The Tudor Society
  • 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…

    [Read More...]
  • 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…

    [Read More...]
  • 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.

    [Read More...]
  • 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…

    [Read More...]
  • 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…

    [Read More...]
  • 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…

    [Read More...]
  • 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…

    [Read More...]
  • 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…

    [Read More...]
  • 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…

    [Read More...]
  • 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!

    [Read More...]
  • 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.

    [Read More...]
  • 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…

    [Read More...]
  • 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…

    [Read More...]
  • 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…

    [Read More...]
  • 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…

    [Read More...]
  • 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…

    [Read More...]
  • 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.

    [Read More...]
  • 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.

    [Read More...]
  • The Pole Family

    As today is the anniversary of the arrests of members of the Pole family and their associates in 1538 for high treason, I thought I’d share this talk by Adam Pennington on the Poles:

    [Read More...]
  • November 4 – Members of the Pole family and their associates are arrested for treason

    On this day in Tudor history, 4th November 1538, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Henry Pole, 1st Baron Montagu; his brother-in-law, Sir Edward Neville; Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter; Courtenay’s wife, Gertrude Blount, and the couple’s son, Edward Courtenay, were arrested for treason. They were taken to the Tower of London.

    Montagu, Neville and Exeter, along with Montagu’s brother, Geoffrey Pole, were accused of plotting with Montagu’s brother, Cardinal Reginald Pole, against King Henry VIII. Montagu’s mother, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, was also arrested for treason.

    Henry VIII had sought Cardinal Pole’s opinion on his marriage and the papacy, so why were members of his family accused of treason for communicating with the cardinal?

    Find out what Cardinal Pole had done to upset the king, and what happened to his family and friends…

    [Read More...]
  • November 3 – A man said to be Henry VIII’s illegitimate son dies in the Tower

    On this day in Tudor history, 3rd November 1592, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir John Perrot died at the Tower of London.

    Sir John Perrot, who was a privy councillor and former Lord Deputy of Ireland, is a fascinating Tudor character. He survived being a Protestant and protecting ‘heretics’ in Mary I’s reign, and he was saved six times from serious punishment by Queen Elizabeth I’s intercession.

    Was this favour due to him being the queen’s half-brother? Some people think so.

    You can find out more about Perrot and the arguments for and against him being Henry VIII’s son, in this video:

    [Read More...]
  • November 2 – The birth of Edward V, one of the Princes in the Tower

    On this day in history, 2nd November 1470, the Feast of All Souls, King Edward V, son of King Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth Woodville, was born at Westminster Abbey, London.

    Edward was King of England for just two months before he disappeared in 1483 with his brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York-

    He may have lived prior to the Tudor period, but the events of Edward V’s short life and reign are linked to the Tudors because Henry Tudor returned from exile to challenge King Richard III, who had, of course, taken the throne from Edward V.

    Find out more about Edward V’s life and how he came to be one of the famous Princes in the Tower…

    [Read More...]
  • November 1 – A powerful baron who escaped charges of treason

    On this day in Tudor history, 1st November 1527, in the reign of King Henry VIII, courtier and diplomat William Brooke, 10th Baron Cobham was born.

    Baron Cobham was close to William Cecil, Baron Burghley. who was Queen Elizabeth’s I’s chief advisor, so Cobham became powerful in Elizabeth’s reign. Cobham served Elziabeth in a number of important offices and was able to escape charges of treason twice thanks to the influence of his friends and patrons.

    Find out more about Baron Cobham’s life, career, and brushes with rebellions and plots…

    [Read More...]
  • October 31 – Martin Luther’s 95 Theses

    On this day in Tudor history, 31st October 1517, Martin Luther is said to have posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, although all we know for definite is that the Reformer, priest and professor of theology posted them to Bishop of Brandenburg and the Archbishop of Mainz.

    The full title of Luther’s work is the “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences”, and in it, Luther was protesting against the sale of indulgences by the papacy, as well as other points.

    Luther’s actions on 31st October 1517 had far-reaching consequences and were the catalyst of the European Reformation.

    Find out more about Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and what happened next…

    [Read More...]
  • October 30 – Queen Elizabeth I punishes her former favourite

    On this day in Tudor history, 30th October 1600, Queen Elizabeth I punished her former favourite, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, by refusing to renew his monopoly on sweet wines. Elizabeth said that “an unruly horse must be abated of his provender, that he may be the easier and better managed.”

    Unfortunately, it drove the Earl of Essex to desperation and, ultimately, to a brutal end on the scaffold.

    Why? What was going on? How could the queen’s refusal to renew this monopoly lead to Essex’s undoing?

    Find out what was happened in 1600 and what happened next…

    [Read More...]
  • October 29 – Sir Walter Ralegh is executed

    On this day in history, 29th October 1618, Sir Walter Ralegh (Raleigh, Rawley, Ralagh, Rawleigh) was executed in the Old Palace Yard at Westminster Palace.

    Although his execution took place in the reign of King James I, so in the Stuart period, Sir Walter Ralegh was a famous Elizabethan courtier, explorer, author and soldier.

    Ralegh had been a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, until he angered the queen by secretly marrying her lady, Bess Throckmorton, and he’d led an eventful life. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London on several occasions, he was accused of atheism at one point, and he had sailed to America and tried to establish a colony. He was also knighted for his service in Ireland, and he was a poet too!

    [Read More...]
  • October 28 – Ivan the Terrible’s rather rude letter to Elizabeth I

    On this day in Tudor history, 28th October 1570, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Ivan IV of Russia wrote a rather rude letter to the English queen.

    Ivan IV, more commonly known as Ivan the Terrible, was upset with Elizabeth I’s reaction to his idea of a political alliance, an agreement to help each other if their lives were in danger, and wrote the letter while he was still angry.

    His rude letter must have angered Elizabeth, but unlike Ivan, she waited to reply until her anger had subsided.

    Find out what Ivan the Terrible and Elizabeth I wrote in their letters to each other, and how they came to be corresponding in the first place…

    [Read More...]
  • October 27 – A talented Tudor lady who shot pistols, took tobacco, danced and lived life to the full

    On this day in Tudor history, 27th October 1561, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Herbert (née Sidney), Countess of Pembroke, writer and literary patron, was born at Tickenhall, near Bewdley in Worcestershire.

    Mary was the sister of poets Sir Philip Sidney and Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester, but she was a talented lady in her own right.

    The Countess of Pembroke was a writer and literary patron, and, after the death of her husband, she had fun shooting pistols, flirting, taking tobacco and dancing. She lived life to the full.

    Find out more about Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, who was as beautiful as she was talented, and whose work was praised by men such as William Shakespeare…

    [Read More...]
  • October 26 – Sir Thomas More takes his oath as Lord Chancellor

    On this day in Tudor history, 26th October 1529, Sir Thomas More was sworn in as King Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor.

    Sir Thomas More replaced Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who had been charged with praemunire.

    More, who was described as “an upright and learned man”, could not have known that taking this office would lead to his undoing…

    [Read More...]
  • October 25 – The Feast of Saints Crispin and Crispinian, a historic battle and a legend

    25th October was a feast day celebrated in the medieval and Tudor periods. It was the Feast of Saints Crispin and Crispinian, twins who were martyrs of the Early Church.

    Find out more about these saints, who were the patron saints of cobblers, how their feast day became linked to a historic battle, how their feast day was celebrated, and why these saints are linked to Faversham in Kent…

    [Read More...]