Alice’s Restaurant

January 23, 2008

By George! George Digs a Hole and Fox Falls In.

Filed under: George IV - Pre Regency, History, Research — aliceaudrey @ 12:19 am

 It seems when Prince George gets tired of pretending to be bucolic and makes a run for the money he isn’t the only one cruising for a bruising.  We return to Mr. Al’s weekly take on the life of George IV.

  Mummy and Daddy's house
The Prince did find someone to bring the matter up before Parliament. This gentleman, Nathanial Newnham, did raise the subject of the Prince’s financial distress, but made no mention of his marital status. Prime Minister William Pitt tried to kill the subject by stating that only the King could ask Parliament for such a subsidy. His Majesty had not done so. End of discussion. Time to move on.

Mister Newnham let the matter drop for the time being. But he made it clear that he intended to bring the matter forward again, this time as a formal motion, during the May 4th session. Pitt tried to do an end run around Newnham by asking what, exactly, he intended to say? Newnham, realizing he was far out on a limb, stated that his only concern was for the Prince’s “embarrassed situation.” He would formally request that someone go to the King and ask that he place before Parliament a motion to vote money for his kid. That’s all!

Before the Prime Minster could breath a sigh of relief, up from the Tory benches rose one John Rolle, a solid Church of England squire from Devon. Mister Rolle said that the question of money for the Prince had serious implications. This was because it was  “a question which went immediately to affect our constitution in Church and State.”

Uh-oh. The only question that he could possibly be referring to was, of course, the question of wither or not the Prince had married a Catholic. After a bit of hemming and hawing, throat clearing and pretending not to know what the speaker was referring to, Pitt tried to get Newnham to drop the whole matter. If Newnham did not, Pitt threatened, he might be forced to bring up the issue, “though with infinite reluctance, to the disclosure of circumstances which he should otherwise think it his duty to conceal.”

At this point, one of the Prince’s supporters, one who was “out of the loop” so to speak, rose to defend the Prince’s honor. Base accusations had been made! Ugly rumors were being circulated! This had to end! No, by God, they would not let the matter drop! The Prince’s own people had called Pitt’s bluff. Pitt had no more interest than the Whigs in exposing the Royal Family to such a scandal. The Tories, with more venom than foresight, were glad to help the Prince’s “supporters.”

It was Fox who would handle the matter for the Prince. What are friends for? Although Mrs Fitzherbert did not like Fox, and consequently the Prince had cooled noticeably toward him, Fox believed that a flat out declaration that the Prince had not, nor would he ever, marry Mrs Fitzherbert would best serve everyone. What could be simpler? After all, Fox believed it was the truth.

So that’s exactly what he did. On April 30 1787, Fox spoke to the House denouncing those who had spread vile rumors about his friend There was no truth, none at all, concerning a marriage between the Prince and Mrs Fitzherbert. The opposition was not convinced, but it had no proof. Fox left Parliament convinced he had done his best by his friend, his party, and his country.

Some time later, while having drinks at one of his clubs, he was approached by a gentleman who had some interesting news. “Mister Fox, I hear that you have denied in the House the Prince’s marriage to Mrs Fitzherbert. You have been misinformed. I was at the marriage.” Oh dear. Fox had been placed in a very difficult position. True, he placed himself there but that was only because his good friend the Prince had sworn on his dead granny’s Bible that he was not, and never had been married.

Fox was not the only one seeing red.

September 11, 2007

A Case of the Georges

Filed under: Guest Blogs, History, History with Mr. Al, Research — aliceaudrey @ 12:02 pm

Mr. Al is back!!  He kept me on tenterhooks long enough.  I had to pry this out of his fingers last night.  I’m so glad I did.


Early one morning in the year of our Lord 1760, George Augustus, King George the Second of England, went to the bathroom. Nature was not kind to him on this fateful morning. Exerting himself above and beyond, he suffered a stroke and died on a rather different type of throne.

Waiting in the wings was his grandson, George William Frederick, Now King George the Third.  The reason his grandson inherited the title rather than the son is because the son was already dead  The son, Frederick, had survived into adulthood and had become Prince of Wales, for a while.
As Hanover boys were wont to do, he had become a royal millstone around his father’s neck. The focal point of political opposition to his majesty, Frederick reveled in anything that made his father miserable. .
Said his mum, “If I was to see him in hell, I should feel no more for him than I should any other rogue that ever went there.”

Dad felt the need to reprimand her for being too soft on the lad. Fortunately, Fred went out to play tennis one day in disagreeable weather. He caught a chill and died. His title passed to his son. Sayth one historian, “When George was thirteen, his absurd father died.” Things didn’t really improve from there.

Two years into his new job, on August 12, 1762, George the Third’s incredibly fecund wife, Charlotte, gave birth to their first child. The Earl of Huntington, exceeding his authority, he was only the Groom of the Stole, not the Queen’s Chamberlain, ran off to be the first to tell the King that he was the father of a bouncing baby girl. The king, anxious for his Queen’s health, raced to the scene to discover that she was doing just fine. He also discovered that he was the father of a bouncing baby boy. The Earl was sacked, but the die was cast. Misunderstandings and miscommunication would be the rule rather than the exception between father and son henceforward.

It didn’t help that the two were as different as night and day. Although this did not come to fore until the Prince was a teenager. George the Third, perhaps feeling the sting of his own lack of a proper education, decided the Prince would not be found wanting in this department. The Prince’s early tutors were able enough, if somewhat obscure and unimaginative. “A formal piece of dullness.” Was Horace Walpole’s verdict on one of them, Robert D’Arcy, Fourth Earl of Holderness. Fortunately, the Earl became ill and traveled to the continent to take the waters.

He kept up a steady stream of letters filled with advice, but left the day to day job of educating the Prince and his brother, Frederick, to one Leonard Smelt and the Prince’s Preceptor, Doctor William Markham. Smelt, an army engineer, was a talented artist and a great lover of literature. Markham, who would one day become Bishop of Chester, was a somewhat pompous fellow who enjoyed hob-nobbing with the rich and powerful. But for all that, he knew what to teach.

Alas, as he would discover when his boss, D’Arcy, returned from the continent, he didn’t seem to have a grasp on HOW to teach the Prince and his brother. D’Arcy had definite ideas in that department. Rather medieval ideas, as we shall see. But before I can tell you about that, You’ll need to know a bit more about Mum and Dad and the way they saw the world.


Thank you, Mr. Al .  I love it already.



August 28, 2007

Tudor Follies: the End of Henry

Filed under: Henry VIII, History, History with Mr. Al — aliceaudrey @ 12:33 am

Just when we thought Katherine was bound for execution, she stop screaming and got smart.  Lets see if Wriothesley faired as well.  Take it away, Mr. Al.                                                                   ****Henry, Katherine and assorted hangers-on were gambolling in the royal gardens when Wriothesley showed up with forty Tower guards in tow. Most likely Katherine and the ladies were gambolling. Henry’s gambolling days were a very distant memory by then. Henry took the Lord Chancellor aside and read him the riot act. Trick me into believing my loving wife was a heretic, eh? Bamboozle me into burning my Queen at the stake, huh? You never did like her; you and Gardiner. Get the hell out of my garden and take these goons with you or I’ll give ’em a new set of orders!

Wriothesley dropped to his knees and begged Henry’s forgiveness. Fat chance! Lord Chancellor Wriothesley scurried away with his tail between his legs. Katherine was the picture of innocent astonishment when Henry returned. “Golly Snookems, what was THAT all about? How come the Lord Chancellor had all those Tower guys with him?” As angry as Henry was, the warrant DID have his signature on it. Tricked or not, it was kinda hard to explain. Henry decided the best explanation was none at all. He said nothing about the warrant. He told her it was all a misunderstanding. It was a guy thing and as the Head Guy, he’d deal with it. Katherine and the ladies could go back to gambolling. Which they did with joyous hearts.

In the end, no action was taken by Henry against either Wriothesley or Gardiner. And these gentlemen never bothered the Queen again either. More importantly, the Queen never argued with Henry again. Her ladies were forbidden to own, disseminate, acknowledge, discuss or even whisper about ANYTHING even vaguely heretical. Upon pain of instant dismissal. Everyone conformed, with a capital “C” to Henry’s church. She was still a closet Lutheran, of course. But she was so far back in the closet that no one would openly suspect her. Till the day Henry died, she was the Dutiful Wife Extraordinaire.

As the summer of 1546 moved into autumn, Henry’s health began to seriously deteriorate. Between the pustular ulcer on his leg and his great weight, Henry couldn’t move without the use of a specially designed chair with a built in crane, Henry knew he was dying. He wasn’t afraid to face it. He made out a detailed will and set up Edward’s Regency Council. Henry had always been a realist when it came to politics. He saw how England was changing, how it was moving in an undeniably Protestant direction. The Protestants would change his church, but the Catholics would destroy it utterly. Accordingly, he appointed men to the Council who held Protestant sympathies. He also took care to appoint Protestant tutors for Edward.

Wriothesley and Gardiner were appointed. Henry knew them well enough to know what they wanted above all else was power. They would amend their religious beliefs once they realized they might loose their jobs if they didn’t. This would also protect Katherine. Henry knew what she really believed, even though everyone had to pretend otherwise. In as much as Henry was capable of loving anyone, he seemed to have truly loved Katherine. For her part, Henry’s approaching demise genuinely upset Katherine.

He left Katherine something to remember him by. Jewels, plate and household goods for the rest of her life. He also left her his entire wardrobe. While this might seem odd to the modern reader, it should be remembered that fancy clothing in those days often had jewels sewn into them. They also had much embroidery work with gold and silver thread. The satin and silk fabrics were worth a considerable sum by themselves. She also received 1,000 pounds cash, the return of her dowry and whatever properties Parliament saw fit to bestow upon her. They were very generous.

Henry had done about all he could do to be prepared. The fact that the Regency Council would ignore some of Henry’s wishes before his body was cold should not be surprising. With Wriothesley and Gardiner on the Council, Katherine was  banished from the court. She received her due, but they did not want her around Edward. They didn’t seem to care if Mary and Elizabeth hung out with her. They should have.

Eventually Elizabeth would enter Katherine’s household. She was thirteen. Elizabeth and Katherine would both live to regret this, but Katherine’s new hubby, Lord High Admiral Sir Thomas Seymour, would not. It is still a matter of debate how much Sir Thomas’s “attentions” toward Elizabeth affected her as concerns men and marriage; But that’s another story altogether. Suffice it to say that the Tudor follies continued. Edward was king and the Protestant reformation, begun in secret, was now moving into the open. Unfortunately for the Protestant cause, Edward would not be long on the throne.

With his death, his half-sister Mary would become Supreme Monarch. Mary moved with an implacable will to restore the Catholic Church. It would be a very dark period in England’s history. Much else in Henry’s will was ignored by the Council in the power struggle that followed his death. They fought over who would have the most access to nine year old Edward. More importantly, they fought over who would give orders in the King’s name. It became an unholy mess.

One thing was clear however; the people of London were grief stricken at Henry’s passing. As displeased as they were with Henry from time to time, they loved him all the same. Henry was a Londoner, one of them. He spent much of his time there and was proud to call it his city. When Henry died, quietly and in bed, on January 28, 1547, the city was plunged into mourning. It most certainly was not the end of the Tudor follies, but it was the end of the man. And with his passing, the end of an age.

                               Le Roi Est Mort! Vive Le Roi! 


And thus ends Mr. Al’s take on the wives of Henry the Eighth.

Mr. Al assures me he will be ready to start up his take on the Georges very soon.  I’d like to start them in September, but that’s only a few days away.  If I can, I’ll be posting them in Wednesdays.

August 21, 2007

Tudor Follies: Arm Chair Theologians

Filed under: Henry VIII, History, History with Mr. Al, Research — aliceaudrey @ 1:01 am

When we left off Katherine was behaving the same way so many of Henry’s other wives did when finding out how blood thirsty Henry could be.  She had a royal hissy fit.  Let’s see if she fairs any better than the others.***

So sayeth the doctor to Katherine; “First, don’t say anything to anybody else about the warrant! When you talk to Henry, tell him that you could sense that he was upset about something. That after much soul searching you concluded he was upset because you were such a smart-ass know it all. Tell his Royal Husbandness that you will never, EVER do or say ANYTHING that will EVER contradict or upset His Most Benign and Forgiving Royal Self EVER AGAIN! Cross your heart and hope to die!

And tell your servant to put that frick’n warrant back where she found it! Without being seen! If Henry knows you know what he knows, you’re toast. Um…Your majesty will forgive me that last bit. Just a figure of speech.” Katherine continued to carry on as loudly as before, but now she had a plan. The doctor returned to Henry shaking his head. Henry decided to pop in and see what was upsetting his little armchair theologian.

He stayed with Katherine for about an hour, them returned to his rooms. As soon as he was gone Katherine ordered her ladies to gather up any books, pamphlets, letters, anything that might be considered heretical and burn them. Then, in deep remorse mode, she went to Henry’s room for a little chat. Henry was there with some chaps, discussing…religion! Henry invited Katherine in. Perhaps she’d care to add her two shillings on the subject.

Katherine answered Henry’s questions very carefully. She then stated that, as the supreme head of the One True Church, she would never dream of contradicting him on matters of doctrine. Henry was having none of that.
He said, “Not so, by St. Mary! Ye are become a doctor, Kate, to instruct us, as often time we have seen, and not to be instructed or directed by us.”

Katherine had to proceed with the utmost care. If she couldn’t convince Henry she was behind him on matters of the church… She started by saying she had been misunderstood. She was a woman! How could she possibly know as much as her vastly superior husband? If she argued with him it was only for the sake of taking his mind off the cares and burdens of being a king! If she played the devil’s advocate it was for entertainment purposes only! She truly believed she was making her beloved husbands life more pleasant by giving his brain cells a run for their money.

Henry’s heart melted. His little Kate had only noble intentions from the very beginning. He knew it all along. Said Henry,
“Is it so, sweetheart? And tended your arguments to no worse end? Then we are perfect friends, as ever at any time heretofore.”
He bought it all. He hugged her and kissed her and told her he would never doubt her again. After she left, he turned his attention to those who had badmouthed her. The scales had fallen from his eyes. He could see the plans of Wriothesley and Gardiner plain as day. Something would have to be done about those two. 

Meanwhile, the butterfingered councilor had found the warrant right where he dropped it. Yowza! That was a close one! His relief can only be imagined. At some point in the evening Wriothesly became aware of the document’s existence. Since it bore Henry’s signature, he decided not to wait for Henry to make up his mind. He was going to move in for the kill the next day. Lord Chancellor Wriothesley was about to discover how mercurial a prince Henry could be.


What a foolish, foolish man.  Wriothesly, I mean.

No, this does not end the Tudor Follies.  Mr. Al has one last episode ready to go.  I couldn’t resist; I went ahead and read it.  I promise, next Tuesday we will end the series with a great post.

Thank you Mr. Al, both for today’s episode, and for your willingness to continue your history lessons after you are done with Henry VIII.


August 14, 2007

And even more Tudor stuff

Filed under: Henry VIII, History, History with Mr. Al, Research — aliceaudrey @ 12:03 am

We’re back for another installment of Mr. Al’s take on Henry the VIII.  Warning, there is some rough language in this one. 


One of the things I love about history are those moments when I put down a history book and exclaim, “What the hell was he thinking? How could he be that stupid?” Katherine’s story takes just such a turn. Soon after his conversation with Henry, Gardiner ordered the arrest of three of Katherine’s most important ladies-in-waiting; Lady Tyrwhitte, Lady Lane and Katherine’s sister, Lady Herbert. No rough stuff, but they were taken to the Tower for questioning. While there, their rooms were searched for banned reading materials.

The ladies were asked about their conversations with the Queen. Discuss religion much? How about that Martin Luther guy? Anything nice to say about him? Apparently nothing was found because the ladies were released without being charged with anything. Before all this happened Katherine knew she had to be careful. If she suspected that she had enemies in her husband’s court before, she knew it for a fact now. The arrest of her ladies-in waiting should have been a red flag the size of a mainsail to her.

Bishop Gardiner’s signature was on the arrest warrants. Katherine should have known that Gardiner didn’t have the juice to pull a stunt like that on his own dime. Henry would never have allowed it! Unless… So what did this very intelligent, common senseical woman do? She continued her theological debates with Henry. What in God’s name was she thinking? She KNEW they were looking for closet Protestants. She KNEW they suspected her. She should have known that Henry was supporting the investigation. Katherine Parr was a snow white bunny rabbit in the middle of a very large, very empty field and the sky overhead was filled with hungry hawks. And she continued to debate religion with Henry.

Henry listened very carefully to his wife’s arguments. He noted anything that might be suspicious. She prattled on and he listened. She prattled some more and he listened. Then, one day, he decided he had heard enough. He had a warrant for her arrest drawn up. The charge? Heresy. Which meant that she would be burned at the stake rather than beheaded. That Henry! He sure knew how to put on a show!

With the warrant before him, Henry signed it and handed it over to a trusted member of his Privy Council. This fellow was told to keep it under wraps until it was called for. No one was to know about it. This fellow was told to guard the document with his life. This fellow swore mighty oaths and promised to do as the king wished. No doubt fantasizing about the rich rewards that would come his way for being so loyal, this unnamed person allowed himself to become distracted enough to lose the warrant. He dropped it in a hallway where it was promptly found by one of the Queens servants.

Apparently this servant didn’t stop to consider the price she might pay for her loyalty to Katherine, because she took it strait to the Queen. Whatever illusions Katherine harbored regarding Henry’s tolerance of her unorthodox views went right out the window, along with her composure, upon reading the warrant. Henry was going to burn her at the stake as a heretic! She was way too smart to think she stood a snowball’s chance in hell of being found innocent. When Henry Tudor had a wife arrested, there was only one outcome.

How could she have misjudged him so badly? There was only one thing to be done, talk to Henry. But first, she’d take a moment or so to collapse on her bed, a screaming, hysterical mass of quivering royal jelly. Katherine lost it completely. So loud were her lamentations that Henry could hear them in his private rooms. Having no idea what was wrong, he sent his personal doctors to check it out.

One of them, Doctor Wendy, was the only other person, aside from the Privy Councilor, that Henry had confided in regarding the warrant. Some how or another, the good doctor figured out what was troubling Katherine. Without tipping off his colleague, Wendy sent him and everyone else out of the room so he could have a heart to heart with the Queen. She told him about the warrant. Oh dear. What was she going to do? The good doctor was completely on Katherine’s side. First and foremost, she had to pull herself together! They only had minutes to come up with a plan so she had to stop freaking out NOW!


This kind of behavior really brings home the realization that kings and queens are only people too.  Good thing you’ve got another blog planned, Mr. Al.  No way I’d let you quit here.


August 6, 2007

Tudor Follies: A Conversational Gambit

Filed under: Henry VIII, History, History with Mr. Al, Research — aliceaudrey @ 11:50 pm

Put your breakfast down before you read today’s installment of Henry’s life and wives.  Mr. Al is in rare form today! 


 In the summer of 1546, a woman, Anne Askew, was imprisoned in the Tower on charges of heresy. For some reason Wriothesley considered this a golden opportunity to gather evidence against the Queen. Under questioning she denied knowing any members of the Queen’s household, let alone the Queen herself. Wroithesley ordered her racked. When no information was forthcoming, Wriothesley took over, turning the wheel himself. Once her arms and legs had been pulled from their sockets, Wriothesley had Anne dumped on the floor, where she was kicked and beaten for another two hours. She would not deny her faith nor admit to knowing any member of the Queen’s household. Wriothesley ordered her to be burned at the stake. Occasionally, a prisoner sentenced to be burned would be strangled with a cord before the fire was lit; an act of mercy the executioner was not allowed to do for Anne. So, apparently on his own initiative, he tied a bag of gunpowder around her neck. It exploded almost as soon as the fire was lit. That execution was the talk of London. If Katherine needed any evidence as to how far the anti-Protestant crowd would go, she need look no further than Anne Askew. Wriothesley returned to biding his time and hoping that the Queen would slip up.It was becoming more difficult for Katherine to hide her true beliefs. Especially since she loved theological debates. So did Henry. This would have been fine but for the fact Henry DID NOT like to be contradicted. Katherine did it constantly. Perhaps this would have been acceptable on a very limited basis with a man like Archbishop Cranmer, perhaps not. It was not acceptable from a mere woman, Queen or no queen. Katherine didn’t get that memo.

Worse yet, it was becoming clear that she was pushing church reform much further than Henry was willing to go; and in an undeniably Protestant direction. This wasn’t sitting well with Henry. Nor was the fact that after three years of marriage there were no kids, male or female. Edward’s health as well as the changing situation in Scotland convinced Henry that more princes were required. Three whole years and no rug rats. What the hell?!

Since any problems in a Henry marriage were automatically the woman’s fault, Katherine would have to, um…take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and do something about it. She didn’t seem to be aware that there was a problem. She really should have. Kids aside, she continued to push for greater church reforms and continued to contradict Henry. Wriothesley, (Say that name really fast five times.) and Gardinier were delighted to give her all the rope she wanted. It was only a matter of time before she hung herself. And then, one evening at the dinner table, she did.

What point they were debating is not known. Considering Henry’s reaction it was probably religious. In any event, in the middle of making a point, Henry told Katherine to shut the hell up and change the subject. Shocked, Katherine did as she was told. After dinner, she rose, bid His Majesty a good night and left the room. Bishop Gardiner was at that meal. As soon as Katherine was gone, he went to work.

Henry grumbled about uppity women daring to contradict their husbands. What was the world coming to? It broke the good bishops heart to have to report to Henry that the Queen’s views were not hers alone. No, there was an entire Protestant faction within the Queen’s household that was promoting a brand of heresy that would be an automatic death sentence for anyone of lesser rank.

Worse, these members of the Queen’s household were planning the overthrow of Henry’s government, the destruction of his church and the imposition of a radically heretical sect in its place! Worse than Lutherans, maybe. Although in Gardiner’s book, it would be pretty hard to sink lower than a Lutheran. Henry was stunned. What in heavens name was his little Kate getting up to? Sure, she was lippy and opinionated, but this? Henry wasn’t sure what to think. These charges were about as serious as it gets.

Henry had known Gardiner a lot longer than he had known Katherine. If a man of his caliber was making such claims, he’d better have the matter investigated. Besides, Gardiner must have known the price he would pay for lying about such a thing. He would never risk it unless at least some of it was true. Henry and the bishop had a long conversation that night. When it ended, Henry was in a very bad mood. He ordered Gardiner to find the proof. Leave no stone unturned.


Uh oh.  Poor Katherine. How dare she be a real person!  Mr. Al, tell me this ends well.  I’m tempted to skip ahead to next week.


July 31, 2007

The Tudor Follies: Marital Bliss with Henry

Filed under: Henry VIII, History, History with Mr. Al, Research — aliceaudrey @ 12:59 am

When we left off last week, Henry and Katherine Parr had just gotten married, and Henry was in the mood to celebrate.  Now, back to the words of Mr. Al.****

Henry decided on a celebration that would combine business with pleasure.  Accordingly, during a visit to Windsor Castle, Henry had three Protestant heretics burned at the stake on the front lawn. Yes, all was well in the Tudor household. Katherine had prevailed upon Henry to be nice to Mary and Elizabeth. With Edward brought in from the royal bubble Henry kept him in, all three half-siblings were finally spending quality time together. Edward loved it! He didn’t get to socialize much, and it showed. Unfortunately, not everyone was happy.

Lord Chancellor Wriothesley was a political ally of the Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner, whom we met earlier in a public house in Essex. Mister Gardiner’s career had come along nicely, thank you very much. Wriothesley and Gardiner hated Protestants every bit as much as Henry. They also suspected the Queen of being one. Which she was. Very, VERY secretly. Katherine was aware of the danger and conducted herself accordingly. Unfortunately, she began to feel a little bulletproof, being the Queen and all. What she didn’t realize was that being Queen made it even more imperative that she be careful. Especially since she didn’t know who her enemies were.

When the heretics were burned at Windsor, she didn’t bat an eyelash. She did nothing to intervene. She was aware that she was being watched for her reaction. She couldn’t fool Wriothesley. He wanted to bring her down the way he had brought down Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. One gets the impression that he did not approve of queens.

Poor Henry, every time he set out to find the perfect wife, somebody had to jam the spokes of the wheels of the wagon of wedded bliss with the triple monkey wrenches of adultery, heresy and more adultery. Wroithesley and Gardiner decided to bide their time. Henry wasn’t going to live forever, or even much longer. They fully expected to be appointed to Edward’s Regency Council. Then they would make their move.

In the meantime, all Katherine could do was try to keep to herself. That, and indulge one of her great passions, female education. To say Katherine Parr was ahead of her time on the issue would be putting it mildly. She was centuries ahead of her time. Not just for girls of Good Family, but the poor as well. Educate the poor?! Men of the court were horrified. Katherine used her position to champion these causes and more.

She took money from her household fund to provide scholarships for academically worthy boys from modest homes. And she practiced what she preached close to home. Under her guidance Mary, Elizabeth and Edward excelled at their studies. Granted, Elizabeth and Edward were prodigies, but Mary was not. She was very intelligent, but not on the level of her half-siblings. Adding to that the treatment she had received at the hands of her father, she had the self-esteem of a clam. Katherine made sure she did her best. Which turned out to be pretty damned good. Edward remembered those days as the happiest of his life. Elizabeth thought she’d died and gone to heaven.

Both Mary and Elizabeth produced translations of French philosophical texts that were good enough to publish. These works received a wide reading and were praised by academics across England. Edward’s grasp of foreign languages astounded his tutors. Not yet in his teens, he could, and did, argue points of theology and law with university professors. Katherine was the toast of the university community. And not just because she had money for them.

Mary and Katherine were very close in age. The two of them got on wonderfully, as long as they didn’t discuss religion. This must have been hard for both of them. Mary as a devote Roman Catholic and Katherine as a closet Lutheran. It couldn’t be any other way. With Henry’s reforms, they were both skating on thin ice. Katherine was about to find out how thin.


Thank you Mr. Al.  It’s amazing how Henry’s least little mood swing makes me cringe.  I’m so glad I’m not living in his times.


July 23, 2007

Tudor Follies: Courtship, Henry Style

Filed under: Henry VIII, History, History with Mr. Al, Research — aliceaudrey @ 11:42 pm

Welcome back to Mr. Al’s take on the many wives of Henry the XIII. When we left off the sweet, young, but not so innocent Katherine * had lost her head. Wouldn’t you know Henry would turn his attention to another Katherine. And now, without further ado, Mr. Al:
Yes, Katherine Parr was already married. But the hubby, Lord Latimer, was much older and sick with some long-term disease that would carry him off before too long. And a good thing too, because Henry was no spring chicken. He didn’t have time for lengthy courtships. Hell, he didn’t need no stink’n courtship at all! Wasn’t he king? The scullery maids never said “no”, why should Katherine? He began sending her little ‘tokens’ of his esteem. Katherine wanted to send them back, but she didn’t dare..
Her resolve was put to the test in March of 1543. Lord Latimer died, leaving Katherine a couple of manor houses, some cash and the usual knick-knacks. Family silver, ect. At 31, Katherine Parr was an independent woman of means. And an attractive one. With deep auburn hair, blue eyes and fashionably pale skin, more guys than Henry considered her a prize.

Being newly widowed and all, Henry decided to keep a low profile for the time being. One fellow wasn’t going to wait. Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen, was six years older than Katherine, handsome to a fault and as ambitious as his sister. In Katherine he saw looks, money and connections to the oldest families in the kingdom. Sir Thomas Seymore was…a scoundrel!

Katherine was flattered by all the attention from this dashing fellow. Respectable enough to be employed by Henry as an ambassador, but not TOO respectable. She found him very exciting. There is no indication that Sir Thomas and Henry knew about each other in the beginning. It’s not likely that Katherine would have mentioned the gifts from Henry. You just naturally forget to mention things like that when an exciting non-Henry type guy comes calling.

It wasn’t long before they were discussing marriage. They might as well have been discussing a trip to the Moon for all the reality of it. Henry had his eye on Katherine. And when he found out about Sir Thomas, he had his eye on him as well…But not for the same reason…obviously…Anyway… Henry moved swiftly to nip the Seymour/Parr romance in the bud. Sir Thomas was sent on an embassy to the Regent of the Netherlands. An important post and an indication of Henry’s regard for Sir Thomas’s diplomatic abilities. Alas, the posting would last until Henry told him to come home.

No doubt Henry gave him some lovely parting gifts. With Sir Thomas gone, Henry turned up the heat on Katherine. She was not happy, but Henry being king and all, she had to go along. In July of 1543, Henry concluded a treaty with Scotland for the future marriage of his son, Edward, to Mary, Queen of Scots. This arrangement was entirely to Henry’s advantage. It left him in such high spirits that, dang it, he couldn’t help himself, he asked Katherine to marry him.

Katherine was appalled. She did NOT want to marry Henry. She tried to beg off. Henry asked again.  He let her know that there was only one acceptable answer. She said yes. While Henry may not have been Katherine’s first choice for a husband, she quickly decided to make the best of it. She had no more love of sports or gambling than Anne of Cleves did, but at 52, neither did Henry. Henry was an old man by the standards of the day, and he felt it.

Not willing to give up the rich foods and wine that gave him so much pleasure, Henry had put on a great deal of weight. The weight gain seems to have brought on impotence. This apparently didn’t bother Henry either. Not at first, anyway. Katherine possessed an unusually keen intellect. One of her favorite subjects for debate was theology. Oh boy! Not only was it one of Henry’s favorite topics, but it endeared her to Archbishop Cranmer immediately. She was absolutely committed to church reform.

That same July, Cranmer issued a special license for the lovebugs to get married wherever and whenever they felt like it. Two days after receiving it, Henry and Katherine were married, are you ready for this? In a small, quiet ceremony at Hampton Court. Everything was going as well as Katherine could hope. The new Queen organized her new household. Relatives and friends were given cushy jobs. Henry was feeling better than he had in years! In fact, he felt that a special celebration was in order.


Oh boy. When Henry feels like celebrating I cringe.

Many of you have expressed concern that the Tudor Follies could not continue indefinitely, and indeed they can’t. There will be four more episodes, and then, alas, we will have to lay Henry and all his wives to rest. (I can hear Mr. Al’s voice in my head as I type this. Dear, there is such a thing as too much togetherness.)

There will be a short intermission for Mr. Al while he changes gears. He is boning up on his Georgian history, or at least that’s what the books scattered around the kitchen seem to be on. He is threatening to go backwards on me – starting with the Prince Regent from whom we get the term “The Regency Period” and working his way back in time to George the First. Sigh. If you must, dear. If you must.

July 17, 2007

Tudor Follies: Teaching the Howards a Lesson

Filed under: Henry VIII, History with Mr. Al, Research — aliceaudrey @ 11:13 pm

My sincere apologies for the delay in posting Tudor Tuesday this week.  It’s been a rough few days around here.  But my computer is back out of the shop and here’s Mr. Al’s history lesson for the week.


Because so little of what Katherine was doing was of her own choice, the hand of the Duke was much more in evidence. Cranmer saw it plain as day. Yessiree, he saw through the Duke’s plans and he was going to teach the Duke a lesson. A Bill of Attainder against Katherine was submitted to Parliament in January 1542. With Henry’s help, it was rammed through both houses so that Katherine could be judicially murdered ASAP. That would show that o’l Duke! Henry went to the Commons to thank those gentlemen for being so concerned for his happiness. I swear to God I’m not making this up. Henry went to the Commons to thank them for giving him the green light to murder his illiterate teenage wife.

Katherine seemed resigned to her fate. She blamed herself for everything and repeatedly stated that she deserved to die. That is, until members of the Privy Council, including her uncle, arrived at Syon Abbey, where she had been confined, to take her to the Tower. It was then that she fully realized that Henry really would kill her. She lost it. She had to be restrained and hauled to the waiting barge.

The barge was closed so she wouldn’t be gawked at by the crowds. This was just as well because she could hardly have missed the heads of Dereham and Culpeper on London Bridge as they passed under it. She was in a semi-hysterical state until the night before her execution. At that point she calmed down enough to request the chopping block be brought to her room. So she could practice setting her head into it. She wanted to make a good impression on the crowd.

On Monday morning, February 13, 1542, Katherine Howard went to the block. After a short speech in which she said that she deserved to die because of all the sinful, slutty things she had done in her life, the executioner removed her head with one chop of his ax. She was seventeen. Lady Rochford followed immediately after.  Because she remained utterly panic stricken, Henry had to pass a special law allowing for the execution of crazy people.

It took Henry two whole weeks to get over Katherine. To make sure there would be no more Katherine’s, a law was passed making it a capital offense not to tell the king of any naughty behavior on the part of a potential wife that involved persons might be aware of. During this time the good Duke of Norfolk remembered he had business on some land far, far from London. He was ordered to return. He begged off on the grounds that he had a tummy-ache. Oh well, at least there were some Howards near London that were not so fleet of foot.

Every Howard Cranmer could get his hands on went to the Tower. Including some that were out of the country during the whole affair. The Governor of Calais was just such a fellow. He had never even met Katherine. Cranmer ordered him to return to London. Once there, he was stripped of his titles, money, property and arrested. Even the Duchess went into the Tower. Eventually, they were all released, but not before all of their property had been confiscated.

And the Duke? He kept his title, his properties, his money, everything. He was even allowed to return to court. Henry never did trust him again, but hey, it was just business. Yes, and a sad business at that. What Henry needed to buck up his flagging spirits was another wife! Maybe, God willing, one who could keep her mouth shut and her legs together. Except, of course, when royal duty called.

The Council brought the matter up from time to time. Henry agreed with the logic of it. It was good for the Tudor line after all. But poor Henry was feeling decidedly ill-used by the institution of Holy Matrimony. Still, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. The wife hunt began again. The Council faced the same problem it had before. A very acute shortage of princesses willing to marry Henry.

Fortunately for them, Henry himself had found the girl of his dreams! She wasn’t as young as the others had been, but she wasn’t that old either. She was good looking, apparently acceptable in the hooter department and astoundingly intelligent. Her background was without blemish. Not a whiff of untoward behavior and…She was a stylish dresser, an accomplished dancer of some note and…A firm supporter of Henry’s church reforms! Too bad she was already married. She was also horrified to discover that Henry had his eye on her. Her name was Katherine Parr.


Thank you Mr. Al.  We even managed to post this on a Tuesday.  Just the wrong end of Tuesday. 


July 9, 2007

Tudor Folley’s: Feeding Katherine Howard To The Wolves

Filed under: Henry VIII, History with Mr. Al, Research — aliceaudrey @ 11:06 pm

 Welcome back to Mr. Al’s take on the life and times of Henry the VIII’s wives, what little they tended to have at any rate.  We left off with a young bride accused.  And now, in the immortal words of Mr. Al:

Henry had brought to Parliament, in it’s role as Supreme Court, the matter of Katherine’s “abominable behavior.” This was extremely bad news for Katherine. Henry was not going to be satisfied with an annulment. He wanted a divorce. Or worse. It did not take long to seal Katherine’s fate. Lady Rochford, her trusted lady in waiting, provided the evidence. Before Katherine moved to the country Cranmer had Rochford taken to the tower. Just a formality, a few routine questions. But don’t wait up for her, your Majesty.

Rochford collapsed like a house of cards. She told Cranmer about Dereham and Culpeper. Names, dates, everything she thought Cranmer wanted to hear. Katherine was a slut, a whore, no better than a dog in heat. Dear Lady Rochford was making stories up in a bid to save herself.                                         After unburdening her conscience, she was asked if she would swear that everything she had just told them was true.

She did.

Did she understand that the sex acts constituted treason on the part of the men?

She did.

Was she aware that the punishment for High Treason was horrible in the extreme?

She was.

And that, according to her own statements, Katherine had tried to hide her immoral activities by meeting her lovers in her Ladyship’s room? With no one present but the lovers and her Ladyship?

Um…yes, that’s what she said.

And that these meetings were arranged, well in advance, by her ladyship for the purpose of facilitating the immoral behavior of the Queen. And the treasonous behavior of the men involved?

Her ladyship felt the questioner was rather overstating the case, but she sorta said something that kinda sounded like that.

And did her ladyship realize that anyone facilitating an act of High Treason was a co-conspirator if that person was aware the act was treasonous but did not report it?

Lady Rochford was ordered back to the Tower, her sentencing a mere formality. She was dead meat on a stick. Figuratively and literally.

Just to make sure all was neat and tidy, Cranmer had Culpeper and Dereham sign their confessions while they were still capable of doing so. The Council condemned them to a traitor’s death. Culpeper went first. Members of the court asked Henry to commute Culpeper’s sentence to simple decapitation. No point in setting a precedent for people of Good Family to die horribly. It was bad enough that the Lesser Sorts were being allowed to watch the spectacle.

Dereham, on the other hand, was just the sort of fellow who needed to be made an example of. He got the full program. The London crowd was thrilled. Both heads were set on London Bridge. Considering all the fuss that so many people had gone to reach this point, it’s worth taking a moment to consider Katherine’s position.

She didn’t have one. She was a Queen who exercised very little power. She married a man she didn’t understand. A man who may or may not have loved her, but most certainly now wanted her dead. As a person, she held no importance at all. She was just a girl who was now in the way of the grown-ups plans. Men wanted her dead not because they hated her, it was just business. Men used her sexually because she was attractive and they could get away with it. They used her politically because it was to their profit and advantage to do so. And also because she was too ignorant to realize what they were up to. Of all the adults who exploited Katherine Howard, none was guiltier than the Duke of Norfolk.

As with Anne Boleyn, The Duke maneuvered Katherine into a position within the Queen’s household that would get her noticed by Henry. Unlike Anne, who already had extensive experience in court behavior, not to mention the ambition to become queen, Katherine needed a great deal of prepping. The Duke was happy to do it. As with Anne, when it was time to feed her to the wolves, he couldn’t push her into the pit fast enough. This time, however, there was a difference.


Tune in next week to find out what the difference was.  Thank you Mr. Al.


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