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The Tudor Society

Ethelreda Malte – An Illegitimate child of Henry VIII?

In today's Claire Chats I discuss Ethelreda Malte, the theory that she was fathered by Henry VIII and the evidence used to back up the theory.

Sources mentioned

  • Jones, Philippa (2009) The Other Tudors: Henry VIII's Mistresses and Bastards, Chapter 9.
  • Weir, Alison (2011) Mary Boleyn: The Great and Infamous Whore, p.156-158.
  • The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII, p.228-229.
  • Harington, Sir John, Nugæ Antiquæ: Being a Miscellaneous Collection of Original Papers, in Prose and Verse..., p. viii - see https://archive.org/stream/nugantiqubeinga04harigoog#page/n12/mode/2up
  • Scott-Warren, Jason. “Harington, John (c.1517–1582).” Jason Scott-Warren In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman. Oxford: OUP, 2004.
  • Emerson, Kate (2014) Royal Inheritance, p.339.
  • May 1541 grant - Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, 878:41 - see http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol16/pp409-429
  • July 1544 grant - Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 19 Part 1, January-July 1544, 1035:109 - see http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol19/no1/pp596-651
  • Sept 1546 grant - Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 21 Part 2, September 1546-January 1547, 200:33 - see http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol21/no2/pp70-100
  • Lands sold by the crown January 1547 - Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 21 Part 2, September 1546-January 1547, 712:xv - see http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol21/no2/pp362-378
  • The quote from Harington's letter: “we will continue to suffer, and rest ourselves in God, whose mercy is sure and safe, and in all true love to her (the princess Elizabeth, who doth honour us in tender sort, and scorneth not to shed her tears with ours.” can be found in Agnes Strickland's Lives of the Queens of England Vol V.

There are 3 comments Go To Comment

  1. K /

    weird that a laundress wouldn’t say anything! i’d think that she’d want to turn him down or brag to her friends about it.

    1. K /

      i mean them. servants of noblemen. also, i doubt that she was henry’s because i’d think that he’d award the mother of his daughter w/riches. it was proof of his “manhood” and virility: a healthy offspring.

  2. S /

    King Heny did support his daughter though he never openly acknowledged Etheldreda. Henry VIII give his tailor, John Malte, land and properties including St Catherine’s Court when Malte recognised Audrey as his illegitimate daughter to absolve the King from inheritance liability.

    When Malte died in 1547, her putative father left her money in his will and in 1548, the reasonably well-endowed heiress became the first wife of John Harington, an eligible court official who served Lord High Admiral Thomas Seymour, so to place her with other court nobility. Etheldreda brought to the marriage properties previously owned by Shaftesbury Abbey. Sometime in 1550, she had a daughter with John Harington.

    On 18 March 1554, Etheldreda Malte was among the six ladies who accompanied the future queen Elizabeth to the Tower of London, where her rumoured half-sister was imprisoned under suspicion of causing rebellion. Etheldreda was present at the coronation of Elizabeth I on 15 January 1559 and she died that same month. Her husband remarried within two months of her death. She likely died at St Catherine’s Court, her residence near Bath, and is likely buried in the church next door, but the church records for the period have been lost. John Harington became her husband, and the King had a hand in her marriage arrangements. This meant she had some importance to Henry, and her welfare at court was guaranteed.

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Ethelreda Malte – An Illegitimate child of Henry VIII?