The Dowager Queen and Henry VIII’s Last Will

The Vultures are circling as Henry lies on his death bed. He is surrounded by his son, Edward, as the king prepares him to become the next Tudor king.

In 1544, it was apparent that Queen Katherine Parr had been acquainted with the terms of King Henry VIII’s will for it named Katherine regent for the young Prince Edward if he were to die while in France. The fact that Katherine had been named possible regent in the event of the sudden death of the king makes one wonder what the will of King Henry looked like when he died on 28 January 1547. For three days after the King’s death, the council convened while the outside world was unaware of what had happened. Even Henry’s other children were not told. This extremely disturbed the Lady Mary who at one time had been named Princess and heiress to her father’s throne.

After the death of King Henry, Mary was not told of his death for several days. Edward’s minority council took elaborate precautions to ensure all was in place before they made an official announcement. This action made Mary extremely angry, but she could do nothing about it. Yet how ever wary Edward’s councillors were, nothing could alter the fact that Mary was in her own right heiress to the throne. For the time being, Mary would stay with the now Dowager Queen, Katherine, who was again for the third time, a widow. At the time of her father’s death Mary was aged 31. Mary’s reaction to her father’s death was never recorded as she never publicly mourned his death.  She was apparently more irritated at the fact that no one had told her that her father had died until days later. Most likely her reaction to the news was mixed grief and some kind of relief.

The "Succession Portrait", c. 1544, artist, after Holbein.Hampton Court Palace. © TudorQueen6 The portrait was done while Katherine Parr was queen, features Prince Edward's mother, Queen Jane Seymour.

The “Succession Portrait”, c. 1544, artist, after Holbein.
Hampton Court Palace.  The portrait which was done while Katherine Parr was queen, features Prince Edward’s mother, Queen Jane Seymour. © TudorQueen6

As for the Will of Henry VIII, it is quite possible that during those three days the men of the council were convening on how to alter the will to exclude the now Queen Dowager from any further power or influence over the boy King Edward. These conspiracy theories have been examined within Susan James’s biography on Queen Katherine. One theory is that Henry’s will was originally set up to pass the kingdom to his heir and that the regency council was to be led by the Earl of Hertford. Another version has Sir Anthony Denny, Sir William Paget, and Sir William Herbert (the Queen’s brother-in-law) rigging the whole will to give the Earl full control and some even go as far to name them as the masterminds of the fall of Gardiner and the execution of the Earl of Surrey. This theory of course can be refuted as the king was in control of his kingdom up until the last few hours of his life.

Although the king’s abilities had been diminished it is true that Sir Anthony Denny and Sir William Paget had control of those who accessed the privy chamber but not against the king’s will. In December 1546, the Privy Council meetings no longer took place at Westminster and were now being held at Hertford’s Somerset House. So if the queen had been summoned to the king at some point, the command would have been obeyed, but it is not for certain if the queen gave a command to see him that it would have been honored. It is not even sure whether or not the king would have been informed if she had demanded to see him.

Hampton Court Palace -- King Edward VI

King Edward VI, c.1550, attributed to William Scrots. Hampton Court Palace. artist, after Holbein. Hampton Court Palace. © TudorQueen6.

Another theory to support that the will had been tampered with is the final will that was produced did not have a signature, but was stamped and was registered a month later. So in that is a possibility that the will had been changed in support of the Earl of Hertford’s wishes. It seems obvious to readers that the men of the council, including Hertford, didn’t want to be dependent upon a woman’s approval. The actions of King Henry and his mission to produce a male heir instead of depending upon his only daughter from his first marriage shows that men were still not willing to depend upon or even accept a woman governor of the realm. I tend to find this odd seeing how in other countries, including that of their neighbor Scotland, consorts had been given the position of Regent. In fact, Henry’s sister Margaret, for a time had been Regent in Scotland and even Henry’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon acted as Regent for a longer period then Queen Katherine Parr had. Still, the feeling of having a woman in a position of power was not accepted and in some cases like Katherine of Aragon’s sister, Juana I of Castile, they were driven out by other men. Juana was driven out by the men in her life; her husband, father, and eventually her son who took over as the Holy Roman Emperor.

It is also thought that perhaps Katherine’s moral sense might have been an impediment as to the acquisition of Crown lands to which the council helped themselves to after they had been established. Henry’s second wife and queen, Anne Boleyn, had at one time felt the same way during the dissolution of the monasteries. Her opinions and interactions that condemned the way the properties and money were being dispersed had some doing in her downfall. Katherine completely disapproved of the way the lands were dispersed and her opinion was recorded as such. In 1549, Sir Robert Trywhitt testified that Katherine had said, “Mr. Trywhit, you will see the king, when he cometh to his full age, he will call his lands again, as fast as they be now given from him.”

The enraged presence of a mother defending her son’s inheritance from the depredations of his omnivorous council would have been the last thing the lord protector or the council wanted.”

Yet despite all of this, the one responsible may in fact have been King Henry himself. Henry’s opinion of having women rule was and is more then obvious due to his split with Katherine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boleyn. Henry did not believe that a woman could rule alone. It was one thing to use Katherine as an unofficial councillor during her lifetime, but to leave her to run the kingdom while his son was a minor was a completely different thing. He didn’t want a wife to tell him what to do in pretty much anything so it is understandable as to why he sent Katherine away at the end of his life. He obviously didn’t want to deal with her suggestions on how to dispose of his crown. That he did not inform Katherine of his decision left her to suppose in a way that she was to be head of the regency council upon his death. Henry left Katherine this bitter gift after all that she had done as queen, including enduring his constant immortalizing of his “true wife”, Jane Seymour. He did this not only in his painting of the royal family but in his request to be buried next to her upon his death.

The fact that Henry sent all the women in his life away a month before his death may have also influenced him in his final decisions. In not having them around he wouldn’t have been prone to lamentations and fuss made by the women who might have been brought in to be included in the rule of the kingdom after his death. James states that Katherine’s preference to be near Henry during the last month of his life may have partly been due to her political motivations. She was very protective of the royal children and that was adamant from day one.

In the early hours of the 28th of January, King Henry VIII died. For three days court continued on schedule. Even the royal dishes were escorted into the King’s chambers accompanied by the sounds of trumpets to make it look like the King was still alive. During this time, the top members to be part of the council lobbied and devised for position and the final settlement. Sir William Paget was the last to hear the devised plan from the king himself. Within the three days it would come to pass that the Earl of Hertford would make himself Duke of Somerset and appoint himself as Lord Protector of the Realm which had not been Henry’s wishes according to his will or any other knowledge of those apparent.

Katherine's signature as Queen Regent.

Katherine’s signature as Queen Regent. (Cotton MSS Vesp. F III fol. 16. b)

The position of power and the door to the regency council was shut in the Queen Dowager’s face and once again, Katherine was left to mourn a dead husband. Despite the outcome of the situation, a piece of history may provide proof that she was to be head of the regent council as shortly after Henry’s death, Katherine signed two documents as “Kateryn the Quene-Regent, KP.”

 

Sources:

  • Susan James. Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love, The History Press, US Edition, 2009. pg 356-59.
  • Linda Porter. The Myth of “Bloody Mary”: A Biography of Queen Mary I of England, St. Martin Griffins, 2010.
  • Anna Whitelock. Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2009.
© 28 January 2012
Meg McGath

Family of Queen Katherine: Sir Thomas Vaux, 2nd Baron Vaux of Harrowden

2nd Baron Vaux, sketch by Holbein.

2nd Baron Vaux, sketch by Holbein.

Sir Thomas Vaux, 2nd Baron Vaux of Harrowden K.B. (25 April 1509[1] – October 1556), an English poet, was the eldest son of Sir Nicholas Vaux, 1st Baron Vaux and his second wife, Lady Anne [Green] (born circa 1489), daughter of Sir Thomas Green, Lord of Greens Norton, and Joan Fogge [cousin to Edward IV’s consort Elizabeth], daughter of Sir John of Ashford.[2][3] Vaux was educated at Cambridge University.[4]  Vaux’s mother was the maternal aunt of queen consort Katherine Parr, while his wife, Elizabeth Cheney, was a paternal first cousin through her mother, Anne Parr.

Life

Lord Vaux by Holbein

Lord Vaux by Holbein

In 1527, Vaux accompanied Cardinal Wolsey on his embassy to France.

Vaux privately disapproved of Henry VIII’s divorce from his first queen consort, Katherine of Aragon.[5]

It is interesting to note the family circle that he was in. The Parrs and their extended family stuck by the queen and all had an opinion of Henry’s “Great Matter.” Vaux’s aunt, Lady Maud Parr, was a lady-in-waiting and good friend to Queen Katherine of Aragon. Lady Parr was given her own quarters at court to attend the queen and when she gave birth to a baby girl in 1512, it is thought that she named her after the queen who may have been her godmother. Lady Parr stayed with the queen until her household was divided; Parr died in 1531. Lord Vaux’s sister, Katherine, would marry the staunch Catholic Sir George Throckmorton; the outspoken courtier who dared to speak out against the king.

In 1531, Lord Vaux took his seat in the House of Lords. In 1532, he attended Henry VIII to Calais and Boulogne and was made Knight of the Bath at the coronation of Anne Boleyn on 1 June 1533. He was Lieutenant Governor of Jersey in 1536. Schism from Rome caused him to sell his offices; his position as Governor was sold to Sir Edward Seymour [later Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset]. He did not attend Parliament between 1534 and 1554.[5] Instead, Vaux retired to his country seat until the accession of Mary I, when he returned to London for her coronation.[5] Vaux was a friend of other court poets such as Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey.[5]

Family and issue

Elizabeth_Cheney_Lady_Vaux

Lady Elizabeth Vaux [born Cheney] was cousin to Queen Katherine by her mother, Lady Anne [Parr].

Vaux’s father, Nicholas, had been previously married to Hon. Elizabeth FitzHugh, daughter of Henry FitzHugh, 5th Lord FitzHugh of Ravensworth Castle and Lady Alice Neville, as her second husband.[3] By Elizabeth’s first marriage to Lord William Parr, she was the mother of Anne Parr, the mother of Thomas’ wife, Elizabeth Cheney, as well as Sir Thomas Parr, father to Queen Katherine.[3]

From the marriage of Nicholas Vaux and the dowager Lady Parr, the 2nd Lord Vaux had three older paternal half-sisters; Katherine, Lady Throckmorton; Alice, Lady Sapcote; and Anne, Lady Strange.[3] After the death of Elizabeth in about 1507, the 1st Lord Vaux married secondly, in about 1508, to Anne Green, the older sister of Maud Green, Lady Parr who had married Sir Thomas Parr; thus making the 2nd Lord Vaux a first cousin to queen Katherine. At the time of the marriage, Lord Vaux was aged c.47, she was aged c.18.

Sir Thomas had been contracted to marry Elizabeth Cheney, daughter and heir of Sir Thomas Cheney of Irtlingburgh and Anne Parr (aunt to Queen Katherine), since 6 May 1511 [he was aged 2].[3] Thomas married Elizabeth between 25 April 1523 and 10 November 1523.[3] They had three children.

  • Hon. William Vaux, 3rd Baron Vaux of Harrowden (born 1535), married firstly before 1557 to Elizabeth Beaumont, a distant cousin, by whom he had issue. In 1563, Vaux married to his second cousin, once removed, Mary Tresham, great-granddaughter of Sir William Parr, Baron Parr of Horton (uncle to Queen Katherine Parr) and had issue.
William, Lord Vaux of Harrowden (1535-1595), oil on panel 31 x 24½in. (78.8 x 62.2cm.). Inscribed

William, Lord Vaux of Harrowden (1535-1595), oil on panel 31 x 24½in. (78.8 x 62.2cm.). Inscribed “Willm. Lo. Vaux AE. ?de 40. ?ans 1575” 1575; Circle of Cornelius Ketel

  • Hon. Nicholas Vaux
  • Hon. Anne Vaux, married Reginald Bray of Stene, nephew of Edmund Braye, 1st Baron Braye; had issue.

Thomas Vaux died in October 1556.

Descendants

Among the many descendants of Thomas, Lord Vaux and his wife Elizabeth, Lady Vaux are:

  • Lady Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales and thus HRH Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and HRH Prince Henry of Wales.
  • Sarah, Duchess of York [by both parents], who was married to Prince Andrew, Duke of York and is mother to TRH Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.
  • HRH Princess Alice [Montagu-Douglas-Scott], Duchess of Gloucester, who married HRH Prince Henry, 1st Duke of Gloucester [son of King George V and Queen Mary]. They were parents to HRH Prince Richard, 2nd Duke of Gloucester (b.1944).
  • Henry George Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood, husband to HRH Princess Mary, Princess Royal [only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary]. They had two sons including the 7th Earl of Harewood.

Art

Sketches of Vaux and his wife by Holbein are at Windsor, and a finished portrait of Lady Vaux is at Hampton Court. Another hangs in Prague. More info: The OTHER Elizabeth Cheney

Elizabeth, Lady Vaux of Harrowden, wife to the 2nd Baron Vaux.

Elizabeth, Lady Vaux of Harrowden, wife to the 2nd Baron Vaux.

Elizabeth, Lady Vaux

Works

Two of his poems were included in the Songes and Sonettes of Surrey (Tottel’s Miscellany, published in 1557 (see 1557 in poetry). They are “The assault of Cupid upon the fort where the lover’s hart lay wounded, and how he was taken,” and the “Dittye … representinge the Image of Deathe,” which the grave-digger in Shakespeare’s Hamlet misquotes.[4]
Thirteen pieces in the Paradise of Dainty Devices, published in 1576 (see 1576 in poetry), are signed by him.[4] These are reprinted in Alexander Grosart’s Miscellanies of the Fuller Worthies Library (vol. iv, 1872).

Lord Vaux wrote during Queen Mary’s reign. The following lines by Vaux were first printed in The Paradise of Devices (1576).

OF A CONTENTED MIND
When all is done and said, in the end thus shall you find,
He most of all doth bathe in bliss that hath a quiet mind:
And, clear from worldly cares, to deem can be content
The sweetest time in all his life in thinking to be spent.
The body subject is to fickle Fortune’s power,
And to a million of mishaps is casual every hour:
And Death in time doth change it to a clod of clay:
Whenas the mind, which is divine, runs never to decay.
Companion none is like unto the mind alone; [or none]
For many have been harmed by speech, through thinking, few,
Fear oftentimes restraincth words, but makes not thought cease; [peace]
And he speaks best, that hath the skill when for to hold his
Our wealth leaves us at death; our kinsmen at the grave;
But virtues of the mind unto the heavens with us we have.
Wherefore, for virtue’s sake, I can bo well content,
The sweetest time of all my life to deem in thinking spent.

The introduction of a rhyme at the cesura or pause of the longer line in this measure breaks of its couplets into a four lined stanza. We have example of this by the same poet in what a MS copy describes as, “a dytte or sonet made by Lord Vaux in the time of the noble quene Marye representing the image of Death.” The first, third, and eighth stanzas of this poem, with a line from the last but one transferred to the third, were chosen by Shakespeare for the grave-digger’s song in fifth act of Hamlet; the clown giving, of course, his rudely remembered version of them [see Hamlet, act five].

So Shakespeare’s clown quoted it. This is the poem itself as written in Queen Mary’s reign by Lord Vaux:
THE IMAGE OF DEATH
I loathe that I did love,
In youth that I thought sweet,
As time requires for my behove
Methinks they are not meet.
My lusts they do me leave,
My fancies all arc fled,
And tract of time begins to weave
Grey hairs upon my head.
For Age with stealing steps
Hath clawed me with his crutch,
And lusty Life away she leaps
As there had been none such.
My Muse doth not delight
Me as she did before;
My hand and pen arc not in plight,
As they have been of yore.
For Reason me denies
This youthly idle rhyme;
And day by day to me she cries,
“Leave off these toys in time.”
The wrinkles in my brow,
The furrows in my face,
Say, limping Age will lodge him now.
Where Youth must give him place.
The harbinger of Death,
To mo I see him ride :
The cough, the cold, the gasping breath
Doth bid mo to provide.
A pickaxe and a spade,
And eke a shrouding sheet,
A house of clay for to be made
For such a guest most meet.
Methinks I hear the clerk,
That knolls the careful knell,
And bids mo leave my woeful work,
Ero Nature me compel.
My keepers knit the knot
That Youth did laugh to scorn,
Of me that clean shall be forgot,
As I had not been born.
Thus must I Youth give up,
Whose badge I long did wear;
To them I yield the wanton cup
That better may it bear.
Lo, here the bared skull,
By whose bald sign I know,
That stooping Age away shall pull
Which youthful years did sow.
For Beauty with her band
These crooked cares hath wrought,
And shipped me into the land
From whence I first was brought.
And ye that bide behind,
Have ye none other trust :
As ye of clay were cast by kind,
So shall ye waste to dust.
From: Cassell’s library of English Literature, selected, ed. and arranged by H. Morley
By Cassell, ltd.

References

  1. George Edward Cokayne. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, Vol. XII/2, p. 219-221.
  2. Unknown author, David Faris. Plantagenet Ancestry of 17th Century Colonists, p. 39.
  3. Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry, pg 326, 561-562, 566.
  4. Dominic Head. The Cambridge Guide To Literature In English, Cambridge University Press, Jan 26, 2006. pg 1151.
  5. John Saward, John Morrill, Michael Tomko. Firmly I Believe and Truly: The Spiritual Tradition of Catholic England, Oxford University Press, Nov 15, 2011. pg 92.
Researched and written by Meg McGath

© 26 March 2012

Belinda Durrant Exhibit at Sudeley Castle: Where’s Mary?

Belinda Durrant has three new works on display at Sudeley Castle as part of their exhibition celebrating the quincentenary of the birth of Katherine Parr. She was gracious enough to share them with us and to even write what inspired her to make these works. 

Sudeley Exhibit by Belinda Durrant ©

“It [the exhibit] was made as a direct response to visiting the castle. I am no history scholar…just couldn’t understand why there was so little info about the poor little child at the Castle and decided I was going to find out myself….and promptly discovered that there was nothing much more to find, which just made it all worse, somehow.

Katherine Parr was the 6th wife of Henry VIII. After his death in 1547 she married Thomas Seymour and moved to his country residence, Sudeley Castle in 1548 where she gave birth to a daughter, Mary on August 30th of that year. She died from puerperal (childbed) fever just seven days later and is buried in St Mary’s Church within the castle grounds. The site of baby clothing often provokes unexplained sentimental reactions, particularly from women. Freud tells us that this is fetish. Such clothing reminds us of the child itself and is embraced as a substitute for the ‘lost’ child. Freud means ‘lost’ in terms of the fleeting period of babyhood, but in this case, Lady Mary Seymour was apparently quite literally ‘lost’.

We are told that Mary became an orphan at just a few months old when her father was executed for treason and that she was sent to live with Katherine Willoughby, the Duchess of Suffolk. I have been able to find out very little else. It seems all record of her disappears after August 29 1550, the eve of her second birthday.

The three works I have displayed in the Castle exhibition centre, ‘Where is Mary? Bonnet, Mittens, Bib’ were made as a direct response to a visit I made to the castle in July 2011. The work is not about embroidery and stitch.

It is about the ACTS of embroidering and stitching; the almost ritualistic time, care and love which goes into the making of those very special first clothes which celebrate the arrival of a new child.

Bonnet which reads “Where is Mary” by Belinda Durrant, picture by Sudeley Castle.
 © 13 April 2012