On this day in history, 11th March 1609, Tudor poet and lawyer William Warner was buried at the Church of St John the Baptist at Great Amwell in Hertfordshire.
Not many people today have heard of William Warner, but he was a well-respected and well-known poet in the Tudor era and even described as “our English Homer”. He is known for his huge poem, “Albion’s England, or, Historicall Map of the same Island”.
On this day in Tudor history, 9th March 1589, Lady Frances Radcliffe, Countess of Sussex, and wife of Sir Thomas Radcliffe, Lord Fitzwalter and 3rd Earl of Sussex, died at her home in Bermondsey.
Frances is known for being the benefactor of Cambridge University’s Sidney Sussex College, but there is much more to her than that. Her enemies even turned her husband and Queen Elizabeth I against her at one point!
Find out all about Frances Radcliffe (née Sidney) in today’s talk.
This day in Tudor history, 7th March 1556, was one of the days on which the Great Comet, or the Comet of Charles V, was seen and recorded by Paul Fabricius, mathematician and physician at the court of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.
Find out all about the Great Comet of 1556, what it looked like and how Emperor Charles V saw it as an ominous portent in today’s talk.
On this day in Tudor history, 8th March 1516, Sir John Wiltshire wrote to King Henry VIII from the English territory of Calais warning him that a couple of gifts were on their way to the king from the Duke of Ferrara. The gifts were a courser (a horse) and a "lebard" (a leopard or lion).
Exotic animal gifts were all the rage in the medieval and Tudor period and were the reason why there was a royal menagerie at the Tower of London.
Find out more about some of these animal gifts in today's talk.
In my Questions about Anne Boleyn series, I’ve done a video on Did Anne Boleyn have any pets. Here it is:
Also on this day in Tudor history, 8th March 1539, former royal favourite Sir Nicholas Carew was beheaded for treason at Tower Hill. Find out more about why he fell from grace in last year’s video:
Also on this day in history:
1495 – Birth of John of God (João Cidade) in Montemor-o-Novo, Portugal. He was one of Spain's leading religious figures and the order he created, the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God, still has bases around the world today.
1542 – Burial of Geoffrey Blythe, clergyman, Treasurer of Lichfield, former Warden of King's Hall, Cambridge and former Archdeacon of Stafford. Blythe was one of the divines recorded by martyrologist John Foxe as preaching against Hugh Latimer at Cambridge. Blythe was buried at All Saints' Church in Cambridge.
1569 – Death of Richard Tracy, evangelical reformer and cousin of Protestant martyr James Bainham, at his manor in Stanway, Gloucestershire. Tracy's works included “Profe and Declaration of thys Proposition: Fayth only iustifieth”, which was dedicated to Henry VIII, “‘A Supplycation to our most Soueraigne Lorde, Kynge Henry the Eyght” and “A Bryef and short Declaracyon made wherebye euery Chrysten Man may knowe what is a Sacrament”. In Elizabeth I's reign, he served as a Commissioner of the Peace and Sheriff in Gloucestershire.
On this day in Tudor history, 8th March 1516, Sir John Wiltshire wrote to King Henry VIII from the English territory of Calais.
Now, it’s not an important letter, it’s just one I came across during my research and that I found interesting. In the letter, Wiltshire is giving the king advance warning of some gifts that are on their way to England and it’s the gifts that interest me. Wiltshire writes:
“A gentleman of the Duke of Ferrara is coming with presents to Henry, a dark grey courser of Naples, and a ‘lebard,’ a marvellous dangerous beast to keep. "The keeper saith a will kill a buck or doe or roe and an hare, which is a marvellous thing if it be so.”
I assume that the lebard is actually a leopard. A courser was a type of horse that was fast and strong, and had good endurance. They were often used by knights in battle.
Although the letter appears in the archives for Henry VIII’s reign 1516. This gift is mentioned in the Venetian Archives for the year 1515. There are two mentions:
“announced the arrival in London on the 18th March of an ambassador from the Marquis of Ferrara, by name Hironimo de Strozi; and in the said Duke's name he presented the King with a horse, said to be very handsome, and a live leopard. According to report, the King was much pleased with this present.”
Then, the second mention:
“Exhibited letters from his Duke Don Alfonso, announcing the return of the envoy sent by him to England with a horse and a live [leopard]. The envoy was much favoured by the King, who reciprocated the presents.”
King Henry VIII seemed to like his horse and leopard!
Antonio Frizzi, in his History of Ferrara, gave more details on these gifts, describing the horse as having gold trappings and stating that as well as the horse and the leopard, the duke sent three trained falcons.
Why send a leopard? You might ask. Well, animals gifts, particularly exotic ones, were all the rage, and the duke obviously wanted to impress. The Tower of London’s website states that there was a royal menagerie at the Tower to house these animals gifts from the 1200s to 1835. It was started when Henry III was sent what was described as three leopards, but which might actually have been lions, in 1235 by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor. In 1252, the King of Norway sent a polar bear and in 1255 the King of France sent an elephant. Lions at the Tower gave their name to the Lion Tower, which is no longer standing. By the way, the polar bear was able to fish and swim in the River Thames, with a chain securing it, of course.
Fast-forward to the Tudors, and as well as marmosets and monkeys being kept as pets by wealthy Tudors, including Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII and Edward VI, visitors to the menagerie at the Tower in the 1540s recorded seeing lions, leopards, an eagle and a lynx, all belonging to the royal family. In 1592, a visitor saw six lions and lionesses, and “a lean, ugly wolf” kept by the queen. In 1598, there were three lionesses, a lion, a tiger, a lynx, a wolf, a porcupine and an eagle. Henry VII gave his wife, Elizabeth of York, a lion as a gift. I wonder what she thought of it.
In 1826, 150 of the menagerie’s animals were rehomed at Regent’s Park, founding London Zoo, and the rest were rehomed when the menagerie closed in 1835.
On this day in Tudor history, 6th March 1536, King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries began when the “Act for the Suppression (or Dissolution) of the Lesser Monasteries” was introduced into the Reformation Parliament.
The Dissolution of the Monasteries had a major impact on England and her people, but was of great benefit to the king, his nobles and the gentry. Find out what happened, why and its impact in this talk.
On this day in history, 4th March 1609, Tudor spelling reformer and grammarian William Bullokar died at Chichester in West Sussex.
William Bullokar is known for writing the first grammar book of English, the “Pamphlet for Grammar”, and for his work reforming the alphabet to improve literacy. Find out more about him and what he did in today’s talk.
John Donne was born in 1572. His exact birth date is not known but is estimated to be between 24th January and 19th of June. He is remembered for his emotive poetry, religious writings and his skill as an orator.
John Donne was born a Roman Catholic and was a direct descendent of Sir Thomas More’s sister. His mother was the niece of Thomas More and the youngest daughter of John Heywood, a playwright. His father was a prosperous merchant with Welsh ancestry who died when Donne was four years old. His mother remarried Dr John Syminges, who became stepfather to Donne and his siblings. Donne was an exceptionally well educated young man, attending Oxford University at the age of eleven in 1583, where he resided and studied for three years. He later attended Cambridge University where he continued further study. However, due to his Catholicism, he could not obtain a degree, as the religion was illegal under Elizabeth I. Donne also refused to swear the oath of allegiance to Elizabeth, which was also needed to graduate. Following his time at Cambridge, Donne was accepted into the Thavie’s Inn Legal School where he began the study of law. During this time, his brother Henry was arrested for harbouring a Catholic priest, and he died of the Bubonic Plague while in prison. It is thought that this event resulted in Donne questioning his faith.
On this day in Tudor history, 3rd March 1542, Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle, courtier, soldier, diplomat, administrator and illegitimate son of Edward IV, died of a heart attack after being informed of his release from the Tower of London. How very sad!
Find out all about Lord Lisle’s background, his career in Henry VII and Henry VIII’s reign, and how he came to imprisoned in the Tower of London, when he was probably innocent, in today’s talk.
On this day in Tudor history, 2nd March 1545, scholar, diplomat and founder of the Bodleian Library, Sir Thomas Bodley, was born in Exeter.
Sir Thomas Bodley served as a diplomat in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, but he is most known for his re-founding of Oxford University Library and the Bodleian Library, and all the work he did on it. Find out all about him and his library in today’s talk.
Between 1539 and his death in 1547, Henry VIII had over 30 coastal castles and blockhouses, known as device forts, built to protect England’s southern and eastern coasts from invasion from France and the Empire. 24 of them hiding in this wordsearch – can you find them? Be warned, the words can go in any direction.
Simply click on the link or the image below to open the wordsearch and print out.
This month we have a wonderful expert talk from historian Tracy Borman. Tracy is the curator of Hampton Court Palace and a well-known author of Tudor history books. In this talk, she takes us through the life of Henry VIII and the men who surrounded him at each stage of his life. It’s a fascinating perspective on such a key member of the Tudor Dynasty.