King Henry VII, King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I made up the Tudor family ruling over England in the 16th Century. Their Royal marriages, relationships, and secret liaisons made them one of most scandalous and talked about Royal families in history. Take yourselves back to Tudor times and find out why Henry VIII’s six marriages failed and who Queen Elizabeth I fell in love with, as we reveal 40 hidden secrets from the Tudors.
Queen Elizabeth’s Colorful Language
Despite having a reputation as an intellectual and speaking numerous languages, Queen Elizabeth was infamous for her bad language. Her love for education, the arts and friendship with William Shakespeare was not enough to stop the Queen from swearing and insulting others. It was suggested that the Queen’s bad language was something she inherited from her father King Henry VIII who was regularly heard swearing or shouting at others, portraying his volatile and easily irritated personality.
Marking His Territory
As Henry VII’s claim to the throne was not as valid as other royal houses could have asserted, Henry made his reign secure through a number of ways. First, he married Elizabeth of York, thus uniting the Houses of York and Lancaster which was symbolized through the Tudor Rose. Second, Henry declared that his reign started before the Battle of Bosworth, meaning that anyone attempting to fight him could be found guilty of treason, which in turn secured his survival. Lastly, during his reign, he overcame several rebellions and defeated those who claimed they had a right to the throne.
Shakespeare And Elizabeth Were Friends
Elizabeth was a patron of the theatrical arts whilst in power and her commitment to the stage led her to develop a personal relationship with iconic playwright William Shakespeare. Shakespeare famously referenced Queen Elizabeth in the second act of Midsummer Night’s Dream using words such as ‘That very time I saw, but thou couldst not. Flying between the cold moon and the earth,’. The respect between the two was mutual and Queen Elizabeth went to watch Shakespeare perform with his group the Lord Chamberlains.
In Tudor times, education was rare and majority people were illiterate. However, this was not the case with Queen Elizabeth as she was known to be fluent in French, Italian and Latin which she used in translating texts and scriptures. She also spoke additional languages including Spanish, Welsh, Irish, Flemish, Greek and Cornish. Her intellect and education seem to be a running theme in her family as Henry VIII was known to be bright, wrote poems and conducted music.
Henry VII Won The Throne
Henry VII won the throne when his forces defeated King Richard III at the Battle Of Bosworth Field. The battle symbolized the culmination of the Wars of the Roses between the supporters of two rival branches of the Royal House of Plantagenet, the House of Lancaster and the House of York throughout the years of 1455 and 1487. Henry VII was the last King of England to win his throne on the battlefield, and his victory was cemented through the marriage to the daughter of Edward IV and niece of Richard III, Elizabeth of York. Interestingly enough, this story is loosely what the first few seasons of Games of Thrones is based on.
A Real Royal?
Henry VII’s claim to the throne derived from his mother’s side, the House of Beaufort, however, the validity of the claim has been disputed. Henry’s mother was a great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, fourth son of Edward III and his third wife Katherine Swynford. Interestingly, Katherine Swynford was John of Gaunt’s mistress for 25 years and had 4 children before they were married in 1396. Henry’s great-grandfather, John Beaufort, was one of these children, thus making Henry from illegitimate descent and also from the woman’s side.
A Calm King
Although Henry VII won his throne in battle and adopted tactics to ensure his victory, he was not known as a violent or military motivated ruler. Instead, his policies were centered around keeping the peace of which he watched over the marriage alliances of England’s nobility to ensure no rival power was established. He also created alliances with neighboring countries including Spain which led to the Treaty of Medina del Campo. He was also committed to building up the wealth of England with customs revenues increasing by one-fifth as trade improved.
Married To Europe
Henry VII maintained diplomatic relations with other kingdoms through treaties and trade, but also through marriages. This acted as an insurance policy for peace agreements and financial stability between the two countries. His first-born son Arthur married Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Fernando and Isabel of Spain, whilst his daughter, Margaret Tudor, was married to King James IV of Scotland. The marriage of Margaret and King James later had repercussions through the connection of the royal families from England and Scotland, concluding in the Stuarts taking the throne after the extinction of the Tudors.
The Tudors Get Down
During the Tudor period, the Church advocated for regular but moderate sex within marriage for both comfort and procreation. This was due to Tudor medicines portraying the importance of sex for health, which was assumed to clear the body of fluids and vapors, ending up in fits, fever, and illness. The wives in Aristocratic families were expected to portray themselves as models of chastity in order to produce heirs, however, their husbands would regularly seek sexual satisfaction from other women, commonly of the lower classes. Couples were supposed to refrain from sex during the wife’s pregnancies which had immediate effect on Henry VIII as he was allegedly having an affair with one of Catherine of Aragon’s waiting woman, Anne Hastings.
Henry VII was known to be a King that did not care much for his people, nor did he have the charisma of the later Tudor rulers. The only time he showed emotion was after the death of his wife Elizabeth of York, who died after succumbing to a postpartum infection in 1503. Records show that following her death he became extremely ill and would only allow his mother near him. Although he married Elizabeth for political reasons, he proved to be a good husband to her. As a widowed King, he considered re-marrying to improve political alliances with Spain, however, some complications in international diplomacy prevented him this and his foreign policy seemed to backfire onto him.
Henry’s £20 Million Bed
In 2015, a four poster bed dumped in a hotel parking lot in Chester in the UK has been traced back to 1495 and contains many scriptures and symbols related to Henry VII. The bed was passed on to TV historian Jonathan Foyle who recognized that it was one of the last remaining Tudor beds and a DNA test revealed that the bed once belonged to the King himself. The bed was traced back to when Henry VII went to Lathom in Lancashire to visit the Stanley family, who had aided him to victory in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
Henry VII Dies
Henry Tudor’s death has been questioned as to whether or not Elizabeth of York’s passing played a large part in his illness and eventual death. As he went into mourning for his wife, he became increasingly sick leading legends to state he died from a broken heart. However, this was not the case and many historians have confirmed he actually died from tuberculosis, having symptoms including chronic fatigue, loss of appetite and bouts of depression. Before he died on April 21st, 1509, according to Henry VIII, Henry VII called and instructed him to fulfill the treaty between Spain and England by marrying Catherine of Aragon, however, this was disputed by Henry VII’s council who said he was free to marry whom he chose.
Henry VIII Just Wanted To Have Fun
From the beginning of Henry VIII’s ascend to the throne, he possessed a philosophy of working to live and not living to work. He regularly didn’t get out of bed until 8 am, which was very uncommon in the 16th century, and followed this by going hunting rather than conducting everyday business as king. When he had no choice but to do his work, this did not last long, finishing early to fill his evenings with dancing, banquets, gambling or playing cards. This slow lifestyle led Henry VIII to health and weight problems in the future.
Henry VIII was more commonly known as being a strong willed, powerful king who had relationships with many women both inside and out of marriage. However, Henry had other talents, too. One being he was an extremely accomplished musician and composer. Music in the Tudor times was important and Henry built on this through education and attention to musical skills. Although Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn had a dramatic ending in her execution, his courtship of Anne Boleyn was quite the romantic love story. Henry composed a poem for Anne Boleyn which inspired the famous song ‘Greensleeves’, although he did not write the song himself.
Wife Number One
When Prince Arthur died leaving widow Catherine of Aragon behind, the alliance between England and Spain was revived when younger brother Henry VIII agreed to marry her as one of his first acts as King in 1509. Although Henry was famously known for his numerous marriages, his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was his longest-lasting, adding up to almost 24 years. They shared a similar education, a love for court entertainment and learning but their marriage took its toll after 6 miscarriages and stillbirths with their relationship only producing Princess Mary – leaving Henry VIII longing for a son.
The Love Child
Despite having a good relationship with Catherine, Henry had relationships with other women during his marriage. After a brief relationship with young courtier Elizabeth Blount, Henry fathered an illegitimate son named Henry Fitzroy. The name Fitzroy also means son of the King, which Henry acknowledged and gave him Dukedoms of Somerset and Richmond. In the 1530’s, when Henry did not have another male heir to the throne, there was talk of him legitimizing Fitzroy so that he could be King when Henry VIII died. In later years, due to him having a legitimate son, this no longer became an issue.
Looking For Loyalty
It was well documented that Henry VIII had many affairs during his rule as King. Although he has been portrayed as a prude, he was just a very private man. As a King, he had full reign to do what he wanted but chose not to parade his mistresses, unlike other rulers. He kept his extramarital affairs close to a small group of confidants including a small group of loyal intimates, his chief minister, his gentlemen of the chamber and his closest friends. Henry valued and respected secrecy and loyalty as a quality in his personal relationships.
Henry’s Wandering Eye
Henry VIII valued secrecy so much because he had many secrets to keep. Although Henry Fitzroy, his illegitimate son, was publicly known, Henry went on to father a number of illegitimate children which were kept private. Henry allegedly had a string of affairs with women including Jane Popincourt, Anne Bassett, Elizabeth Carew, Anne Hastings, Elizabeth Amadas together with Anne Boleyn’s sister Mary and Cousin Margaret. He was also rumored to father children from mistresses including Jane Pollard, Agnes Edwardes, Joan Dingley and Mary Berkeley.
Keeping Up With The Boleyns
Although it was well documented that Anne’s sister Mary was one of Henry VIII’s many mistresses, there were also rumors swirling that his second wife’s mother, Elizabeth Howard, shared a secret relationship with the King as well. In 1533, Elizabeth Amadas, the wife of a London goldsmith declared that Thomas Boleyn was ‘bawd both to his wife and his two daughters’. Later in the 16th Century, Jesuit Nicholas Sander claimed that Anne was Henry VIII’s own daughter. However, the claims of her mother being Henry’s mistress seem improbable as she was much older than him and Henry went on to deny it himself.
Making His Own Laws
In 1534, England was a Catholic country, and the head of the Church, The Pope, would not allow divorce as the Catholic’s believed that when you marry, you marry for life. Henry desperately wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry new love Anne Boleyn, whom he had hoped would give him a son. Through forming the Church of England, Henry VIII acted as the head and could marry and divorce as he pleased. This certainly was useful in his six marriages.
Anne The Adulterer
It was widely known that Henry VIII was committing regular adultery with a number of different mistresses, with some closely linked to Anne Boleyn. When her marriage to the King fell apart, their annulment wasn’t enough for Henry who grew increasingly tired of her so he took advantage of right hand man Thomas Cromwell and had her executed on charges of high treason, adultery, and incest in 1536. Regardless of his status as King, Henry was allowed to commit adultery being a man. Women in the 16th century were seen as below the men and were the caregivers to the children and had to project a virginal image.
The day after Anne Boleyn’s beheading, Henry VIII became engaged to Jane Seymour, and 10 days later they were married. Henry still longed for a male heir to the throne and 7 months after they wed, she became pregnant and later gave birth to a boy named Edward. However, a happy ending did not ensue as Jane died 12 days later from post-natal complications. Henry was heartbroken by the death of his wife who produced a boy, something that he longed for. Henry’s love for Jane was shown by being buried next to her when he died in 1547.
The Ugly Truth
Anne of Cleves’s looks were not viewed as the most appealing, so much so that when Henry VIII first laid eyes on her he was so revolted that he immediately instructed lawyers to get him out of the marriage. The marriage only lasted 6 months and led her to retreating into obscurity whilst her former husband moved on with Catherine Howard. Regardless of her unfavorable looks, Anne of Cleves was viewed to be a popular, pragmatic and successful Queen.
Elizabeth’s Dead Luck
Elizabeth took the throne after a sequence of her siblings dying. The death of her father King Henry VIII meant she was third in line to the throne behind her younger brother Edward and older sister Mary. Edward took the throne in 1547 for six years before died from a fever. However, before he died he named his cousin Lady Jane Grey as his successor but this only lasted a mere 13 days after Mary succeeded in having Jane deposed. Mary then took the throne for the next 5 years before dying in 1558 from influenza, leaving Elizabeth to take the crown.
Anne The Allied Force
In 1539, Henry VIII desperately needed new allies as his two great rivals, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and French King Francis I, had forged a treaty while Pope Paul III had reissued excommunication with Henry VIII. Although Anne of Cleves’s father the Duke of Juliers-Cleves was not a Protestant, much like Henry, he had expelled papal authority from his domain which Thomas Cromwell saw as a major advancement and therefore encouraged the marriage.
Cut The Cake, Cut The Head
On 28th July, 1540, Henry VIII was marrying his fifth wife Catherine Howard while his former trusted adviser and Master Secretary Thomas Cromwell was being executed as a traitor. Thomas Cromwell was denied a trial and the Act of Attainder had been used against him. Cromwell was accused of taking bribes, releasing men convicted and suspected of treason and misusing and expropriating funds. Cromwell was also an advocate for the failed marriage of Henry VIII to Anne of Cleves and later failed to annul the marriage.
Catherine The Cheater
The first stages of the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine Howard was joyous and carefree with the King showering her with land and jewelry. Soon after, Catherine began engaging in adultery with Henry’s favorite male courtier Thomas Culpeper, who allegedly took the heart of Henry’s wife. Henry was around 50 years old at the time of his marriage to Catherine who was only 18 years of age. Catherine also had love affairs with other men and once it reached the King, he was initially reluctant to believe it but was swayed but one of the men, Francis Dereham. The King had Catherine, Francis and Thomas executed with his marriage to Catherine only lasting just over a year.
Looking For The Love Nest
Being the wife of the Queen, it was difficult for Catherine to maintain her affairs without getting caught by the King or his thousands of staff, advisors and kings men. Thomas Culpeper was one of Catherine’s cousins and close friend of Henry VIII. It was later revealed that many of Catherine and Thomas’s trysts took place at Preston Hall where Catherine would regularly stay, and in order to avoid suspicions they would meet in a hidden staircase. When confronted about the affair they denied it but Thomas later admitted it under torture and letters to him were uncovered with Catherine signing them “Yours as long as life endures.”
Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived!
Catherine Parr was the last of Henry VIII six wives and outlived him by one year. She married Henry in 1543, and given it was her third marriage, they appeared to be well suited, not to mention they were also cousins. Catherine Parr was involved with Henry’s children from past marriages and played a large part in the Third Succession Act in 1542, placing Henry’s daughters Mary and Elizabeth in line to the throne. Shortly before Henry died, he made provisions for Catherine to be paid £7,000 a month to support herself, making Catherine the only successful wife of Henry VIII.
The Widow’s Hidden Marriage
Six months after the King’s death, Catherine found love once again with old flame Thomas Seymour, who was the uncle of the new King. Knowing that the Regency Council would deny a petition for Catherine to marry so soon after, Catherine and Seymour married secretly. Due to King Edward VI and his council being unaware of the union, a small scandal ensued when the news broke with the King condemning the marriage. Catherine died in 1548 after giving birth to her only child, Mary Seymour.
Henry VIII died on 28th January 1547 aged 55. Henry VIII was extremely obese, weighing more than 320 lbs and had a lot of related issues from this, including open ulcers on his legs and feet, insulin deficiency, and diabetes. He had a series of strokes and high blood pressure which ultimately led to heart failure. The King’s doctors did not have the courage to tell him about his imminent death as they would face treason accusations, so his death came as a surprise to everyone.
During his reign as King from 1509 to 1547, Henry VIII regularly ordered people to be executed. Although the exact number is not known, it was suggested that figures could have totaled from 57,000 to 72,000. By the rate at which Henry VIII was executing his wives, relatives, close friends and confidants, the estimation seems like it could be probable. Henry VIII realized how many people he sent for execution and had stated that his sins ‘were greater than can be’ and feared for his soul. This directly relates to the King summoning the Archbishop to his bedside right before his death.
Throughout Henry VIII’s life, he utilized his status as King to throw over the top banquets, masques, and parties. Henry had used the planning of these events as an excuse to ‘borrow’ maids of honor to rehearse banquets and entertainment which may have required dancing, costumes and songs. There appeared to be a distinct connection between dancing and sex, which would have assisted the King in pursuing relationships with young women without the better knowledge of his 6 wives.
A Closet Fit For The Queen
When Queen Elizabeth’s mother was executed, she outgrew all of her clothes but had no money to buy new ones, leading her servant to write to ask for new garments. Perhaps her love and appreciation for fashion stemmed from this event. She had over 2,000 dresses as Queen, all in rich fabrics and vibrant colors but was never satisfied. When one of her maids of honor appeared in court in a dress she admired, the Queen became jealous and made Lady Mary Howard take it off and give it to her.
Long Live Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth was 69 years old at the time of her death making her the longest living monarch in English history. The last record was held for 300 years by Edward I who lived until 68. Elizabeth held this record for 151 years until 1754 when King George II held on for one more year to overtake her at 70. This was specifically surprising for Elizabeth as all of her siblings died young after succumbing to illness.
In contrast to her father’s six marriages, Elizabeth never got married. Being Queen, the government played a large part in who she married. However, a number of suitors were considered; including Thomas Seymour, the husband of her father’s widow Catherine Parr, King Phillip II of Spain, who she rejected a proposal from and later attempted to send an Armada to invade England, the Archduke Charles of Austria and the Duke of Anjou and Francois.
Elizabeth’s Secret Lover
The one suitor who Elizabeth really fell in love with was named Lord Robert Dudley. He was a married man but it was suggested he and Elizabeth were somewhat childhood sweethearts and he got married after growing tired of waiting for her. Elizabeth was reported to have loathed Dudley’s strong-minded wife Lettice who she allegedly referred to as the ‘she-wolf’. Some historians believe that Dudley was linked to his wife’s death when she fell down the stairs, leaving him free to marry Elizabeth.
The Beaufort Bunch
Henry VII was born January 28th, 1457 to 13-year-old Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond. His father died 3 months before his birth so was unable to feature in the future King’s life and reign over England. His paternal family, the Royal House of Tudor, was of English and Welsh origin and descended in the male line from the Tudors of Penmynydd whereas his mother’s side gave Henry VII his claim to the throne through the House of Beaufort.
The United Kingdom
Due to Elizabeth never getting married, she never had any children and was known as The Virgin Queen. As she had no children to be the new heir to the throne, the Tudor reign ended with her and the throne went to the King of Scotland, James VI who became King James I of England and continued to rule Scotland. The two Kingdoms remained separate but governed by the same ruler, later becoming the United Kingdom. If Elizabeth had married and had Tudor heirs, British history might have been considerably different.
Still A Virgin?
Although Elizabeth was known as the Virgin Queen for not marrying or having any children, many believed Elizabeth was engaging in secret sexual liaisons. This was a common theme with the Tudors and it is doubtful that a Queen did not engage in any relations throughout her life. Her love for Robert Dudley was documented so left unanswered questions as to whether she was actually a virgin. During her life, the ladies of the bedchamber had defended Elizabeth’s innocence as to not compromise her position or reputation, but as Queen, Elizabeth was free to do what she wanted, leading many to doubt her virginity after her death.