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.

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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.

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Thomas Howard,4th Duke of Norfolk…

oisin

…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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

    liz

    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:

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hardwick-hall

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/hardwick-old-hall/

 

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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 31 and had been loosing her hair, a fact she had hidden well until this prick got a hold of her head.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5j_gy7Y1UDI&feature=youtu.be
 

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