Friday, March 30, 2012

Stuart Week!

As many of you know, last weekend marked the death of Elizabeth I. This is where the Tudor Dynasty ended, and the Stuart began. However, Elizabeth's death was not an end to Tudor England, per se. All of her nobles, many of whom were instrumental in Tudor England, were still around. They simply had a new ruler. This coming week marks the beginning of James' journey to England. I am going be focusing my posts on the early reign of James VI/I, investigating those who had Tudor connections but were serving within a new dynasty. I am also investigating the repercussions of the death of so great a monarch as Elizabeth, and the man who had to fill her shoes. There will certainly be goblets full of gossip and scandal, so be sure to check in!

Here's the line up:

Monday: Artifact Monday - Clothing from the early 1600's and "The Arrival of a King" - House (or Palace) Cleaning.

Tuesday: Tudor Tart - Frances Howard, Countess of Somerset (Poison at the Court of James VI/I).

Wednesday: The Ladies of Robert Cecil (Extremely important political figure, yes. Hunchback, yes. Lover, yes?).

Thursday: Poets and Plays (How Elizabethan writing continued. Yes, Shakespeare was still around)

Friday: The King's Favorites (not who you would expect...).

Saturday: We will finish up the week looking at the key events in the reigns of the first two Stuarts, focusing on the Gun Powder Plot and aptly ending with an execution.

*Note: Unfortunately, the weekly line up has changed! I will keep you updated!
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Artifact Monday: The Phoenix Jewel

I thought that since this weekend marked the anniversary of Elizabeth I's death, I would focus on an item related to her. Here we see what is known as "The Phoenix Jewel." It is currently held at the British Museum. Here is an excerpt from the items catalog entry:
"Elizabeth is generally portrayed in an idealized manner: her portraits in the later years of her long reign show no sign of ageing. This magnificent jewel is a unique survival; no matching example is known. The portrait of the Queen is similar to that in a miniature by Nicholas Hilliard (around 1537-1619) dated to 1572. The phoenix rising from the flames is a well-known symbol of renewal, while the entwined red and white roses symbolize the consolidation of England under Tudor rule." 
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Photo Friday: St. James' Palace

Built by Henry VIII, and completed in 1536. Henry Fitzroy and Mary I both died here. 
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fashion or Flop? The Brandons

Here we see the lovely couple Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor. Their coordinating outfits (probably Mary's idea) are in black with silver and pearl embellishment. Mary plays up the black and white with a matching French hood, scandalously showing a bit of her hair. Her matching jewelry is accented by the delicate gold embroidery on her sleeves. Charles, likewise, wears a matching cap and gold chain of estate. He also mimics Mary's delicate gold detailing on his upper sleeve topped off with a thick fur cloak.

What think ye? Fashion or flop?
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What If...Prince Arthur Hadn't Died?

I'm starting a new section of the blog examining the "What if's" of Tudor and Renaissance History. I'm going to start with a big one...What if Prince Arthur hadn't died, and Henry VIII had never become King? How different do you think history would be?

This new section is mean't to get you talking, so please leave comments here and on Facebook. Please keep in mind I have to approve all comments, so if yours doesn't show up immediately, please be patient! I will be approving them as quickly as possible. Enjoy!

Also, if you have any suggestions for the "What if..." section, please feel free to e-mail them to me at everythingtudor "at"

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Artifact Monday: Painting of Francois I

This painting, dated between 1530-1535, is of Francois I, King of France. It was painted by Joos Van Cleve. It is currently held at Le Musée Carnavalet in Paris. Be sure to check out the painting's original page here.

*Note: If you ever have a chance to visit this museum, do it! It is one of the most amazing places I have ever been!
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Friday, March 9, 2012

Photo Friday: Blickling Hall

Thought to be the birthplace of Anne Boleyn

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

All the King's Men: William Compton - Part II

Cardinal Wolsey vs. Compton

Cardinal Wolsey was the most powerful man, under the King, in the early part of Henry VIII's reign. It makes one wonder, how well did he get along with Henry's young friends?

Cardinal Wolsey
The answer? Not too well. Compton was probably one of Henry's most influential friends. It was well known at court that close proximity to Compton meant close proximity to the King (Bernard). Surprisingly, despite the Cardinal's differences with others in the King's household, he and Compton had a decent relationship. Compton did not start any political factions, and really seemed to focus on amassing properties and wealth, not political power.

However, once Wolsey was set in his political power, court records show that crown grants to Compton fell sharply (Bernard). Despite this, the two seemed to stay out of each other's way. When Wolsey purged the King's Privy Chamber of "the King's Minions," Compton remained. (More to come on this in subsequent articles).

Despite this, there are some sources that say Compton and the Cardinal were enemies. Polydore Vergil states that Wolsey had Compton sent on a military mission to the northern borders because the Cardinal could not win his favor. The reason? Compton did not approve of the Cardinal's political ruthlessness (Bernard).

Another possible example of Wolsey's malice against Compton is the accusation of adultery. As Papal Legate, Wolsey sighted Compton for living in adultery with Lady Hastings. He was tried by the Court of Arches and made to swear an oath and take the sacrament, "proving" he had not committed adultery (Letters and Papers...Henry VIII).

Whether or not Wolsey was trying to remove Compton from the King's favor or not, it didn't work. Compton remained close to the King until his death in 1528. I am inclinded to believe that Wolsey had much greater enemies, including sevearl young me around the King, to worry about. Also, considering Compton's only son was a ward of Wolsey, I feel the blood must have not been too bad between them.


Compton, like any good courtier, had one very important job to fill; Get married and produce children. Compton was married twice. The first was to a woman named Werburga, daughter of Katherine Berkley and Edmund Brereton (Bernard).

Margaret Pole in her later years
The couple were married in 1512. Henry VIII, it is thought, had some hand in the match. He was pleased enough with it to grant the couple a new manor house with significant land holdings, as well as several new crown offices. Together, the two had two children, Peter and Katherine.

His wife must have died around 1518 or 1519. There is little historical evidence of it. However, we know of it because about this time, Compton asked the King's permission to propose marriage to the Countess of Salisbury. One may remember her as the poor elderly lady who, in 1541, suffered a botched execution by an inexperienced "youth" after her son, Reginald Pole's, outcry against Royal Supremacy.

Regardless, things were better for Margaret in 1519, when she amassed a great fortune and enjoyed the title "Countess of Salisbury" in her own right. Though Compton was in a good place to ask for her hand, she refused. No one knows why. Perhaps she knew of his affair with Anne Hastings, for a year later the two were brought to court over it. Or, perhaps she knew how lucky she was not having a husband and being able to live on her own. It was rare for a Tudor woman to have her own title and wealth. Unless she was in love (as Catherine Parr later showed), there was no benefit for her marrying.

Elizabeth Stonor
Years later, the Countess suggested that Compton has only wanted to marry her to get his hands on a few of her estates. When she refused, she claimed that he went to the King and claimed that said properties did not belong to the earldom of Salisbury, but rather the Dukedom of Somerset. Though Compton was obviously not the Duke, it seems he finagled his way into running them anyway. Sneaky, sneaky. 

It is pretty certain that Compton tried again and did in fact marry for a second time. If his first wife died around 1519, there must have been a second to account for his will, written in 1522, which names her as receiving certain lands and moneys. This time, it is thought he married Elizabeth Stonor. This marriage has been slightly debated by historians as there is only a small amount of historical evidence that it took place. However, many seem to agree that it did.

There is no evidence of any children being born to the couple.

Modern Portrayals

Compton, despite his closeness with the King, is not usually depicted in films about Henry. This is probably to do with the fact that he died before Henry's "Great Matter." However, he was featured in Season 1 of "The Tudors," played by actor Kristen Holden-Reid. The show portrays Compton as a closet homosexual, who carried on a secret relationship with the musician Thomas Tallis. However, this is highly improbably, considering Compton was known for his "adulterous" behavior with Lady Hastings. There is absolutely no historical evidence to the contrary. If he had been, and it had been known, I'm sure Wolsey would have charged him with that, rather than with adultery. Regardless, it was nice to see Compton portrayed in some way.


Clearly, William Compton was an important figure in the early reign of Henry VIII. I would be interested to see where his courtly career would have gone, had he not died suddenly of the Sweating Sickness in 1528. I feel that he would have probably kept his head. Unlike many of the men around Henry, Compton did not seem to care much for politics. Rather, he was far more interested in advancing himself financially, both with crown grants and property. By the time of his death, he was one of the richest men in Tudor England. Though he was not responsible for any huge political intrigues, or important events, he is certainly important to remember. I see him as a window into the private world or Henry VIII, constantly at the King's side, aiding in the most delicate of personal business. Compton would have seen a side of Henry few would ever see. To me, that is the most important aspect of his character.

Next week, I will  present Henry Courtenay, 1st Marquess of Exeter.

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII
Bernard, G.W. "The Rise Of William Compton, Early Tudor Courtier." The English Historical Review. Vol. 96, No. 381 (Oct. 1981), pp. 754-777.
Hart, Kelly. The Mistresses of Henry VIII. The History Press (Malta: 2009).
Weir, Alison. Henry VIII: King and Court. Ballantine Books (New York: 2001).
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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

All the King's Men: Sir William Compton - Part I

Stained glass depiction of William Compton
Sir William Compton, today a little known name, was one of Henry VIII's closest and most trusted friends. His early death in 1528 probably accounts for him rarely gracing the pages of Tudor well as the fact that he kept his head and died from "natural" causes.


Compton was born about 1482 to Edmund Compton and Joan (née Alyworth) of Warwickshire. He became a ward to King Henry VII when he was 11 due to his father's death. He was placed in the household of Prince Henry. William initially served as a page to the young prince. Growing up together, the two formed a close friendship which continued the rest of Compton's life. Before Henry VII died, Compton is only mentioned as a servant and ward. However, by the time of Henry VII's funeral, he was Groom of the Stole to Henry VIII, one of the highest court positions (Bernard).

Life at Court

King's Jewels as depicted on "The Tudors"
It is said that Compton was closer to the King than was Cardinal Wolsey, as he was daily with him in his inner most chambers. As Groom of the Stole, he was responsible for many important items belonging to the King, such as his linen and jewels. For example, in 1519, an inventory of the King's jewels was made, listing them " in the keeping of Wm. Compton" and included two crowns, numerous chains of estate, and religious relics (Letters and Papers...Henry VIII). Immense trust was required of the position.

According to one contemporary courtier, writing of Compton after his death, he "had no lernyng in the law other than alitill experiens of the same," meaning he had no real formal education, simply his experiences living in the Royal Household. Compton certainly knew how to write, as letters indicate, however he was no academic. Despite this, he mastered his position, efficiently running Henry's household and progresses. He remained Groom of the Stole until 1526, and was then promoted to User of the Receipts of the Exchequer. In 1511, the French Ambassador stated that Compton had more influence with the King than any other man. It must have been true, for in 1514 he received an annual pension of 700 livres from the French. Another example of Compton's influence comes from a letter he wrote Lord Darcy, in which he thanks him "in especiall for your kyndely fauor and goodness shewed..." Darcy was clearly ingratiating himself with Compton, and in return, with the King (Bernard). Despite his immense influence, Comtpon did not create his own political faction, but simply enjoyed his wealth, position, and made sure to serve his King diligently, from whom all his bounty flowed. 

Henry VIII jousting
Like Henry, Compton was an avid jouster. On Jan. 12, 1510, the King and Compton appeared in a jousting match in disguise at Richmond. When Compton took on Edward Neville, he was "sore hurt and like to die." Luckily, Compton recovered and lived to fight another day. He, along with Neville, Buckingham, and Brandon were the King's close companions, especially when it came to sports.

War was another occupation of King and Men. On Sept. 21, 1513, Henry, along with Compton, took the town of Tournai. Afterwards, he knighted Compton, along with two hundred other men. He was now a Knight, and officially part of the gentry.

As befitting his rise, Compton played host to Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII in 1516. She arrived on May 3rd from Scotland, and waited at Compton's estate until Henry arrived to escort her to London. Clearly, he was considered one of the most important men in the country to play host to the the King's sister, and Dowager Queen of Scotland.

Throughout his service to the King, Compton amassed over 40 estates. One of his homes still remains, Compton Wynyates in Warwickshire. It is still inhabited by his Compton descendents. He also amassed a huge number of crown posts. Upon Compton's death, Henry himself wasn't sure how many crown posts Compton had, and commanded Wolsey to send men about England to find out (Bernard).

Sir William, the Pimp?

Despite Compton's great advances at court, he is most remembered for his alleged assistance in organizing trysts between women of the court and the King. One accusation for this is from the Lady Elizabeth Amadas. According to her, the King had sent Compton to arrange a tryst at his London home between herself and the King. However, what she says must be taken with a grain of salt. The lady said these things when being accused of treason for speaking against Anne Boleyn. To read more about this situation, please refer to my article on Elizabeth Amadas.

The Duke of Buckingham
The best known example of Compton and Henry being tangled up with a lady is supported by only one contemporary source; Luis Caroz. However, even he is hazy on the details, having them second hand. He explained, "What lately has happened is that two sisters of the Duke of Buckingham, both married, lived in the palace. Once of them is the favourite of the Queen, and the other, it is said, is much liked by the King, who went after her."

He then goes on to point out that this is all gossip, for, "another version is that the love intrigues were not of the King, but of a young man, his favourite, by the name of Compton, who carried on the love intrigue, as it is said, for the King, and that is the more credible version, as the King has shown great displeasure at what I am going to tell..."

Clearly, something was going on with either the Duke of Buckingham's sister, the King, and/or Compton.

Caroz continued with detail on the events transpired, saying, "the favourite of the Queen has been very anxious in the matter of her sister, and has joined herself with the Duke her brother, with her husband, and her sister's husband...The consequences [were] that, whilst the Duke was in the private apartments of his sister, who was suspected with the King, Compton cam there to talk with her, saw the Duke, who intercepted him, quarreled with him, and the end of it was that he was severely reproached in many very hard words."

Young Henry VIII
Despite Compton being of the lower nobility and the Duke of Buckingham the premier Duke in the land, Henry took Compton's side. According to Caroz, "the King was so offended at this that he reprimanded the Duke angrily. The same night, the Duke left the palace, and did not return for some days. At the same time, the husband of that lady went away, carried her off, and placed her in a convent sixty miles from here, that no one may see her."

Afterwards, Henry's anger turned to Buckingham's sister, Elizabeth, the Queen's favorite, as well as the instigator in this whole situation. He dismissed her and her husband from court, which vexed the Queen immensely. She, in turn, made her ill-will towards Compton well known, which made the King very upset.

Relationship with Anne Hastings

The entire situation, explained above, leaves several questions:

1) Who was the lady?
2) Why was Compton meeting with her in secret?
3) Why did Buckingham and the King have such a falling out over it?

To answer the first question, the lady was almost undoubtedly Lady Anne Hastings (née Stafford). She was the sister of the Duke of Buckingham, and wife of Sir George Hastings.

Secondly, why was Compton meeting with her in secret? There are two possibilities:
A) The King sent him to arrange a meeting for himself with the lady.
B) Compton was arranging a meeting for himself.

Anne Stafford, around 1535
Caroz seems to think Compton was acting as a go-between for the King and Lady Hastings. It would make sense, as the King always wished to keep his affairs private. He would have undoubtedly trusted Compton with such a task. Another small piece of evidence of the affair is from Henry's 1513 New Years Gift List. A very expensive gift was sent to Anne Hastings from the King. It was his third most expensive gift given that year. It would have been uncommon for a simple lady-in-waiting to receive such a gift from the King, unless she was his mistress (Hart). It certainly raises eyebrows.

Another possibility (which I personally believe) is that it is a combination of both theories. It is possible that Anne first had an affair with the King, then with Compton. It is impossible to know, as Henry kept his affairs very private. However, the evidence suggests that the lady at least had an extensive affair with Compton. There is strong evidence from several sources, including Compton's own will, that there developed some type of relationship between them. Compton's will settled two things on Lady Hastings:

1) "Two chantries to be founded in his name at Compton, to do daily service for the souls of the King, the Queen, my lady Anne Hastings, himself, his wife and ancestors. The priests to be appointed by the abbot of Winchecombe, or, failing him, the abbot of Evesham."

2) "100 pounds a year to be paid to his wife during her life, for her jointure, besides her inheritance in Barkeley's lands...and to lady Anne Hastings."

Clearly, he was very fond of her to leave so much to her. It is obvious that her role in his life must have been an intimate one, either as a very close friend or, more likely, as a mistress. Compton's will was written in 1522 and executed after his death in 1528. Their relationship lasted at least 6 years, but probably began before that.

Compton Wynyates
In 1527, Wolsey attempted to prosecute Lady Hastings and Compton for adultery through the ecclesiastical courts (I will go into more detail on this in Part II). Wolsey's ploy failed, but the evidence shows that there was good reason for him to suspect an affair.

Such an affair, especially with a man the Duke of Buckingham would have considered completely unacceptable, would account for his and Lord Hastings' hot reaction to the entire situation with the King. I feel that if the King were the real culprit, the two might have behaved better. I feel their strong reaction was a result of Compton's involvement.

Regardless, Buckingham's days were numbered. In 1521, Buckingham was arrested for treason. Compton held the warrant and led the guards to arrest him. He was found guilty and beheaded on May 17th. Others close to Buckingham also fell, however Lady Anne Hastings and her husband remained untouched (Hart). This could have been a result of either Compton's influence on the King to spare his mistress, or the King's own affection for the lady. It is not recorded how Anne felt about her brother's downfall, nor about her feelings on Compton receiving some of her brother's repossessed lands. I'm sure it upset her, but it did not stop her from continuing in her affair.

This ends Part One of my article on William Compton. Wednesday I will investigate Compton's relationship with Cardinal Wolsey, his marriages, modern portrayals (such as "The Tudors), his questionable conduct with the acquisition of lands, and finally, his untimely death.

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII.
Bernard, G.W. "The Rise Of William Compton, Early Tudor Courtier." The English Historical Review. Vol. 96, No. 381 (Oct. 1981), pp. 754-777.
Hart, Kelly. The Mistresses of Henry VIII. The History Press (Malta: 2009).
Weir, Alison. Henry VIII: King and Court. Ballantine Books (New York: 2001).
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Monday, March 5, 2012


I have stumbled upon a new source to add to my first article (on William Compton) in my All the King's Men series, so there will be a slight delay in publishing it. It should be up by this evening. Sorry for the wait! 
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Friday, March 2, 2012

Update: New Articles Series

Starting Monday, I am going to begin a new article series entitled All The King's Men. My goal with it is to investigate the men (rather than the women) surrounding Henry VIII.

Henry VIII and a few of his male companions as represented in "The Tudors"
I am going to start with William Compton who, I have discovered in my research, was far more important to Henry and the Royal Court than history has made him seem to be.

Please check back Monday for the first post!
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Photo Friday: Knot Garden, Hampton Court Palace

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