the Earl of Shrewsbury. On the 4th July, Richmond wrote to Cromwell complaining "her in this countrey where I lye I have no parke nor game to showe sporte nor pleasure to my frendes when they shall resort unto me."

Richmond and army were then moved to Wales where he was joined at the Castle of Holt by the Duke of Norfolk, his father-in-law, and an experienced military leader. The Earl of Surrey who was now married, was not with him. The plan was that they would go from there to Ireland.

Instead, Richmond was recalled to the court. He took his time, still with his large army, stopping in his Lincolnshire home of Collyweston. At the end of November, 1535, he joined the court at Windsor Castle, in time for Christmas.

Anne Gets the Chop

Straight after Christmas, on 7th January 1536 (modern reckoning), ex-Queen Catherine died. Queen Anne, pregnant again, was now legally the King's wife. Although Anne was taller and thinner than Catherine, she still helped herself to all Catherine's things, even sanitary towels (and the roll of cloth from which they were made) and bras ("breast cloths"). She also took the baby clothes Catherine had hoarded. At the same time she attempted a sympathetic and friendly letter to her stepdaughter Mary. But it was too late. Mary was already assured of the support of Jane Seymour.

On the day of Catherine's funeral, 25th January, Anne, her daughter Elizabeth, and the King dressed in cheerful yellow, to show the public they did not care. And the King went hunting. Perhaps Catherine's death had upset him more than he wanted to show, for he fell off his horse. He had a nasty bang on the head and was unconsciousness for two hours. Anne received no sympathy when after been told about the accident, she miscarried. As soon as he heard this, the King his head still smarting rushed into her bedroom and bellowed "You shall have no more sons by me, Madam!"

When Richmond went in to see his father, as was the daily custom when he was at court, the King, with tears in his eyes said that both he and his sister ought to thank God for having escaped from the hands of that accursed whore who had planned their death by poison.

Anne was sent to the Tower and charged with adultery. Richmond was to benefit. He acquired new lands and positions, confiscated from the accused persons. Also Bernards Castle in London which had been Catherine's.

The Parliamentary Writs to put Acts through giving Richmond precedence over all the King's other children, were put out on 27th April. On the 17th May, the King's marriage to Anne was declare null and void this made her daughter illegitimate, and on the 19th May Anne was executed for adultery. (Although if she had not been married, then she could not have committed adultery!).

Richmond, as appointed representative of the King, had to watch Anne's execution, standing close to her on the scaffold. With all the King's children now declared bastards, he had precedence as the King's son and a good claim in popular opinion to be made the heir to the throne.

The Parliament where the Acts were to be passed making this possible opened on the 8th June. Richmond attended every day for three weeks.

Richmond was also at the glittering turnout for the wedding of the year, a triple wedding of Lady Dorothy Neville and her brother, and her sister Margaret, to Lord John de Vere, Lady Anne Roos and her brother to Margaret. The King was there too, in a masque dressed up in Turkish costume. The event substituted for his own low-key wedding to Jane Seymour.

Act of Succession

On the 30th June, the new Act of Succession was presented in Parliament, which would have enabled the King to nominate his son to be his heir. Henry VIII had intended to nominate his son immediately as his heir, but Cromwell told the King that if he did this, his son was "very likely to fall into inobedience and rebellion". He may have been worried that Richmond was leader of a large army, not in Ireland, as originally intended, but in England. Cromwell who had a network of informers, knew that there was considerable opposition to the King, especially in the part of England where Richmond had the most property, relatives, friends and now a large number of armed men.

But Richmond did not know about this change in his father's attitude. On the day which would have been of most importance and interest to him, Richmond was too ill to attend Parliament. He had a cough and pains in his chest.

Death Mystery

The Duke of Richmond was accommodated, with his wife Mary, in the new St. James's Palace. This had been converted from a leper hospital for women. The King's neice, Lady Margaret Douglas was also living there. Margaret had fallen in love with Mary's uncle, Thomas Howard. Mary helped arrange their secret romantic meetings.

When this was discovered Margaret and Thomas were imprisoned in the Tower. Thomas was later beheaded. A new Act of Parliament was put through making it treason for anyone to "defile or deflower" any female member of the royal family "those being lawfully born or otherwise". (It still applies today!) Cromwell (whose wife had died) had become fond of Princess Mary, giving her expensive presents. This Act would have dashed his hopes of making her his wife. In fact Mary had already been warned by her mother in her last letters to her, to be careful as the King might appreciate an excuse to marry her to a commoner.

Richmond was still too ill to attend Parliament when it closed on the 18th of July. The Court then moved to Sittingbourne and most of Richmond's staff and his furniture had been moved to Tonge which was nearby. But Richmond was too ill to go anywhere. Despite the efforts of his physician, Dr. William Butts, on 23rd July he died.

As soon as he received news of his son's death the King travelled with Queen Jane to London. Not to see his son's body, or to console his widowed daughter-in-law. The King and Queen went straight to Hackney where Mary was staying and told her to move into her brother's apartment at St. James's Palace. She was now to be regarded as "Second Lady of the Kingdom", next in importance to the Queen.

It was usual to have an autopsy when a prominent royal died, and a public funeral. Even Catherine had an autopsy and a decent funeral. Richmond was the King's son, with the status of a royal prince, and would have been heir to the throne a state funeral might have been expected. Instead the King gave orders to the Duke of Norfolk to bury his son-in-law as secretly as possible.

The young widow, immediately loaded a train of four mules with as much as she could carry especially the more valuable silver plate, and headed for her father's home of Kenninghall. From here she wrote to the King about her widow's pension, and was shocked to be told she would receive nothing.

Henry VIII then complained to Norfolk, that his son's funeral had not been secret enough. Norfolk had arranged for the body to be taken in a plain lead coffin to his family burial place at Thetford Priory. When the Priory was dissolved two years later, all the tombs were transferred to St. Michael's Church, Framlingham, Suffolk. Richmond's tomb can still be seen there, on the side of the altar. It is a conventional carved stone sarcophagus decorated with biblical scenes. The coats of arms were added. On top, are four slightly damaged supporting figures, but they support nothing. The top of the tomb, where there should have been an effigy, is rough the effigy has been hacked off.

Henry VIII never fully trusted either Norfolk or his son the Earl of Surrey. Surrey wrote a poem remembering "With a Kinges sonne, my childishe yeres did passe". Surrey never forgot he was friend and brother-in-law to the King's son. In 1546, Surrey commissioned a portrait of himself, leaning on a broken column. On the column was painted a portrait of the Duke of Richmond. Then Surrey wrote to the artist to black the portrait out. Soon after Surrey was executed for treason, and his father only escaped the same fate because Henry VIII died the day before his execution was scheduled.

One of the most brute and beastly shires in the realm

The King's strange reaction to his son's death may be because he had information that he was to lead an uprising against him. There is no direct evidence, but any such would have been destroyed as soon as Richmond died. His death might just have been a timely coincidence, or arranged. There may be a clue in the Lincolnshire uprising against the King, October 1536.

In May 1536, when Anne was executed, it was not just simply a personal whim of her husband. It was a political execution. There were no political parties as such, but there were political factions. Anne represented one, Jane Seymour and her brother another, and the Duke of Richmond, another faction.

In Lincolnshire, where he and his mother had much influence, opposition to the King was becoming organised. The greatest part of the wealth of Lincolnshire was in the hands of the Church, the great abbeys were the chief landowners and employers. Now church possessions and finances once sacrosanct were exposed to the scrutiny of the King's commissioners sent to audit their affairs.

The Church first, others next. The clerics were joined in their protest meetings by tradesmen who saw their livings threatened. Not only did they lose valuable custom and employment if the Church establishments, such as abbeys, and priories were closed and their wealth confiscated. Once the King's commissioners had audited and dealt with the Church they could move on to investigate everyone else's financial affairs and tax them accordingly.

Captain Cobbler

On Saturday 30th September, some local people, feeling threatened by the imminent arrival of the commissioners, collected the keys of the church and handed them to a shoemaker, Nicholas Melton to keep safe. He thus became "Captain Cobbler" the leader of a rebellion against the King. By Monday 2nd October, men from Horncastle and East Rasen arrived in Louth. By then a large crowd, they marched to Caistor where the King's Commissioners were at present taking inventories of church property. Here they were joined by Sir Robert Dymoke and his sons, and friends who "just happened to be staying with them at that time". From Goltho, home of Richmond's step-grandmother, Lady Tailboys' chaplain arrived with a large group of armed men. More than 500 armed retainers from South Kyme joined the rebels, under the leadership of Sir Thomas Percy, a relative of the Tailboys family, (who "just happened to be there for the hunting") and a similar number headed by Edward Dymoke.

The same Monday, 2nd October, Edward, Lord Clinton left home on horseback, with just one servant. He headed first for Sleaford, and Lord Hussey. Hussey had been Princess Mary's Chamberlain, and his wife had been imprisoned for continuing to refer to her as "Princess Mary" not "The Lady Mary". Hussey had been assured of the support of the Emperor (Mary's cousin) and seemed a natural leader of the rebellion against the King. But he was not their leader. Clinton galloped on to Nottingham, then on to Lord Huntington at Ashby. By Friday, he reached the Earl of Shrewsbury at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. He carried letters from Cromwell. Meanwhile the rebels were joined by other groups of armed men, alerted by beacons, and had spread across the Humber to Yorkshire. The MP for Lincoln, Thomas Moigne met Robert Aske, who led the rebellion in Yorkshire (where it was called the Pilgrimage of Grace).

Sir John Russell and Sir William Parr both had been in the service of the Duke of Richmond, blocked the Great North Road at Stamford, with a large force of armed men, they were in the way of anyone coming up from London. The only substantial Lincolnshire landowner that the King could depend on was his friend and brother-in-law, the Duke of Suffolk. Suffolk arrived at Stamford with a large, equipped army. The rebellion lacked a positive leadership and cause, so dispersed.

In the Chapter House

Henry VIII's answer to the grievances that had been put to them was read out in the Chapter House of Lincoln Cathedral by Moigne. The King had never yet heard that a prince's counsellors and bishops should be appointed by ignorant common people, and least of all by the "rude commons of one of the most brute and beastly shires in the realm". At the re-enactment in Lincoln Castle in 1986, this was greeted with cheers, the audience could choose whether to back Melton the Cobbler or the King, and most chose the Cobbler. The real rebellion was put down with punishing retribution and many executions. (The full story can be read in "The Lincolnshire Rising 1536" by Anne Ward, ISBN 0901977 063, 1986.)

The rebellion failed because there was no one uniting leadership and cause. Had the Duke of Richmond still been alive, then he might have been there, at his palace of Collyweston, by Stamford, with an army at least as large as the 5,000 men the Duke of Suffolk brought with him. As the King's son and the heir to the throne, he would have provided an alternative to his now very unpopular father.

Had this been the original motivation for the rebellion, which started in the part of England in which he had the most influence, in which he had stayed most often in recent years, and in which he had the greatest number of contacts and relatives including his mother.

Elizabeth Lady Clinton, escaped retribution, thanks to her own mother, Katherine Blount, who was a valuable friend and informer to Cromwell. She returned to court as lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves, but not for long. She died, and Lord Clinton wasted no time in replacing her with a new wife, Ursula Stourton, who took her place at the court. Lord Clinton took his dead stepson's title of Admiral of England, his first marriage had been a good career move.

If the King had been told there were plans for an uprising to replace him with his son, then that might account for his reaction to his son's death, it might even account for his timely death.

Full references; primary and secondary sources; and additional information such as the full text of Elizabeth's song, and Surrey's poem, available.

You can email Heather Hobden at post@cosmicelk.co.uk

The Cosmic Elk website

Text ©2001 onwards - Heather Hobden

[Please respect copyright and do not plagiarise this information. You are welcome to use this material for your own purposes, or to put in a hotlink to this webpage, but please do not copy and alter it and pass it off as your own; it is not.]

For more information see Heather Hobden's fascinating publication:

Tudor Bastard
King Henry VIII's Son: Henry Fitzroy, duke of Richmond and Somerset and his mother, Elizabeth Blount
by Heather Hobden
ISBN 1 871443 30 X
price £7 [includes postage and packing]
A4 card and comb covers, illustrated

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