The Tudor Society
  • Monday Martyr – William Peterson and William Richardson, Catholic martyrs

    Map of the Pale of Calais in the 15th century

    On 10th April 1540, priest Sir William Peterson, former commissary of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Calais, and William Richardson, priest of St Mary’s in Calais, were hanged, drawn and quartered in the marketplace at Calais for denying Henry VIII’s supremacy.

    In his article “Martyrdoms at Calais in 1540?”, Rev. L.E. Whatmore writes of how from 1525, Sir William Peterson was “the most important priest in Calais” because of his “double capacity” as “the Archbishop’s and the Cardinal’s representative” in Calais. 1532 saw the death of William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was replaced by Thomas Cranmer. Peterson continued in his office under Cranmer and in September of that year was also appointed rector of Bonynges in the Calais Marches.

    [Read More...]
  • April 10 – Sir Bernard Drake

    Monumental brass in Filleigh Church, North Devon, depicting Sir Bernard Drake

    On this day in Tudor history, 10th April 1586, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, sea captain Sir Bernard Drake died in Crediton, Devon, from probable typhus.

    It appears that Drake caught the disease from Portuguese prisoners whose ships, laden with Brazilian sugar, he’d captured on his voyage to the West Indies.

    But who was Sir Bernard Drake and was he related to the more famous Sir Francis Drake?

    [Read More...]
  • April 9 – The pope revokes Cardinal Pole’s legatine powers

    A portrait of Cardinal Reginald Pole by Sebastiano del Piombo

    On this day in Tudor history, 9th April 1557, Cardinal Reginald Pole’s legatine powers were revoked by Pope Paul IV.

    Pole, who was also Mary I’s Archbishop of Canterbury, had served as legate a latere to England from March 1554 until the pope deprived him of this power on 9th April 1557.

    [Read More...]
  • April 8- Magdalen Browne (née Dacre), Viscountess Montagu, a woman who sheltered Catholic priests

    the gatehouse of Battle Abbey, home of Magdalen Browne and her husband

    On this day in history, 8th April 1608, in the reign of King James I, Magdalen Browne (née Dacre), Viscountess Montagu and patron of Roman Catholics, died at Battle in East Sussex, following a stroke she had suffered in January 1508.

    Magdalen was buried at Midhurst.

    Here are some facts about this Tudor lady:

    [Read More...]
  • From the archives – Food at Easter

    As it’s Good Friday and Lent will soon be over, I thought I’d share this wonderful talk on Easter food from historian Brigitte Webster from our Tudor Society archives…

    [Read More...]
  • April 7 – Charles VIII dies after hitting his head on a lintel

    On this day in Tudor history, 7th April 1498, King Henry VII’s contemporary, King Charles VIII of France, died.

    Charles the Affable, as he was known, died after hitting his head on a lintel at the Chateau d’Amboise while on his way to watch a tennis match. He made it to the match, but after the game, he was taken ill, slipped into a coma and died. He’d been king since 1483.

    [Read More...]
  • April 6 – Henry Stafford, Earl of Wiltshire

    A silhouette of a man's side profile

    On this day in Tudor history, 6th April 1523, in the reign of King Henry VIII, nobleman and courtier Henry Stafford, Earl of Wiltshire, died at the age of about 44.

    Stafford died without issue so his earldom became extinct until 1529 when Thomas Boleyn, father of Anne Boleyn, was made Earl of Wiltshire.

    [Read More...]
  • April 5 – A new king travels to London

    On this day in history, 5th April 1603, twelve days after the death of Queen Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch, King James VI of Scotland left Edinburgh, bound for London. He was now King of Ireland and England, as King James I, as well as being King of Scotland.

    Thirty-seven-year-old James, who was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her second husband, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, had received news of Elizabeth’s death late on 26th March, when an exhausted Sir Robert Carey had arrived at Holyrood. James had been in bed, but Carey was escorted to his chamber, where he knelt by him, and as Carey recorded, “saluted him by his title of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland”. In reply, James said, “I know you have lost a near kinswoman, and a loving mistress: but take here my hand, I will be as good a master to you, and will requite this service with honour and reward.”

    [Read More...]
  • April 4 – Francis Drake is knighted by Elizabeth I

    Sir Francis Drake painted by Marcus Gheeraerts

    On this day in Tudor history, 4th April 1581, Francis Drake, the famous Elizabethan explorer, sea captain and pirate, was awarded a knighthood by Elizabeth I. He was dubbed by Monsieur de Marchaumont on board the Golden Hind at Deptford.

    The knighthood was a reward for Drake’s 1577-80 expedition, which saw him plundering Spanish ports, capturing Spanish ships, claiming Point Loma for England as Nova Albion, circumnavigating the globe, and more importantly, bringing back a rich cargo of treasure and spices for his queen.

    [Read More...]
  • April 3 – Death of Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire

    Kristin Scott Thomas as Elizabeth Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl

    On this day in Tudor history, 3rd April 1538, Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire, died at Baynard’s Castle in London, the home of Hugh Faringdon, the Abbot of Reading.

    Elizabeth was about sixty-two years of age when she died, and her death came just less than two years after the executions of her daughter and son, Queen Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn, Lord Rochford.

    [Read More...]
  • April 2 – Sir Ambrose Cave

    The coat of arms of the Knights Hospitaller

    On this day in Tudor history, 2nd April 1568, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Ambrose Cave, member of Parliament, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Knight of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, died at the Savoy. He was buried at Stanford after a funeral at the Savoy Chapel.

    [Read More...]
  • April 1 – Author and soldier Thomas Churchyard

    Title page of Thomas Churchyard's work "The Miserie of Flaunders"

    On this day in Tudor history, 1st April 1604, author and soldier Thomas Churchyard died in Westminster, London.

    Churchyard started writing in the reign of Edward VI and some of his poems were published in “Tottel’s Miscellany”.

    Churchyard was also an active soldier, serving with the Duke of Somerset in Scotland and fighting as a mercenary for Protestants in Europe.

    Let me share with you a few facts about this man…

    [Read More...]
  • March 31 – Henry VII makes his will

    On this day in Tudor history, 31st March 1509, the dying Henry VII made his last will and testament at Richmond Palace, three weeks before his death.

    The will was based on an earlier draft, with some new provisions added, for example, the addition of Sir Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley to the list of executors.

    [Read More...]
  • March 30 – Sir Ralph Sadler

    Portrait of an unknown man some believe to be Ralph Sadler by Hans Holbein the Younger

    A portrait of an unknown man thought to be Sir Ralph Sadler by Hans Holbein the YoungerOn this day in Tudor history, 30th March 1587, in the reign of Elizabeth I, Sir Ralph Sadler died. He was in his 80th year.

    Sadler was a diplomat and administrator who worked as Thomas Cromwell's secretary before being noticed by Henry VIII.

    At his death, he was one of the richest men in England.

    Here are a few more facts about him…

    • Ralph Sadler was born in 1507 and was the eldest son of administrator Henry Sadler of Warwickshire and Hackney. Henry Sadler worked as steward to Sir Edward Belknap until 1521. Belknap was one of Henry VIII’s privy councillors. He then served Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset.
    • By 1521, when he was about 14, Ralph Sadler had entered the service of Thomas Cromwell, who ensured that he was taught Latin, Greek, French and Law.

    [Read More...]

  • March 29 – Clergyman and playwright William Wager

    Title page of "The Longer thou Livest the more Fool thou art" by William Wager

    On this day in Tudor history, 29th March 1591, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I,  playwright and Church of England clergyman William Wager was buried at the church where he was rector, St Benet Gracechurch.

    I was drawn to him simply because of the titles of two of his plays, “Enough is as Good as a Feast” and “The Longer thou Livest the More Fool thou art”, which have been described as polemical Protestant interludes. I love those titles!

    [Read More...]
  • March 28 – The burnings of Protestants Stephen Knight, William Pygot and William Dighel

    On this day in Tudor history, 28th March 1555, Protestants Stephen Knight and William Pygot were burnt at the stake for heresy in Essex, at Maldon and Braintree, respectively.

    In his Book of Martyrs, martyrologist John Foxe writes of how Stephen Knight and William Pygot were first examined regarding their views on the eucharist, to which they answered that the body and blood of Christ were only in heaven and nowhere else. After being examined regarding other beliefs, according to Foxe, they “were exhorted to recant and revoke their doctrine, and receive the faith” but refused, and when Bishop Bonner realised “that neither his fair flatterings, nor yet his cruel threatenings, would prevail”, he condemned them for heresy.

    [Read More...]
  • March 27 – George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury

    On 27th March 1539, George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, was laid to rest in the Shrewsbury Chapel of St Peter’s Church, Sheffield.

    Talbot is known for his loyalty to the king during the Pilgrimage of Grace uprisings, which was seen as crucial to the failure of the rebellion.

    But let me tell you a bit more about this Tudor earl…

    [Read More...]
  • March 26 – The Vestments Controversy

    A portrait of Archbishop Matthew Parker by an unknown artist

    On this day in Tudor history, 26th March 1566, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Edmund Grindal, Bishop of London, summoned one hundred and ten ministers to Lambeth Palace to get them to pledge their willingness to wear vestments, as worn by the man in front of them: Robert Cole, a former non-conformist who now complied.

    The outfit consisted of a square cap, gown, tippet, and surplice. They were also asked “to inviolably observe the rubric of the Book of Common Prayer, and the queen’s majesty’s injunctions, and the Book of Convocation” and to commit to these orders on the spot, by writing “volo” or “no volo”.

    [Read More...]
  • March 25 – Elizabeth I grants letters patent to Walter Ralegh

    On 25th March 1584, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, letters patent were granted to Walter Ralegh giving him “free liberty and licence… to discover, search for, fynde out and view… landes, countries and territories”, for the benefit of himself, “his heyres and assignes forever.”

    It went on to describe these territories: “such remote heathen and barbarous lands countries and territories not actually possessed of any Christian Prince and inhabited by Christian people”, and as Nancy Bradley Warren points out in her book “Women of God and Arms”, Elizabeth I and her government were not only granting Ralegh the right to colonise lands owned by the indigenous people, they were also giving him the right to take lands held by Spain, as they didn’t view Catholicism as true Christianity.

    [Read More...]
  • March 24 – Judge and Speaker of the House of Commons Sir James Dyer

    A portrait of judge Sir James Dyer

    On this day in Tudor history, 24th March 1582, , Sir James Dyer, judge, law reporter, Member of Parliament and Speaker of the House of Commons, died at the age of 72. His other offices included King’s Sergeant-at-Law, Judge of the Common Pleas and Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. He was buried at Great Staughton Church in Huntingdonshire, next to his wife.

    Dyer was Speaker of the House of Commons during the reign of King Edward VI and served as Chief Justice of the Common Pleas from January 1559 until his death.

    [Read More...]
  • March 23 – Sir Henry Unton

    A portrait of Sir Henry Unton

    On this day in Tudor history, 23rd March 1596, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, soldier, member of Parliament and diplomat, Sir Henry Unton, or Umpton, died after being taken ill with “a violent, burning fever”.

    Unton had been taken ill after accompanying King Henry IV of France to the siege at La Fère. He was about thirty-eight years of age at his death.

    Here are a few facts about this Tudor man…

    [Read More...]
  • March 22 – Edward Seymour is in and Henry Howard is out

    Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, by Hans Holbein the Younger

    On this day in Tudor history, 22nd March 1546, Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, landed in Calais to relieve the out of favour Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, in his military duties as lieutenant general there.

    Hertford had been officially appointed the previous day “as the King’s lieutenant in the parts beyond sea, and commander in chief of the army and armada now about to be sent thither; with authority to invade France at discretion, and to order all admirals, vice-admirals and shipmasters there.” The privy council also wrote to Surrey recalling him to England.

    But what had happened? Why was Surrey being replaced with Hertford?

    [Read More...]
  • March 21 – Puritan Sir John Leveson

    A silhouette of a man's side profile

    On this day in Tudor history, 21st March 1555, Kent landowner, Deputy Lieutenant of Kent and Puritan Sir John Leveson was born at Whornes Place in Cuxton, Kent.

    His surname was pronounced “Looson”, and we know this  because of letters, such as one by Robert Cecil regarding Sir Richard Leveson where he wrote it as “LUSON”. It obviously comes from Louis or Lewis’s son.

    Sir John Leveson was the eldest son of landowner Thomas Leveson and his wife, Ursula Gresham. He was educated at Queen’s College, Oxford, and then Gray’s Inn in London.

    [Read More...]
  • March 20 – Mary Bassett, translator and granddaughter of Sir Thomas More

    On this day in Tudor history, 20th March 1572, in Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, Mary Bassett (née Roper), translator and granddaughter of Sir Thomas More, died.

    Mary’s education was praised by scholars Roger Ascham and Nicholas Harpsfield, and she presented Mary I with a copy of five books of Eusebius’s “Ecclesiastical History” which she had translated from Greek into English.

    Mary, born in around 1523, was the daughter of Sir Thomas More’s beloved daughter, Margaret, or Meg, who married William Roper. More, being a humanist, had provided an excellent education for his daughter and Meg did the same with Mary, making sure that she learnt Greek and Latin.

    [Read More...]
  • March 19 – Edmund Harman, Henry VIII’s barber

    On this day in Tudor history, 19th March 1577, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Edmund Harman, former barber, of Henry VIII, died at Burford in Oxfordshire. He had retired there after Henry VIII’s death. Harman was buried at Taynton Church.

    Harman, who was originally from Ipswich, had entered the king’s service by 1533 and served him until the king’s death in 1547. His main duty was the daily washing and trimming of the king’s beard and hair, but he also served Henry VIII as keeper of the wardrobe.

    [Read More...]
  • March 18 – Soldier, secret agent and rebel Sir Christopher Blount

    A portrait of Blount's stepson, Robert Devereux, attributed to Nicholas Hilliard

    On 18th March 1601, just six days before the day of Queen Elizabeth I,  soldier, secret agent and rebel Sir Christopher Blount was executed on Tower Hill for high treason.

    He was accused of treason following his involvement in the rebellion of his stepson, Elizabeth’s former favourite, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex.

    [Read More...]
  • March 17 – William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, Black Will Herbert

    On this day in Tudor history, 17th March 1570, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, soldier, courtier and landowner, died at Hampton Court, aged sixty-three.

    Here are some facts about this Tudor earl, who was known as Black Will Herbert and had a queen as a sister-in-law…

    [Read More...]
  • The Sphere of Light – Secrets of the Boleyn Women

    We've been contacted by Ann Henning Jocelyn, and although August seems a long time away, we wanted to highlight a play and talk which is coming up at the Festival Theatre in Hever Castle, Kent, UK.

    The Sphere of Light play was originally performed in Cambridge but then Covid struck. Only now is the play on the move again, together with the novel of the same name. It has been endorsed by Dr Owen Emmerson, who will launch the novel at Hever on June 1st, following my lecture on the Boleyns, "The Boleyns in Context", as part of this year's Hever Theatre Festival.

    Later in the year, it will be followed by a full production of the play on August 4th and 5th, 2023.

    More information and bookings can be made with the Hever Festival Theatre, https://heverfestival.co.uk/, along with an action packed schedule of talks and events.

  • March 16 – John Bourchier, 2nd Baron Berners

    A portrait of John Bourchier, 2nd Baron Berners, by an unknown Netherlandish artist

    On this day in Tudor history, 16th March 1533, in the reign of King Henry VIII, soldier, translator and diplomat, John Bourchier, 2nd Baron Berners, died at Calais, while serving as Deputy of Calais.

    Berners was succeeded as deputy by the king’s uncle, Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle.

    [Read More...]
  • March 15 – Bishop John Hooper is deprived of his bishopric

    On 15th March 1554, in the reign of Queen Mary I, John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester and Worcester, was deprived of his bishopric while imprisoned in Fleet Prison. He had been charged with owing over five hundred pounds in unpaid first fruits, a charge he denied.

    Let me tell you a bit more about this man, who ended up being a Marian martyr…

    [Read More...]