A Momentous Year Begins
At some point in 1536 Frances moved to live at Kenninghall with her husband, the couple were both eighteen. Their daughter Jane was born sometime between the end of that year and the beginning of the next. The year started off badly for the Howard family; in January Queen Anne lost the baby she was carrying, a male child, and Henry VIII blamed his wife for the miscarriage. He had already started romancing one of her ladies-in-waiting, one Jane Seymour a member of the powerful Seymour family.
It was not long before the king’s thoughts turned to divorce and Cromwell was able to create reasons for his master to eschew Anne who was accused of adultery with a number of men at court including her brother, George Boleyn among others. By April Cromwell was ready with proof[i]; the indictment stated that the queen;
‘Daily her frail and carnal lust, did falsely and traitorously procure by base conversations and kisses, diverse of the King’s daily and familiar servants to be her adulterers and concubines, so that several of the King’s servants yielded to her vile provocations.’[ii]
Fitzroy had been ailing for some months, despite that he still attended the execution of Anne Boleyn on 19th May along with Norfolk[iii]. For his reward Cromwell was made Lord Privy Seal, replacing Anne Boleyn’s father the Earl of Wiltshire. Cromwell now controlled most of the machinery of government. Norfolk was now almost powerless.
Poets in Peril
|Sir Thomas Wyatt|
The reversal of his fortunes was made quite clear when Norfolk was unable to assist when his half-brother Thomas who was arrested on 8th July for his presumption in plighting his troth to the king’s niece Lady Margaret Douglas[iv]. The pre-contract had been signed sometime after 17th May when the Princess Elizabeth had been declared a bastard and the paranoid Henry VIII viewed the affair as treasonous[v]. who, as the daughter of Margaret Tudor, had a claim to the throne now that both Henry’s daughters had been pronounced illegitimate.
Lady Margaret and Thomas Howard were both poets and they and Henry and Mary Howard[vi] (also poets in their own right) formed a mutual appreciation circle, along with others at court including Sir Thomas Wyatt, to discuss their own poetry. The circle recorded their favourite poems in the Devonshire manuscript.
Lord Thomas found himself in the Tower and an Act of Attainder[vii], to which his half-brother was forced to assent[viii], was passed against him. He was to remain incarcerated until his death in 1537. The 20 year old Margaret was also sent to the Tower and they both feared the worst. On 23rd July the imperial ambassador reported that Margaret;
‘For the present, has been pardoned her life considering that copulation had not taken place.’[ix]
On the same day Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset died, his marriage with Mary still unconsummated, at St James Palace in London. He was buried at Framlingham parish church, the burial place of the Howard family, in a very private funeral[x] with only two mourners in attendance.
Henry was heartbroken by the loss of his comrade in arms; at the funeral he rode Fitzroy’s favourite jennet along with its saddle and harness of black velvet. Henry’s grief was exacerbated the following month when he received the news of the death from pleurisy of his friend the Dauphin François.
|Banner of Wounds similar to that carried on Pilgrimage of Grace|
Norfolk, who barely escaped being sent to the Tower himself, was annoyed to miss out on the plums on offer following the dissolution of the monasteries, as the Church of England separated itself from the church in Rome. Cromwell, in charge of the dissolution and picking up many of the plums for himself, allied himself with the Seymours and Archbishop Cranmer to Norfolk’s detriment. He and Bishop Gardiner found themselves in the leading ranks of the conservatives.
In early October in Lincolnshire there was an uprising protesting against the break with Rome and the associated loss of the monasteries. The spark was the closing of Louth Park Abbey. The king sent a force under his brother-in-law, the Duke of Suffolk, to deal with his rebellious subjects. Suffolk had been building a powerbase in the region.
|Duke of Suffolk|
Twelve days later Yorkshire went up in flames as what became known as the Pilgrimage of Grace flared up. Like the Lincolnshire uprising, this was a protest against the religious changes across the country. While ordinary folk might approve the death of the traitorous Queen Anne, they did not appreciate the loss of their religion, any more than did the conservative northern lords who failed to keep law and order in their lands once the rebellion took hold.
While the Lincolnshire uprising was being suppressed one Robert Aske[xi] was raising the banner of the five wounds of Christ in Yorkshire. Many of the Lincolnshire protesters joined Aske’s band, swelling their ranks with tens of thousands of adherents.
The king originally planned to lead his army north in person. Norfolk, who had anticipated being given a leading role in putting down the rebellion, found himself packed off to East Anglia to prevent trouble occurring there. His son Henry would fight on his behalf; the sixty-three year old duke wrote a shocked letter to the king;
‘Alas, sir, shal every noble man save I eyther come to your person or els go towards your enemys? Shall I now sit still lyk a man of law? Alas, sir, my hert is nere ded as wold to God it wer.’[xii]
Norfolk threatened to march north in any event and soon he received new orders sending him up to join the fighting in Yorkshire.
|Earl of Shrewsbury (C)|
On 11th October 1536 Norfolk left Kenninghall with Henry in his train. Henry helped his father with the mustering of his men, he bragged that;
‘A company of so able men and so goodly personage as I do think the like in such number upon so sudden warning assembled hath not been seen, which those here do judge as have seen many musters.’[xiii]
Thomas was left at home with several hundred men to preserve order in the Howard back yard. As soon as Henry VIII heard of Henry’s attendance upon his father he ordered him back to Norfolk where the two Howard boys would be hostage for their father’s loyalty.
Norfolk met up with the Earl of Shrewsbury at Doncaster. On 27th October Norfolk and his eight thousand men met with the rebels, forty thousand strong, at Doncaster Bridge. He promised to present their grievances at court. The two armies separated; Henry VIII did not listen to the representations of the rebels, he’d been primed by Norfolk’s enemies at court to consider Norfolk a rebel sympathiser.
Norfolk was forbidden to address the rebels’ demands; the king was confident that the rebels would see things his way and would disperse. Henry VIII seemed to be unaware of the disparity of the two forces. Meeting with the rebels on 4th December Norfolk promised them the moon, including the temporary restoration of the monasteries and the coronation of Queen Jane at York. Trusting Norfolk’s integrity the rebels dispersed.
Early in 1537 a number of trouble spots flared up[xiv] and Norfolk declared martial law. He had around two hundred former rebels rounded up and hung from the trees and steeples of their villages. In March he summonsed Henry to come and join him in subjugating the region. The new uprising failed and Aske and his fellow rebels were arrested and brought to trial for treason.
Returning home Henry was unwell for much of the summer of 1537 which he spent at Kenninghall and Norfolk commented that;
‘He is there with his wife, which is an ill medicine for that purpose.’[xv]
This is one of the few hints of how Henry and Frances got on together; it could have been that Norfolk, who had never cared for the de Vere alliance, believed that the cure for what ailed his son was manly pursuits such as war.
Thomas Wyatt – Susan Brigden, Faber and Faber 2012
Henry VIII’s Last Victim – Jessie Childs, Vintage Books 2008
The Ebbs and Flows of Fortune – David M Head, University of Georgia Press 2009
House of Treason – Robert Hutchinson, Phoenix 2009
Henry VIII – Robert Lacey, Weidenfeld & Nicholson & Book Club Associates 1972
The Earlier Tudors – J D Mackie, Oxford University Press 1992
Bastard Prince – Beverley A Murphy, Sutton Publishing 2001
Rivals in Power – David Starkey, MacMillan London Ltd 1990
The Six Wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir, Pimlico 1992
The Lost Tudor Princess – Alison Weir, Vintage 2015
A Tudor Tragedy – Neville Williams, Barrie & Jenkins 1964
[ii] Henry VIII’s Last Victim - Childs
[iii] It is not known if Henry attended his cousin’s execution
[v] Given the king’s propensity for throwing people into the Tower or executing them, the couple would have been wiser to apply for royal permission, albeit that probably would not have been granted.
[vi] Henry was only five years younger than his uncle
[vii] Rather than try Thomas according to a law passed in the month AFTER the engagement, he was declared traitor by statute
[viii] Norfolk was always prepared to jettison his family when his safety was encroached upon
[ix] The Lost Tudor Princess - Weir
[x] By order of the king who later changed his mind and blamed the lack of pomp and circumstance on Norfolk who exceeded the original orders given him by Henry VIII
[xi] A barrister from London
[xii] The Ebbs and Flows of Fortune - Head
[xiii] Henry VIII’s Last Victim - Childs
[xv] Henry VIII’s Last Victim - Childs