Hardwick Hall; More Glass Than Wall

Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire is one of my most favorite places on Earth. Growing up around the corner from it, with a mother whose knowledge on all things history makes David Starkey look like a fucking amateur, and a National Trust card that has had more use than a mattress in a knocking shop, meant that there were days in my childhood that I spent more time there than at home. It feels only fitting then, that it is the first place I write about for The Tudorials.

When people talk about Hardwick they tend to mean the new Hall, but there are actually two at the site, (rather annoyingly the old hall is owned by English Heritage and the new one by The National Trust so if you want the full Hardwick experience it costs a fucking fortune). The old hall was purchased by Elizabeth Talbot (or Bess of Hardwick as she is better known), in 1587 and renovations started immediately.

Bess was married George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, at this point. It was her fourth marriage and she had begun to fucking hate him. The pair had been charged with keeping an eye Mary Queen of Scots by Elizabeth 1, it was supposed to be a temporary thing but Elizabeth managed to roll it out for sixteen years, much to Bess’s dismay. This put strain on the couple, and on their bank account, (though to be fair they were ridiculously wealthy). Bess bought Hardwick and decided to move in, estranging herself from her husband who was living down the road at Chatsworth House.

When Talbot died in 1590, Bess became the richest woman in the county next to the Queen. She had been married four times, each time marrying a man richer than the last. I have to be honest, as far as Tudor women go, Bess was a true Beyoncé style independent woman.  A woman of Bess’s social standing needed better digs, so before the old hall was complete, she decided that she would build a new hall that faced the original. The new hall would reflect her wealth and compliment the old hall; so in order to get her shit on lock-down, she enlisted the help of the notorious architect Robert Smythson. Since there was a tax on glass what better way to flash her cash that to make the new hall have the biggest windows about, hence ‘Hardwick Hall; more glass than wall’.

Bess had another agenda with the new hall. She had hoped that if she provided her granddaughter, Arbella Stuart, with a palace fit for a queen, then Elizabeth would name her as a successor upon her death. Bess had decided that because her pal, Elizabeth I, had no heir, if she placed Arbella as a front runner and lavished her in riches then she would be named as next in line to the Queen. Arbella had royal blood in her, but not enough to place her that high on Elizabeth’s list of potential rulers, so the claim was dismissed.

The hall was finished in 1597, and passed to her son William Cavendish, in 1608. The new hall is now owned by the National Trust, and stands facing the ruins of the old hall. The property is definitely worth a visit, though I am biased, and I would recommend that you walk from the hall down the lane to the pub at the bottom. Anyway, here are my favorite Hardwick facts:


  • The house has three floors, each floor has a ceiling higher than the one below. Why? Because why not?
  • Bess also owned Bolsover Castle and Chatsworth House, but Hardwick was her favourite.
  • Hardwick was used to film some of the scenes used as Malfoy Mansion in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallowes.
  • There is a bedroom at Hardwick called ‘the Mary Queen of Scots room’ even though she died three years before building work started there, and pissed Bess off no end.
  • The aptly named ‘long gallery’ in the new hall is home to some frigging amazing Tudor portraits, including a painting of Elizabeth I wearing a dress lavished in sea creatures and flowers which was used to illustrate her power at land and sea, as well as her ‘natural beauty. It is believed that Bess came up with this idea herself… I can’t think why.


    Elizabeth I in her fucking ridiculous dress. This shit was meant to be complementary, no wonder she didn’t let Arbella inherit the throne when her Nan imagines her dressed like a fucking fish pond.

  • Although the old hall is in ruins, you can still see some of the original features, including some absolutely gorgeous plaster work which would’ve been above the fireplaces in what you can only imagine would’ve been a spectacular room.

    Temporarily used for contact details: The Engine House, Fire Fly Avenue, Swindon, SN2 2EH, United Kingdom, Tel: 01793 414600, Email: archive@english-heritage.org.uk, Website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk

    The plaster work in the old hall. image stolen from English Heritage yet again, (they take good photo’s, what can I say).



Address: Hardwick Hall, Doe Lea, Chesterfield S44 5QJ

For visiting information:





February 3rd, 1537: Silken Thomas, Henry’s Irish Problem and the Ironic Death of the Earl of Kildare.

On the 3rd February, 1537 a rather overambitious lad by the nick name ‘Silken Tomas’ was put to death at the hands of His Majesty, Henry VIII. Now you may be thinking ‘Silken Thomas?? What kind of a stupid name is that?! He sounds like a right twat!’, and you would be correct.

Before I tell you about Silken Thomas, let’s look at his family and how he came to be so important. His Dad, Gerald FitzGerald -I shit you not – had been in and out of favor at the court of Henry VII for years. He later married Henry VII’s cousin, Elizabeth Zouch , and the pair had a son called Thomas. Henry made FitzGerald the 9th Earl of Kildare, and sent him to govern his home country of Ireland. It went tits up a few times, but in 1534 he was summoned to England by order of the King, now Henry VIII, to account for several offences; some of which were pissing off Wolsey’s Friend, The Archbishop of Dublin, who just so happened to be English, and plotting with local Irish ‘chiefs’ against the King, among other things.

FitzGerald though ‘fuck it’ and sent his wife to account for his crimes, to be fair his speech had started to go and he had sustained significant injuries from a recent skirmish . Whilst his wife was away, FitzGerald seized the opportunity to stockpile ammunition, gunpowder and weaponry from Dublin Castle and ‘secure it’ in his own personal care.

Henry wasn’t buying any of this horseshit and  summoned the Earl to London as a matter of urgency. FitzGerald now had to go or suffer the consequences. He decided that in his absence, he would leave his now 21 year old son, Thomas, in charge and named him as the Deputy Governor of Ireland, to serve in his absence. FitzGerald was taken to the Tower in June 1534. This is when it all kicked off for Silken Thomas.


Thomas FitzGerald, a.k.a. Silken Thomas. He is supposed to be 24 in this picture…not 54 as the image would suggest.

It wasn’t long after FitzGerald had arrived in the capital that Thomas heard the vicious rumour that his Dad had been sent to the Tower, awaiting execution.Thomas had been having his ego massaged by his fathers peers, who were actually doing nothing more than manipulating the young deputy into starting a rebellion against the English. England had undergone a reformation and the King was finding it difficult to persuade his Irish subjects to ditch the Catholic faith. With Thomas being so ambitious and eager to stamp his own mark on the country, the Irish peers grabbed the opportunity to rebel with both hands.

Thomas marched to St. Mary’s Abbey in Dublin with a small army of men, known as the Gallowglasses. These men were utter bad-asses; Gaelic-Norse mercenaries who literally gave no fucks, none whatsoever. Seriously, you would not mess with these guys. They were from Scottish and  Irish clans, and of Viking descent, but that didn’t stop them embracing their inner haberdashers and donning a silk fringe on their helmet…hence the nickname ‘Silken Thomas’. Nobody was about to take the piss though, these guys would fuck you up.

Anyway, Thomas and the Gallowglasses marched into the Abbey, where Thomas went mental. He threw down his Sword of State in front of the Kings council and openly declared rebellion. He was hoping that he could use the reformations as a way of buying the support of the Irish people, rid the country of British rule, and take charge himself under the pretense that he was ‘freeing Ireland’ or some shit…and definitely not because he was a power hungry, overambitious gobshite. He exiled the English, or executed them if they refused to leave, and seized lands and goods.

The Archbishop of Dublin, who was a sworn enemy to the family, shat himself and ran off. He managed to get his hands on a small boat but didn’t get very far before it ran around in Dublin Bay. Now I’m  no mariner, but I do know that to flee Dublin or England, and end up in Dublin Bay is pretty shit. What a chump, you could swim it and hardly get wet. As predicted, he was caught and taken to Silken Thomas, who had him ‘brained and hacked into gobbets’. Nice.

Back in England, Henry VIII was going BATSHIT. He sent for Thomas, who obviously refused to leave, and so ordered the Mayor of Dublin to arrest him. Thomas was holding the city captive: he cut off the citizens water supply and held the children hostage. The Constable of Dublin Castle was appalled about all of this shit and ordered supplies to be delivered to the castle to see the people through the rebellion. After hearing this, Thomas got his knackers in a twist and instigated a siege on the castle.


The Siege on Dublin Castle

After a bit of of a scrap, it became evident that Thomas had dropped a bollock. Henry had appointed a new Lord Deputy of Ireland to replace the traitor, and had appointed a bloke called Leonard Grey as head of the army, with clear instructions to get the mess sorted out. The rebellion lasted nearly four months, in which time vast parts of the city had been left with large numbers of fatalities, both caused by the fight, and the plague, which was rife at that time.

Silken’s men had had enough and most of them deserted him, bargaining deals for their lives with the English. Silken had no choice, he wrote a letter of submission to Lord Grey, who promised him his life if he would return to England with him to answer to the King. In 1535, he arrived in England and was thrown into the Tower, there he sat for eight months, neglected, starved and abandoned. He was eventually executed, along with his six Uncles who had egged him on,  by ‘hanging and beheading’ on February 3rd 1537.

The rebellion was over but it was a slap in the face for Henry, who quickly came to realise the Irish were not going to play by his rules. The whole ‘Silken Thomas’ affair had cost him £25,000, and Henry had decided that from then on,only Englishmen could be trusted to govern Ireland. Royal’s were no longer allowed to marry an Irish match; he did not want to run the risk of anybody with high status leading a rebellion again, and appointed Leonard Grey as the new Lord-Justice of Ireland, (who was also later executed for treason)

The funny thing was that Gerald FitzGerald was never executed in the Tower. It is said that he died of a broken heart upon hearing the news of his sons rebellion. You have to laugh.




January 31st, 1547: One Out, One In.

It was January 31st, 1547 and the King, Henry VIII, had been dead for 3 days. It was now time to tell the world, and announce the new Sovereign; King Edward VI…What a shit storm this caused.


Henry VIII and his gobshite little son, Edward VI.

Shortly before he died,even when it was obvious he was about to croak it, nobody had dared tell Henry VIII that he was on his way out. To do so would be treason, and nobody really fancied being remembered as the idiot who sent himself to the gallows. Instead, the privy council secretly making preparations – and by this I mean making power grabs for anything and everything they could get their vulture-like talons into, like a shower of cunts.

Henry’s only son and heir was about to inherit the throne, but he was only 9 and therefore vulnerable to manipulation by the Kings ‘finest’ men. Henry was on it though; prevent his one and only son becoming a puppet to the greedy bastards at court, he set up a privy council of 16 of his most trusted pals to act as governors to the young King until he came of age – which was a long way off, lets be honest.


Henry’s deathbed: The young prince is sat next to the dying king whilst a member of the Klan looks on, (not really, its Thomas Cranmer)

It didn’t really work though; the men all had different religious and political views, and all were desperate for power. One of the main problems was that Henry’s will seemed to have been poorly thought out, and titles and lands had been handed out to peers like biscuits at your Nan’s house. This had whipped up the already over-ambitious council members into a state, and it was now apparent they needed some sort of leader. Henry had not foreseen this, and had neglected to name someone to lead of the pack of pricks he had chosen, and so something had to be done.

The council reluctantly agreed that they were incapable of aiding a small child without tearing each others faces off, and decided to appoint a leader. On 4th February the council had a vote and decided the job would be best suited to the new Kings Uncle, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset. I say  “had a vote”  but what more likely happened is that Somerset bought the men’s votes, and brokered deals to buy  power; he had after all just inherited a fuck-tonne of land from Henry’s will so had the cash to gamble with…the sneaky shit.


Edward Seymour, the 1st Duke of Somerset: Protestant, protector, proper prick shaft.

To Somerset, becoming the Lord Protector of the Realm was the ultimate prize.It meant that he could effectively rule England for the next eight or so years, puppeteering the new King until he came of age. On paper, Somerset probably was the best placed to do the job; After all he was the King’s Uncle, a war hero, extremely wealthy AND  a staunch protestant, just like the young King himself. Obviously he accepted the position graciously.


There is much I could write about Somerset, and indeed his brother Tomas, who was also somewhat of a cunt, but this thread is about Henry’s succession, so you will have to take my word when I tell you that he was a massive dick-end. Needless to say met a sticky end. In 1549 he tried to abduct the King, in a fashion, and was removed from power. He was later executed in 1552 for being a massive twat (it did not say this on the execution papers – it said ‘Treason’ – but everyone knew the real reason).

What of the new king? If tales are to be believed, King Edward was a nasty little shit. Wrapped up in cotton wool and spoiled rotten,  he grew to emulate his fathers tyranny. Some even think that had he had survived his adolescence he would’ve been worse – can you fucking imagine that shit?. He apparently once ripped the head off his pet falcon because he had been scolded in the school room. He did keep the protestant faith, but was a sickly little weasel and died young, at only fifteen years old; just over a year after his Uncle’s execution, and the only time TB has ever been welcomed.

Knowing he was dying, and not wanting the country to return to Catholicism (as it would if the throne passed to his eldest surviving sibling, Mary), Edward named his cousin, Jane Grey, his successor – using the excuse that  Mary  had been declared a bastard, therefore removing her and his other sister Elizabeth from the line of succession. This went tits up too, but that too is a story for another time…

If you do fancy reading about Thomas Seymour you can check this snippet out: Tom and the Spaniel. And what of the Lady Jane Grey? Well you can read a bit about that unfortunate business here: Lady Jane marries a proper dick

The (not always so) happy New Years of Henry VIII.

So, it’s New Year’s Day and what could be better than reading a few facts about our favourite Tudors, and some of the New Years events that befell them. 

New Year’s Day, 1511, and Katherine of Aragon gave her hubby, Henry VIII, the son he had long hoped for. Rather originally, they called the boy Henry after his father and Grandfather, and the king, near jizzing with excitement, threw the biggest bloody celebratory even the nation had seen in honour of his wife’s achievement. Sadly, only 52 days later, the young prince died and with his death, the royal couples chances of any future happiness and stability together. 

Henry help a joust in his wife’s honour. This was when He et loved Katherine dearly and now she had given him his so . What could go wrong?

Let’s skip forward a few years and look at a second Tudor New Year. In 1515, New Years Eve saw the death of King Louis XII of France, much to the joy of his new young bride, Mary Tudor. 

Mary was Henry VIII’s sister, who he had decided to marry off to the ageing and amorous King of France. She was understandably fucking livid about the whole thing, but the whole ordeal was short lived, and upon Louis’ death, Henry sent his pal Charles Brandon to bring his sister home. This worked out really well for Mary because she had fancied Charles for a while, and the pair decided to marry upon their return to England, (which was a massive ‘up yours’ to Henry who had not given permission for their union). Henry was fuming. He had been made to look like a dick by his sister and his best friend and was not happy in the slightest…just for a change. 

Louis XII. Not even having a young fit wife could make him smile, the miserable old get.

The final Tudor New Year’s Day I’m going to tell you about happened in 1540 and it’s brilliant. It happened when Henry VIII met his 4th wife to be, Anne of Cleeves, for the first time. This whole even was an absolute fucking disaster and Henry came away looking like a massive chump. 

Henry decided that his initial meeting with his new wife was going to be one of japes and capers, and everyone would find him hilarious and recognise him as the comedic thespian he so obviously thought he was. He was wrong. He decided to dress like an utter twat, mince his way across the room of Rochester Castle where Anne had been staying upon her arrival to England, and proceed to snog the shit out of the rather unfortunate Maid. 

Having never met Henry before, Anne was mortified at the cheek the scruffy looking, cockwomble of a man that had been so bold as to take advantage of her in this way, and much to the dismay of Henry, expressed the nausea brought on by the whole experience very loudly and very publicly. This was the couples first meeting, and Henry was raging. 

When the eventually pair married, Henry had a hard time warming to Anne and the marriage was quickly annulled. 

So there you have it, wether you’re having a really good New Year’s Day or a really bad one, just be thankful that at least your not Henry VIII. 

6th and 7th November 1541: The Queen Gets Sprung

On this day in 1541, The queen and Henry VIII’s 5th wife, Katherine Howard, found herself well and truly in the shit. Henry had discovered that he had not been the only person to have ‘carnal knowledge’ of his wife, in fact he had not even been her first husband as the queen had previously had a marriage of sorts to a man called Dereham, who was now loitering around her again. 
As this wasn’t enough, to add a cherry to this turd flavoured cake, He ru had also learned that the queen was now shagging one of his besties, a man called Thomas Culpepper who was a manger of his privy council. Henry went wild. The 6th November was the last time that Katherine saw her husband before being locked away awaiting her fate. This was the legendary day that she apparently broke free of her guards at Hampton Court and chased Herny down the gallery to protest to her house arrest and convince the king of her innocence. She was dragged back into confinement, never to see the king again. Apparently her ghost can still be heard screaming down the gallery at Hampton Court, (and because it’s totally cool and the Historic Royal Palace people are boss, I have put a link to their take on the ghost at the bottom of the page).

On 7th November, Henry sent the Archbishop Cranmer to question the queen at Winchester Palace, but he found her in such a state of distress that he ordered that anything and everything the queen could use to harm herself to be removed. It did her no good because the following February she would be executed. 

And what of Culpepper and Dereham I hear you ask? Well they too were executed, but the real kick in the teeth here is that Culpepper (Henrys pal and helper who was bending it up the queen behind Henrys back) was given the privilege of a quick death by being beheaded, whilst Dereham who had known and loved the queen before they had even met Henry, (although was more than likely now blackmailing her into getting a position at court) served the traitors death, as he was the one who had ‘spoilt’ the queen for Henry. 

Katherine was only 20 when she died.

You can read more about Katherine’s ghost here: http://www.hrp.org.uk/discover-the-palaces/ghost-stories/catherine-howard/#gs._Lv9Pow

October 24th, 1537: The Particularly Shit Death of Jane Seymour

Queen Jane- not the most attractive of Henry’s wives but his favourite non the less

Today is the anniversary of the death of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s 3rd and fave wife. She died a mere 12 days after giving the king his long awaited, precious son, and like a cruel joke, or a mean twist of fate died as consequence. The man who had rejected the church, and ditched his two previous wives had now, at last, got what he wanted, but lost his beloved wife in return. 
Janes death was caused by a long and painful birth, open wounds and the royal midwives failing to remove bits of placenta from Jane’s body, which became infected causing ‘childbed fever, (or septicaemia if you want to get technical…fanny rot if you don’t). 
The ironic thing is, the richer you are, the more inexperienced midwives you had, as they were reserved for the nobles households, and not out there gaining valuable experience in not killing labouring women. It paid to be a scrubber in Tudor times where childbirth was concerned. 
Henry went into mourning for 3 months after the death of Jane, wearing black, refusing to marry (although more than likely still shagging anything in a kirtle), and skulking about like a child who had its sweets stolen. He refused to marry for 3 years, (and when he did it was a political marriage done under much winging and moaning). I dare say the closest Henry ever got to why is commonly known as ‘feelings’.
Janes funeral was organised by a select few members of Henrys privy council. The country hadn’t buried a ‘proper’ queen for 34 years, (ditching your first wife for another woman only to hack her head off a few years later didn’t enable Henry’s first wives to be called ‘Queen’ at the times of their deaths), so they had to spend a few days looking up how to actually do it. Fucking useless. 
Queen Jane was laid to rest in the chapel at Hampton Court, which was draped in fine black cloth, until early November, when she was taken to Windsor and buried in a tomb designed by Henry. She had 29 mourners, the chief being Mary, Henrys daughter, who rode out in black being not quite as mental as she would be in years to come.
Ten years and three more wives later, Henry croaked it and was buried in the tomb with Jane, and their young son, Edward VI, inherited the crown of England.

Inside Henry and Janes tomb, (which resembles a shit French wine cellar that’s currently out of stock)

5th September 1548: A mini tribute to the awesome Catherine Parr

On this day in 1548, Catherine Parr died after contracting ‘childbed fever’, (scepticemia caused by shit, inexperienced midwives who had been reserved for the wealthy instead of actually delivering babies and working out what the fuck they were meant to be doing). She was Henry VIII’s last wife and pretty cool, so here are my 5 fave Cath facts:
1. Catherine wasn’t a fan of the idea of marrying Henry, (let’s face it by the time he had got to her, he was a vile, bitter old bastard, and she had been shoved into two marriages prior to him; the last being to a proper Grandad). She had the hots for Thomas Seymour, who was Jane Seymour’s (Henry’s 3rd wife), brother. She married Tom in what some called an indecent amount of time after Henry’s death, (Good girl is what I say).

2.Catherine’s mum, Maud, was Katherine of Aragon’s lady in waiting. Maud called her baby after the queen, so Herny’s last wife is named after his first… Which is fucking grim.

3. Catherine was the best step mum in history (probably). Catherine nagged Henry into bringing his kids back to court, and ultimately back into his favour. She took on Elizabeth’s welfare when Herny died and saw the best education. She moved her into her home at Sudley (away from court), and encouraged her to follow the Protestant faith, (she also sent her away from the house to protect her from her rapey, mental as balls husband when she found out he’d been sniffing around young Liz, which must’ve broke her heart). Without Catherine, Elizabeth I wouldn’t have been the fab queen, and strong woman that she was.

4. Katherine was a known follower of the reformed faith, which pissed off loads of the moany old codgers at court. She was known to have a stash of banned books, which she had inevitably read and shared with her ladies. This was a crime punishable by death and some of the members of the privy council, in particular a sly cockweasle called Gardiner, wanted to see her gone, so drew up a warrant for her arrest. 

To cut a long story short, Catherime caught wind of the plan to arrest her. Some people think the warrant was ‘dropped’ and one of her ladies found it and told her about it, others say that she was so well loved that an insider told her, whatever happened it was a bloody good job it did. The queen was so distraught she became ill (or maybe faked it), and the king came to visit her. Not letting on that she knew of the arrest warrant, she let Henry talk to her about religion and listened as he tried to trap her into saying something incriminating. 

Katherine was far too clever for Henry, and simply said that she could not have an opinion about religion without him, because his opinion was the greatest. Like the egomaniac he was, he believed that she actually thought he was the leading authority on religion and went back to being her BFF, but like a complete bell end forgot to tell his guards, so when they came the next day to arrest Catherine, instead of putting them straight, he battered them (yet again another illustration of what a tool he was).

5. Catherine was a bit of a boffin and published her own books about religion, (much to Henry’s dismay). Upon Henry’s death, she published a book called ‘Lamentations of a Sinner’, in which it became obvious she had been a strong believer in the Protestant faith all along. Well played lady.

So there you are, a whistle stop guide to my fave Catherine facts.