The Tudor Society
  • December 31 – Bishop Owen Oglethorpe

    On this day in Tudor history, 31st December 1559, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Bishop Owen Oglethorpe died while under house arrest in London. The Bishop of Carlisle was buried at St Dunstan-in-the-West on 6th January 1560.

    Oglethorpe officiated at Elizabeth I’s coronation in 1559 but had angered the queen at Christmas 1558 by disobeying her instructions at Mass.

    What did Oglethorpe do and why did he end his days under house arrest?

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  • December 30 – Royal tutor and scholar Roger Ascham

    On this day in Tudor history, 30th December 1568, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Roger Ascham died. He was laid to rest in the St Stephen’s chapel of St Sepulchre without Newgate, London.

    Ascham was a scholar and royal tutor. He taught Elizabeth I in her youth, and he was responsible for the idea that Lady Jane Grey’s parents treated her harshly.

    Find out more about Roger Ascham, his life and career…

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  • December 29 – Navigator and explorer John Davis

    Engraving of John Davis with his Davis Quadrant and a map showing his northern voyages.

    On this day in history, 29th (or 30th) December 1605, in the reign of King James I, 55-year-old John Davis died near Bintang, off the coast of Borneo, after being attacked by Japanese pirates.

    Davis (also spelt Davys) was an Elizabethan navigator and explorer. He is known for his voyages, for being the first Englishman to document a sighting of the Falkland Islands, for his 1594 “The Seaman’s Secrets” and 1595 “The World’s Hydrographical Description”, and for his invention, the Davis Quadrant, or the backstaff.

    Find out more about him, his final voyage and death…

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  • December 28 – Sir Nicholas Bacon

    On this day in Tudor history, 28th December 1510, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Sir Nicholas Bacon, was born.

    Bacon was a lawyer, administrator and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, and also the father of the famous philosopher, statesman, scientist and author, Sir Francis Bacon

    Bacon was also very concerned with the education of the young, and did much to support it.

    Find out all about Sir Nicholas Bacon, his life and career, and how he was banished from court at one point…

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  • December 27 – The death of Katherine Killigrew (née Cooke)

    On this day in Tudor history, 27th December 1583, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Katherine Killigrew died after giving birth to a stillborn child.

    scholar and Puritan Katherine Killigrew was the daughter of renowned humanist and scholar Sir Anthony Cooke.

    Katherine was a very accomplished woman, being known for her ability at writing poetry and her knowledge of languages, including Hebrew, Latin and Greek.

    Find out more about Katherine, and hear the epitaphs that were written in her honour…

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  • December 26 – Rose Lok

    On this day in Tudor history, 26th December 1526, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Rose Lok was born.

    Rose was a fascinating lady. She was the daughter of mercer William Lok, who not only supplied the royal family with fabric but who also supplied Anne Boleyn with religious books. Rose was also a Protestant exile and a businesswoman in her own right. She even had a ship named after her! She lived into her 80s.

    Find out all about Rose Lok…

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  • December 25 – Brian Darcy, magistrate and witch-hunter

    A woodcut of a witch feeding her familiars

    On this day in Tudor history, 25th December 1587, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Brian Darcy died.

    Darcy was a magistrate, Sheriff of Essex, witch-hunter and contributor to the 1582 “A true and just recorde of the information, examination and confession of all the witches, taken at S Oses [St Osyth]”.

    “A True and Just Recorde” argued for harsher punishments for those found guilty of witchcraft, and Darcy was personally responsible for a number of deaths of people accused of witchcraft.

    Find out more about Brian Darcy…

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  • December 24 – Sir Thomas Cornwallis, Mary I’s Comptroller of the Household

    On this day in history, 24th December 1604, in the reign of King James I, Sir Thomas Cornwallis died at about the age of eighty-six.

    Cornwallis had been active putting down rebellion in 1549 and during the succession crisis of July 1553 swapped sides at just the right time, recanting his proclamation for Jane as queen and proclaiming for Mary instead. Mary rewarded him by making him her Comptroller of the household of Mary I. He also served as a member of Parliament.

    In Elizabeth I’s reign, his friendship with a man close to the queen may have helped him escape trouble.

    Find out more about Sir Thomas Cornwallis…

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  • December 23 – Elizabeth I moves from Somerset House to Whitehall Palace

    The Old Palace of Whitehall by Hendrick Danckerts, and a miniature of Elizabeth I at her coronation.

    On this day in Tudor history, 23rd December 1558, Elizabeth I moved from Somerset House to Whitehall Palace, which became her principal residence.

    Elizabeth had become queen on 17th November 1558. She was the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, who had married at Whitehall in January 1533.

    Find out more about Whitehall Palace, and also Somerset Place, the property Elizabeth left…

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  • December 22 – The burnings of Protestant Martyrs John Rough and Margaret Mearing

    On this day in Tudor history, 22nd December 1557, in the reign of Queen Mary I, Protestants John Rough and Margaret Mearing were burnt at the stake at Smithfield for heresy.

    Scot John Rough had excommunicated Margaret Mearing from his congregation, believing her to be a spy. She wasn’t, and she ended up being arrested after she tried to confront the real spy.

    Find out about John Rough’s life, his link to John Knox, what brought him to England, how he came to be arrested, and what happened with Margaret Mearing…

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  • December 21 – Doubting Thomas, pie-making and India

    The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio

    21st December is the Feast of St Thomas the Apostle, or Didymus. Thomas is known as Doubting Thomas as he was the apostle who wouldn’t believe Christ had been resurrected until Christ appeared in front of him and he’d felt the nail wounds and the wound in Christ’s side.

    Thomas was known for his generosity, and the Tudors would commemorate his feast day by going “a-Thomasing”, which was collecting alms.

    There are also other traditions associated with the feast day, such as pie-making.

    You can find out more about Thomas, the traditions associated with him, and his links to India in my talk…

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  • December 20 – Edward Arden and an alleged plot to kill the queen

    On this day in Tudor history, 20th December 1583, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Edward Arden was hanged, drawn and quartered at Smithfield.

    Arden was executed the day after his son-in-law, John Somerville, had been found dead in his cell at Newgate Prison.

    Arden, a Warwickshire gentleman who was related to William Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden, and married to a member of the Throckmorton family, had been found guilty of treason, after being implicated in Somerville’s plot to kill Queen Elizabeth I.

    But was Edward Arden actually guilty? And why weren’t the others involved in this alleged plot executed?

    Find out more about Edward Arden and what happened in 1583…

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  • December 19 – Conspirator John Somerville found dead

    Old Newgate Prison

    On this day in Tudor history, 19th December 1583, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, John Somerville was found dead in his cell at Newgate Prison.

    The twenty-three-year-old Somerville had been found guilty of conspiring to assassinate the queen. His death was said to be suicide, due to his poor mental health, but some Catholics believed that he had been killed.

    Did Somerville really intend to kill the queen? Was he mentally ill? Was he manipulated by others?

    Find out more about John Somerville…

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  • Sunday fun – Christmas Traditions Quiz

    It’s time for some Sunday fun and as it’s the last Sunday before Christmas, I thought I’d share a Christmas quiz from our archives.

    The quiz tests your knowledge of Christmas through the ages and the traditions associated with it.

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  • December 18 – The burning of John Philpott

    On this day in Tudor history, 18th December 1555, in the reign of Queen Mary I, John Philpott (also spelled Philpot) was executed.

    The former Archdeacon of Winchester was burnt at the stake for heresy at Smithfield and died courageously.

    Philpott had done a lot in his 40 years, including studying in Italy, upsetting Bishop Gardiner, and supporting fellow Protestants from his prison cell.

    Let me tell you more about him…

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  • December 17 – The excommunication of Henry VIII

    On this day in Tudor history, 17th December 1538, King Henry VIII was excommunicated from the Catholic Church by Pope Paul III.

    The papacy had threatened the English king with excommunication several times during the Great Matter, but the final straw was Henry VIII’s desecration of one of the holiest shrines in Europe.

    How did Henry VIII go from being “Defender of the Faith” to being excommunicated? Find out…

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  • From the Archives – Christmas Carols

    As Christmas is nearly upon us, I thought I’d share this talk on the history of Christmas carols with you today…

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  • December 16 – George Grey, 2nd Earl of Kent

    On this day in Tudor history, 16th (or possibly the 18th) December 1503, George Grey, 2nd Earl of Kent, died at Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

    The earl served in Henry VII’s reign as a soldier, a member of the king’s council, the Constable of Northampton Castle, and as a judge at the trial of Edward, Earl of Warwick in 1499.

    His first wife was Anne Woodville, sister of Queen Elizabeth Woodville.

    Grey managed to retain royal favour on Henry VII’s accession even though he’d been rewarded by Richard III.

    Find out more about George Grey…

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  • December 15 – The death of Thomas Parry, loyal servant to Elizabeth I

    Sketch of Thomas Parry by Hans Holbein the Younger

    On this day in Tudor history, 15th December 1560, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Thomas Parry died.

    Parry served Elizabeth I as Comptroller of the Household and Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire.

    The Spanish ambassador claimed that Parry died of “sheer grief”. He was buried at Westminster Abbey.

    Parry had served Elizabeth for over 13 years and had been a loyal servant and friend to her. So why did he die of grief?

    Find out more about Thomas Parry, his background, life, and why he was so upset in 1560…

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  • December 14 – The burial of Queen Mary I

    Photo of Westminster Abbey and a portrait of Mary I

    On this day in Tudor history, 14th December 1558, in the reign of her half-sister, Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Mary I was buried at Westminster Abbey.

    Mary had died just under a month earlier, on 17th November 1558. She’d left instructions for her burial, requesting that Catherine of Aragon’s remains be exhumed and brought from Peterborough to London so that mother and daughter could rest in peace together.

    Did this happen?

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  • December 13 – Sir Francis Drake sets off on his circumnavigation

    A miniature of Sir Francis Drake by Nicholas Hilliard.

    On this day in Tudor history, 13th December 1577, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Drake set off from Plymouth on his circumnavigation of the Globe.

    Today, I share a letter written by the pirate, sea captain, and explorer to Sir Francis Walsingham. You can find out more about his voyages, and his life and career, at the links below.

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  • December 12 – Soldier, author and friend of the Earl of Essex, Sir Roger Williams

    Portrait of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, and the cover image of a work by Sir Roger William called "Actions in the Low Countries".

    On this day in Tudor history, 12th December 1595, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Roger Williams died from a fever with his patron, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, at his side. The Protestant Welsh soldier and author was buried at St Paul’s Cathedral.

    As a soldier, Williams served in the Low Countries and France and in 1588 was second in command of the cavalry under the Earl of Essex at Tilbury Fort. William was also an author and wrote the 1590 “A Briefe Discourse of Warre”.

    At one point, Williams had to go into hiding because he incurred Queen Elizabeth I’s wrath.

    Find out all about Sir Roger Williams’ life, career and works…

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  • Sunday fun – Tudor Christmas Crossword Puzzle

    It’s Sunday, the traditional day of rest, so let’s have some Tudor history fun with a crossword puzzle testing your knowledge of how the Tudors celebrated Christmas.

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  • December 11 – Lady Douglas Sheffield, lover of Robert Dudley and mother of his son

    Portrait of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, English School, and engraving of Sir Robert Dudley, after Hilliard.

    On this day in history, 11th December 1608, Lady Douglas Sheffield was buried at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster.

    Douglas Sheffield (née Howard)had served as one of Queen Elizabeth I’s ladies and she’d been Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester’s lover at one point, even having a son by him. Lady Sheffield also claimed to be Leicester’s legal wife.

    Find out more about Lady Douglas Sheffield…

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  • December 10 – A tortured priest is executed

    The Little Ease at the Tower of London and an engraving of St Edmund Jennings, the Catholic martyr.

    On this day in Tudor history, 10th December 1591, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Edmund Gennings and Swithin Wells were executed on a scaffold set up outside Wells’ house at Holborn.

    Gennings, a Roman Catholic priest, had been celebrating mass at Wells’ home when the famous Elizabethan priestfinder and torturer, Richard Topcliffe, found them. Topcliffe had Gennings thrown into the Little Ease.

    Find out more about St Edmund Gennings and St Swithin Wells, and their sad ends…

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  • December 9 – Catherine Howard’s step-grandmother is questioned

    On this day in Tudor history, 9th December 1541, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Catherine Howard’s stepgrandmother, Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk was questioned.

    The sixty-four-year-old dowager duchess had been detained at the Lord Chancellor’s home and on 9th December, she was questioned regarding the location of her money and jewels.

    Find out about why she was detained and questioned, why she ended up in the Tower, and what happened when the dowager duchess was indicted for misprision of treason…

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  • December 8 – Mary, Queen of Scots is born

    On this day in Tudor history, 8th December 1542, Marie de Guise, second wife of King James V of Scotland, gave birth to a healthy baby girl at Linlithgow Palace in Scotland. The little girl was baptised Mary and when she was just six days old, she became Queen of Scotland and is known as Mary Stuart (Stewart) or Mary, Queen of Scots.

    Find out about the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, including her three marriages, abdication, imprisonment and downfall…

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  • December 7 – The execution or rebel Robert Kett

    On this day in Tudor history, 7th December 1549, in the reign of King Edward VI, Robert Kett, the former leader of Kett’s Rebellion, was executed.

    The rebel leader was hanged from the walls of Norwich Castle after being found guilty of treason. His brother William was hanged the same day, but from the steeple of Wymondham Church.

    You can find out all about Robert Kett and his rebellion in this video:

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  • December 6 – Sir Hugh Paulet

    Portraits of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I

    On this day in Tudor history, 6th December 1573, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Hugh Paulet died at his home in Hinton St George in Somerset.

    Paulet distinguished himself as a soldier in Henry VIII’s reign, and in Edward VI’s reign he served as Governor of Jersey. Although he was a Protestant, he served as Vice-President of the Welsh Marches in Mary I’s reign, and went on to have a successful career in Elizabeth I’s reign.

    Paulet was an important man and a royal servant, but still managed to die a natural death at his home.

    Find out more about Sir Hugh Paulet…

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  • December 5 – The birth of Anne de Vere (née Cecil), Countess of Oxford and daughter of William Cecil, Baron Burghley

    Tomb effigies of Anne de Vere and her mother Mildred Cecil with portrait of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, Anne's husband, and her ex-fiancé, Sir Philip Sidney.

    On this day in Tudor history, 5th December 1556, in the reign of Queen Mary I, Anne de Vere (née Cecil) was born.

    Anne was the daughter of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, and his second wife, Mildred Cooke.

    Anne had a relatively short life, dying at just 31 years of age, but she was respected and liked by scholars, had five children, and had a sadly unhappy marriage with Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford.

    Oxford did not treat his wife well and even refused to recognise their first daughter as his own, at one point. If only she had married poet Philip Sidney instead!

    Find out more about the life of Anne de Vere, Countess of Oxford…

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