Wednesday, November 16, 2011

QUEEN MARY I OF ENGLAND AND IRELAND (18 February 1516-17 November 1558)

Mary was the only child born to King Henry VIII of England and his first wife Katherine of Aragon. Through her mother, she was a granddaughter of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile. She was born at the Palace of Greenwich in London, and was baptised three days later at the Church of the Observant Friars where her parents were married. Her godparents included her great-aunt the Countess of Devon, Lord Chancellor Thomas Wolsey, and the Duchess of Norfolk. The King's cousin once removed Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury, stood sponsor for Mary's confirmation, which was held immediately after the baptism. The following year, Mary became a godmother herself when she was named as one of the sponsors of her cousin Frances Brandon. In 1520, the Countess of Salisbury was appointed as Mary's governess. Sir John Hussey, later Lord Hussey, was her chamberlain, and his wife, Lady Anne, daughter of George Grey, 2nd Earl of Kent, was one of Mary's attendants.

Mary I reigned for five years as Queen from July 1553 through her death on 17 November 1558.  Under the Heresy Acts, numerous Protestants were executed; the first executions occurring over a five day period in February 1555 including:  John Rogers on 4 February, Laurence Saunders on 8 February, Rowland Taylor and John Hooper on 9 February. The imprisoned Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer was forced to watch Bishops Ridley and Latimer being burned at the stake. Cranmer recanted, repudiated Protestant theology, and rejoined the Catholic faith. Under the normal process of the law, he should have been absolved as a repentant. Mary, however, refused to reprieve him. On the day of his burning, he dramatically withdrew his recantation. A total of 283 people were executed, most by burning. The burnings proved so unpopular, that even Alfonso de Castro condemned them, and Philip's advisor, Simon Renard, warned him that such "cruel enforcement" could "cause a revolt". Mary persevered with the policy, which continued until her death and exacerbated anti-Catholic and anti-Spanish feeling among the English people. The victims of the persecutions became lauded as martyrs and Mary I became forever known as ‘BLOODY MARY’.

By the end of April, in the year of her death,1558 Mary I was 42 years old and resigned herself to the fact that she was not pregnant; she was mistaken. These false symptoms of pregnancy began to fade, leaving her weak, ill and unable to sleep. By the summer, Mary had bouts of fever, something new for her. It has been said often that by now she was suffering from cancer, probably from an ovarian tumor, but her symptoms make this unlikely. The latest medical opinion suggests that she had contracted either tuberculosis (which seems to have killed both her half-brothers Edward and the Duke of Richmond), influenza or some other generalized infection. Soon she was wracked by violent paroxysms of an unspecified nature. These would fit in with this diagnosis and would presumably have been either high fevers or even epileptic seizures.

Becoming progressively weaker, she had a lucid interval on 28 October 1558 and made a codicil to her will. ‘Forasmuch as God hath hitherto sent me no fruit nor heir of my body,’ and ‘feeling myself presently sick and weak in body and yet of whole and perfect rememberance, Our Lord be thanked’, she thought it best to add a few paragraphs to her former will. If she did indeed die childless, she asked her lawful successor to allow her executors to carry out the provisions of that will. Although, ‘my said most Dear Lord and Husband shall for default of heir of my body have no further government, order and rule within this realm and the dominions belonging thereto’, she asked him to remain the father, brother and friend of England and its next monarch. She did not, however, say who that monarch should be.

Phillip knew by now that she was gravely ill, ‘You may imagine what a state I am in,’ he wrote to his sister, Joanna. ‘It seems to me that everything is being taken from me at once…The Queen my wife has been ill and although she has recovered somewhat her infirmities are such that grave fears must be entertained on her score.’ He had retired to a monastery on hearing of his father’s death,and he could not possibly leave the country before the Emperor’s memorial service. Instead, he sent the Count de Feria back to England, with one of his own physicians.

By the time the Count arrived in London, Mary was far gone. ‘The infection had probably spread to cause meningitis, for she had been drifting in and out of consciousness for some days past, telling her ladies dreamily that she was seeing many little children like angels playing before her, singing pleasing notes. On 16 November 1558, Lord Chancellor Heath and her Privy Councillors went into her chamber to perform a solemn ceremony. In keeping with custom, they had to read out her will.

The Queen had lapsed into unconsciousness again, and she did not know that they were there. Next morning, when Mass was celebrated in her chamber, she roused herself. For the last time she made her responses, clearly and distinctly. She lay quietly after that, watching the priest take the sacred elements, and then she closed her eyes and died. Many years later, married to the Count de Feria, favorite lady in waiting to the Queen, Jane Dormer described her mistress’s last moments to a friend, and the tears poured down her cheeks.
Cardinal Pole had been unable to comfort Mary in her final illness, for all that autumn he had himself been suffering from a recurrent fever. His servants tried to keep the news of Mary’s death from him, but he could see from their faces that something was amiss, and they had to tell him. He died that same evening.

While the Privy Councillors rode down to Hatfield to let Elizabeth know that she was Queen, Viscount Montague set out for the Low Countries to inform Phillip. ‘May God have received her in his glory,’ the King wrote in a postscript to his letter to his sister. He went on, ‘I felt a reasonable regret for her death,’ and he added, ‘I shall miss her…’

In her will she had left him, ‘to keep for a memory of me’, the diamond Charles V had sent her on her betrothal, the diamond Phillip had given the marquis de Las Navas for her, a gold collar set with nine diamonds which he had presented to her on the first Epiphany after their wedding, and another of his gifts, a ruby ring sent to her with the Count de Feria. She had made numerous other bequests to convents and monasteries, councillors, servants and friends.

Phillip did not receive the jewels, nor were her other instructions carried out, but Elizabeth did accord her a funeral befitting a Queen. Mary’s body was opened and embalmed by her surgeons and physicians. Her heart was placed in a silver and purple velvet box, and buried in the Chapel Royal in St James’s Palace. Her lead coffin was draped with purple velvet and lace, and placed in her black-hung Privy Chamber on two trestle tables covered in cloth of gold. There she lay in state, watched over by her praying ladies.

Mary I by Rosalind K. Marshall (Published in association with the National Portrait Gallery) London, 1993

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Emily Sarah Sellwood Tennyson, Lady Tennyson (9 July 1813 - 10 August 1896) By Kimberly Eve

“You ask me to tell you something of my life before marriage. It would be hard indeed not to do anything you ask of me if within my power. To say the truth this particular thing you want is somewhat painful”  Emily Tennyson, a note from her journals, written in 1869

Emily Sarah Sellwood was born on 9 July 1813 in a house in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, England where her father worked as an attorney.  Being baptized the day she was born, some would say, left her with a fragility that plagued her tiny frame most of her adult life. She grew up in a Christian household and she was described as having a calmness to her that was more than mere passivity.  A trait that would serve her well later in life as a wife to the pre-eminent British Poet Laureate!

Emily Sellwood’s childhood home, Horncastle

 Emily Sellwood’s earliest memory of her father, Henry Sellwood, was of him looking at her ‘with sad eyes’ after her mother’s death on 30 September 1816. Emily Sellwood was three years old.  He carried Emily in his arms to the funeral in the church across the lane, around the corner from their home.  She asked what they were doing ‘and in all this had no idea of death’, though she had been held up to see her mother in her coffin, ‘crowned with roses’ and beautiful. They were the last roses of summer. All through her life Emily would have a particular sympathy with the motherless, knowing what it meant.

All of Emily’s earliest memories were painful.  She was in the home where she had been born and spent a lot of time looking out of the window. She remembered her mother  ‘passing  the window in a crimson velvet pelisse’ and then they were together in the house, and her mother was lying on a sofa, with a white shawl around her.  Apparently, lying on sofas was something that women did.  Four months later, after this early memory of Emily’s, her mother died of typhus fever at age twenty eight.

During this time, Emily’s grandparents owned a house named  Pibworth located on over six hundred acres of woods and farmland near the village of Aldworth in Berkshire.  In Emily’s recollections printed in a 1911 volume of Tennyson and his Friends she says,

I remember that in Berkshire we often used to wander up to a tower among our woods, where a gaunt old lady lived called Black Jane, who told our fortunes. We had our private theatricals too, like other children. Our dramatic performances were frequent and our plays inexhaustible for we drew on Miss Edgeworth’s tales. I was always fond of music and used to sing duets with my soldier-cousin Richard Sellwood”.

Earliest Portrait of Alfred Tennyson by Samuel Laurence

In 1822 a nine year old Emily Sellwood ran to her window at the sound of a carriage drawing up to the door of the house. Upon looking out, she saw a thirteen year old boy waiting for his father while speaking to hers. The boy was Alfred Tennyson. She remembered him clearly. ‘The house had no front garden, just an area and railings. He was pale in those days but with the same very refined features. Features that were full of strength and spirituality and tenderness. A remarkable boy’ she said.

Although the Sellwood Family and the Tennyson Family grew up in nearby villages, Emily and Alfred led very different lives and rarely saw each other until meeting again in 1836. They maintained a friendship until they were married on 13 June 1850 and were only separated when Alfred traveled on literary business.  Emily kept house and managed his writing tasks becoming a secretary for him; she wrote and set music to his poems, together they both wrote and answered his mail and correspondence. Theirs was a true marriage in every sense of the word. Together they shared a lifetime of joys, sorrows, illness, births, deaths, highs and lows. They both were involved in the raising of their sons Hallam and Lionel which was unheard of during The Victorian Era.

On 25 November 1853 The Tennyson’s moved into Farringford, their home on The Isle of Wight.  Emily remembers, ‘Alfred will be reading to her and then be drawn down to the bay by the loud voice of the sea. She would enjoy what she could see with her own eyes and so many  other things with his, when he comes back from his walk’.

Farringford on The Isle of Wight

Emily gave birth to second son Lionel Tennyson on 16 March 1854 at around nine o’clock. Tennyson was observing the night sky, ‘Mars was culminating in the Lion,’ he wrote in one of the birth announcement letters.  Emily wrote in her diary: ‘This afterwards determined us to give our baby the name of Lionel. The child was a strong and stout young fellow, another fine lusty boy’.

Two days later in a letter to Mrs. Cameron, Tennyson described oldest son Hallam’s first encounters with his newborn brother, ‘He kissed him very reverently, then began to bleat in imitation of his cries; and once looking at him he began to weep, Heaven knows why: children are such mysterious things. I don’t think the younger one will turn out such a noble child as Hallam but who can tell’.

The Tennyson Family was now complete. They found their home and Tennyson revised an old poem, ‘The Miller’s Daughter’, rewriting the following lines:

The Kiss,
The woven arms, seem but to be
Weak symbols of the settled bliss,
The comfort, I have found in thee:
But that God bless thee, dear – who wrought
Two spirits to one equal mind –
With blessings beyond hope or thought,
With blessings which no words can find.

 A Portrait of Emily Tennyson by G.F. Watts, 1862

Emily Tennyson: The Poet’s Wife by Ann Thwaite, Published by Faber and Faber Limited, Great Britain, 1996

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Review of The Boleyns: The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Family by David Loades

Product details
  • Hardcover: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Amberley Publishing (28 Sep 2011)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 1445603047
  • ISBN-13: 978-1445603049
  • UK Edition

The fall of Anne Boleyn and her brother George is the classic drama of the Tudor era. The Boleyns had long been an influential English family. Sir Geoffrey Boleyn had been Lord Mayor of London. His grandson, Sir Thomas, had inherited wealth and position, and through the sexual adventures of his daughters, Mary and Anne, ascended to the peak of influence at court.

The three Boleyn children formed a faction of their own, making many enemies: and when those enemies securied Henry VIII's ear, they brought down the entire family in blood and disgrace. George, Lord Rochfort, left no children. Mary left a son by her husband, William Carey - Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon. Anne left a daughter, Elizabeth I - so like her in many ways and a sexual politician without rival.

“Anne was a woman with a mind of her own, and her own political agenda, more suitable in many ways  for the council chamber than for the boudoir. She had held her lover’s attention through the interminable years of their courtship by her intelligence and her temper.  She had steered Henry’s policies  when he had seemed uncertain which way to go, she had led her family based faction, often in spite of her father, and she had not hesitated to tell her lover what she thought of him when he attempted to stray. Henry had found this fascinating, and although her behaviour had resulted in flaming rows, these were always followed by passionate reconciliations. Observers were baffled and intrigued by his reactions, but Anne always appeared to know what she was doing” (Loades, 134)

Historian, David Loades in his own words explains,‘The Boleyns The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Family’ is a work of history; an attempt to reconstruct the fortunes of a remarkable family from the records’ (Loades, 8).

This is not another Tudor retelling of a biography but instead a concise assessment of The Boleyn Family from the Ormond side to the Howard side. A chronological and historical look beginning in 1457 with the life of Thomas Boleyn through August 1600 just before the death of the daughter of Anne Boleyn, Queen Elizabeth I.  I highly recommend this family study for anyone wanting to learn in-depth information about one of Tudor history's most important families!

Chapters are dedicated chronologically to each Boleyn family member whereby historical events occur in various locations during the span of their lives. Each are thoroughly discussed and analyzed. Chapter notations, historical records as well as biography lists are provided for further research.

Anne Boleyn is by far my favorite of the Boleyn's and the one I am most interested in because of her strong character, sense of self, religious idolatry and dedication to her daughter thus representing what she stood for in her brief lifetime.
The usual limited documentation and letters provide a chronological life of a mythical woman named Anne Boleyn. One striking bit of information David Loades never mentions and or leaves out completely in chapter five which heavily accounts for the year 1533 and the courtship of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was a 'supposed' 'secret marriage in January, 1533' between the happy couple! His notes section for this chapter in the back of the book only lists documentation for a marriage taking place between 15 + 23 February, 1533. Very Interesting! 
I have never come across this date before especially not written with such certainty. This is why I love reading and writing about history!

I enjoyed learning more about younger brother George Boleyn's life. He was a complicated and quite learned man. A true renaissance man if ever there was one. He spoke several languages and was even knighted!
For whatever reason, I have never been that interested in older sister Mary Boleyn's life. The documentation and information that survives supports the idea that she was a young woman content to live a life in the countryside married with a family of her own. Although, parents Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard raised both daughters to have similar opportunities to cultivate and broaden their horizons i.e. being sent to France in the court of Margaret of Austria under the care of Queen Claude Bouton.  I did however enjoy learning more about William Stafford, Mary's husband who outlived her and led a long and fascinating life!

A surprise was reading chapters including The Boleyn Family Descendants...Queen Elizabeth I.
Perhaps, the most important descendant Elizabeth Tudor, daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.  David Loades introduced infant Elizabeth briefly connected her in lineage to the Tudor line. He mentioned Anne Boleyn briefly instead focussed on Elizabeth's reign and connection with Robert Dudley and William Cecil who he does not like very much but I still do!
David Loades took one different approach with Elizabeth I that I think is quite courageous by saying, "We do not, of course, know what kind of a woman her mother would have been if she had lived into her fifties, but the similarities between mother and daughter are so marked, that we can probably reconstruct the hypothetical Anne of the 1550s in the person of Elizabeth" (Loades, 216)

Overall, a very enjoyable and fascinating attempt to shed some light on a very important family line and aspect of Tudor history. I highly recommend David Loades many books on various historical people and events. If you are looking for an historian whose sources and word can be trusted as factual and not 'fluffed up' for their own purposes, go with Mr. Loades!

Back cover and detail from Holbein's design for a coronation pageant. It was staged on the eve of Anne's coronation, 31 May 1533. 

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions,

My Review of Arresting Beauty by Heather Cooper

‘Beggars can’t be choosers. They really can’t.’ Based on true historical events,  Arresting Beauty  follows the extraordinary story of Mary ...