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The Tudor Society
  • December 1 – Priest Alexander Briant is executed

    Alexander Briant by Matthaus Greuter (Greuther), or by Paul Maupin (Maupain) line engraving, National Portrait Gallery.

    On this day in Tudor history, 1st December 1581, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Alexander Briant was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, along with Ralph Sherwin and Edmund Campion.

    The twenty-five-year-old Roman Catholic priest had been imprisoned, and had suffered being starved, racked and tortured in other awful ways, but claimed that he felt no pain due to God’s help. He also refused to give his interrogators the information they wanted. Briant was tried for treason and suffered a full traitor’s death.

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  • November 30 – Elizabeth I’s Golden Speech

    Portrait of Elizabeth I of England in Parliament Robes, British School, from Helmingham Hall, Stowmarket.

    On this day in Tudor history, 30th November 1601, Queen Elizabeth I gave her famous Golden Speech.

    She addressed it to the House of Commons, and it was her final speech to Parliament.

    In her speech, the sixty-eight-year-old Elizabeth I spoke of her position as queen and her love and respect for her realm, her people, and for her members of Parliament. It was a speech that brought many of the men present to tears. It was a heartfelt speech by a queen who truly loved her people.

    Let me share Elizabeth I’s Golden Speech with you…

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  • November 29 – Anthony Browne, a man close to the monarchs and who kept his head!

    Portrait of Sir Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu, by Hans Eworth.

    On this day in Tudor history, 29th November 1528, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu, was born.

    Montagu began his court career with the help of his father in Henry VIII’s reign. He was made a Knight of the Bath when Edward VI became king, served as a privy councillor in Queen Mary I’s reign and died a natural death in Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. Montagu even survived being implicated in a rebellion!

    Who was Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu, and just how did he manage to not only have an excellent court career, but leave a fortune to his grandson, when he was a Catholic in Elizabeth I’s reign?

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  • November 28 – Francis Yaxley and the gold her carried for Mary, Queen of Scots

    Mary, Queen of Scots, depicted in her white mourning garb by François Clouet, 1560.

    On this day in Tudor history, 28th November 1565, Francis Yaxley set sail for Scotland from Antwerp.

    The member of Parliament and political agent was carrying gold to Scotland for Mary, Queen of Scots. However, his ship was wrecked in a storm and he never reached Scotland, and neither did the gold.

    But why was Francis Yaxley carrying gold? Who was it from and what happened to it?

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  • November 27 – William Shakespeare marries a pregnant Anne Hathaway

    On this day in Tudor history, 27th November 1582, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the famous playwright William Shakespeare married Anne (also known as Agnes) Hathaway at Temple Grafton, near Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire.

    Shakespeare was eighteen years old when he married his twenty-six-year-old bride, who was pregnant at the time of their marriage. Anne gave birth to a daughter, Susannah, the following May. The couple went on to have twins, Hamnet and Judith, in 1585.

    Find out more about William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, and their marriage, and also what happened to them…

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  • November 26 – Things get scary for Catholics in Elizabethan England

    On this day in Tudor history, 26th November 1585, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Catholic priest Hugh Taylor and his friend Marmaduke Bowes were hanged at York.

    Taylor and Bowes were the first Catholics executed under the new law. Elizabeth I’s 1585 statute made it treason to be a Jesuit or seminary priest in England or to harbour such a priest.

    In 1987, Pope John Paul II beatified Taylor and Bowes as two of the 85 Martyrs of England, Scotland and Wales.

    Find out more about these men and what this 1585 legislation was all about…

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  • From the archives – The Early Life of Anne Boleyn

    It’s Friday, so time to share a Tudor history goody from our archives. This week, we have this wonderful talk from Natalie Grueninger, author of the forthcoming book “The Final Year of Anne Boleyn”. Natalie’s talk is on Anne Boleyn’s early life…

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  • November 25 – Sir Thomas Legh, a vicious man

    On this day in Tudor history, 25th November 1545, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Sir Thomas Legh (Leigh) died.

    Sir Thomas Legh was a lawyer, member of Parliament, diplomat, ecclesiastical administrator and a faithful servant to Henry VIII. However, his work for the king during the dissolution of the monasteries led to complaints against him and even rebellion.

    Legh was a vicious man known for his harsh treatment of monks, but he helped to protect Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1543 when the archbishop’s enemies tried to bring him down.

    Here are some facts about Sir Thomas Legh…

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  • November 24 – The death of John Knox

    On this day in Tudor history, 24th November 1572, John Knox died at his home in Edinburgh.

    The Scottish clergyman, famous Reformer, royal chaplain, and founder of Presbyterianism had a peaceful end, dying as his second wife, Margaret, read aloud from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.

    John Knox is known for bringing the Protestant reformation to the church in Scotland and for his controversial views about women rulers. Knox was also chaplain to King Edward VI and had a very eventful life, being taken prisoner by the French and being forced into service on the galleys of their fleet at one point.

    Find out more about John Knox, his life and career…

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  • November 23 – The execution of Pretender Perkin Warbeck

    16th-century copy by Jacques Le Boucq of the only known contemporary portrait of Warbeck, Library of Arras.

    On this day in Tudor history, 23rd November 1499, in the reign of King Henry VII, Perkin Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn.

    Warbeck was executed for allegedly plotting to help another claimant, Edward, Earl of Warwick, escape from the Tower of London.

    Perkin Warbeck had been imprisoned in 1497 after he had raised a rebellion claiming to be Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower. He had even been proclaimed King Richard IV, but his rebellion and claim had failed.

    Let me tell you about Perkin Warbeck’s background, explain how he ended up trying to claim the throne of England, and tell you what happened.

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  • November 22 – Tudor explorer Sir Martin Frobisher

    On this day in Tudor history, 22nd November 1594, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Tudor explorer Sir Martin Frobisher died at Plymouth.

    The naval commander, privateer and explorer died of gangrene after having been shot in the thigh during hand-to-hand combat during a siege.

    Sir Martin Frobisher is famous for the three voyages he undertook in search of the Northwest Passage. He was knighted for his naval service during the 1588 Spanish Armada.

    Find out all about the life and career of Sir Martin Frobisher…

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  • November 21 – John Bale, a playwright, historian, exile and bishop

    On this day in Tudor history, 21st November 1495, John Bale was born in Suffolk.

    John Bale was a churchman, Protestant playwright, historian and Bishop of Ossory. He wrote twenty-four plays and “Illustrium majoris Britanniae scriptorum, hoc est, Angliae, Cambriae, ac Scotiae Summarium…”, a book on famous British writers, which is his most well-known work. His work on Protestant martyrs was also used by the famous martyrologist John Foxe.

    John Bale spent a fair amount of time in exile due to his faith, and he also courted controversy with his attacks on Catholics.

    Find out all about this accomplished Tudor man…

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  • November 20 – Sir John Harington and his flush toilet

    On this day in history, 20th November 1612, in the reign of King James I, Sir John Harington died.

    Harington was a courtier and author, and also the late Queen Elizabeth I’s godson.

    In Elizabeth I’s reign, he had invented the Ajax, or “jakes”, England’s first flush toilet.

    Find out more about Sir John Harington and his invention…

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  • November 19 – Lord John Grey, a man who escaped execution

    On this day in Tudor history, 19th November 1564, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Lord John Grey died.

    He’s not the Lord John Grey of the wonderful Outlander series, but he is just as interesting.

    Lord John Grey was the youngest son of Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset, and in Queen Mary I’s reign, he was involved in a rebellion with his brothers, Lord Thomas Grey and Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk. Henry and Thomas were executed, but John wasn’t.

    How did Lord John Grey escape execution? And why did he get into trouble again in Elizabeth I’s reign?

    Let me tell you all about Lord John Grey…

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  • Ear piercing in Tudor times

    On Fridays, I often share resources from our Tudor Society archives and today is a talk on ear piercing in Tudor times.

    I did the talk back in 2017 and in it, I look at when ear piercing became fashionable in the Tudor period, the evidence we have on it, and also ear piercing in men.

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  • November 18 – Ralph Baynes, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, ends his days in confinement

    Old St Dunstan's Church, resting place of Ralph Baynes

    On this day in Tudor history, 18th November 1559, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Ralph Baynes (Baines), Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, died.

    Baynes had started his career in Henry VIII’s reign and in Mary I’s reign, he had been actively involved in the persecutions of Protestants, examining many well-known martyrs and featuring in John Foxe’s “Book of Martyrs”. He came to a sad end, dying while imprisoned in the home of Edmund Grindal, Bishop of London.

    Find out more about Ralph Baynes, his life and career, and how he came to be deprived of his bishopric and die in confinement…

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  • November 17 – The death of Mary I and the accession of Elizabeth I

    A panel portrait of Elizabeth I in coronation robes and a portrait of Mary I by Hans Eworth.

    On this day in Tudor history, 17th November 1558, Queen Mary I died at St James’s Palace in London.

    The forty-two-year-old daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon passed the throne on to her twenty-five-year-old half-sister, Elizabeth, who became Queen Elizabeth I.

    Let me tell you about the accession of Queen Elizabeth I and the traditional story of Elizabeth finding out that she was queen at Hatfield…

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  • November 16 – The Earl of Westmorland, a rebel who ended his life in exile

    On this day in Tudor history, 16th November 1601, Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmorland, died in Nieuwpoort in Flanders.

    The nobleman and rebel had fled into exile following the failure of the Northern Rebellion, also known as the Rising of the North or the Revolt of the Northern Earls, a plot to release Mary, Queen of Scots, from prison and to overthrow Elizabeth I.

    Unfortunately, Westmorland didn’t learn his lesson and was involved in a further plot. He died in debt and separated from his wife and daughters.

    Find out more about Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmorland…

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  • November 15 – Katherine of York, Countess of Devon

    On this day in Tudor history, 15th November 1527, in the reign of King Henry VIII, a woman who called herself “the excellent Princess Katherine, Countess of Devon, daughter, sister and aunt of kings” died at Tiverton Castle in Devon.

    She was Katherine of York, Countess of Devon, and she was the daughter of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, and the sister of Queen Elizabeth of York. Katherine was just forty-nine when she died. She had taken a vow of chastity after her husband’s death.

    Let me give an overview of King Henry VIII’s aunt’s life and explain why she took her vow of chastity…

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  • November 14 – An inventory is taken of Thomas Culpeper’s possessions

    On this day in Tudor history, 14th November 1541, twelve days after an investigation had been opened into King Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, an inventory was taken of “the goods and chattels, lands and fees of” a groom of the king’s privy chamber.

    This groom was Thomas Culpeper, a man who had been found to have enjoyed secret meetings with Catherine.

    An inventory had also been taken of the possessions of one of Catherine’s ladies, Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford. Jane was the widow of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, and she was alleged to have helped the queen meet with Culpeper.

    But what was going on in November 1541 and what was listed in these inventories?

    Let me tell you…

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  • November 13 – Murder by pistol

    On this day in Tudor history, 13th November 1536, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Robert Packington (Pakington, Pakyngton) was shot to death by an unknown assailant while he was on his way to mass at St Thomas of Acre Chapel. He was shot with a wheellock pistol.

    Robert Packington, who was a mercer and member of Parliament, has gone down in history as the first person in England to be killed by a handgun.

    But who was the murderer and why was he killed?

    Find out about Packington, his murder, and the theories regarding who ordered his murder…

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  • November 12 – Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester

    On this day in Tudor history, 12th November 1555, Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, died.

    Queen Mary I’s lord chancellor was laid to rest at Winchester Cathedral in what is now known as the Bishop Gardiner Chantry Chapel.

    Let me tell you about the life and career of Stephen Gardiner, “Wily Winchester”. He led quite a life – going from being a valued advisor to Henry VIII to being imprisoned, and then rising in favour once and again, crowning a queen and becoming her lord chancellor. An interesting man!

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  • November 11 – Queen Catherine Howard is moved from Hampton Court Palace to Syon

    On this day in Tudor history, 11th November 1541, the Feast of Martinmas, King Henry VIII’s council sent Archbishop Thomas Cranmer a letter containing instructions to move Queen Catherine Howard, who had been confined to her apartments in Hampton Court Palace, to Syon House, formerly Syon Abbey.

    In the video and transcript below, I share the instructions that Archbishop Cranmer was given and what Catherine was sent for her time at Syon. I also explain what else happened on this day in 1541, along with some trivia about the people in charge of Catherine’s household at Syon.

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  • November 10 – Richard Chancellor is killed after saving an ambassador

    On this day in Tudor history, 10th November 1556, in the reign of Queen Mary I, English explorer and navigator Richard Chancellor died by drowning.

    Chancellor, who is known for being the first foreigner to enter the White Sea and to establish relations with Russia and Tsar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) sadly drowned after saving the life of Osip Napeya, the Russian ambassador, after their ship, The Edward Bonaventure, was wrecked just off the Aberdeenshire coast of Scotland.

    Find out about Richard Chancellor’s life, career and sad end…

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  • November 9 – The Rising of the North

    This day in Tudor history, 9th November 1569, is the traditional date given for the start of the Rising of the North, the only major armed rebellion of Elizabeth I’s reign.

    The rising is also known as The Northern Rebellion or Revolt of the Northern Earls.

    Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmorland, and Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland, led this uprising against Queen Elizabeth I. The rebellion sought to depose her, replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots, and restore Catholicism.

    But what happened?

    Find out about the 1569 rebellion and the fate of the Northern Earls…

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  • November 8 – William Blount, 4th Baron Mountjoy, Catherine of Aragon’s chamberlain and a friend of scholars

    On this day in Tudor history, 8th November 1534, in the reign of King Henry VIII, William Blount, 4th Baron Mountjoy, died at Sutton on the Hill in Derbyshire.

    Mountjoy was a courtier, scholar and literary patron, and he had a wonderful court career. He helped organise the young Henry VIII’s education, he served as Master of the Mint and chamberlain to Queen Catherine of Aragon, and he was close friends with the renowned humanist scholar, Erasmus.

    In his position as chamberlain to Queen Catherine of Aragon, who had been set aside by Henry VIII, Mountjoy had to break bad news to her.

    Find out all about Lord Mountjoy, his career and life…

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  • November 7 – Richard III is attainted

    On this day in Tudor history, 7th November 1485, the late King Richard III and his supporters were attainted by King Henry VII’s first parliament.

    In the act of attainder, Richard was referred to as Richard, late Duke of Gloucester, and as a usurper. The list of others attainted for fighting against Henry at Bosworth included the late John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk, and his son, Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey.

    Find out who else was included and whether Parliament’s actions were unusual…

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  • November 6 – Arthur Tudor meets Catherine of Aragon for the first time

    On this day in Tudor history, 6th November 1501, just eight days before their marriage, Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, eldest son of King Henry VII, met Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile.

    The couple met at Dogmersfield in Hampshire.

    Arthur and Catherine had already had a proxy marriage but had never met.

    Let me tell you more about the lead-up to their meeting on 6th November 1501, including Catherine’s journey from Spain to England, how their first meeting went and what happened next…

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  • Quiz – The Fall of Catherine Howard

    As today is the anniversary of King Henry VIII abandoning his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, at Hampton Court Palace after allegations had been made against her, I thought I’d share this quiz from our archives.

    How much do you know about Catherine Howard’s fall?

    Test yourself with this fun quiz.

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  • November 5 – The discovery of the Gunpowder Plot

    5th November in the UK is Bonfire Night, a time to celebrate the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament and assassinate King James I and his government.

    On the night of 4/5th November 1605, Gunpowder Plot conspirator, Guy Fawkes, was found with 36 barrels of gunpowder in a cellar beneath the Palace of Westminster, and the Gunpowder Plot was brought to an end.

    But why was there a plot to kill the king and what has this event got to do with Tudor history?

    Well, a lot, because the Gunpowder Plot had its roots in Elizabeth I’s reign.

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