We’re accustomed to reading about Henry VIII’s six wives, but his mistresses aren’t quite as well known. This article (by Amy Licence) is all about these ladies—at least, about the ones of whom we’re aware. I suspect that Henry was a man of huge appetites and that his little black book was much scribbled in. Did he run out of pages? Most likely. The notches on his bedhead must have weakened the structure!
Above is a portrait of Henry Fitzroy, Henry VIII’s only acknowledged illegitimate child, whose mother was one Bessie Blount. Henry, whose looks seem to have harked back to his Beaufort roots, lived to be just 17, so survived only fractionally longer than Henry’s only legitimate son, Edward VI (another Beaufort lookalike, as was Henry VIII himself at that age).
Why was Henry Fitzroy the only acknowledged baseborn child? Because he was the only one? Or because he was a boy and his father was desperate for boys? Whatever, Bessie Blount delivered the goods and Henry showed his appreciation. He also furthered Henry Fitzroy’s career with titles and so on.
What of the other mistresses? Didn’t they provide the king with children? Or maybe they just provided daughters? Or he didn’t need to acknowledge them because the ladies concerned were married and the births were automatically credited to their husbands?
I’m over-simplifying. The above article is very interesting, and I for one certainly didn’t know a lot of the ladies who get a mention. But I do know that I still think Henry VIII was a dreadful man. Heaven alone knows what his brother Arthur would have been like, had he lived.
Interestingly, Arthur, who also looked very Beaufort, was another who died at around 16, so Henry VIII seems to have been the only male of the family who lasted a reasonable course. Well, in his case an unreasonable course. His father did too, of course, and so did his great-uncle Jasper. But of the newer generation, only Elizabeth I seems to have reached what might be called ripe old age. So much for the weaker sex.
But this is to wander away from the purpose of the article. If you want to learn about Henry VIII’s ‘other’ private life, i.e. his life outside the marriage bed, then have a read.