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A visible difference

This Mail on Sunday interview with Jonathan Rhys Meyers is sadly, mostly about his current personal problems. However, one or two paragraphs towards the end, should be of interest:

But it was his lead role in TV drama The Tudors, as the criminally charismatic Henry VIII, that made everyone take note, even though Rhys Meyers initially had his doubts about playing the monarch.
‘When they first asked me to do it, I said, “You must be insane!” And they said, “We have to make this part of English history palpable to a modern-day audience – and no one’s going to watch a 300lb guy run around the screen having sex.”’ Watching Rhys Meyers run around the screen having sex was a different story entirely, however.

In other words, he agreed that he felt far too slim for the part, as “The Tudors“‘

final scene with him merging into the great Holbein painting showed. At least Maria Doyle Kennedy, Natalie Dormer (left) and the other four “wives” didn’t have to be paid danger money, as an actor of Henry VIII’s real bulk (above) may have necessitated.

Otherwise, Mr. Rhys Meyers may have wanted to visit a certain pub in Ely with this menu:

THE DEATH OF HENRY VIII

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Henry VIII, known as the Hamilton Portrait and once owned by the Duke of Hamilton, this portrait used to be at  Holyroodhouse.  Philip Mould.

The deaths of all three Tudor kings were protracted and wretched.  Whether this was down to Karma, bad luck (or good luck depending on what way you look at it) or just the lamentable medical treatments available at the time,  I know not.  Perhaps a combination of all three.  But I want to concentrate here on the death of Henry VIII.

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‘The Death of Kings’ by Clifford Brewer T.D. F.R.C.S is an interesting read and covers the death of Henry in detail.   The title is self explanatory, the book being a ‘medical history of the Kings and Queens of England’.   I have drawn heavily on the book for the information I quote here concerning Henry VIII, who by strange coincidence died on the 28th January being the date on which his father Henry Tudor was born.

Henry, long since grown corpulent, was becoming a burden to himself and of late lame by reason of a violent ulcer in his leg, the inflammation whereof cast him into a lingering fever, which little by little decayed his spirits.  He at length begun to feel the inevitable necessity of death. Goodwin Annales of England.

Henry’s symptoms are too numerous to detail here and death must have come as somewhat of a relief to him after much suffering.  The actual cause of death is still debated as is did he suffer from syphilis.  Brewer points out there is no proof either way and that although , if he had,  it could explain some of the ‘happenings in his reign’ there are points which contradict this.  For example there is no evidence that his long term mistress Bessie Blount suffered from syphilis which she surely would have contracted from him (neither did  their son Henry Fitzroy ever show signs of congenital syphilis).      The same can be said of Mary Boleyn or any of his wives.

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This is believed to be a bust of Henry as a child.  What a mischievous little chap he was, the little stinker…..

He is recorded as having suffered from a bout of malaria with recurrences throughout his life although these did not seem to incapacitate him too much.  Indeed he seems to have enjoyed  robust health engaging in ‘strenuous exercise and indulged in many jousts and tournaments both on foot and on horse. He did how ever have two lucky escapes both of which could have been fatal.  One was a jousting accident where his brother-in-law, the Duke  Suffolk’s lance shattered his helm and he was very lucky not to be blinded or even killed’.  Then in 1525 whilst  trying  to vault a very wide ditch using a pole, the pole broke and he was thrown headfirst into the mud where,   unable either to get up or even breath,  his life was  saved by a footman.  .

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Henry in his prime…a portrait by Joos van Cleve c1530-1535

This jousting injury might account for the belated development of several symptoms.   Henry was to alter in appearance and put on a considerable amount of  weight,  ‘his face become moonlike,  burying his small eyes in a puffy face and accentuating  his small mouth’.  After the execution of Anne Boleyn,  Henry became even more prone to fits of temper and instability.  His  great increase in weight made it difficult for him to take exercise. Henry also developed an ulcer on his leg and  Brewer speculates that this ulcer,  which was very offensive,  ‘and a trial to his attendants’  could have been either a varicose ulcer or the result of an injury received whilst jousting which damaged the bone leading to osteitis.   This could have led to further complications – amyloid disease in which a waxy  material is laid down in the liver, kidneys and elsewhere.  Not a pretty picture.  Poor Henry.

Henry,  as he got older,  became subject of violent attacks of temper and periods of loss of memory.   On leaving London on one occasion he ordered all the prisoners in Tower to be executed.   His character become more and more unstable and by 1546 Henry had become  grossly overweight,  his legs so swollen,  due to severe oedema,  that he was unable to walk and he was moved from place to place by means of lifting apparatus.

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Henry towards the end of his life showing the  abnormality on the side of his nose which might indicate a gamma that had healed with scarring..by Cornelis Metsys line engraving 1545.

‘Towards the end of January 1547 he begun to suffer from periods of partial unconsciousness alternating with periods of alertness.  He was probably passing into a uraemia coma.  Realising he was dying he sent for  Cranmer but by he time he arrived he had lost the ability to speak.  Grasping Cranmer’s hand in his,  he pressed it when asked if he  repented his sins.    This was taken as Henry’s repentance and he ‘died in grace’ ‘ …ummm I don’t think it quite works like that!  .  However, his huge and offensive body was transferred, with some difficulty,  into his coffin.  He was then taken to Windsor to be laid to rest beside Jane Seymour.  However that is not the end of the story for it is said that his coffin burst a leak and the church was filled with a ‘most obnoxious odour’.  And so Henry passed ignobly from this life and  into history and the short reign of his son Edward Vl commenced.    As it transpired Edward’s death was to be perhaps  even more awful that that of his father.   But that dear reader is another story.

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Henry’s coffin in the vault he shares with Jane Seymour and King Charles I, St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Here is also a link to a an interesting video.

A genealogical illustration …

… of Lewis’ The Survival of the Princes in the Tower. Here is the pedigree, incorporating the “Simnel” and “Warbeck” hypotheses but also Jack Leslau’s theory involving More and Hans Holbein’s painting.

Art, Passion and Power: The Story of the Royal Collection

Andrew Graham-Dixon has been on our screens for almost a quarter of a century; – he is tall, slightly grey, drawls a little and is an excellent art historian. His latest series tells the story of the Royal art collection – from Henry VIII and Holbein, Charles I and van Dyck, the Protectorate selling the collection off but Charles II rebuilding it, William III, the “I hate all boets and bainters” years of George II, George III’s careful acquisitions, George IV and Brighton, Prince Albert and the (profitable) Great Exhibition funding many London colleges, right up to the present day with Queen Mary and her dolls’ houses. Sadly, it says little about the pre-1509 era, although there is or was surely something from then in the collection.

If you cannot access the iPlayer for geographic reasons, or are too late, all four parts should now be on YouTube OneTube.

Did the Princes Survive?

A great review of Matthew Lewis’s new book: The Survival of the Princes in the Tower

 

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Enigmatic signs and messages in a portrait of Richard III….

Everyone knows about Leslau and his theories concerning the Hans Holbein portrait of Sir Thomas More and his family. In Leslau’s opinion, the portrait reveals much about the fates of the “Princes in the Tower”. Another Holbein painting, “The Ambassadors” is also filled with secret messages. Or so it is said. I cannot argue one way or another, because I do not know.

Now it seems there are similar mysteries to be solved in the National Portrait Gallery of Richard III. The hands/rings are crafted to expose cryptic clues and give answers concerning his supposed involvement in the deaths of the same two boys mentioned in regard to the More portrait above.

If you follow this link:-

http://www.holbeinartworks.org/efaqssevenkrichardiiitwentyone.htm you will come to a long article (some 70 pages in all) about Richard III. It details Richard’s activities from early on, for instance, when still Duke of Gloucester, he would not accept a French bribe. It dissects the likes of Commynes and Mancini, revealing how the use of invisible ink (probably lemon juice) added information for certain  eyes only, almost like a 15th-century le Carré. And at the centre of it all is Richard, plotted against and lied about, his fault being to “underestimate his enemies and overestimate his friends”. His fate being to be innocent, yet proven guilty by his self-interested foes, especially the French and Henry VII, often working in unison.

So here we go into the pages of ENIGMAS: THE PRINCES AND THE KING: RICHARD III, which commences:-

“#1. “Apart from the Holbein evidence, does “new” documentary evidence exonerate Richard III from the charge of having murdered his two nephews?” 

“Apart from the Holbein allegations, you ask if “new” documentary evidence exonerates Richard III from the charge of having murdered Edward V and Richard, Duke of York. The short answer is ‘No’. However, if DNA findings are positive it means that new evidence can be added to old evidence that will exonerate Richard III for all time. In the event, we will request further instructions from the inquiry. For the present, we continue to test ALL evidence by NIET criteria. The aim and objective is to plan on paper and build on rock.

“To this end, I offer for the first time some seventy or more pages of abstracts from the files of new NIET positive and negative evidence entitled The Princes and the King : Richard III. The pages are divided in ‘Parts’, 1 through 8.”

Given the length and depth of all this, I trust you will forgive me for not attempting to go into great detail.

This link gives more details concerning the NPG portrait, and in particular the configuration of Richard’s fingers and rings.

I will not spoil it all by revealing too much here, but suggest that if you don’t know about all this already, then an hour or so spent delving through the articles will be rather rewarding. Even if you end up pooh-poohing the whole thing.

Whether one believes such theories or not, unravelling them is fascinating, and always—always—there are some points that have enough ring of truth about them to get us wondering if there’s something in it after all.  Please excuse the awful pun.

My versions of mediaeval Kings

Why is it that one particular image will capture the perceived essence of a medieval king in one’s mind?

When one hears music for the first time, it will be that first rendition/interpretation that stays, and by which one will judge all others. At least, that is how it is with me. No matter how many recordings of Max Bruch’s incomparable Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor I hear, the only one that will always be ultimate perfection is by Jascha Heifetz, who passed away in 1987. The recording I have is on vinyl, from the very early 1960s. It is matchless, and reduces me to tears every time I hear it.

I am not saying that images of medieval kings do the same, just that there will always be one that stands out and cries, “Here I am! This is how I really was!” Except The above likenesses are not from the kings’ actual periods, because most medieval illustrations are standardised and give nothing away of the real men within. So my impressions are gained from paintings or performances that arrest my attention.

Above you will see some of them. You may not agree with my choice, but that is the point. They are my choice. Edward I will always be Patrick McGoohan to me. A face like handsome granite, and a voice like gravel. The ultimate in strong kings.

Blake Ritson in ‘Pillars of the Earth’ epitomised my idea of the young Edward III, dashing and flirtatious, yet incredibly brave and a brilliant warrior. This performance brought Edward to the fore for me. Loved it. It was because of this Edward that I bought Ian Mortimer’s ‘Perfect King’, which is a great biography.

Alan Howard’s Richard II was visually perfect – as the real Richard II, not from anyone’s play. Richard II is perhaps one of the most complex kings to ever rule England. He fascinates, but never gives his inner self away. A monarch who really believed he was on the throne by divine right.

Tom Hiddleston created Henry V for me. This king has never inspired me, even though he did amazing things on the battle field. He just doesn’t do it, if you know what I mean. But if I think of him, I think Tom Hiddleston. One thing that is not in Henry’s favour, of course, if that he selfishly and thoughtlessly died young! If he hadn’t done that, his widow would never have become embroiled with someone called Tudor! So, it’s Henry V’s fault.

The painting of Edward IV and his family with Caxton was riveting from the first moment. There he is, larger than life and absolutely gorgeous in red with white fur. He is the Sun in Splendour. No wonder the fair sex fell at his feet. What an attractive, commanding figure he must have been. Such a pity that he deteriorated into a blob. I’m reminded of Elvis Presley, so fit and lithe as a young man, but an overweight parody toward the end. Edward IV, in  his prime,  is this image for me. Let’s not think of what he was to become.

Then we have Richard III, of course. Graham Turner’s painting says it all for me. This Richard should have won, and skewered Henry Tudor in the process. He was cheated of victory, but in these captured moments before the battle commenced, he is magnificent. Handsome, tragic, noble, trapped by circumstances that were created by others and forced upon him like millstones. No getting old and perhaps ugly for him, he will be young forever, and matchless forever. No wonder he still inspires such loyalty.

Finally there is the Whitehall mural of Henry VII, which was painted in the 17th century, after Holbein. Henry is tall, almost willowy, and definitely serpentine. Now that I have seen a picture of his funeral effigy here, I believe he really did look like this. Almost as if his limbs were on the point of disconnection. A real clothes horse. He wasn’t dressed, he was draped with kingly finery, and I am sure he didn’t walk, he glided. A flicking forked tongue as well? Probably not, but the last thing the unwary would ever hear would be a hiss…

Yes, I’ve missed some: Edward II, Henry IV, Henry VI…perhaps because I have yet to pinpoint them. I don’t think Henry VI will ever take shape for me, but I’d like to have a mental picture of Edward II and Henry IV. We know so much about them, but their physical appearance remains mysterious. To me, at least. They still swirl around in the ether of my mind, and will maybe drop down into place soon.

So, there you have some of my kings. What would your choice be?

The story of a spirited Duchess of Norfolk….

 

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The above illustration is by Hans Holbein the Younger – Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (Royal Collection)

 This post, about Edward IV’s daughter Catherine, prompted me to post this, about the husband of another of Edward IV’s daughter, Anne, Countess of Surrey. Thomas Howard, eventually 3rd Duke of Norfolk, was the grandson of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, who fell with Richard at Bosworth. I am not impressed with Thomas Howard, and whether or not he treated Anne well I do not know, but after her death, he certainly did not do right by his second wife. The marriage became a scandal second to none, and if Thomas thought he could do as he pleased with Lady Elizabeth Stafford, he soon learned better. She was made of stern stuff.

I have taken the following from the extremely interesting http://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Elizabeth%20Stafford%2C%20Duchess%20of%20Norfolk&uid=1575 , and make no claim to authorship. If you follow the link, you will find more information, and sources.

“Lady Elizabeth Stafford (later Duchess of Norfolk) (c.1497 – 30 November 1558) was the eldest daughter of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, and Lady Eleanor Percy. By marriage she became Duchess of Norfolk. Her stormy marriage to  Thomas Howard, 3rd duke of Norfolk, created a public scandal.

“Before 8 January 1513, when she was only fifteen and he was thirty-five years of age, Elizabeth married, as his second wife, Thomas Howard, then Earl of Surrey. He had previously been married to Anne Plantagenet (2 November 1475 – 23 November 1511), the daughter of King Edward IV, by whom he had a son, Thomas, who died 3 August 1508.

“Elizabeth had earlier been promised in marriage to her father’s ward, Ralph Neville, 4th Earl of Westmorland. The young Elizabeth and Ralph Neville seem to have been mutually devoted, and years later, in a letter to Thomas Cromwell, dated 28 September 1537, Elizabeth recalled that,

“‘He and I had loved together two years, an my lord my husband had not sent immediately word after my lady and my lord’s first wife was dead, he made suit to my lord my father, or else I had been married before Christmas to my Lord of Westmorland’.

“Elizabeth’s father initially attempted to persuade Howard to marry one of his other daughters, but according to Elizabeth, ‘He would have none of my sisters, but only me’.

“Elizabeth brought Howard a dowry of 2000 marks, and was promised a jointure of 500 marks a year, although Howard apparently never kept that promise. In her later letters she asserted that she had been a dutiful wife, continuing to serve at court daily ‘sixteen years together’ while her husband was absent in King Henry VIII’s wars, and accompanying him to Ireland when he was posted there in 1520–22. She bore him five children, and according to Graves, as late as 1524, when he became 3rd Duke of Norfolk, ‘they appeared to be bonded by mutual love’.

“However, in 1527 Norfolk took a mistress, Bess Holland, the daughter of his steward, with whom he lived openly at Kenninghall, and whom the Duchess described variously in her letters as a bawd, a drab, and ‘a churl’s daughter’, ‘which was but washer of my nursery eight years’. It appears the Duchess’ anger caused her to exaggerate Bess Holland’s inferior social status, as her family were probably minor gentry, and she eventually became a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne Boleyn.

“During the long period in which King Henry VIII sought to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled, the Duchess remained staunchly loyal to Queen Catherine and antagonistic towards her husband’s niece, Anne Boleyn, with whom the King was infatuated. Late in 1530 it was noted that the Duchess was secretly conveying letters to Queen Catherine from Italy concealed in oranges, which the Queen passed on to the Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, and at one time the Duchess told Chapuys that her husband, the Duke, had confided in her that Anne would be ‘the ruin of all her family’. In 1531 the Duchess was exiled from court at Anne Boleyn’s request for too freely declaring her loyalty to Catherine.

“According to Graves, the Duchess also quarrelled with Anne over Anne’s insistence that the Duchess’ daughter, Mary Howard, should marry Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. When Anne Boleyn was crowned on 1 June 1533, the Duchess refused to attend the coronation ‘from the love she bore to the previous Queen’.

“Meanwhile, the Duchess’ own marriage continued to deteriorate. The Duke refused to give up his mistress, and resolved to separate from his wife. Both the Duke and Thomas Cromwell requested the Duchess’ brother to take her in, a suggestion he utterly rejected.The Duchess wrote of her husband’s abuse of her during this period, claiming that when she was recovering after the birth of her daughter, Mary, he had pulled her out of bed by the hair, dragged her through the house, and wounded her with a dagger. In three separate letters to Cromwell the Duchess repeated the accusation that the Duke had ‘set his women to bind me till blood came out at my fingers’ ends, and pinnacled me, and sat on my breast till I spit blood, and he never punished them’. Howard responded to the stream of allegations by writing that ‘I think the apparent false lies were never contrived by a wife of her husband that she doth daily increase of me’.

“Whatever the truth of the allegations, continued cohabitation was clearly impossible, and on 23 March 1534 Howard forced a separation. According to the Duchess, the Duke had ridden all night, and arriving home in a furious temper had locked her in a chamber and taken away all her jewels and apparel. She was sent to a house in Redbourne, Hertfordshire, from which she wrote a stream of letters to Cromwell complaining that [she] was kept in a state of virtual imprisonment with a meagre annual allowance of only £200. At first the Duchess attempted to reconcile with her husband, but when she received no reply to her ‘kind letters’ to the Duke, she declared to Cromwell in a letter dated 30 December 1536 that ‘from this day forward I will never sue to the King, nor to none other, to desire my lord my husband to take me again’. On his part, Norfolk refused to give up Bess Holland, and attempted to persuade the Duchess to agree to a divorce, offering to return her jewels and apparel and give her a great part of his plate and stuff of household, but she rebuffed his offers. She received little or no support from her family. Her eldest son and daughter became estranged from her, while her brother condemned her behaviour

“Forsaken by almost everyone, the Duchess remained obdurate. On 3 March 1539, she wrote to Cromwell that:

“I am of age to rule myself, as I have done these five years, since my husband put me away. Seeing that my lord my husband reckoned me to be so unreasonable, it were better that I kept me away, and keep my own house still, and trouble no other body. . . I pray you, my lord, take no displeasure with me, although I have not followed your lordship’s good counsel, and your letters, as touching my lord my husband for to come home again, which I will never do in my life.

“The Duchess’ entreaties to Cromwell ceased with his fall from power in 1540. She and her brother were eventually reconciled, and at some time before 1547 he sent one of his daughters to live with her, whom the Duchess treated very generously.

“During Henry VIII’s last years  Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, and Henry’s last Queen, Catherine Parr, both of whom favoured the reformed faith, gained influence with the King while the conservative Duke of Norfolk became isolated politically. The Duke attempted to form an alliance with the Seymours through a marriage between his widowed daughter, Mary Howard, and Hertford’s brother, Thomas Seymour, but the effort was forestalled by the provocative conduct of the Duke’s eldest son and heir, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, who had displayed in his own heraldry the royal arms and insignia. On 12 December 1546 both Norfolk and Surrey were arrested and sent to the Tower. On 12 January 1547 Norfolk acknowledged that he had ‘concealed high treason, in keeping secret the false acts of my son, Henry Earl of Surrey, in using the arms of St. Edward the Confessor, which pertain only to kings’, and offered his lands to the King. Norfolk’s family, including the Duchess, his daughter Mary, and his mistress, Bess Holland, all gave evidence against him. Surrey was beheaded on 19 January 1547, and on 27 January 1547 Norfolk was attainted by statute without trial. The dying King gave his assent to Norfolk’s death by royal commissioners, and it was rumoured that he would be executed on the following day. He was saved by the King’s death on 28 January and the Council’s decision not to inaugurate the new reign with bloodshed.

“Norfolk remained in the Tower throughout the reign of King Edward VI. He was released and pardoned by  Queen Mary in 1553, and in Mary’s first parliament (October–December 1553), his statutory attainder was declared void, thereby restoring him to the dukedom. He died at Kenninghall on 25 August 1554, and was buried at St Michael’s Church at Framlingham in Suffolk. The Duchess was not named in his will.

“Elizabeth Howard died 30 November 1558 at Lambeth, and was buried in the Howard chapel in the Church of St Mary-at-Lambeth. Her brother wrote a brief but apparently heartfelt epitaph:

“Thou wast to me, both far and near, A mother, sister, a friend most dear.”

 

 

 

At last, Richard gets a smidgeon of the Renaissance credit he’s due….

A man of the reign of Richard III A woman of the reign of richard III

English Costume from William I to George IV by Dion Clayton Calthrop, published 1937.

I have just received this book, and of course turned immediately to the reign of Richard III. Dismay promptly ensued. Hump-backed Richard! Oh, natch. Then: “The axe of the executioner soiled many white shirts, and dreadful forebodings fluttered the dovecots of high-hennined ladies.” Really? Sez who?

Richard’s death, predictably, means the burial of winter, while Henry VII’s reign heralds the first day of spring. Oh, my, how things had changed when the Tudors’ very own ‘Winter King’ finally turned up his blunt toes. Off we went again, declaring that the winter years were over and a new spring had begun. Erm, with Henry VIII? If ever dovecotes should have been fluttering with dreadful foreboding, this was the time. My, my, we never did learn, it seems.

But not even this biased tome can condemn Richard entirely, although it must have galled the author to concede it:

“It is in the reign of Richard III that we get, for the men, a hint of the peculiar magnificence of the first years of the 16th century; we get the first flush of those wonderful patterns which are used by Memling and Holbein, those variations of the pineapple pattern, and of that peculiar convention which is traceable in the outline of the [hrumph!] Tudor rose.”

So Henry doesn’t get the credit. And about time too! The first buds of the Renaissance did not appear after Bosworth, but before it, when Richard was king!  What a wonderfully enlightened realm England would have been if the last Plantagenet had been given the chance to prove it.

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