The Tudor Society
  • 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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  • 14 February – The dog licks up the king’s blood

    In today’s “on this day in Tudor history”, I take you back to 1547 and a rather horrible event that was seen as the fulfilment of a prophecy. Friar William Peto had warned King Henry VIII that if he carried on with his behaviour then he would end up like King Ahab. Strong words!

    I then move on to a happier topic, Valentine’s Day in the Tudor period. Did the Tudors celebrate Valentine’s Day and what did they do to mark the occasion?

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  • The survival of the Bridgettine Order of Syon Abbey

    Engraving of original seal of the Abbess and Convent of Syon, Isleworth

    On this day in history, 19th December 1576, Katherine Palmer, Abbess of Syon, died in Mechelen. Katherine and her nuns had fled from England to the Low Countries in 1559, following the accession of the Protestant queen, Elizabeth I, and had finally settled at Mechelen. There, on 8th November 1576, a mob of Calvinists broke into the monastery and the courageous abbess confronted them. It is thought that confronting the mob, a traumatic response, led to her death just over a month later, on 19th December. She was laid to rest at Mechelen in the Church of the Augustinians.

    I dug a little into Katherine Palmer and her order. I found that she was of a gentry background and had given up that life to join the Bridgettine Order at Syon Monastery, in the parish of Isleworth, which had been founded by Henry V in 1415 and that had a reputation for its pious monastic life. Unfortunately, the abbey was dissolved in 1539 as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. However, the sisters kept their monastic life in small groups, one of which was led by Katherine.

    In 1551, Katherine and six nuns and four brothers relocated to Termonde in the Low Countries. They returned to England in 1555, in the reign of the Catholic queen, Mary I, at Cardinal Pole's urging, and refounded Syon. Katherine was elected as abbess. As I said earlier, they fled England in 1559, moving to Termonde and then Antwerp and on to Mechelen, where Katherine died in 1576.

    In his article for the Telegraph, Christopher Howse writes of how the order "went through astonishing sufferings from poverty and war, seeking refuge in France and Portugal" before finally settling back in England in 1861. In 1925, the order settled at South Brent, in Devon.

    What is amazing is that they are the only surviving pre-Reformation religious community in England - wonderful!

    Notes and Sources

    • Ridgway, Claire (2012) On This Day in Tudor History, MadeGlobal Publishing.
    • The survival of England's Syon, Christopher Howse, The Telegraph, 18 Oct 2008.