How the Protestant Reformation Rapidly Changed  Life For people With Disabilities in England in the Sixteenth Century.

Introduction

Horowitz (2002), states that the ways in which disabilities are categorised are controlled by the ‘dominant mode of thinking’ at a specific period of time. It is precisely this ‘mode’ of thought that affects the way in which a society responds to certain positions, such as disability and poverty. Sixteenth century England proved to be an excellent example of this. By marking a momentous turning point in religious history, it offered new ‘modes’ of thought in regards to disability, as well as creating a shift in the way that people with disabilities, illness’ and impairments were cared for, and perceived.

Whilst the teachings of Martin Luther were gaining momentum, and support for his attack on Papal control was rising throughout Europe, in England it provided a perfect opportunity to be exploited for monarchical gain by Henry VIII. With the implementation of the protestant reformation, England saw rapid and significant change of perceptions towards the disabled and infirm. This change in attitude appears to be catalysed by closures of monasteries and abbeys, which previously served to provide aid to such individuals.

Prior to the reformation, England had seen a support system for individuals with impairments and disabilities akin to that outlined by the social model of disability, with focus on integration and support (Stone, 1984 as cited in Sheer and Groce 1988). Stainton (2002), states that there was, in fact, no medical remit for institutions assisting those with intellectual disabilities prior to the reformation, and suggests that the fact that ‘inmates’ had intellectual disabilities was merely incidental. This illustrates that although individuals with disabilities may have still faced socially constructed barriers, emphasis was still placed on the care of individuals within communities; with disability often a secondary complaint next to poverty. Likewise, with Horowitz’ statement in mind, the ‘mode’ of disability at the time appears to be considered spiritually-derived and socially addressed, rather than medically labelled and treated.

Along with the reformation, other factors contributed to this shift in treatment of disabled individuals; a rising population, advancements in communication and a move towards an interest in science and medicine, meant that Europe was undergoing social and cultural change at an exponential rate. The political and economic issues of the mid-16th century had serious consequences for the most vulnerable within society. Within England the closure of religious caring institutions, such as monasteries, led to an increase in vagrancy and poverty. Poor laws were thus adapted in response to these changing times.

The ever evolving laws, ironically only served to heighten the social disparity for those with disabilities and eventually the economic crisis resulted in greater upheavals, such as increased vagrancy and disease spread. It became a cyclic, and destructive series of amendments that responded to immediate pressures placed on the state, rather than seeking out long term solutions. Religious and communal support systems were rapidly replaced by public hospitals and medicalisation, and those most in need, (categorised by Sheer and Groce (1988), as ‘unmarried mothers, orphans, mentally and physically disabled, and sick person’s’) faced new forms of discrimination and stigmatism.

Stone (1984, as cited by Sheer and Groce, 1988), suggests that disabled people did not become detached from traditional methods of support until industrialisation in the 19th and 20th centuries, and that institutionalisation did not begin until this time also. However, I would dispute that claim and argue that the initial movement away from traditional care systems occurred as a consequence of the reformation, with the foundations for institutionalisation and social control being laid during this time period.

Here I will set out an argument that outlines the mechanisms behind the changing of attitudes towards disabled individuals during the period of 1485 to 1700. I will evidence how the aftermath of the Protestant reformation in England brought about social change for people with disabilities; shifting from a structure of religiously led support systems, and social integration and care, to an economic crisis resulting in vagrancy, exclusion and discrimination. I will compare attitudes towards disability, both pre and post reformation; discussing how the closure of religious caring establishments moved care of the disabled and sick from a family and communal based system of care, to one of duty-bound state institutions.

Additionally, I will go on to argue that the consequence of this cultural shift further reinforced a negative view of disability within society, changing people’s perceptions of disability from one of an ingrained sense of care, to a perception of burden. Where disability was seen as a holy and spiritual act prior to the reformation, it was soon deemed disdainful, and draining to state finances post reformation.

 

Pre reformation attitudes towards Disability within Europe; 1485 – 1532.

The concept of ‘disability’ is a modern idea; The World Health Organisation describes to the term as the restrictions observed by an individual as a consequence of their impairments. The term ‘disability’ was not recorded in English history until the late 16th century, during which time it was used to refer to a ‘want of power, strength or ability’(Wasserman et al, 2016), as opposed to a social disadvantage brought about through impairment. It is clear that disability was not viewed then as it is now, within its modern day meaning. Indeed, prior to and during the 16th century, individuals were not considered ‘disabled’ within the modern meaning at all, as social integration was viewed as a normality, and persons with impairments did not face the same social construct of disability that people do in society today. However, for clarity and the avoidance of repetition, I shall use the term ‘disability’ to refer to individuals with impairments or illness that may have potentially caused disability, as we would understand it within the modern meaning.

During the middle ages, (5th-15th century), impairments and illness were commonplace, regardless of age, wealth or social status. It was prevalent amongst both peasants and nobility, and accepted equally by both. Although disability was viewed differently between different societies within Christendom, it was not usually seen as a cause for complete segregation or isolation from normal society. In the middle ages, ‘non-normative’ bodies were seen to be a canal for God, with the rich donating alms in exchange for spiritual encounters (Row-Heyveld, 2009; Jarrett, 2012; Metzler, 2006). Others, such as those with physical impairments, were believed to be suffering punishment for their past sins, or those of their parents (Covey, 2005). Whilst those suffering from mental illness could be viewed as undergoing demonic possession.

There were various examples of the consequences of sin, and teaching of how such actions would lead to imperfections n the human form, outlined in biblical passages as a warning to those who may succumb to temptations (Metzler, 2006). The impact of these cautionary teachings for most, would have resultantly relied on the clerical interpretation from Latin, therefore widely inaccessible for the poor pre-reformation.

Attitudes towards disability had seemingly changed very little by the turn of the 16th century, and although the social structures of European countries remained complex, they remained under the governance of the Catholic Church, and led by ancient doctrines. The monarchs of Christendom still took dictation from the Pope and papal representatives, and so a certain degree of uniformity was maintained throughout the Holy Roman Empire.

Society during the period is best described by Miles (2001), who, when discussing the Germanic region of the early sixteenth century, suggested that it was:

pre-scientific, pre-printing, narrow, inflexible, dominated by hierarchical religion and supposedly all-embracing doctrine, characterised by superstition, credulity and dependant on translated and packaged knowledge from ancient authorities’.

Due to the nature of the environment, accidents and illnesses were common place, and frequently left individuals with permanent disabilities and impairments, which were often regarded as ‘divine interventions’, (Loimer et al, 1996). Some individuals would face life changing disabilities brought about by common practices, for example swaddling, which prevented vitamin D uptake and ultimately caused Rickets (Penny-Mason & Gowland, 2014). Disability also came in the form of congenital defects, learning disabilities and ‘mental illness’. Regardless of the mode, attitudes towards disabilities were mixed during these times, as I shall go on to discuss. Despite this, the upkeep of such individuals was viewed as a civic duty of care, rather than a need to treat or cure. This is not to say however that all individuals were cared for, some were abandoned by society, and forced to turn to begging in order to survive (Erskine & McIntosh, 1999).

Prior to the reformation, vagrants with disabilities had been viewed as the responsibility of religious institutions, such as monasteries, and were able to seek refuge and shelter throughout the land. As such, they were deemed by the state as the ‘deserving poor’ or ‘worthy poor’ (Sheer & Groce, 1988), and likely to receive donations and religious help, (Row-Heyveld, 2009). However, as the population increased towards the early 1500’s, more disabled beggars were seen on the streets, putting an increased demand on religious institutions and local parish’s, and for those who were not in a position to be assisted by communities, they were forced to either find work or move on. It is important to note here, that for the ‘worthy poor’, those with disabilities or impairments restricting them from work, begging was legally allowed by means of survival.

For the majority of those with disabilities and impairments who were able to work, and not forced into vagrancy, there is abundant evidence to suggest that they were well integrated into society, often maintaining employment and engaging in community life (Metzler, 2006; Row-Heyveld, 2009; Jarrett, 2012). Those that were able to participate in such activities were cared for by relatives or the parish, and often in receipt of alms from rich sponsors, usually in the form of housing or monetary donations. This was usually a non-altruistic exchange, as it enabled the sponsor to encounter divine presence by assisting the ‘blessed’, (Row-Heyveld, 2009).

Prior to the reformation in England, Religious institutions played a pivotal role in the care of the disabled. Whilst basic hospitals catered for the poor and infirm, the expectation was that the sick, customarily pilgrims, would reside there short term, ordinarily one night, in order to receive rest and a hot meal (Mahood, 2015). These ‘spytalls’ did not offer diagnosis or medicalisation in the sense that we would observe today, although more long-term establishments  did ensure quarantine against infectious diseases such as leprosy, which was prevalent in England during the Middle Ages. Leprosy was regarded as an act of divine penance for sexual sins (Augente & Gilchrist, 2011), with those in care receiving religious prayers and interventions, rather than long term, medical assistance.

The spytalls were still closely overseen by religious authorities (Augenti and Gilchrist, 2011), sparse in their locations, and in short supply (Mahood, 2015). Those with disabilities who were unable to seek long term care from their families, often had very few options but to travel to spytalls away from their home towns, thus travelling vagabonds became common. Spytalls which offered long term provision were in short demand, and thus overcrowded and underfunded.

One such notable establishment was the priory of Bethlam, (or ‘Bedlam’ as it became later known). Although predominantly caring for the sick poor, Bethlam started to gain a reputation for its attentive care towards those with mental illness, and by 1403 cared for an inordinate amount of such individuals (Andrews, 1991). At this time, Bethlam, like the other spytalls and priories, was known as a place of respite, and did not become known as an ‘asylum’ or medical institution until 1634,  (Andrews, 1991).

As a disability was seen to be an act of God in one capacity or another, the monasteries, priories and abbeys served to help those who may be afflicted to understand their circumstances; seeking atonement for past sins, whilst simultaneously acquiring refuge and understanding from the community within the monastery walls, which acted as a ‘surrogate family’ for those who society had rejected (Crislip, 2005).

Medical care in the late 15th to early 16th century was limited to those who could afford it, with practitioners being of wealthy and educated backgrounds (Augenti & Gilchrist, 2011). Royal physicians were seen in courts across Europe, however there role was little more than the preservation of the monarchs health, and advising in the acquisition of male heirs (Nutton, 2018). The physicians seemed to have little responsibility regarding permanent disability. Since court life was centred on politics and status, physicians often played additional advisory roles within the court. This remained common practice prior to the reformation through to the 19th century, (Nutton 2018).

Medical intervention at court was little more than management of pain caused by illness. Long term and life changing disabilities were still perceived to be a consequence of divine providence, and those with certain ‘intellectual impairments’, were thought to have been derived as a direct result from holy blessings and spiritual connections (Lipscomb, 2012, as cited in Jarrett, 2012; Levitas & Reis, 2003). This belief led to the employment of ‘fooles’, (or ‘naturals’ and ‘innocents’ as they were otherwise named), by monarchs, whose purpose was to entertain wealthy courtiers. This practice was common with monarchs throughout the sixteenth century, and across Europe, and changed little post reformation. Although this remained relatively unchanged, I feel it important to include it here as I believe the contradictory discourse concerning the employment of fools provides much evidence of the treatment of those with learning disabilities, and mental illness during the late antiquity, through the 16th century.

Some academics state that the presence of ‘fools’ at court highlighted the close proximity of the monarch with sentient beings, and those who were blessed (Lipscomb, 2012, as cited in Jarrett, 2012). Evidence to support this is found in artwork such as the painting ‘The Adoration of the Christ Child’, circa 1515, which is believed to depict an image of an angel with Downs Syndrome (Levitas and Reid, 2003). This suggests a link between the perceptions of such conditions with divinity. However, others argue that the ‘abnormality’ observed in fools was a ‘sentence passed by God’ for previous sins, and they were therefore placed with in society to be ridiculed as penance for this (LeGoff, 1988, as cited in Metzler, 2006).

I would argue that the latter suggestion is somewhat misleading, as there is a large body of evidence to suggest the ‘fools’ were valued members of court, and admired for their honesty and innocence, hence considered spiritual. For example, the famous fool of Henry VIII, Will Sommers, received the highest forms of gratitude and privilege from the King; in the form of monetary rewards, and heightened social status. This was not an isolated case, as fools across Europe were granted similar privileges. Conversely, the language used when discussing fools in literature would suggest that all too often, especially in older citations, academics confuse the treatment of those with mental illness during the period, with that of those who we may identify in present day as having learning difficulties.

 

The reformation, vagrancy and a change in perception.

The trigger of the reformation in England, between 1532 and 1534, generated a rapid political, economic and cultural reconstruction. As Henry VIII broke from the Holy Roman Empire, he turned to other reformist countries to take their lead, which inadvertently lead to a change in the way society treated people with disabilities, impairments and illness. This change was in part the responsibility of practical factors such as the dissolution of the monasteries, but also due to a social need to seek out new religious influences and biblical interpretations; mainly those of the Germanic reformer, Martin Luther.

There has been much discourse concerning Luther’s opinions towards disability; some academics perceive Luther to hold great prejudices towards disabilities, focusing on his warnings of ‘changelings’ and ‘witchcraft’ (Miles, 2001), and his attitudes towards ‘mentally retarded children’ (Colón, 1989, as cited in Miles, 2001). However others, such as Miles (2001), take a more subjective approach when evaluating Luther’s teachings. It is impossible to correctly infer Luther’s thoughts on disability as we do not have his opinions concisely recorded. Nevertheless, it should be accepted that Luther’s attitude towards vagrancy had a direct impact on the disabled poor of England.

Luther’s preface in the book Liber Vagatorium (Anon, 1528), states clearly Luther’s attitudes towards vagabonds and beggars. It proposes that the public should be ‘prudent and cautious in dealing with beggars’, and that parish councils should know and register their poor, so as to eliminate vagrancy and ‘knaveries’. By these means, Luther suggests that councils can ensure monitory donations are only given to ‘honest paupers and needy neighbours’. This publication, along with many other of Luther’ works, had a substantial impact on the reformation movement, as it coincided with recent advancements of the printing press, enabling propaganda material to be easily published and distributed. Indeed, the Protestant reformation was first major campaign to utilise the printing press in order to expand communications across Europe, (Edwards, 2005), and literature regarding Luther’s interpretations of biblical texts, and his thoughts regarding vagrancy, were now readily available to the English reformers; possibly indirectly contributing to the stigmatisation of the disabled that followed.

Between 1532 and 1534, the reformation gained ground in England. The country witnessed a devastating effect on the disabled, brought about by the dissolution of the monasteries, and closure of over 260 religious ‘spytalls’ and almshouses: more than half that were present in England at the time (McIntosh, 1988). The closures forced the poor and disabled onto the streets, increasing levels of vagrancy. This happened with almost immediate effect after the reformation, as outlined in a petition to Henry VIII, in 1536, which called for:

an immediate reopening of the hospitals as ‘the miserable people lyeing in the streete, offending every clene person passing by the way’, (Strype, 1820).

In response to the emergency, Henry VIII legislated the ‘Act for Punishment of Sturdy Vagabonds and Beggars’ as part of the English poor laws. This act served to ensure that parish councils were held accountable for their poor and disabled parishioners (Slack, 1995).  However, the new amendment to the law proved to yield little by the way of outcomes for several decades and England saw a period of sixty years where religious sanctuaries had been eradicated, and the new hospitals and alms-houses that would replace them, not yet built (Penny-Mason & Gowland, 2014). Those with disabilities who could not be supported by their family or community members, now had very little choice but to turn to vagrancy.

In 1547, Edward VI gave permission for parish’s to increase taxes in order to fund the new building of hospitals. For example, In London, taxes were raised to fund the erection of St. Bartholomew’s hospital (McIntosh, 1988), which arguably led to a replacement of the religious caring establishments, with medicalised institutions. Other cities soon followed suit, and the heavy burden of tax inflations further took its toll on the poor. The hospitals, though being constructed, were still not built, and the state placed increasing responsibility on local parish’s to care for their infirm. Rich investors were now invited to sponsor the erection of new almshouses, though this provided to be little more than an opportunity to increase personal popularity, than to assist those in need (Jarrett, 2012). I would suggest that this was the turning point from the caring nature of the church, to a civic duty of the councils.

The responsibility of religious institutions as care providers was removed officially in 1572, by Elizabeth I, with the introduction of the Vagabonds Act. This legislation set out the new obligations to parish councils with respect to their poor and infirm, and ordered the Justice of the peace for each ward to distribute donations to those unable to work. The act set out governance stating that any ‘able bodied poor’ should be put to work to reduce the vagrancy population, these individuals faced heavy penalties if they failed to comply, such as whipping, branding and ‘ear boring’ (McIntosh, 1988). The ‘impotent poor’, those individuals known to parishes as too infirm or disabled to work (Sheer and Groce, 1988), were to be supported by the state, suggesting this was the initial precursor to the welfare system in England.

Although designed to protect the ‘impotent poor’ – that is, those with genuine conditions preventing them from work – it could be argued that the act served to further persecute them. With local parish’s now being responsible for their budgets, and the religious caring institutions gone, the disabled were beginning to be viewed as a burden on local societies and communities. As poor laws were refined to punish those who were seen to be undeserving, more individuals turned to feigning impairments to exploit the alms given to the ‘worthy poor’. One account suggests that some beggars would consume soap to induce convulsions similar to epilepsy, (Erskine & McIntosh, 1999), others were known to feign blindness, (Row-Heyveld, 2009). This generated stigmatism and provoked a negative backlash for the ‘worthy poor’, and those with genuine disabilities and impairments, who were now more commonly viewed as fraudsters.

Between 1563 and 1598, the poor population had increased so significantly that now over half of the population were unable to work through issues such as disability (McIntosh, 1988). MacFarlane (1990, as cited in McIntosh, 1988), suggests that the lack of assistance offered by wealthy families to their poor neighbours led to a rise in witchcraft charges around this time. I would go further and argue that that the collapse of social care from monastic provisions, coupled with the increase in poverty, not only promoted witchcraft charges, but also led to a direct persecution of those with disabilities by means of early eugenics; that is the deliberate eradication of those with disabilities and impairments to relive their ‘burden’ on the state.

By the late 16th and early 17th century, attitudes towards the disabled had changed significantly from the pre-reformation days of social and religious care. The late 16th century saw an upsurge in interest in scientific and medical interventions, and institutions such as Bethlam had begun to specialise care, placing focus on medical interventions rather than traditional methods (Jarrett, 2012). Although thorough the 16th and 17th century the care of those with mental illness was still mainly allocated to families (Covey, 2005), a large proportion of individuals remained on the streets (Jarrett, 2012), with no care or social support akin to that they would have received prior to the reformation. I would also suggest that it is apparent through the change in langue found in records such as parish census’ and hospital registers, that stigmatism and labels for those with such conditions, were now being formed; with a shift of language from terms such as ‘natural foole’ and ‘impotent poor’, to ‘idiots’ and ‘lunatics’.

The late 16th and 17th century also saw a rise in ‘witch hunts’ which saw direct discrimination of those with physical and mental disabilities. Though many disabilities were still perceived to be a consequence of sin, the treatment towards disabled individuals had now shifted from one of a duty of care, to a right to persecute, ridicule and stigmatise.

 

Conclusion and Discussion.

Horowitz (2002), stated that society will always label and stigmatise. Whilst evidence would suggest this statement to be partly correct, in that people with disabilities have always faced prejudiced attitudes and persecution throughout history, it is also clear that the treatment of such individuals is influenced by the social and political pressures of the time period.

It can be said with a high level of certainty that disabled people were confronted with a rapid shift in legislation, as well as a change in the level and method of delivery of care, as a consequence of the economic aftermath of the reformation. Where there had previously been an inclusive and social support system, focused on spiritual healing, refuge and acceptance, the disabled citizens of post- reformation England faced vagrancy, institutionalisation and discrimination as consequence of the political upheaval. I believe this marked the initial shift from an early version of the social model of disability, toward a society beginning its journey down a path towards a medical based model of disability.

Not dissimilar to modern day, the economic position of the country throughout history has dictated the support received by disabled individual. However, unlike modern day, I would argue that prior to the reformation, there resided an ingrained system of social care, with families and religious institutions being the keys to inclusive provision. Stainton (2002) proposes that that it was poverty as opposed to impairment that drove the change in support during the sixteenth century. Whilst I agree with this statement, I would also add that it was also this poverty that lay the foundations for medicalisation of disabled individuals at this time.

The impact of the reformation on disabled members of society runs far wider than the issues addressed here. Further reading will undoubtedly highlight how the evolution of language, led to the formation of certain labels becoming common parlance, thus reinforcing stigmatism and discrimination at this time. Evidence may also be uncovered when further evaluating the impact on Luther’s teachings on disability, or how the English poor laws affected the early American settlers, and their views of disability in the sixteenth century. The reformation clearly proved to be an important, and pivotal turning point in the history of disability, having consequences not only for our disabled ancestors, but also shaping the future of disability and social care.

 

References

Andrews, J. (1991). Bedlam revisited: A history of Bethlam hospital c.1664-1770 [Ph. D. Thesis]. London. Queen Mary and Westfield College. London University.

Anon. (1528). Liber Vagatorium. (J. Camden-Hotten, Trans.) Wittemberg: unknown.

Augenti, A. & Gilchrist, R. (2011). Life, death and. The Archaeology of Medieval Europe, 2, 494-515.

Covey, H. (2005). Western Christianity’s two historical treatments of people with disabilities or mental illness. The Social Science Journal, 42, 107-114.

Crislip, A. (2005). Monastic health care in a functional context: The monastery as a surrogate family. In A. Crislip, From Monastery to Hospital: Monasticismand the transformation of health care in late antiquity (pp. 39-68). Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.

Edwards, M. (2005). Printing, Propaganda and Martin Luther. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Erskine, A. & McIntosh, I. (1999). Why begging offends: Historical perspectives and continuities. In H. Dean, Begging Questions: Street Level Economic Activity and Social Policy Failure (pp. 27-43). Bristol: The Policy Press.

Horowitz, A. (2002). Introduction: The proliferation of mental illness. In Creating Mental Illness (pp. 1-18). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Jarrett, S. (2012). Disability in Time and Place. Retrieved from historicengland.org: https://historicengland.org.uk/content/docs/research/disability-in-time-and-place-pdf/

Levitas, A. & Reid, C. (2003). An Angel With Down Syndrome in a Sixteenth Century Flemish Nativity Painting. American Journal of Medical Genetics, 116A, 399-405.

Loimer, H. M. (1996). Public Health Then and Now. Accidents and Acts of God: A History of the Times. 86(1). American Journal of Public Health, 101-107.

Mahood, H. (2015). The liminality of care: caring for the sick and needy on the boundaries of monasteries. The Reading Medievalist, 2, 50-70. Retrieved from http://centaur.reading.ac.uk/72984/

McIntosh, M. (1988). Local responses to the poor in late medieval and Tudor England. Continuity and Change, 3(2), 209-245.

Metzler, I. (2006). Medieval theoretical concepts of the (impaired) body. In Disability in Medieval Europe (pp. 38-65). London: Routledge.

Miles, M. (2001). Martin Luther and childhood Disability in 16th Century Germany. Journal of Religion, Disability and Health, 5:4, 5-36.

Nutton, V. (2018). Medicine in the Courts of Europe. London: Routledge.

Penny-Mason, B. & Gowland, R. (2014). The Children of the Reformation: Childhood Palaeoepidemiology in Britain, ad 1000–1700. Medieval Archaeology, 58(1), 162-194.

Row-Heyveld, L. (2009). “The Lying’st Knave in Christendom”: The Development of Disability in the False Miracle of St.Albans. Disability Studies Quarterly, (29)4, https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v29i4.994.

Sheer, J. & Groce, N. (1988). Impairment as a human constant: Cross- cultural and historical perspectives on variation. Journal of Social Issues, 44(1), 23-37.

Slack, P. (1995). Defining Strategies. In P. Slack, The English Poor law, 1531-1782 (pp. 3-12). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Stainton, T. (2002). Medieval Charitable Institutions and Intellectual Impairment. Journal on Developmental Disabilities, 8(2), pp. 19-31.

Strype, J. (1820). Historical Biographical Works (Vol. 1(1)). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Wasserman, D. A. (2016). Disability: Definitions, Models, Experience. (E. Zalta, Ed.) Retrieved from The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2016/entries/disability/

 

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13th February, 1542: The Execution of Katherine Howard

 

Portrait of a Young Woman (Catherine Howard), ca

Katherine Howard: The rose among thorns

Of all of the Tudor queens, it is Katherine Howard that I have the most empathy for.  It seems her whole life, albeit a very short one, was filled with predatory men taking advantage of her circumstances. At a young age, she was forced to go and live with her step-grandmother – Katherine’s father had fallen into debt, and had to do a bunk out of the country before his debtors caught up with him. So she was sent to the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, who, if I’m honest, was utterly shit and apparently well out of her depth at taking care of the young women in her protection.

In my professional* opinion, Katherine had significant attachment issues because of this, which rendered her vulnerable and extremely likely to accept the attention of anybody willing to give it; queue the gross, rapey, sex-pest-esque, Tudor fuckwits, who preyed upon young girls to get their thrills…men like Henry if were being entirely honest. As you can probably see already – I am on Katherine’s side in all of this!

It was in the Dowager Duchess’s care that Katherine had her first sexual encounters; one of which would testify against her, and the other would face his death as consequence. However, this blog is about Katherine’s execution, not the gobshites who caused it, so I shall put a link to a page about them at the bottom of this piece if you are interested in knowing about their part in it all.

Katherine was only 17 when she was stripped of her title as Queen, and sent to the block. She was executed because she had been seduced by yet another little buttmunch, Henry’s Privy Council pal, Thomas Culpepper. Thomas was seemingly yet another self-entitled piece off work, who managed to talk his way into Katherine’s knickers when the King was out of town. Though if certain history books are to be believed, it was Katherine that did the seducing.

The affair was aided by Katherine’s lady-in-waiting, Lady Rochford, who helped Thomas and Katherine to meet in secret and get their rocks off. Not content with simply being aware of the affair, but actively encouraging and supporting it, Lady Rochford implemented herself in the treasonous act. When Henry found out the affair, the intimate details of Katherine’s sexual past were investigated and all the unfortunate misgivings of her past were aired out like knickers on a clothesline. He immediately set to work summoning Katherine’s past conquests and gathering evidence against his young bride.

Katherine was defenceless. She had all but been caught red-handed and the evidence was overwhelming. Both she and Lady Rochford were sentenced to death. Henry, despite being a massive pig-dog of a man, was smitten with Katherine and her betrayal hit him hard. Henry had entered the marriage believing that Katherine would be the bride that his previous wives had not. Despite being 49, partially lame and riddled with cock-rot, Henry’s hyper-inflated ego meant that he thought he was irresistible to all women, even the 16 year old Katherine. There was no way his new Queen would look elsewhere right? I mean, what girl in their right mind would look elsewhere when they have to put up with an obese, stinky dad-man, with a pustulous leg and breath like a dead hookers minge, gyrating his syphilitic ramrod against her kirtle?!  I mean, the very idea of such a catch has me wiping my chair as I write… oh wait, no. No it doesn’t, and Henry was both naive and arrogant to think that Katherine would find him to be the man of her dreams, regardless of his status.

Execution of Catherine Howard

The execution of Katherine Howard 

The main sticking point for Henry was that he thought Katherine was a virgin when he married her. He had undoubtedly also boasted to his privy boy-gang about deflowering her, and felt like a knobhead when he found this to not be true. In fact, Katherine had been with a couple of men prior to Henry, to one of which she had promised herself to be his wife. This was a man called Francis Dereham. When Henry learned about her relationship with Dereham, a man now in employment at the royal palace, he went fucking mental and ordered that Dereham, along with Culpepper, be sentenced to a traitor’s death. Culpepper was able to talk his way out of such a fate, but Dereham was not so lucky. Nor was Katherine or Lady Rochford.

On the night on 12th February, 1542 Katherine awaited her execution. Being a Sunday, it was postponed until the next morning. The extra day’s wait must have been agonising for the young girl. Katherine spent her last evening preparing for her death by practicing placing her head on the block so she didn’t fuck it up the following day. At 7am the following morning, dressed in a black velvet gown and weak from emotion, she was escorted to Tower green: the very place her cousin, Anne Boylen, had met her fate at the hands of Henry just less than five years earlier. She was accompanied by Lady Rochford.

After mustering the courage to address the crowd, she placed her head on the block and was executed with one swift blow of the axe. Lady Rochford followed, kneeling in the blood of her former Queen as she too was beheaded. Their bodies were taken to St. Peter-ad-Vincula within the grounds of the Tower, and covered in Quicklime. Interestingly enough, during renovations of the church in Victorian times, the bodies of the women were never uncovered, although they do say her ghost haunts the halls of Hampton Court.

So there it is, the sad tale of Henry’s ‘Rose without a thorn’. May her ghost shit on the heads of all who sailed in her. If you are interested in the executions of Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper, you may like this Tudorial here.

 

 

 

 

*I feel that I am allowed to say ‘in my professional opinion’ as I work with young people with such issues and recognise the pattern…plus it’s a no-brainer…plus it’s my blog so that surely makes me qualified *ahem*!

February 7th, 1527: The Vicar of Hell loses an eye.

On 7th February, in 1527 Francis Bryan – or “the Vicar of Hell”, as he was otherwise known – lost his eye in the Shrove Tuesday joust. Bryan took the loss of his eye in good humour (I fucking wouldn’t), but it is thought that because of this, there are no pictures of him…but fret not, I have found one to give you a general idea, please see below, (apologies in advance). Since little is really known about Bryan’s accident, and I have unwittingly duped you into reading this article, I decided to collate a few top facts about the man, so here goes:

Bryan was one of Henry’s privy chamber, boy’s club pals, who had a reputation for being a bit of a debauched man-whore, with a silver tongue that could talk the coldest of nuns into bed. It was this ability of persuasion that made Henry rely on him so much to do his bidding.

As much as I hate everything that Francis Bryan stood for, I can’t help but like the bloke. He was a total character, and although I hate to relate anything I write about to ‘The Tudors’ TV show, (because it’s a steaming pile of shite that I seemingly only watch to give myself a rage hernia, like an absolute self-destructive bastard…*and breathe*), his character in it reminds me of the literal cock weasel from Ice Age 3, or 6 or whichever one it is.

Anyway, enough ranting – these are the reasons that Francis Bryan is a badman:

  1. He pretty much smooth talked his way in and out of any situation, because of this he was sent to Rome to sweet talk the Pope into Henry’s annulment to Bryan’s cousin, Anne Boleyn. Henry also placed such high faith in him, that he asked him to talk shit to the Pope about the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, who was incidentally his wife, Katherine of Aragon’s, nephew. Bryan cocked it up, and failed to get the Pope to agree. Now, at this point you might be thinking that he wasn’t such a great negotiator after all, but ask yourself this: How did he fail in his mission, and not only have the balls to return home, but still remain Henry’s pal, and also be the one to tell Henry that he had been excommunicated?! Cos he could talk his way out of fucking anything and everything, that’s how!

(Sidenote: Francis Bryan was so good with words that he moonlighted as a poet, undoubtedly using this skill to convince girls to hop on the good foot with him).

Which brings me swiftly onto my next Francis fact…

2. Francis Bryan was the cousin to Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard AND Jane Seymour. It’s actually not as impressive as it seems since everyone and anyone at court was related by one incestuous link or another, but to be Anne and Catherine’s kin, and remain THAT close to the King?! That just serves as yet more evidence of how canny Francis Bryan was.

Seamlessly leading onto my next fact…

3. “The Vicar of Hell”?!…How did he get such a badass nickname?’ I hear you ask. Well, in short, by being a bit of a dick. Basically, Bryan looked out for number 1, using Anne Boylen’s influence over Henry in the early days to rise up the ranks at court, and then working with Cromwell to throw her under the bus when it all went south. Not only had that, but his interest in shagging, gambling and general lewdness never went unnoticed. The term itself was apparently coined by Henry after Bryan made some gross reference about ‘ruining’ both a daughter and her mother, being akin to eating a hen and then the chicken…a comment that Henry found hysterical (because of course he did, the fat prick). Cromwell used the name to refer to Bryan in a letter to the stuffy little oink, Stephen Gardiner…and it stuck.

4. Henry, being an absolute fanny-monger himself, could not believe that his pious and loyal daughter, the Princess Mary, could be so innocent. In order to get validation, he told Francis Bryan to chat pure filth down Mary’s ear and gauge her reaction. Being no stranger to sexing up women, off he went to drip innuendos and euphemisms down the Princess’ ear; a treasonable crime should anybody else have done this, and even grimmer that it was set up by Mary’s own father. But, to everyone’s relief, it turned out that Mary had no fucking clue what Francis Bryan was on about, and thus her reputation remained intact.

5.Francis Bryan married Joan Fitzgerald, an Irish noblewoman. After her first husband’s death, Joan was planning on marrying her cousin in order to maintain the family inheritance and their hold over Ireland. However, Bryan boldly and selflessly stepped in to offer his services, marrying Joan, and securing himself the title of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. Now in all of Bryan’s years of womanising and monarchical arse-kissing, playing one person off against the next and gobshiteing around, it was his wife who caused his ultimate and final indignity. Whilst lying on his death bed, Joan fucked off hunting with her cousin Gerald. She married Gerald the following year…

Not a conclusive or exhaustive look at Francis Bryan’s life, just the highlights. Francis Bryan was indeed a massive bastard face but, credit where credit is due, he was a fucking clever one.

Haddon Hall, Henry Vernon and the Runaway Bride.

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Haddon Hall is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved Tudor houses in the country. It was originally built in the 12th century, and was occupied right up until the 1700’s. Its history is vast and overwhelming, and you could literally spend a day there, learning about the house’s occupants. During the Tudor period however, the house was owned by a favourite of Henry VII; a nobleman called Henry Vernon. The house has passed down his family line ever since.

During the War of the Roses, Henry Vernon proved himself to be a rather clever bloke. The throne changed hands more that the bed sheets in a knocking shop and so, like any wise nobleman of the time, Henry learned to keep his nose clean and just say ‘yes’ when needed. He was however a Yorkist supporter at heart, so quite how he ended a favourite of Henry Tudor is a bit of an oddity.

There are probably a few contributing factors to Vernon’s rise. Firstly, he managed to avoid most of the battle-fields during the wars of the Roses. He was also summoned by Richard III to attend Bosworth, but there is no evidence of him either being there, nor of him sending any troops. Had Richard won, Vernon would’ve royally fucked himself with this act of defiance. Luckily for Vernon, Richard got his arse handed to him, and Henry Tudor nicked his throne.

It would’ve also helped Vernon’s cause that he was married to Anne Talbot; the daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, who was a staunch Lancastrian. He was at Bosworth, and kicked the shit out of the Yorkists on behalf of Henry VII, who would’ve rewarded him and his family after his ascension. Henry VII was also in the forgiving game after Bosworth, and those who had now ditched their Yorkist ways and pledged allegiance to him, were pardoned. Henry VII needed pals after all.

Now the country seemed settled, and the wars were apparently over, Henry Vernon apparently leapt at the chance to embrace the stability that the new crown offered, and set to making his house the Tudor jewel that it is today. Vernon was so well thought of by Henry VII, that he was made the treasurer and governor to Henry VII’s son, Prince Arthur. His son George was also appointed as Arthur’s tutor, and Arthur was apparently a frequent visitor to the house. In fact, Henry Vernon was so loved by Henry VII that he was knighted, and even invited to Arthur’s wedding to Katherine of Aragon, and allowed to locally go by the title of ‘King of the Peak’, (Peak referring to the Peak district…obvs).

The Vernon family stayed in favour with the Tudors throughout their reign, and seemed to manoeuvre their way through shit like the reformation, and Mary Tudors attempts to thwart the Protestants, relatively unscathed.

One of the most famous events that (possibly) happened at Haddon was the scandalous marriage of Henry Vernons great-granddaughter, Dorothy.  As the legend goes, in 1563, Dorothy Vernon did a legger and ran off with a bloke by the name of John Manners. It’s thought that Dorothy’s father, George, disapproved of Dorothy’s love for John, who was the son of the Earl of Rutland – the smallest county in England.

Dorothy, clearly not giving two shits what her dad thought, left Haddon amidst a great ball that kept the occupants of the house distracted long enough for her to leave the house and meet her beloved John. The couple then fucked the party right off and went and ‘eloped’, much to George’s dismay. I say ‘eloped’ in that sarcastic way because according to records, they were either married in Haddon chapel, which is about 20 meters from the banqueting hall where the great feast was happening, or the village of Bakewell, which is about 2 miles away.

All must have been forgiven, because two years later, George Vernon died; Dorothy and John inherited the house and, in similar style to her great-grandfather, went to town decorating the shit out of it, and putting both hers and John’s family sigils on just about every bit of wood and plaster in the place. Credit to them though because it looks mint.

The house has been home to the Earl of Rutland from then on, with many of its Tudor features remaining intact. Because the house is so fucking amazing, it’s used in pretty much any and every TV program and film about the Tudors, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s bloody gorgeous and if you get the chance to go, you totally should. However, in case you can’t go, here is a special Tudorials tour of the place, with facts and crappy mobile pictures, and all.

The Chapel

The chapel is the oldest part of the house, with parts of it being built during William the Conquerors reign. It’s chatted about in the doomsday book, when Bakewell village had a fucking huge population of 32 – I am informed that this was actually massive for a village of that time.

The chapel has the most impressive medieval wall drawings that I have ever seen. They’re understated, intricate and beautiful, and were painted in the 15th century. They were painted in a special kind of mould-proof powder, and later painted over during the reformation. Over the years, as the covering paint came away, the mould-proof powder protected the works, which is why we see them in all their original glory today.

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The church alter

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I have no idea whats happening here. No idea at all. I’m going to pretend its pirates, on a boat, on grass. That seems about right.

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So, this hideous painting is called the ‘trois mort’. The skeletons have rosemary in their mouths which was commonly associated with death as it stopped the smell of rotting flesh from corpses wafting around the place. Exactly what you need to be reminded of during one of your 5 daily prayer times.

The Banqueting Hall

The banqueting hall at Haddon is just full of stories. When Dorothy and John Manners inherited the hall, they built a minstrel gallery for the performers to entertain their guests, at one end of the hall. The minstrel gallery is basically a posh balcony that would’ve faced the head table, which is raised from the other tables by a daïs. The daïs was basically a small, passive aggressive step whose purpose was solely to point out the fact that those sat on it are wealthy and important, and those not sat on it were a bunch of shit-houses who should know their place.

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The banqueting Hall in all it’s glory.

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The daïs, or ‘posh twat step’ as I have just renamed it, over which hangs a tapestry from the reign of Edward IV (badman). It bears Edward’s coat of arms and was given to the Vernons by Henry VIII.

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If you ever go to Haddon, try and spot the ‘sobriety manacle’ in the banqueting hall. It was put there in medieval times to chastise anybody who had not had their daily quota of alcohol. Apparently, if you weren’t pissed up you were a heretic, and you would be cuffed whilst liquor was poured down your sleeves. There is some tenuous link to Jesus’ first miracle being turning water into wine, but I think they were just piss heads. I bet fucking nothing got done, and we could’ve had the TV centuries sooner if our medieval ancestors had sorted their shit out.

The Kitchens

The kitchens at Haddon freak me out. There is something about them – you can just imagine a maniacal Tudor cook coming running at you with a butcher’s hook and a dead swan, threatening to burn you alive if you don’t turn the spit. Ok, Ok, they’re not that scary, but still, you get the picture.

The most terrifying of the kitchen rooms is the butchery, with its blood drain and meat hooks. However, in the actual main kitchen itself sits a trough used to keep live trout for the house. This particularly freaks me out because I hate fish; they are slimy little fuckers with beady eyes, so the thought of having big fucking trout ambling about my kitchen on one side and cows being literally murdered alive on the other makes me want to shit with fear.

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The butchery, or ‘meaty murder room’ as I call it. Complete with its blood drain, original feature meat hanger and axe marked chopping block…not gross at all.

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One of the kitchen rooms. Looks quaint doesn’t it? Well now imagine it with live fucking trout in that tub on the floor! Not so quaint now is it?!

  • Fun Fact: During feasts, the whole of the kitchen and banqueting hall would have been draped in fine clothes, as this showed how rich the family was. During a feast, servants would wash the hands of the top table prior to their meal and then place their napkins over their left shoulders. They did this because the Tudors didn’t use forks, just their knives and hands, so when their hands were soaked in food grease, they  could easily just wipe them clean on their cloths without cutting into too much scoffing food time.
  • Another fun fact: women servers were not allowed in the banqueting hall at all during the feast, in typical Tudor misogynistic bullshit style.
  • A third fun fact: Tudors ate early so they didn’t have to sit in the dark. Makes sense really

The Great Chamber

This room is absolutely draped in Tudor arse-kissery. There are wall-to-wall carvings and paintings of Tudor roses and portraits. Above the fireplace is a carving of the Tudor coat of arms, with the initials ‘E.P.’ serving as a little fanboy nod to Henry VIII’s son, Prince Edward. Henry Vernon was no stupid man, he clearly realised that by praising the apple of Henrys eye, he would obviously score favour with the big man. There are also some small carvings on the wall of Henry VII and Elizabeth or York, and also, rather curiously, one of Will Somers; Henry VIII’s court fool.

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The carvings in the Great Chamber are awesome. The boar is the Vernon’s sigil and on the ceiling is painted a Tudor rose, as standard, and a small dog. The dog is the Talbot’s sigil; Henry had it painted as a little nod to his wife’s (rather influential) father.

 

The Gardens

Now, I don’t like gardens that much so I didn’t take any pictures of them. This is for a couple of reasons; the first being that they mean that I have to go out in the cold. Secondly, they are constantly being changed, and dug up and moved,  and thirdly, if I take pictures of flowers, I will be expected to name them, and I don’t have time for that shit. I can barely point out daisy’s so would stand no chance with the proper shit they have in stately homes and such.

Having said that, the gardens at Haddon are well worth a visit. They seem to have a lot of Rosemary, (which is morbid really given the trois mort in the chapel), but they are really pretty, and people seem to like to go and paint them. Since I didn’t take any picture of the gardens, I thought I would treat you to some shots of the exterior of the hall, which is fucking great as well.

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These are called the ‘Lady Manners steps’, as it is said that this is where  Dorothy made her escape when she ran off with John. I appreciate they are not that interesting, but they are well worth stopping off at  for a few minutes if you go to the Hall. Here you can laugh at the hilarity that is every Mum who comes across them, trying to resemble a ‘Tudor rose’, whilst screeching  ‘take the picture!’ at her husband, before somebody comes and stands behind her.

 

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This is the courtyard. It is the part of the house that is shot on every programme or film ever made. Please appreciate this shot, I waited forever for everyone to fuck off out of the way so that I could take it.

 

Upstairs

The parts of Haddon that are open to the public are tiny in comparison to the full size of the house. The house was only reclaimed by the Rutlands in the 1920’s, and they have been living there since then so vast parts of it are no go areas. There are only a few rooms open upstairs, and none of them are bedrooms, (though I swear I went in the bedrooms there as a kid which makes me wonder why they are now out of bounds… how much house do the Rutlands need!?).

Of the rooms that are up there, the Long Gallery is the most impressive – the other rooms are ace, but this one really is shit hot. The chances are that if you go to Haddon, and you have seen literally anything Tudor based ever, you will recognise this room. It seems to be THE ONLY place to film court scenes, but it’s not hard to see why. It’s reputedly built by Smythson, who built Hardwick Hall. I say reputedly because there is no actual evidence, but you just have to have 5 minutes nerding out about the plaster work and design of both houses to see that it clearly WAS built by him.

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The Long Gallery: Unlike the courtyard, I could not get people to move. In the slim chance you happen to be in this picture, then congratulations! You’re famous.

In Elizabethan times, it was popular to have a long gallery in your house, not only for entertaining, but also for ‘exercise’ (mincing about), when it was raining or cold outside. The Long Gallery at Haddon is chock full of peacocks and boars – in fact, who am I kidding – the whole house is. These were the family sigils of the Vernons and the Manners, and Dorothy and John had them created and stuck up to show their love and unity. It’s sweet really.

 

 

There is an absolute shit-tonne of stuff I have left out of this piece, because to be quite honest, I could write about Haddon all day. You will just have to either visit it yourself, or drop me a message, and I will geek out trying to answer any questions.

 

The house itself is just outside the village of Bakewell in Derbyshire. Bakewell itself is worth a visit because you can grab yourself a proper Bakewell tart, which is not anything like that Mr. Kipling bullshit that masquerades as one, and is made in fucking Stoke or some nonsense.

Also, if you go to Bakewell, you can pop into the church and see the rather grand grave of Dorothy and John Manners.

Haddon Hall’s admission is around £15 adult, free to under 16’s, and £3 for the car park. Please check opening hours before you go, as it operates on a seasonal calendar and may close for weddings etc. You can have a look at the website here. I should also say too, that the staff at Haddon are amazing.

Bakewell’s All saints Parish Church is open every day, 9-5 and is free to visit. You can view their web page

The Tudorials’ Whistle-stop Guide to the Tudors… (try and keep up)

So…It all starts back with a beef within a family who had been scrapping for years about who the throne really belonged to. They were all related, but they were also a collective bunch of gobshites, and the family split into two sides: Lancaster and York. Thus began a series of scraps called ‘the Wars of the Roses’.

Anyway, this civil war went on for aaaaages, and the throne swapped back and forth between the houses. Most of the men in England were killed in the fighting, and people were getting pissed off. It all only came to a head in 1485, when both sides put up their front men, neither of which really deserved to be King.

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The Battle of Bosworth

On the Lancastrian side there was Henry Tudor; (a distant relation to the current King, and who had previously been exiled in France), and on the other side, Richard III; the current reigning King, who had nicked the throne from his nephew, (noticed I didn’t say killed his nephews in the tower…that’s cos I believe that to be some straight up bullshit).

Anyway, it all kicked off at the Battle of Bosworth when Henry Tudor kicked arse, thanks to his Mum’s husband. His mum was a crazy biatch called Margaret Beaufort, who had married a bloke with an army, called Henry Stafford. This prick Stafford had already vowed an allegiance to Richard III, and promised the reigning King his army. With this in mind, Margret had tried to win him over, saying shit like, ‘if you fight for Henry and win, you will be the step-father to a King, rather than a noble married to a traitor’s mum, with a small shit army’. This gave him much to ponder on.

Stafford  was a man with an interest in his own advancement, so not knowing what to do or who to fight for,  he sat on a hill  with his army, whilst the battle took place, watching and waiting until last minute to pick a side. It was in this last minute, quite literally, that he decided to rush in, switching sides, coming through for his step-son, Henry Tudor. This was the main reason that Henry won the battle of Bosworth. Think Jon Snow – Ramsey Bolton style, GoT Battle of the Bastards,  when the Arryn army came swooping in…which is clearly where that shit was nicked from.

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Richard III: King of the Car Parks

So, Richard III was dead, and the throne swapped back to the Lancastrians. This time it was different though, because Margaret had secretly plotted with the previous Yorkist Queen, a pure badass called Elizabeth Woodville. The women had planned that if Henry won, he would marry Elizabeth’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth of York, and thus unite the houses, and bring about peace.

It’s worth pointing out three things here: 1). Elizabeth Woodville had been married to Edward IV, Richard III’s brother. When Edward died, Richard sort-of nicked the throne from Edwards’ son , so Elizabeth hated him and could not wait to fuck him over. 2) Rather grimly, Richard was in love with his niece, Elizabeth of York and they may have been having a secret romance.  3) Using fact 2 to her advantage, Elizabeth Woodville had also secretly agreed to marry the princess to Richard, should he win the battle of Bosworth. This would guarantee her families safety and Yorkist success, and since she  hated Margret Beaufort, she didn’t give too much of a shit about fucking her over… Woodville was nobodies bitch.

So it went…Henry won, married Elizabeth of York, made the Tudor rose to represent the combined houses, ending the civil unrest, and ruling for ages. Their first kid, Arthur (the heir), was married at 15 to a Spanish princess called Katherine of Aragon. When Arthur died a few months after the wedding, Katherine was kept in the country so Henry didn’t lose her dowry. When Elizabeth of York died, Henry was going to marry her himself but eventually, nine years later, married her off to his youngest son, Prince Henry (soon to become Henry VIII).

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Henry VII and his newly-won wife, Elizabeth of York

Henry and Katherine were SOOOOO IN LOVE. She was a badass too, but had about 9 miscarriages and only produced 1 living child, a girl called Mary. After twenty odd years of marriage, Henry met Anne Boleyn, and decided to cast Katherine aside to marry Anne instead; firstly because he felt he needed a male heir to guarantee Tudor succession and Katherine was now too old to bear children; and secondly because he was a cunt.

Henry appealed for divorce to the Pope, saying his marriage to Katherine was ‘unfruitful’ because he had married his brother’s wife, and God was angry at him so had refused him boys.  The pope was like ‘nice try, now fuck off’ and that was that. Since the Pope was the only man above Henry in the pecking order, Henry decided that he had to go, and that he start to make his own rules.

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I don’t think this gobshite needs any introduction, but just in case you are not familiar with him, this is Henry VIII, one of the reasons that the Irish hate us Brits.

By coincidence, Lutheranism was kicking off in Germany, so Henry used this as his excuse to break away from the Catholic Church. He started to use the new movement to get the people of England on side, stating that the Pope had too much control, and that by sacking him off, they would all prosper. And so began the Reformation.

Once Henry broke from Rome, he was free to do whatever the fuck he liked. He kicked off by dissolving the monasteries and reclaiming their lands and monies, making him self an even richer man, and now having the lands to bribe the nobles at court with. He also officially sacked off Katherine, and married Anne Boleyn, who was now preggo.

He declared his first daughter, Mary, a bastard, and said that his kids with Anne would instead be first in line in succession. However, Anne also gave Henry a daughter, a girl called Elizabeth, and after just two years of marriage, he decided to move on from Anne. He now had his eyes on  wife number 3, and in order to get her knocked up with a legitimate heir, Henry had Anne executed on trumped-up chargers of incest and treason, and their daughter Elizabeth also declared a bastard.

Like a massive prick, Henry announced his engagement to his third wife, Jane, the day after Anne’s execution. Jane went on to give Henry his son, Edward, but she died of sepsis after childbirth. Henry was gutted and went into a deep mourning, wearing black for three months, giving the illusion that he actually had feelings of some sort.

Cromwell, his best lawyer, decided that Henry needed to get his shit together, and what better way to do this than yet another wife, (though why the fuck you would think that after Henry’s less-than-glittering track record is beyond me).

Cromwell found Henry a lovely, reformed lady by the name of  Anne of Cleves. She believed in the new religion and was the daughter of the Duke of Cleves, a highly reputable man, so this looked good. Upon meeting Anne, Henry, thinking he was hysterical (and lacking the self-awareness that would’ve told him his courtiers just humored him under worry of losing their heads), had decided to dress as a tramp and jump out on Anne. Not realising the stinking old man was actually the King, Anne told him where to go. If we are absolutely honest here, she probably struggled to hold it together when he did reveal himself to her, because by this point his looks had started to go, he was on the slippery slope to becoming a lard-arse, and his ulcerated leg would have stank. Not exactly a catch.

The wedding went ahead anyway, but embarrassed by their initial meeting, Henry made out that Anne was so ugly that he couldn’t perform in the bedroom on the wedding night. He likened Anne to a ‘Flanders Mare’, and obviously took no blame for the whole sorry event. Anne, living in a foreign country and surrounded by dickheads, carried on with best behavior as Queen, more than likely shitting herself that Henry was looking to do her in at any minute. The whole experience, though not exactly ideal,  did however give Henry a taste of the game again, and it wasn’t long before he was back on the letch.

It wasn’t long before he turned his attention to what was basically a child; a young maid called Catherine Howard. Catherine was a cousin of Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, but she was also his current wife’s 17 year old lady in waiting,. Henry decided to ditch Anne of Cleves by asking her for a divorce, offering her a massive settlement as an incentive. Anne was like ‘yes bitch’, and retreated to her new massive house, with her new title of ‘the Kings Sister’, leaving Henry to crack on with  marrying his poor, abused child bride.

Henry was now 54, fat and vile, and it wasn’t long before his teen wife, Catherine, started to shag one of Henry’s best men. Catherine was a beautiful girl and had always had a fun streak. She had also had a fucking awful past that involved lots of neglect and sexual exploitation, so Catherine was no stranger to men. The bloke who Catherine risked it all for was a young man named Thomas Culpepper,  (he also happened to be a rapist, and her second cousin, but that is a different story). Eventually, Cromwell found out about his wife’s affair and told Henry, who obviously executed Catherine, Culpepper AND Cromwell, (as well as some other blokes who had been responsible for having ‘relations’ with Catherine prior to her marriage to Henry…)

Henry plodded on, getting older, fatter, stinkier and ever more cantankerous, until he married wife number 6, a rich widow called Catherine Parr. Henry knew that it was unlikely that Catherine would give him a child, but married her anyway, possibly just for company. Catherine was amazing to Henry and their marriage, albeit short, was happy. Then in 1547, Henry died, leaving England to his son, Edward.

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The annoying little cockweasel that was Edward VI. Seriously, I’m not just being harsh. This little shit ripped the head off a falcon for no good reason, (though I don’t know what would constitute as a good reason of any kind to decapitate birds).

Edward was really young, so was governed by his Uncle, also called Edward. He was an utter shit… if you think Henry was bad, Edward was way fucking worse – but, fortunately, he died when he was 15. Edward, knowing he would likely die young because he was so completely sickly and pathetic, decided to make a will. He wanted his badass protestant sister, Elizabeth, to inherit the throne because she believed in the same shit as him. The problem was that  Henry had declared her a bastard, and Edward knew that to undo that would mean his big sister, Mary, be ‘undeclared’ too. This would then put Mary ahead of Elizabeth in the line of succession, and Mary was a mental Catholic who would flip the country back to it’s old ways… the last thing that Edward wanted. To get around it he appointed his cousin, Jane Grey, also a protestant and close to Edward, as heir.

Jane’s mum, who was Henry VIII’s niece, was ahead of her in line to the throne, but stood down to make way for her daughter. This was the plan that had been made, but Jane’s family saw the situation for what it was: an opportunity to use Jane as a puppet to further their own gains. Jane’s parents married her off to a proper little womanising cunt called Guildford Dudley.

They did this because Guildford’s  dad, The Duke of Northumberland, had approached them with a plan. The Duke had been appointed as the Protector of the Realm after Edward’s Uncle had been sacked but, knowing that upon Edwards death his services would be no longer needed, he was desperate to keep his power. By marrying his son to the future Queen, the parents could manipulate the couple, and rule to country by proxy.

Jane didn’t want to be queen, and HATED Guildford with a passion. There was no fucking was she would be their puppet. In terms of being Queen she was in luck as her rule only lasted 9 days. This was because Mary came in like a badass, with her gang of supporters, correctly stating that she was the rightful heir. Jane was all like ‘yeah take the throne, I’m married to a dick, and never asked for it anyway’. At first, Mary was sympathetic to Jane. she had Guildford and his twatsack of a father executed, but had no choice other than to send her to the tower in order to send a message to her subjects, and quash any potential uprisings.

Mary told Jane that if she would convert to Catholicism she would escape the axe. Jane was an intelligent, and devout protestant, and there was no way she would do this. She would literally rather have died for her faith than convert. Mary begged and was desperate to spare her, but after an unsuccessful rebellion by some protestant subject, it became clear that whilst Jane was alive, the reformists had hope. Also, Mary’s soon-to-be husband, Phillip of Spain, kicked off good and proper, more than likely giving Mary the ultimatum of ‘Jane or me’, so Mary had Jane executed.

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The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche (1833). The saddest picture in existence, (if you ask me). There are no jokes for this shit…its stone cold, outright heartbreaking.

So came the rule of Bloody Mary. Mary married Phillip, and the pair tried very hard to convert the country back to Catholicism. The problem was that her subjects liked the new religion and the freedom that it brought, times were changing and they didn’t want to go back. Mary’s response? Burn the protestants. She was not the most popular Tudor monarch.

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Mary I and Phillip of Spain – I like to think he really did have a massive head and chicken legs.

Mary’s reign wasn’t particularly successful. Her husband was a controlling dickhead, who fucked off and left her alone for long periods of time. She also had a phantom pregnancy that seemed to last forever, and made her a bit of a laughing stock. After 5 years of rule she died in 1558, possibly of ovarian cancer. Which brings us nicely to Gloriana: the reign of Elizabeth I.

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The Virgin Queen, (with a fancy bow over her faff to prove it).

The interesting thing to note here is that, had her father not been so hell-bent on having a boy, Elizabeth may never have been the successful monarch that she was. She came to the throne aged 25 and reigned for 45 years, getting shitloads done in the process. She was a total diva who made her ladies-in-waiting wear black and white so as not to outshine her. She kept the country in it’s protestant faith, held lotteries, won wars and crushed rebellions. She was freaking hardcore.

Upon her death in 1603, she named her cousin’s son, James VI of Scotland, as her heir, thus uniting England and Scotland. It’s interesting that the Tudor era started with two plotting, badass women, and ended with one pure and total legend of a queen. No wonder Henry felt threatened by the lack of males.

…and the rest,as they say, is (Jacobean) history.

May 5th, 1547: Wife Number Six Marries Husband Number 4.

In Tudor times, being the daughter of a nobleman would guarantee you one thing, and that was being married off to a rich, older gobshite, who would want to do nothing but squirt kids into you from day one… A thrilling notion I’m sure you will agree, and for a young Catherine Parr, things were no different.

Catherine’s first marriage was to Lord Edward Burgh. Although not that old, (which I imagine Catherine was grateful for), he was sickly and only four years after their marriage, he went and died.

For her second husband,

Catherine wasn’t so lucky in the age department. John Neville, AKA Lord Latimer, was 42 and so more than twice 19 year old Catherine’s age, and she was stuck with him for nine years. On the plus side though, when he died he left Catherine wealthy – and I mean WEALTHY. Like shitting out gold bars wealthy.

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Lord Latimer- As old as balls

 

Catherine was now one of the most eligible women in England, and it didn’t take long before she caught the eye of a young scal named Thomas Seymour (though in actual fact it’s quite possible that they had their eyes on each other prior to Catherine being made a jolly widow).

Tom Seymour was the brother of Henry VIII’s favourite queen, his family were in favour, and all the girls were wet for him – but he only had eyes for Katherine, and unsurprisingly she fancied him right back. The pair started courting, but never really got out of the honeymoon period before Catherine caught the eye of the biggest (well, fattest) shark in the pond, Henry VIII.

Henry had just removed the head of wife number 5 and was on the prowl, when he met Catherine. She was rich, favoured the reformation and not a child like Katherine Howard, his bride before – so that was it,  and anything between Catherine and Tom was put on hold because yet again, the King needed a wife.

Henry’s marriage to Catherine was possibly his most stable. The pair seemed to enjoy each other’s company, and Catherine was popular as Queen, both with Henry’s children and his subjects. All seemed good.

Catherine, pretending that Henry doesn’t make her want to chunder.

Henry died in January of 1547, leaving Catherine with the title of dowager Queen and the protection of the young Princess Elizabeth in her care. Catherine and Tom were now free to start shit up again, and they didn’t fuck about. Within a few months the pair were married.

“Wait, this all seems very lovely and romantic, what’s your problem?!” I hear you say. Well, before you go thinking Tom is some sort of Tudor Patrick Swayze, who waltzes in and take Catherine out of her metaphoric corner, let me lay some truths down on you.

Firstly, Thomas Seymour was already trying to find himself a royal match, even before he got back with Catherine. His nephew, Edward VI, was after all now King, so things could work in his favour. He asked the Princess Elizabeth, but she called him out as a nonce and told him to get to fuck. He allegedly also asked her sister, Mary Tudor, she shat laughing at the suggestion and called him a ‘ridiculous cunt sack’ (ok, she probably didn’t… but she should have).

Secondly, he had been bribing the King’s guards to chat all kinds of lies to the young boy, encouraging them to push him towards Thomas, and away from Edward Seymour; Thomas’ brother, and the young King’s Lord Protector. These goons must’ve gave quite the sales pitch, because the young boy was easily manipulated by his Uncle.

Thomas Seymour sporting a massive ginger beard

When it became apparent that Thomas was getting nowhere with the royal princesses, he went straight to Catherine. Let’s not forget that Thomas was smokin’ hot, despite being a massive jizz-stain on the royal court. Catherine agreed, and snapped him up before Henry’s rotten corpse had time to cool.

The pair kept their marriage a secret for a while, creeping about like a pair of adolescent nightmares, pretending to be mourning by day, and getting their shag on by night. Catherine would ask her guards to ‘accidentally leave the gate open’ at night so Thomas could slip in, (forgive the pun).

Thomas had now gained such influence over the young King Edward that he went to talk him into marrying the dowager Queen Catherine. Surprisingly, Edward agreed, and wrote to his step mum to inform her. Catherine, made up, acted all surprised and coy, and selflessly agreed to the young King’s idea. The sly bastards.

The pair seemed to genuinely love each other, so you could almost forgive his initial ambition… However, within a year of their marriage, Thomas was full-on kiddie-fiddling the 14 year old Princess Elizabeth, whilst his pregnant wife sat and stressed about the whole thing.

Eventually in order to protect her step-daughter, and more than likely her own reputation too, Catherine sent Elizabeth from her household. The really wank thing is that Catherine and Elizabeth had been exceptionally close, and because of Thomas Seymour, this was the last they saw of each other as Catherine died in childbirth in 1548.

Thomas went off the rails like a full on mentalist, and in 1549 was executed on grounds of treason by his nephew, King Edward VI. Their daughter, Mary Seymour, was sent to live away, eventually falling into historical obscurity.

You can read more about Thomas Seymour, (and what happened to his nephew’s dog) Here

10th April, 1550: Edward Seymour Returns to Parliament, (though this is more about how he fucked it up in the first instance).

So, this whole saga starts back in 1547, with Henry VIII’s death, and the possible tampering of his will. Henry had an inkling that he was on his way out, which made him shit himself because his whole life had been about producing male heirs to succeed him to the throne, and despite shagging anything and everything that had a minge, his rancid, syphilis-filled, dick-hole had only manged to spaff out one legitimate boy, Prince Edward,  and even he was only nine at the time of the King’s death.

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Edward VI: Henry VIII’s only son, (he was a right spoilt little shit despite how he looks here).

 

 

Now, Henry was a lot of things, but stupid he was not. He knew that upon his death, the nobles would all seek to make power plays for the boy King, trying to monopolise him for their own advancement, and not actually giving a fuck about the crown or realm, so he decided to take action and get it jotted down in his Will before it was too late.

Henry decided that he would name, in his Will, 16 members of a privy council that would govern and advise his son, until he came of age to rule alone. He selected a mixture of conservative Catholics and new reformists, people he had trusted all his life, and people who would guide the new King in the ways of the new reformist faith. Each man would have equal say, and that way nobody would be in full control. That was the idea anyway, but it didn’t go anything like that.

Now here is where it gets a little weird. Edward Seymour, Henry’s old brother-in-law and Prince Edwards uncle, wasn’t named in Henry’s Will as a member of the Privy Council; he was originally appointed as an assistant to one of the councillors, but some historians believe that Henry’s Will was tampered with after it was written – it appeared that amendments had been made which  seemingly favoured the reformers, primarily the removal of  Stephen Gardiner, and the Duke of Norfolk, the two most militant Catholics at court, (though to be fair to Henry, the pair were both utter fucktwats who had not long since tried to have Catherine Parr arrested as a heretic, so it’s also quite feasible that Henry did just bin them off).

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Edward Seymour, looking rather judgey I have to say.

 

There were other slightly odd things about the Will; the main thing being that Henry never actually signed it himself. Henry was far too important to waste his time actually signing any old crap, like his own Will for instance,  so created a ‘dry stamp’ of his signature so his minions could just sign shit off. He did this with most of his documents in his last few years, and just trusted that the job would be done. The thing with his Will was that the dry stamp was dated weeks after it was made, giving any would be fraudsters a good window of opportunity for things to be added or changed, and let’s be honest if the King is on his way out, and you could stand to profit, why would you not get your heads together and change the future of history to suit you? Especially if you’re a high ranking Tudor noble and naturally predisposed to a being a selfish shitehawk.

Anyway, whether the Will was altered or not, the members of the council all benefited from Henry’s death, making successful grabs for land and wealth until it got stupidly out of control. When they realised they needed to stop fucking about, and actually do their jobs, they decided that they should override the Will and appoint somebody to lead the motley crew of jebends in assisting the boy king in ruling the country. That job then remarkably fell to Edward Seymour.

The theory is that Seymour made deals with the council members, promising wealth and powerful positions that they would not have otherwise had, in order to get their vote, and get their vote he did. The whole council present that day voted to make Edward the Lord Protector of England, ruling for the King until he reached age.

Seymour, who had by now also given himself the title of ‘Duke of Somerset’, had his work cut out for him. Henry had left the country near bankruptcy, with food shortages, increased poverty and crime, a distinct lack of jobs and a constant threat of peasant uprisings…(so not totally unlike Conservative governed England in present day). There was also a constant threat of invasion from France and Scotland, just for a change, and Edward needed to make some cash and quick.

He decided to start by using his new power to scrap the Heresy Act, and throw in some protestant favoured changes such as allowing Latin scriptures to be published in English, incorporating some protty god stuff into the prayer books.

Seymour then decided that there was no real need for chantries, as they were expensive and a bit wank and pointless. The chantries were priests hired to sing for the souls of deceased people, usually their founders. How fucking ridiculous is that?! They were given estates and gold so it made sense to Seymour to get rid, seize their gold and melt it down to make money. Also, so as to make things a bit sweeter for the church, he gave permission for priests to marry, obviously thinking that if their dicks were kept wet they might not whinge about the whole reformation stuff, and therefore keep him in business.

Ok, so far so good; these changes may have had ‘reformist’ written all over them, but surprisingly they didn’t cause too much friction which was good. Seymour hadn’t wanted to rock the boat too much between the two faiths, but had wanted to let the people know that the reformation was still in full swing and going nowhere. The only people who kicked off about it were Gardiner and another staunch influential Catholic called Bonner, but they were both told to cock off and Bonner was soon shipped to the tower.

It was a balancing act alright, but up to now Seymour had been winning. However, whist bridging the gap between the old religion and the new, (even though they were all but the exact same fucking thing), he had taken his eyes off the bigger problem – the divide between the rich and the poor.

Seymour realised that it was pointless to raises funds by raising taxes – you can’t get blood out of a stone after all – so decided the next best option would be to sell more of the church property to nobles and get everyone possible into work in a bid to boost the economy. With that in mind he created ‘The Vagrancy Act’. This was to be about the most stupid thing he did. The Vagrancy Act was yet another one of Seymour’s new proclamations which stated that any able-bodied man who had been out of work for three days or more, would be sold into slavery for 2 years, and branded with a ‘V’. Not a popular proclamation as you can imagine. It caused mayhem and the authorities and peasants began to lose faith in their new boss, which in turn made the Privy Council start to think twice about Seymour’s competency.

Seymour made 77 proclamations in his short time as Lord Protector, on average this worked out as more per year than Henry had made. Some of them were so inflammatory that he had to write new ones to compensate for his previous ones. He did rash stuff like tax people on sheep ownership, causing landowners to build fences and hedges on their common ground to keep their sheep in, in turn causing villagers to burn the fences because IT WAS FUCKING COMMON GROUND. The wedge between rich and poor was widening and widening, and the government seemed to be pissing petrol onto an already rampant fire.

Tensions were starting to bubble, and some authorities refused to enforce the act. To counter any possible uprisings from subject, Seymour then decided to ban football and mass public gatherings, (Tudor football to be fair was a mass public gathering, with whole villages playing and more people dying football-related deaths than sword related ones, so I imagine in Seymour’s defence, that there was always scope for it to all kick off… forgive the pun). Anybody found guilty of ‘unlawful assembly’ would be shipped off to the Navy to clean shit up on deck. Again, not a popular decision, and now tensions were going through the roof.

Unsurprisingly, the poor were going batshit mental about the new Lord Protectors proclamations, because let’s face it, they were a fucking car crash of ideas all shitting out of one man’s brain who wasn’t even supposed to be in charge in the first place. It really didn’t take long before rebellion broke out in Devon, Cornwall and East Anglia, and there was fuck all Seymour could do. He had spent what bit of gold he had managed to collect on defending the county from Scotland and France, well, more saving face and trying to show that now the mighty ‘Henry’ was dead, that he was no pushover.

In Norfolk, the rebellion was running a real risk of becoming something serious. A man called Robert Kett had gathered forces 16000 strong, and was about to lay some serious smack down on Seymour’s plans. Kett had a list of demands that the people wanted enforced in order to establish a fairer society, and eventually Seymour had to put his hands in his pockets, dig deep and fork out for reinforcements to go to Norfolk to quash the rebellion. This cost the treasury dearly as they had to hire German mercenaries to accompany what little of an army they had. After three days of fighting, 3000 deaths and 50 hangings, (which was actually a very low figure because Seymour didn’t want to look like a complete cuntsack), Kett was arrested and the rebellion fell apart. Seymour also had to send out gold to local councils to supress the smaller uprisings.

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The Kett rebellion – bet you didn’t expect it to look like that!

 

The Privy Council decided that enough was enough and The Lord Protector had to go, and with that a unanimous vote was cast and Seymour was out. But like a complete tit, in a last ditch attempt to protect himself, Seymour seized the King himself, and fled to the fortified Windsor Castle, asking the people of London to protect him from the mean men who were chasing him. That shit didn’t fly, and on 14th October, 1549, Edward Seymour was taken to the tower, where he confessed to all charges and was stripped by act of parliament of his position of Lord Protector, a post which then conveniently fell to a complete cockweasle called John Dudley who had coincidentally been instrumental in Seymour’s downfall.

On 10th April, 1550, Edward Seymour was allowed back to parliament, though not as Lord Protector, that was now John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland’s post, and Dudley was beginning to think that Seymour wanted his old job back – which to be fair, he did. There are two things to know about John Dudley: 1) he was a complete bastard who sought after power and influence and didn’t give a shit who he hurt to get it, and 2) he was really good at it. So the long and short of it was that an incompetent bloke like Edward Seymour stood no chance.

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John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland. What a total prick.

 

 

 

On 16th October 1551, Dudley had Seymour arrested on partly fabricated charges, claiming that Seymour had been overheard plotting to invite Dudley and his cronies to a banquet and having them killed either there or on their way there. Prior to this, Dudley had been doing some ground work too; brown nosing the 14 year old egocentric King by pretending to be full of the faith of reformation, (as Edward VI was), and treating him like an equal rather than a King in waiting. Edward VI’s was totally won over by Dudley’s manipulation of him.

Seymour was executed at the hand of his nephew, the King, on 22nd January 1552, but to what extent Edward VI was maneuvered into signing his Uncles execution warrant is unclear. The execution document had additions made to it after the time of signing, but this time by the young King’s own hand, and the only other dude who could agree the sentence was the chancellor, and one had been newly appointed by Dudley that day. Maybe Edward VI was encouraged to change the warrant, maybe not, who knows?

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Seymour’s execution – curiously he is still referred to here as Lord Protector. 

 

 

At his execution crowds rushed forward to soak up his blood in handkerchiefs and rags, believing that Seymour was innocent of any charge and a victim of foul play. He might have pissed the people off as Lord Protector, but they didn’t want to see him dead.

I’m not sure if Seymour was such a bad bloke, I think he was just more one of those men that tries to do what’s best but cannot help but fuck it up by making rash and stupid decisions, and pretending to know what he’s doing but not actually having a fucking clue. One thing we can say for sure is that he was certainly incompetent and greedy, but then most of the men of the chamber were led by their own selfish desires, so he wasn’t really any different in that respect.

The following year, the King himself was dead too, which was probably for the best because he was a psychotic gobshite too, evenmore so than his Dad. What of Lord Dudley? Well he got his just deserts, but that’s another story which you can read here.

On an interesting side note, Edward Seymour had two siblings: Jane (Henry’s fave wife), and Thomas. The fact that Jane did herself a favour and died before Henry got bored of her was the reason the two brothers were in favour with the crown. Thomas was another fucking mentalist, and Edwards’s main rival to the position of Lord Protector, which is a fucking amazing story in itself. You can get on that here.