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The Tudor Society

Dr Thomas Wendy – King’s physician

On this day in history, 11th May 1560, Dr Thomas Wendy, physician to Henry VIII and Queen Catherine Parr, died at Haslingfield in Cambridgeshire. He was sixty-one years old at his death.

Henry Machyn records in his diary that Dr Wendy was buried on 27th May at Cambridge:

"The xxvij day of May was the obseque and fen[eral] of master docthur Wende, fessyssyon [physician] at Cambryge, a penon of armes and a cott armur, and vj dosen and d' [half] of skochyons of armes, and a harold of armes master Somersett, and . . morners in blake, and he gayff mony gownes to pore men, and ther was a grett dolle, and thether resortyd xx m[iles] off vC. pepull and had grett plente of mett and drynke, boyth hosses [houses] and barnes and feldes, grett store as has bene [seen] for a men [mean] gentyllman, and gret mone mad [moan made]."

According to martyrologist John Foxe, Wendy helped to save Queen Catherine Parr from a plot against her. In 1546, the conservative faction which included the likes of Stephen Gardiner and Thomas Wriothesley decided to make a move against Catherine Parr, who had been married to the king for three years. These men used the queen's reformist beliefs against her and managed to persuade the irritable Henry VIII, who was tiring of his wife's debates with him on religion, to sign a bill of articles against the Queen. However, while Catherine's enemies planned on questioning the queen’s ladies and searching the queen's belongings for heretical books, the king spoke of the matter to his physician, Dr Wendy, and the signed bill of articles was 'accidentally' dropped and found by "some godly person and brought immediately to the queen".

Knowing what had happened to Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, Catherine understandably became hysterical and Dr Wendy was sent to attend her, the very man who the king had spoken to. The physician advised Catherine to "shew her humble submission to the king" who would be "gracious and favourable to her".

Here is the full story from John Foxe's Acts and Monuments:

"For as the Lorde would, so came it to passe, that the bill of Articles drawen againste the Queene, and subscribed with the kings own hand (although dissemblingly ye must understand) falling from the bosome of one of the foresayd Councellours, was founde and taken vp of some godly person, and brought immediately vnto the Queene. Who reading there the Articles comprised against her, and perceiuing the kings owne hand vnto the same, for the sodain feare thereof, fell incontinent into a great melancholy and agonie, bewailing and taking on in suche sorte, as was lamentable to see: as certaine of her Ladies and Gentlewomen beyng yet aliue, whiche were then present about her, can testifie.

The king hearing what perplexitie she was in, almost to the pearil and danger of her life, sent his Phisitions vnto her. Who traueling about her, and seing what extremity shee was in, did what they coulde for her recouerie. Then Wendy, who knew the case better then the other, and perceiuing by her words what þe matter was, according to that the king before had told him: for the comforting of her heauy minde, began to breake with her in secrete maner, touching the said articles deuised against her, which he himself (he sayde) knewe right well to be true: although he stode in danger of his life, if euer he were knowen to vtter the same to any liuing creature. Neuertheles, partly for the safety of her life, and partly for the discharge of his owne conscience, hauing remorse to consent to þe sheding of innocent bloud, he could not but geue her warning of that mischief that hāged ouer her head, beseching her most instantly to vse al secrecie in that behalfe, and exhorted her somewhat to frame and conforme her selfe vnto the kings minde, saying he did not doubt, but if she wold so do, and shew her humble submission vnto him, shee shoulde finde him gracious and fauourable vnto her.

It was not long after this, but the king hearing of the daungerous state wherin she yet stil remained: came vnto her hymselfe. Vnto whome, after that shee had vttered her griefe, fearing lest his maiestie (she sayd) had taken displeasure with her, and had vtterly forsaken her: he like a louing husband wyth swete and comfortable wordes so refreshed & appeased her careful mind, that she vpon the same began somewhat to recouer, and so the king after he hadde taryed there about the space of an houre, departed.

After this the Queene remembring with her selfe the wordes that M. Wendy had said vnto her, deuised how by some good oportunitie she myght repaire to the kings presence. And so first commanding her ladies to conuey away theyr bookes, which were against the lawe, the next nyght following after supper, shee (waited vpon only by he lady Harbert her sister and the Lady Lane, who caried the candle before her) went vnto the kings bed chamber, whome she found sitting and talking with certaine Gentlemen of his chamber. Whom when the king did beholde, very curteously he welcomed her, and breaking of the talke, whych before her comming he had wyth the Gentlemen aforsaid, began of himself, contrary to his maner before accustomed to enter into talke of religion, seming as it were, desirous to be resolued by the Queene of certaine doubtes which he propounded.

The Queene perceiuinge to what purpose thys talke did tend, not being vnprouided in what sort to behaue her selfe towards the king, with such aunsweres resolued hys questions as the time and oportunitie present did require, mildly, and with a reuerent countenaunce aunswering againe after thys maner.

Your Maiestie (quoth she) doth right well know, neither I my selfe am ignoraunt, what great imperfection and weakenesse by our first creation, is allotted vnto vs women, to be ordained and appoynted as inferiour and subiect vnto man as our heade, from which head all our direction ought to proceede, and that, as God made man to his owne shape and likenesse, whereby he being indued with more speciall giftes of perfection, might rather be stirred to the contemplation of heauenly things, and to the earnest endeuour to obey his commaundements: euen so also made hee woman of man, of whome and by whome shee is to be gouerned, commanded and directed. Whose womanly weakenesse & naturall imperfection, ought to be tollerated, aided and borne wythal, so that by his wisedome such things as be lacking in her, onght to be supplied.

Sithens therefore that God hath appoynted suche a naturall difference betwene man and woman, and your Maiestie beyng so excellent in giftes and ornaments of wisedom, and I a seely pore woman so much inferiour in all respects of nature vnto you: how then commeth it nowe to passe that your Maiestie in such diffuse causes of religion, will seeme to require my iudgement? Whyche when I haue vttered and sayd what I can, yet must I, and will I referre my iudgement in this and all other cases to your Maiesties wisedome, as my onely anker, supreme heade and gouerner heere in earth next vnder God, to leane vnto.

Not so by Saint Marye, quoth the King. You are become a Doctor, Kate, to instruct vs (as we take it) and not to be instructed, or directed by vs.

If your Maiestie take it so (quoth the Queene) then hath your Maiestie very much mistaken me, who haue euer bene of the opinion, to thinke it very vnseemely & preposterous for the woman to take vpon her the office of an instructer or teacher to her Lord and husband, but rather to learne of her husband, & to be taught by him. And where I haue with your Maiesties leaue heeretofore bene bolde to holde talke with your Maiestie, wherein sometimes in opinions there hath seemed some difference, I haue not done it so much to maintaine opinion, as I did it rather to minister talke, not onely to the ende that your Maiestie mighte with lesse griefe passe ouer this painefull time of your infirmitie, beinge intentiue to oure talke, and hoping that your Maiestie shoulde reape some ease thereby: but also that I hearing your Maiesties learned discourse, might receiue to my selfe some profite thereof. Wherein I assure your Maiestie I haue not missed anye parte of my desire in that behalfe, alwayes referring my selfe in all suche matters vnto your Maiestie, as by ordinaunce of nature it is conuenient for me to doe.

And is it euen so sweete hart, quoth the king? And tended your arguments to no worse end? Then perfect frendes we are now again, as euer at any time heretofore: and as hee sate in hys chaire embracing her in his armes & kissing her, hee added thys saying: That it did him more good at that time to heare those wordes of her owne mouthe, then if hee had heard present newes of an hundreth thousand pounds in money fallen vnto him. And wyth greate signes and tokens of marucilous ioy and liking, with promises and assurances, neuer againe in any sort more to mistake her, entering into other very pleasaunt discourses wyth the Queene & the Lords, and Gentlemen standing by, in the end (being very farre on the night) he gaue her leaue to departe. Whome in her absence to the standers by, he gaue as singulare and as affectuous commendations, as before time to the Bish. and the chancelor (who then were neither of them present) he seemed to mislike of her."

You can read more about this plot against Catherine in an article by historian Elizabeth Norton - Catherine Parr in Danger.

Dr Wendy also attended the dying King Henry VIII in January 1547, along with doctors George Owen and Thomas Huicke. They each received a legacy of 100l. Wendy went on to serve as king's physician to Henry VIII's son, King Edward VI.

Wendy was a member of Parliament for St Albans (1554) and Cambridgeshire (1555) so there is a very detailed, and well-referenced, biography of him on the History of Parliament website - see http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/wendy-thomas-149899-1560

Notes and Sources

Only 1 comment so far Go To Comment

  1. B /

    Hi

    Are there any pictures of Dr Thomas Wendy Henry VIII’s physician?

    Many Thanks

    Barbara

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Dr Thomas Wendy – King’s physician