January 28th, 1596: Francis Drake is Thrown Overboard

Sir Francis Drake; one of the most controversial figures in Tudor history – even by Tudor standards, which speaks volumes. You may recognise him as the potato brandishing adventurer who won Elizabeth’s heart, conquered lands anew and has a tiny ship docked up under London Bridge which can still be visited today. Well I’m here to tell you that most of that is horse-shit, and that Drake was actually a slaver, pirate and a full blown knobsack. Furthermore, he has fuck all claim on my Sunday roasties because that part is a lie too. *

A young Simon Pegg.. .er, I mean Sir Francis Drake.

Typically, like most men who have enough money to cover up their misdeeds, he was revered a hero, but in fact he was bit of a dick, and what more is that a lot of people thought it. Those who profited from his escapades, mainly himself and Elizabeth I, chose to turn a blind eye to his general cuntishness, whereas others expressed concerns regarding his unethical practices. Elizabeth’s minister, Lord Burghley to name but one. Yet when Drake died on 28th January, 1596, he was given a hero’s send-off at sea and mourned by the nation.

So what exactly did he do that was so shocking? Well, sit tight and let me begin the story of Sir Francis Drake… (well, the good bits anyway).

Francis Drake was born in Devon around 1540. His Dad, Edmund, was a bit of a protestant gobshite by all accounts, who went out of his way to rile the local Catholics who had found themselves under pressure from Henry VIII during the reformation. At this time the good Catholics folks of Devonshire began to revolt against the introduction of the New English Prayer Book, and since Edmund was a protestant preacher, he was starting to piss people off.

In 1548 Edmund was forced to flee Devon and head to Kent, moving his wife and 12 kids onto an old shipwrecked boat. Depending on who you speak to this was either due to  due to ‘religious persecution’ or the fact that he’d hit hard times so had taken to going around town, battering and robbing  people. Whatever the reason, Edmund quickly got work as a minister for the local seamen, and the young Francis was taken on as an apprentice for their neighbour, who happened to be a local ship master. The neighbour was so taken with Francis’ hard work that when he died, he left Francis a small trading ship.

Francis didn’t piss about with the boat; he seized the opportunity to join his cousin, the famous slaver, John Hawkins, (which always entertains and dismays me, as this is my Uncle’s name. and he IS NOT a pirate or a slaver. FACT!). John and Francis began to hang out on the French coast, robbing trade ships and making a bit of a name for themselves.

In 1568, the pair decided that they would up their game within the newly established African slave trade. This wasn’t really anything new for John, and he’s often credited (or blamed, as I prefer to see it) for the start of human trades out of Africa. Actually, it’s more likely that it had been happening for a while, and John was simply a more prolific slaver than any of the previous cockweasles that had been doing it. The fact that the men stole and trafficked around 12-1400 people from Sierra Leone and Guinea, and sold them to Spain, (whilst privateering every step of the journey) probably helped to cement this claim.

John Hawkins: merchant, captain and slaver shit-bag.

Francis’ life went on like this for bit, with hundreds of stories of him basically fucking over the Spanish and near escapes. Because of all his encounters with the Spaniards, and one event in 1572 whereby John and Francis had to jump overboard to escape them, he grew to venomously hate them as a race, and seemingly dedicated his life’s work to pissing them right off.

In 1573, in Nombre de Dios, near Panama, he made it his business to use mercenaries to help him rob a Spanish ‘silver train’ – a line of mules that took nicked gold from Peru to Phillip in Spain. Although his folly was a success, the fucking moron stole more than he could carry and ended up burying 20 tonnes of gold and dragging the rest through 18 miles of mountainous jungle, only to find his ships had been stolen on the other side. When he eventually built a raft and got back to himself back to his ship that was anchored offshore, the Spanish were hot on his tail and he had to flee. He still managed to escape with a shit load of gold, but when he returned, he found that Elizabeth had signed a peace treaty with Phillip of Spain. The gold now couldn’t be inventoried as this would be an admittance of piracy and would meant the Spanish could tax it (or worse, demand it back).

This forced Elizabeth to put a bit of distance between herself and Francis. Even Elizabeth knew it would take the piss to sit all chummy with Francis, Spain’s most hated man, after just telling Phillip that she’d be good. So like a kid sent to his room, Francis was forced to behave and not make a nuisance of himself for a bit.

It wasn’t long before Elizabeth and Phillip fell out again, and Francis was recommissioned by her to go mess his shit up, albeit very slyly so it could not be linked to her. By now he was Spain’s most wanted man, driving Phillip so mental with rage that he offered a reward of 20000 ducats (aprox £4million) for his capture. He also gave Francis the rather badass nickname ‘El Draque’, (the Dragon if you couldn’t guess)… like that would dissuade anybody from piracy!

Francis Drake made it his business to fuck over the Spanish ships and steal their gold, taking it back to Elizabeth I and throwing himself in her favour. Unsurprisingly, Elizabeth chose to conveniently overlook the whole slavery thing as Francis was now nicely lining everyone’s pockets and dumping a fuck-tonne of cash in the treasury. In 1581 she knighted Francis on the deck of his ship, The Golden Hinde, and later that year made him the Mayor of Plymouth. As if that wasn’t enough, Elizabeth was so wide for Francis and his achievements that the same year (and again in 1584 and 1593) she made him a MP, allowing him to take breaks when she needed him for ‘state business’ – jolly rodgering the Spanish obvs… as if you couldn’t have guessed.

Liz knighting Francis on the deck of the Golden Hind.

In 1587 Elizabeth gave Francis a licence to seize goods from Spanish ships, ‘should he come across them’, in the interest of protecting the realm. A carte-blanche for piracy. By now Francis was so high in favour he could do no wrong. In 1586, Elizabeth found out that the Spanish were so sick of the English they were planning to invade under a plot called ‘The Enterprise of England’.

It’s important to remember that Phillip was probably a bit of a bitter bastard because a few years previously Phillip had ruled England as Mary Tudor’s husband. When the devout Catholic Mary died, Phillip asked her sister, Elizabeth, for her hand in marriage in order to keep the throne and convert her to Catholicism. When she told him to get bent, he threw him dummy out of the pram and had to fuck off back to Spain, having been bested by a woman and shown up as the bell-end he really was. Now, not only had his pride been dented by the English queen, but he also had her lapdog lackey dipping his hands in his piggy bank too. Being a bit of a hot-headed arrogant fucktard by nature and having to endure this shite, and invasion must have seemed like the only answer.

By this point you may be thinking to yourself ‘HAAAA she has her dates wrong, the Armada was in 1588 NOT 1587, the knobber!!!’ Well, you’d be right, the Armada was in 1588, but this was because it had been set back a year by Francis, now Vice Admiral of the English Navy and dizzy with success. 

He set off to the Spanish Ports of Cadiz and Coruna, where he lay waste to an entire Spanish fleet and a shit-load of provisions; all needed for a successful Spanish attack on England. Also, being the lucky bastard that he was, Francis also managed to capture a Spanish treasure ship that was returning from the New world. As if that wasn’t enough, just to add extra salt in Phillips gaping pride wound, the whole magnificent affair was named the ‘singeing of the King of Spain’s Beard’… which makes me near shit laughing. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Francis Drake was a cunt, but you must admit, this is pure brilliance and it set Spain back by a year, giving the English time to better prepare.

The Spanish Armada is worth a Tudorial in itself, (or you could just watch the Battle of Blackwater episode of GoT, as that seems to have heavily ‘borrowed’ from this slice of history gold). Aside from romanticised stories of Drake playing bowls with the Spanish on the horizon, and Elizabeth riding out at Tilbury, which is more than likely bollocks anyway, the Armada is sold as one of the most magnificent naval achievements of the English. Don’t misunderstand me, it wasn’t shit, but it wasn’t as impressive of big as the history books would have us believe – well the English ones at least.

This absolute beast of a painting is descriptively entitled ‘Defeat of the Spanish Armada, 8 August 1588’, by Loutherbourg. It’s so good, I don’t even have a sarcastic comment about it. It’s kept at the national maritime Museum, but rather helpfully not on display, (like, ‘here’s what you could have won’…)

Arguably, the Spanish were stopped by a few sneaky tactics of Francis Drake’s, and the fucking shite English weather that fucking ruins everything ever all of the fucking time. In the dead of night Francis sent out fire ships towards the Spanish fleet. The Spanish shat themselves. If their boats caught fire, they were fucked; if they jumped overboard, they were fucked. Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t drop a load if a scary as shit, hell fire galleon was heading straight for their face?! The Spanish had no choice but to cut anchors, leaving them at the mercy of the channel winds, which didn’t give one single fuck and separated the fleets and blew them off-course.

This all lead to the battle at Gravelines the next day, whereby the impressive Spanish warships became unstuck due to the long time it took to reload their cannons. The English seized this opportunity to use their little nippy ship and rush in to twat the sides of the Spanish galleons. This part is where Anglicised history curriculums will let you believe that the English had a great victory, but that’s bullshit. If were talking in footy terms, it was a draw at best, with nobody winning. The Spanish were forced to retreat, some even desperate enough to run and hide in the North Sea, (imagine being desperate enough to want to go there!). The problem for the Armada now was that the ships had all cut their anchors to dodge the fireships, so were now being blown all over the shop. With no control, some ships headed North to navigate back to Spain via the Scottish and Irish coastline, logic not dissimilar to that applied by my Dad when out on a ‘quick trip’. With the Armada so spread out there was little point in the Spanish continuing.

I think it’s also important to point out here that whilst Francis Drake may now seem like a war hero, various eyewitness account tell of how he fucked off from battle and his fighting men, to do a bit of the old opportunistic plundering of the desperate Spanish ships. What a prick.

Anyway, on to the ‘throwing him overboard’ bit. Now is the time to confess, there may have been an element of deception in my title. When I said he was thrown overboard, what I forgot to say is that he was dead. I like to think of him walking the plank or being lobbed overboard for being a robdog slaver because it seems such a fitting end for such a dickhead.

However, what really happened was this. In 1595 Drake and Hawkins were up to their usual bastardly escapades when they were sent to capture the port of Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands. To cut a long story short, he failed to do this and not being one to go home empty handed, in November of that year they decided to carry on around to San Juan to take that instead. The men had just less than 30 ships and over 2000 men, but managed to fuck it up so decided to press on and have a go at Panama. The problem was that the bloody flux – dysentery to you and me – had struck the ships, killing many of the crew, including John Hawkins.

In January 1596, getting the sense that his days were numbered, Drake asked for his armour so he could meet his end in attire befitting a man of his status, and since peg legs, eye patches and striped breeches weren’t available the armour would have to do. Upon his death his crew members buried him at sea in a sealed lead lined coffin and burned two ships in his honour.

Drake being ‘thrown overboard’…in a lead coffin, with prayers, gun salutes and respect… (though not on this page).

This all sounds very noble and respectful, but actually the sickness has been ravishing though he crew for weeks and they had been dropping like flies. At the time of Francis’s death both their workforce and their supplies had dwindled to unsuitable numbers, so they would have had more ships than men capable of getting them home anyway. If you read the history books it will tell you the ships were burned out of respect, but I like to think the crew thought ‘fuck it, he’s gone, lets burn his stuff’.

So there you have it, he was thrown overboard, but as part of his burial – which he actually wanted on land so “Ha!” to him. What actually happened was he shat himself to death and his eternal resting place is deep within the very Spanish territory that he failed to claim for the English crown. I’m not sure who would’ve found this worse, him or Phillip, either way his body has never been discovered.

Elizabeth’s Armada portrait, dripping with symbolism. Seriously, if you’ve never noticed before, take a look, its not subtle at all. Her hand is not so discretely pointing to the Americas, there’s a storm through the window where the Spanish ships are sinking, nautical shit is everywhere, she has a massive crown to show who’s the boss lady and most impressively, a big bow right across her fanny. The whole painting is a big ‘Fuck you’ trolling image intended for Phillip II of Spain. I heart it so much.

*Potatoes were introduced to England a decade or so earlier by the Spanish. Drake did however bring back tobacco, so we can add ‘lung cancer pioneer’ to our list of reasons why he was a dick.

The bit about the tiny boat is true. There is full-sized a replica of The Golden Hinde anchored next to London Bridge. It’s quite cool to look at and the staff are great, but it’s not exactly the magnificent ship were led to believe it is. For starters, it looks like it’s been made for the Hobbits of the Shire because its underwhelmingly small, and whilst walking around you can’t stop wondering whether the staff change or serve as YouTube troll bait on the tube ride home. You also have a voice in your head shouting ‘IT’S NOT EVEN THE REAL FUCKING ONE’ the whole time you’re in there. However, it’s cheap – a rarity in London so take what you can get – and if you can bag a Groupon to visit the Clink Prison Museum next door, so not only do you get a good day out, but you also get the added satisfaction of fucking off London’s ridiculous, elitist tourist attraction prices. A small win, but a powerful one. 

Here’s the links:



The Golden Hind.

29th October, 1618: Love, Pirates, Execution and an Embalmed Head.

Walter Raleigh; to my mind the best pirate in history. It seems there was never a dull moment in Walter’s life. He was introduced into Elizabeth I’s court as a young man, by Elizabeth’s governess, Kat Ashley, who was Walter’s Great Aunt. He had such an interesting life as a young man, dropping out of Uni, picking fights with Catholics and criticising the way that military operations were conducted in Ireland. It was the latter that got him noticed by the Queen – having a big mouth sometimes goes a long way – she fell for his charms, and knighted him in 1585.

Walter quickly became one of Elizabeth I’s absolute faves. She gave him lands and wealth, and he was a regular at court. Elizabeth had it bad for Walter, but Walter only had eyes for one; the Queens favourite lady in waiting, Elizabeth, (we will call her Bess), Frockmorton.

Bess and Walter were in love, and not love by Tudor standards which is forced and misogynistic at best, but proper love. They just couldn’t get enough of each other and it wasn’t long before Bess became pregnant. Let’s just keep in mind though that this was the Tudor era and any woman who conceived out of wedlock was considered a whore. Walter wanted to do the right thing and marry Bess, why wouldn’t he? She was smokin’ hot, having his child and he loved her immensely.

The problem was that anyone wishing to marry for love was pretty much deluded; All aristocracy and nobles were political pawns and needed the Queen’s permission to marry. There was no chance that Liz would let Raleigh marry her bestie, especially since he was HER favourite, (next to Robert Dudley, obvs). They had embarrassed her by cavorting about like a pair of teenagers behind her back, like some sort of bad Eastenders plot line, and If Liz couldn’t have Walter, then Bess certainly couldn’t.

It didn’t matter. Walter and Bess were so in love that they married in secret in 1591, regardless of the consequences that they clearly knew there would be. Their marriage became public knowledge when their baby was born in 1592, when the Queen heard the news she went fucking batshit mental, sending them both to the Tower for embarrassing her, abusing their status, and marrying without permission.

Walter, being the wheeler dealer that he was, was already minted at this point as he had set himself up as a trader, when I say ‘trader’, read ‘posh pirate’. It was because of this he was able to pay their fines and buy their way out of prison. He wasn’t invited back to Elizabeth’s court, which suited him as it allowed him to take the opportunity to get back to his adventures.

Off he trotted to the Americas where he ‘found’ Virginia, and named it after the Queen in an attempt to butter her up and win back a bit of favour, (I say ‘found’ – obviously there were already native Americans there…so not really, but he gets the credit nonetheless). When he returned from Virginia he brought back tobacco, which he introduced to the English nobles, and potatoes which he planted on his estate in Ireland.

Upon Elizabeth’s death, Raleigh served under James I, who didn’t fall for Raleighs charms. In 1603 Raleigh was accused of being involved in a plot to assassinate James I and sent to the tower for a second time, this time with a death sentence hanging over his head. However, James I wasn’t stupid, and kept Raleigh in the tower knowing that Raleighs experience in pioneering and privateering may eventually serve a purpose to the realm.

That purpose came about in 1616, when King James sent Raleigh to bring home some gold from El Dorado. The trip went tits up and Raleigh found himself in a tad of bother with the Spanish; exactly what James had told him to avoid. Furthermore, James had already sent Raleigh to bring home riches from El Dorado previously, with his pal and councillor, Cecil, fronting the bill. Raleigh had returned with sweet frig all, leading King James and Cecil to assume he had hid the riches for himself. After this they were out for blood, so when the second trip failed King James enforced the death sentence that he had initially served to Raleigh in 1603.

Raleighs execution was carried out on 29th, October 1618 when he was beheaded at Westminster Palace. On the scaffold he called out James I for making such a bullshit decision, highlighting all of his charges and debunking them all. On the run up to his execution Raleigh feigned illness and madness, and even plotted his escape, but eventually came to terms with his fate and went to his death ready and willing.

Raleigh took a tobacco pouch to the scaffold with him. On it was inscribed ‘He was my companion during that very unhappy time’. A sentiment echoed by my mother-in-law.

Upon his execution, Bess had his head embalmed and is said to have kept it in a velvet bag about her person at all times, (I seriously hope my husband never expects this of me upon his death, because he will be very disappointed). Bess allegedly carried her husbands head until her death in 1647, when it was passed down to their son, Carew, (like a grim, fucked up family heir loom), who was buried with it in Walters grave.

Bess campaigned to restore Raleigh’s reputation after his execution; being sentenced to death as a traitor meant that his sons could not inherit his lands, (which I imagine were full of potatoes by this time), and In 1628 a Bill of Restitution was passed allowing Raleigh’s assets to finally pass to their son.

I love Walter Raleigh. Not only did he have wit, charm and charisma, but he was a badass, a pioneer and a straight up, fucking Tudor pirate.

2nd June, 1572: Thomas Howard Is In The Shit.

On June 2nd, 1572, the 4th Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard, was executed for treason under the order of Elizabeth I. Thomas was born into one of the noblest families in England. Thomas’ family had been powerful for some time. His Grandfather, (also called Thomas Howard since the Tudors only had about 3 names), was a powerful politician during Henry VIII’s reign. This overambitious prick was the uncle of Anne Boleyn, and one of the main reason she found herself in the mix with the fat, spousicidal twat of a king in the first place.


Thomas Howard,4th Duke of Norfolk…


…who, to my utter amusement, looks like my friend Oisin.

Thomas’s Dad, Henry Howard, was a bit more vanilla than his father. However, he was still executed under Henry VIII’s orders for suspected treason. Thomas Boleyn senior was also due to be beheaded, but as luck would have it Henry VIII died the day before the order was to be carried out, so he managed to dodge his sentence… and still it was only women who were accused of witchcraft!


Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (the Grandad)


Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (the Dad)

Anyway, after the king’s death, his daughter, Mary Tudor, took the throne with her very catholic and very Spanish, dick of a husband, Phillip of Spain. Mary had Thomas Howard Snr. released from the Tower and reinstated as Duke of Norfolk, a title which passed to his grandson on his death in 1554. Thomas junior was now the 4th Duke of Norfolk and in royal favour, which was still the case when Elizabeth I inherited the throne upon Mary’s death.

Elizabeth thought very highly of Thomas, she referred to him as ‘her cousin’, (Anne Boleyn and Henry Howard were first cousins, and Elizabeth liked to think that she and Thomas were also very close). Thomas might have been close to the queen, but he was still no comparison to Elizabeth’s favorite, Robert Dudley. It was said that Thomas Howard was jealous of Dudley because Dudley could influence the queen’s decisions, whereas he could not, despite being the richest bloke in the country. That aside, she still relied on him to do her bidding, and sort out the unholy shit storm that her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, had caused when she came to England to seek refuge.

The catholic Queen Mary had basically run away from all kinds of mess that she had been tied up in back in Scotland. She was hoping that her cousin would help her, but Elizabeth, quite rightly, saw her as a threat to her throne. Mart was catholic, the country had just reformed, Mary had a family link to the English throne, ergo she was a massive threat, and she now being in England brought about the threat of rebellion against Liz. So off went Thomas Howard to sort it out.


Mary Queen of Scots – doing the ‘shady moon’ face.

Howard was all for laying some smackdown on Mary, until he met her Secretary of State, a slimy dude called Maitland. Maitland not only convinced Howard that Mary was innocent of any ill intent towards Elizabeth, but he also convinced Howard that it would be a good idea if he married Mary and then tried to blag Elizabeth into naming Mary as her successor to the English throne upon her death. Talk about being played like a fiddle, but Howard was stupid enough to go for it. The problem was that he didn’t have the bollockss to actually put the idea to Elizabeth, so, like a deluded fuckwit, he kept it a secret and but carried on making plans to wed the Scottish Queen regardless.

Because Howard suspected Elizabeth wouldn’t go for the idea, and because he shat himself at the prospect of being the one to put it to her, Maitland and Howard decided that Maitland would approach Elizabeth and make the suggestion. After all he had been able to chat shit to Howard and convince him of the shit idea in the first place. In the meantime, the plans for Howard and Mary to wed continued to be hatched.

When Elizabeth found out,  was had none of it. Why the fuck would she hand the throne to her knob head cousin, who had literally THE WORST track record with men in History*, and who would seek to restore England back to Catholicism with the help of that snivelling cunt, and  Elizabeth’s sworn enemy, Prince Philip of Spain? So as you can imagine, Howard’s plans started to look a tat premature, and a lot ridiculous.

For acting like a knob and going behind her back, Elizabeth had Howard was arrested and imprisoned in the tower. Elizabeth didn’t quite have the same blood thirst as her father and didn’t want the PR nightmare that sending Howard to trial would cause, so when shit settled down, he was eventually released from the tower. However, this is not where the story ends, because like an utter fucking spafftool, Howard continued to write to Mary, who wrote back chatting all kinds of love shit, and kissing him up via letters. This eventually lead to Howard getting himself involved in a fucking stupid idea with the shitehawk, Phillip of Spain and his cunt faced, London based banker pal, (yep, they were around being fuckheads in Tudor England too), Roberto Ridolfi.


Phillip of Spain: Elizabeth’s ex bro-in-law and a right cunt.

The ‘Ridolfi Plot’, as it is now known, was basically a plan hatched by the men to free Mary, marry her to Howard, boot Elizabeth off the throne and restore England to its catholic glory with the help of Spain. Can you imagine?! What a misled knobweasle Howard had become.

The perpetrators of the plot had not counted on three things: firstly, Howard’s incompetence, Secondly, the pure badassness of Elizabeth’s spymaster, Walsingham (think Varys from Game of Thrones),  and finally, the fact that Howard’s servant sang like a bunch of shitbirds when put to the rack.


Walsingham the spymaster, like a boss

Howard had also mistrusted one of his servants to convey messages between himself, Phillip and Ridolfi. The servant had then found a merchant to do the dirty work, taking letters and money between the parties. The merchant was found out pretty sharpish as his sacks weighed more than they were supposed to, arousing the suspicion of the port guards, so he was arrested and questioned and he too spilled the beans on Howard.

Meanwhile, back at home, Howard’s servants had been arrested and tortured, during which time they told their captures that Howard had been squirrelling away letters about the plot under one of his roof tiles at one of his many properties.

Elizabeth was beside herself when she found out. How the fuck did Thomas Howard find himself mixed up in all this bullshit? He had always maintained his loyalty to Elizabeth and, to a certain extent, she believed him. She did not want to condemn him to death, signing and retracting his death warrant several times, until eventually parliament stepped in and insisted she should stop fannying about and just get it over and done with.

Thomas Howard’s death warrant was eventually signed and he was sent to his death for being a treasonous prick, just like his father and Grandfather, on June 2nd, 1572. He is now buried in the church of St Peter and Vincula at the Tower of London, a dumping ground for headless Tudor traitors. ‘And what of Mary?’ I hear you cry. Well she continued to plot and scheme once she found out that Elizabeth would not name her as heir to the throne. In 1586, Walsingham uncovered enough evidence to have her sentenced to death, and in 1587 she met a very sticky end.

*If you need proof of Mary’s terrible choice in men, or you want to know more about her rather shitty execution, you may be interested in this plots-execu:https://thetudorials.com/2015/07/17/july-17th-1586-tions-treason-and-the-dick-end-men-in-mary-queen-of-scots-life/


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 8th, 1587: The Undignified Death of Mary Queen of Scots

2005-May Scotland 157

Mary Queen of Scots

At around 3 pm on 7th of February, 1587 Mary Queen of Scots was told she was to be executed the following morning. This was a bit wank because not only was tea AND breakfast ruined, but Mary was denied permission to delay her execution in order to get her shit together prior to her death, (one famous account suggests that the English council member who told Mary she was to die followed her appeal for time to prepare with the comeback, “No No madam, you must die”… that is some cold shit right there).

Mary had been imprisoned for 19 years and her life was one massive turd storm of disaster after disaster. She had been forced to flee Scotland as a catholic, where her rule had been interesting (this is about the best word I could come up with to describe it), in order to seek protection from her English and protestant cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth wasn’t very happy about it and inevitably it all kicked off (you can read about it here), So in the end Mary had to go.

Elizabeth didn’t really want Mary dead but since Mary had pulled off a few dick moves, she had kind of sealed her own fate, and so her death warrant was signed. If Mary was bothered she never showed it. She welcomed death and only wished for the county to be reverted back to its old Catholic ways and so on the morning of February 8th at Fotheringhay castle, she was led to the block.


Mary being led to the block, looking a little more like a date than an execution

Like a big antagonist bastard, Mary had decided that crimson underskirts were the attire of choice that day. Red was the colour of martyrdom and since Mary believed she yet another Catholic Martyr to die at the hands of a protestant queen (and not the fact that she had taken the absolute piss and conspired to have Elizabeth assassinated), she deemed it an appropriate choice. Who just has crimson underskirts in their wardrobe to wear at a moments notice? Mary Queen of Scots, that’s who. She must have known and planned her dress in advance like a Tudor period Gok Wan.

Her whole execution was a disaster. Her ladies in waiting helped her remove her veil and head dress. When the executioner decided that her needed to help she gave him a bit of a bollocking shouting “Nay, my good man touch me not!”. To be fair, what the fuck was he thinking. He begged Mary’s forgiveness, which she gave, but proceeded to cock up the execution anyway (I like to imagine it was because he was in a mood and being told off and so wasn’t concentrating properly). Mary’s dress was pulled down to her waist so the executioner could have a clear aim, and as she was being pulled about Mary commented that this probably didn’t look as graceful as it should have since she wasn’t accustomed to being stripped off in from of four to five hundred people. A fair point I would say. One of her ladies covered her eyes and she was placed on the block.


Mary prayed and the executioner swung his axe. Like a massive chump he failed to sever her head from her body so had to have another go. Imagine the faces her ladies in waiting. What a tit. Eventually he managed to detach it and lifter it in the air shouting “God save Queen Elizabeth”, when right on cue the head fell leaving Mary’s wig in his hand. Mary was only 44 and had been loosing her hair, a fact she had hidden well until this prick got a hold of her head.


Mary’s creepy as balls death mask. She ain’t fooling anyone with that hair

It didn’t stop there. Her decapitated body lay on the scaffold lifeless until a few seconds later it began to move. The superstitious crowd upfront must have shat out a brick, but it wasn’t evil spirits or calls from the afterlife, it was Mary’s pet dog which she had decided to take to her execution as a nice little day out for it. The terrier went and lay in the blood at the end of his masters headless neck and refused to move until he was shifted away when the body was taken for embalming. What a massive fuck up this day had been. Some historians think that it was the execution of Mary queen of Scots that was the deciding factor in Phillip II launching the armada. He was a massive twat too.

marys dog

One of the tapestries that Mary made. T Yes, its a dog. The clues were all there

In 1603, Elizabeth I died and named Mary’s protestant son, James as her heir. James had already been ruling since he was a baby when his Mum was forced to give up her crown and flee to England. In 1612, James decided to move his mothers body to Westminster Abbey and give her a big showy tomb.  Poor Mary, she has a shitty end to a shitty life. Elizabeth was said to regret the decision to have her cousin executed for the rest of her life.


Mary’s tomb in Westminster



15th January 1559: Gloriana begins


Elizabeth (before the pox)

On this day in 1559, a 25 year old Elizabeth Tudor was crowned Queen Elizabeth 1 of England and Ireland. Her coronation date had been hand picked by some superstitious old bloke called John Dee. He had done his star gazing Mumbo jumbo and concluded January 15th would be the best day to hold the coronation (he got paid a shit load to give a date… it’s not like if the queen had a short reign she would be around to punish him. Nice work if you can get it eh).
Her coronation came after the death of her fucking mental sister, the Catholic queen (bloody) Mary.
Elizabeth’s ceremony saw her have a short stay in tower as customary, (it is a palace after all), followed by a street procession, then off to Westminster for a ceremony and a slap up feast to finish. Sounds like a mini holiday.
She was dressed head to toe in gold cloth (literally cloth sewn with gold), and her coronation mass was conducted in both English and Latin, (important because previously the Catholics hadn’t wanted the common folk to understand anything they were being told at church other than ‘disobey the church and ye shall be royally fucked’).

Elizabeth, being a Protestant, was thrilled to shit to finally be getting the country back to its ‘proper’ faith after her catholic sister he stormed in and fucking ruined it prior to her death, setting fire to anyone who had an English bible and refused to believe they had been chomping down on Jesus flesh every Sunday at mass.
One bloke though, the Catholic Bishop of Carlisle Owen Oglethorpe, wasn’t having it. He had been appointed by Mary as Bishop in order to restore the country to its Catholic faith and was the only bishop willing to officiate Elizabeth’s coronation. He decided he would totally take the piss and try to ‘elevate the host’, (part of the Eucharist in Catholicism), which Elizabeth had explicitly told him not to do. Imagine.
She went mental and diva stropped out of her own coronation, then had the Bishop relieved of his duties pronto, (but not his head you will be saddened to hear). The whole coronation cost around £17000, (roughly a cool £4m in today’s money and that’s not including the feast which Tudors went completely over the top with).
Happy anniversary Elizabeth

How did people hide and share their religion in the Tudor times?

a typical priest hole: its not what your thinking

This was a question I was asked to do a video for. To be honest I found it really hard to answer; there is just so much to explain. Anyway, apologies for the rambling chat and gormless expressions, but hope you enjoy it regardless. Because I’m good to you too, below is a link to a blog about the Harvington Hall Priest holes, a good read if you’re interested.
How Tudors Hid their religion

Priest holes of Harvington Hall

The Revolution House, Derbyshire

What was Tudor Underware like?


well it wasn’t like this

Did Tudors wear knickers? What’s a codpiece all about? What about periods and hygine? I know these are all questions you have been having sleepless nights over so watch this and learn the answers, and Put those niggling questions to bed once and for all.
Oh PS, I also meant to tell you this nugget of gold too: the costume designer for the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall was told to tone down the size of the codpieces used on set, just in case the American viewers got offended. 


Henry VIII’s quite frankly, fucking ridiculous codpiece, on view for all at the Tower of London.


August 19th, 1588 – Elizabeth I: feeble my arse!

427 years ago today, in 1588 Elizabeth I rode out like a pure badass, and in front of her army at Tilbury, delivered her famous speech which went like this:
“I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.”
Might not seem like much now but for a woman to say this (especially the queen), was pure hardcore. She gave NO shits about King Phillip of Spain’s plans to take over Britain and convert it back to Catholicism. This prick was married to her mental sister, Mary Tudor (the same one who burned all the Protestants at the steak), and upon her death proposed to Elizabeth so he could keep his slimey hooks on the English throne. Liz knew he was a complete twonk and was prepared to go all out to fuck him up.
The armada came and went and the Spanish were defeated at sea (despite having a much bigger and more experienced army), with a little help from a storm. The sheer fact that Liz had the balls to face her troops and be prepared to fight soldered her place with her people as a fucking awesome ruler.
Go Liz eh

side note – this is just how the tale goes, but is not an eyewitness account and speculated to be somewhat embellished. Elizabeth actually met her troops when the armada was defeated. If you are interested in this, you may also like the Tudorial about Francis Drake. click here to see it.

(Oh PS look at this pic painted after the defeat of the Spanish, clues everywhere about her role in the armada. I like how she’s holding the world. Think she would’ve quite liked it too)

July 17th 1586- plots, executions, treason and the dick end men in Mary Queen of Scots life.

July 17th 1586. The Babington plot and Mary’s final fuck up

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots

It always seems to be cousins at war when you read about the Tudors, but to be fair they were all a bit incestuous and so had about a million cousins a piece; with that number it’s inevitable that you’re going to annoy a few of them along the way. With so much deceit and scandal that they all hated each other, though I suppose that’s families for you isn’t it?

However for these particular cousins things got really bad, (well second cousins to be precise). Both were Queens in their own right, both well-educated and formidable, both had shady pasts and both wanted the English throne: Welcome to the battle arena Mary Queen of Scott’s and Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth I had been on the English Queen for 27 years. Everything was going sweet. There had been a couple of assassination attempts but nothing major and besides, Liz had the best spy master around, Francis Walsingham. Mary’s social standing is not so easy to explain so we have to go back to the beginning; I will keep it brief because we all have stuff to do.

Mary Stuart was born to James V of Scotland and his wife Mary of Guise (James was Henry VIII nephew, Henry was Elizabeth’s dad, hence second cousins…complicated isn’t it). Anyway Mary’s Dad died when she was 6 days old making her an infant Queen. She was betrothed to a French Prince and sent to French court until she was married. In marrying Mary her husband, Francis II, became king of France and Scotland but kicked the bucket 2 years later. Her mother in law shipped her back to Scotland after this but Mary was catholic and Scotland was protestant, not that she wasn’t unpopular at this point, but it made things a bit tricky for her. Loads of the Scottish public thought that Mary would inherit the English throne, Elizabeth had no kids so it put Mary as close as you can get without being executed.

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I

Anyway, Mary eventually married her cousin Lord Darnley, who was a complete fucktard. This dick had Mary’s best friend stabbed to death (accusing him of being her lover), he drank and beat her and was just in general a giant twat. Mary had also grown very close the handsome young chap, The Earl of Bothwell. This dude was Mary’s closest advisor and there was much speculation about the pair. They made matters worse for themselves when Lord Darnley was killed in suspicious circumstances, not long after Mary had given birth to hers and Darnley’s son, James. There was an explosion at their house and his body was found outside, though not burned or anything like that but strangled, indicating murder (Full on CSI, Tudor style).

darnley death

Bothwell then abducted and allegedly raped Mary and forced her to marry him a mere 3 months after Darnley’s death, as she was on her return form visiting her infant son, (though it’s always possible that Mary was in on the whole business). By this point Mary and Bothwell were accused of Darnleys murder and the Queen now found herself in the deepest of all shit. Their marriage was ridiculously unpopular. They had been married under Protestant law which pissed off the Catholics no end. The pair were caught and Mary surrendered and abdicated in return for Bothwells safe exile. This prick just fucked off and was never seen again, he died 10 years later in a Danish prison like a massive chump.

Whilst in prison Mary gave birth to his stillborn twins and was branded a whore, adulteress and murder by her people. Shitting herself massively, she managed to escape and head to England seeking the protection of her Cousin, Queen Elizabeth, who wasn’t happy about the whole thing:

Elizabeth was a protestant Queen and Mary was her catholic heir. Having finally got rid of Mary Tudor, the most mentalist of Catholics, Elizabeth didn’t really want another Catholic Queen in the country compromising her throne and was worried about loyal Catholics revolting against her and giving Mary the crown. Nobody was happy and so bringing us up to speed on the background checks.

So back to the events of 1586 and the Babington plot. As I have mentioned there were a couple of plots to murder Elizabeth but all failed. This one however was to be Mary’s undoing. Mary had been imprisoned at Elizabeth leisure for the past 19 years. Her son James was now king of Scotland and had no contact with his mother. Mary had decided that she was going to hatch a plot with King Philip II of Spain: A strict Catholic and previous king of England (he was married to Mary Tudor, Elizabeth’s sister, when she was Queen, then did one back to Spain when Elizabeth inherited the throne and told him to cock off). The plan was to assassinate Liz and put Mary on the throne, thus restoring England back to its Catholic ways. Philip would provide the muscle for this to happen and my guess is at some point try and worm his way back in. He didn’t like Elizabeth: she had refused to marry him after her sister’s death, refused to convert to Catholicism and taken the country back to its new, more liberal protestant ways after her sister and his wife had gone on a killing spree of Protestants. The Spanish armada! That was him. He was a bell end. The messanger of this whole thing was a dude called Anthony Babington.

Mary's second dick of a husband, the earl of Bothwell

Mary’s second dick of a husband, the earl of Bothwell

The plot started with a bloke called Gilbert Gifford who was a well sketchy character. He was British born but became a deacon in France in 1585 after being expelled from college in Rome. When in Rome he became pally with some dude who was involved in the plot to assassinate Elizabeth and agreed to help. After travelling back to England to do this he was caught and arrested by Walsingham and agreed to be a double agent for him. Gifford’s job was to take letters between Mary who was imprisoned (well, living the life of Riley in Stately homes around England and Wales), and her accomplice Anthony Babington. He did this by shoving the letters that the two wrote to each other in beer barrels and taking the correspondence between the pair. The letters were obviously then taken to Babington who had them all decrypted and basically knew everything. Babington has already managed to convince Elizabeth that he was a Protestant and worm his way into court but he was a massive secret Catholic working to overthrow the Queen.

Walsingham had enough evidence on Babington to convict him of treason but he wanted the bigger prize. He wanted Mary dead, buried and in the ground cold (and possibly a bit headless too for good measure). On 17th July 1856, Walsingham had his break. He intercepted a letter from Mary to Babington ordering the Queens execution and highlighting her plan to take the English throne. She has royally fucked herself (forgive the pun).

Babington - the chump

Babington – the chump

Elizabeth I's version or Varys - Francis Walsingham

Elizabeth I’s version or Varys – Francis Walsingham

When Gifford heard about this he shat himself. His job was done and being the bell end he was, it became obvious that he was heading for a stint in the tower, so he did what any man would do and ran off. He was found the following year shagging a man servant and a woman in a brothel in France (remember this was a priest having a threeway) and arrested only to die in prison in 1590. I love Gifford, he was like a bisexual Tudor Russell Brand priest, the dirty shagger.

Walsingham, having the evidence to arrest Babington AND the Queen, now decided he was going for the hat trick and was going to go after the other 6 accomplices who were mentioned in the plot. He wrote a letter to Babington posing as the Queen Mary, asking that she might know the names of the gentlemen sent to set her free. Like a twonk of the highest magnitude he named them and the whole bunch were arrested (only after Babington had fled and been captured).

Babington wrote Elizabeth asking for forgiveness and offering her a shit tonne of cash, but that shit didn’t fly and Liz was having none of it. Suppose he thought it was worth a try though eh. The men involved were all hung drawn and quartered, a really shitty and gruesome way to die. Basically they were strapped to a horse and dragged through the streets, to the gallows, there they were hanged till near death, taken down, had their balls cut off (and often shoved into their mouths), disembowelled and then cut into quarters but kept alive till the very end. I don’t think many people took a picnic to these, even though they were basically treated like a family fun day. FACT

Marys execution

Marys execution

spot the red petticoat

spot the red petticoat? bet you cant see the dog though eh?!

Mary didn’t get off lightly either, as you’d expect really. She was arrested and kept at Fothringhay Castle where she was executed under the order of Queen Elizabeth I, (well this is not strictly true, Elizabeth signed and retracted the death warrant several times, She didn’t really want to kill her cousin, particularly as she was a Queen in her own right but parliament had twisted her arm. She was mega mega mega distressed by the whole thing after and was reported to have regretted it tremendously).

Mary’s execution was one giant fuck up. she was told the night before to be ready for the execution the following day. At the execution Mary was forced to remove her black dress. under it she wore a bright red petticoat which symbolised Martyrdom. I’m not honestly certain if Mary truly believed she was a Catholic martyr or if it was a last ditch attempt at sympathy but one thing I do know is that if you try to kill the Queen you had better not fuck it up, and Mary REALLY fucked it up.

Death mask of Mary Queen of Scotts - scary as balls.

Death mask of Mary Queen of Scotts – scary as balls.

The executioner struck her neck and failed to part it from her body. Mary would’ve been suffocating, bleeding to death and possibly still alive at this point. He then proceeded to strike it twice more before her head fell off, he then picked it up, held it in the air and shouted some shit about God save Elizabeth the rightful Queen. As he did this, her hair came away in his hand and the head fell to the floor. She was bald and wore a wig to hide this fact. Oh the indignity. Then there was a ruffle in her dress: she had only smuggled her bloody dog in her clothes to her execution. Who does that shit? Mary that’s who. Elizabeth was saddened and outraged, and would always live with the regret. History does not record the dogs opinion on the whole situation though.

Mary’s body was taken away and embalmed. Her bloodstained clothes were either washed or burned. Years later her son James VI  had her body moved Westminster Abbey where the true Queens are buried. James went onto then inherit the English throne after Elizabeth’s death so a Stuart found their way to the English crown after all.

A young James I of England and VI of Scotland.

A young James I of England and VI of Scotland.