Read A Journey Through Tudor England Online

Authors: Suzannah Lipscomb

A Journey Through Tudor England (10 page)

BOOK: A Journey Through Tudor England
5.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

It has never been fully clear why. The French claimed it was a result of their cannon, but the recovered hulk shows this could not have been the case. One probable factor was the refitting of 1536 itself as she was made heavier, to nearly double her original tonnage, and over-laden with a large number of crew the morning of 19 July. The extra weight, high up in the ship, decreased her stability and manoeuvrability. She seems likely to have been either
turning stern-on to face her eight large guns towards the French galleys, or trying to steer out of the way of their shot, but in the violent act of manoeuvring the ship, this great weight may have overbalanced her, causing water to rush in through her open gunports and capsize her.

Only thirty men were rescued. The vast majority of her crew, including the commander Sir George Carew, the captain Roger Grenville [see B
] and 500 other men unable to escape because of anti-boarding nets and heavy chain-mail jerkins, went down with her. From Southsea Common, Henry VIII, with Lady Carew besides him, watched helplessly as the tragedy unfolded. For years afterwards, the tops of her masts remained visible at low tide.

Their loss is our great gain. The remains of the
Mary Rose
give us hints of just how impressive Henry’s ships were in their heyday, but what an irony that only by being destroyed can a warship be preserved.

‘She would be, while her father lived … the most unhappy Lady in Christendom.’

he soaring, majestic and vast cathedral at Winchester was the setting of one of the most impressive weddings of the Tudor age: Mary I to Philip of Naples (later Philip II of Spain) on 25 July 1554. Built by a kinsman of William the Conqueror, William Walkelin, and transformed into a fine example of Gothic perpendicular architecture in the thirteenth century, this beautiful medieval cathedral would be a place of great hope for Mary, after a lifetime of painful trials.

Mary’s decision to marry a foreign prince was not popular. Parliament and a number of her councillors had expressed their concerns, and a more violent reaction came in the form of an armed rebellion led Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger, which reached the walls of the Palace of Westminster in the early hours of 7 February 1554. Mary was, however, determined to marry the man of her choosing, and with excellent reason: not only because she wanted to join England to Catholic Europe once
again, but because she had been moved around like a marital pawn from early childhood.

Born on 18 February 1516, Mary was the only child of Katherine of Aragon and Henry VIII to survive infancy. Aged just two and a half years old, she was betrothed to the French dauphin, Francis. The ceremony was by proxy (the dauphin was just twenty-eight weeks old, after all), and Mary was given a tiny diamond engagement ring for the occasion. When she was five, the engagement was broken off: it was decided that she would become not a French queen, but instead be betrothed to Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. In a miniature by Lucas Horenbout, Mary is shown wearing a brooch over her heart that says simply ‘the Emperor’. However, Mary would not be of marriageable age for another eight years, and after three years of waiting — during which Mary had become quite attached to the idea of her grown-up husband-to-be — Charles decided that he wanted to marry a different cousin, Isabella of Portugal, instead.

It was a shame, as Mary was developing into a good catch. Highly educated, she spoke Spanish, French and Latin, and read Greek. Her accomplishments as a dancer and musician were demonstrated to the French envoys arriving to discuss a second French engagement in 1527. They praised her ‘silver tresses’ and ‘great and uncommon mental endowments’ but, again, a match could not be engineered.

If Mary felt rejected after these fruitless betrothals, it was nothing compared to what happened next. In 1531, after her father had determined to marry Anne Boleyn, Mary was separated from her mother, Katherine, in a callous effort to persuade both mother and daughter to accept the new situation. Mary was only fifteen, and although she couldn’t know it, she would never see her mother again. She then suffered the indignity of being downgraded from ‘Princess’ to ‘the Lady Mary, the King’s daughter’ within a week
of her half-sister Elizabeth’s birth in 1533. To make matters even worse, she was sent to Hatfield to serve in Elizabeth’s court, under the stewardship of Anne Boleyn’s aunt and uncle.

After Katherine died in early 1536, Mary reluctantly agreed to swear both to Henry’s position as Supreme Head of the Church of England, and that her parents’ marriage had been incestuous and unlawful, making her a bastard. As a result, in July 1536, she saw her father for the first time in five years. It is not wildly speculative to imagine that the awful treatment she suffered at her father’s hands shaped her psyche and informed her later rejection of her father’s institutions when she came to the throne.

It was not long before Henry was pushing her around the marriage board again. In 1539, at the age of twenty-six, she was told to consider another match, this time to the Lutheran duke, Philip of Bavaria, whose religion she could not countenance. She told one of her ladies that, ‘she would be, while her father lived … the most unhappy Lady in Christendom’.

Nor did life get much easier for Mary during her brother Edward’s reign. She retreated to East Anglia, where her continued celebration of the Latin Mass in her chapel at Kenninghall put her in direct opposition to the new Protestant establishment. At one point, she considered fleeing the country, but her decision to stay meant that when Edward died at the age of fifteen, she was available to contest his ‘device for the succession’ that named Lady Jane Grey as his heir [see G
and F
]. On 19 July 1553, she was declared England’s first Queen regnant and, three months later, the Spanish ambassador knelt and offered her Philip’s hand in marriage. (The irony of marrying the son of her first fiancé cannot have been lost on her.) At thirty-seven, Mary was eleven years older than he.

Philip eventually arrived in England, with a personal entourage of around 4,000, in July 1554. When he reached Winchester, he
was housed in the Dean’s lodging in the cathedral precinct, where Henry VII’s eldest son, Prince Arthur, had been born. The couple met two days before their wedding. Mary, who by this point must have thought she would never marry, was delighted with him, and if Philip found Mary badly dressed or pale and sagging, as his attendants reported, he didn’t comment on it.

On the day of their wedding, both were sartorially resplendent. Philip wore a white doublet and breeches, with a mantle of cloth of gold (a fabric woven with threads wrapped in fine spirals of gold) adorned with pearls and precious stones, given to him by Queen Mary. Mary’s wedding dress was ‘rich tissue with a border and wide sleeves, embroidered upon purple satin, set with pearls … lined with purple taffeta’, with a high collar, partlet (sleeveless jacket) and a kirtle of white satin.

At half past ten in the morning, Mary entered through the west door and walked the length of the cathedral, past the rich hangings of arras and cloth of gold, to the quire which had been built by Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester, thirty years or so earlier. The couple stood before the fifteenth-century Great Screen on a specially constructed dais. The carved figures in the screen had been removed and destroyed during the Reformation (the current figures date from the nineteenth century), but above Mary’s head remained colourful wooden bosses on the ceiling that proclaimed, through the ubiquitous Tudor rose, portcullis and fleur-de-lis, her right to rule. As sovereign, she stood on Philip’s right side, and the Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner, married them. In the Triforium Gallery you can see an X-frame armchair that is thought to have been the chair that Mary sat on during the wedding ceremony.

Now, at last, England was safely tied to Catholic Spain and, before long, they could hope for a Catholic heir. But it was not to be. Soon after the wedding, Mary believed she was pregnant and withdrew for her lying-in but, humiliatingly, no baby came. Mary
was heartbroken when Philip left to govern the Netherlands. He only returned after seventeen months, and then only for four. During this time, once again, Mary believed she had become pregnant and, once again, it turned out to be a phantom pregnancy, the product of hope and anxiety.

When, a year later, in 1558, Mary succumbed to a fever that would prove to be fatal, she may legitimately have felt that life had been cruel to her. She was unloved and mistreated as a daughter, horse-traded by her father for political gain, separated from her beloved mother and abandoned by her only husband. Posterity remembers her as ‘Bloody Mary’. Better perhaps to look on the glory of Winchester Cathedral and think of Mary’s one day of love, hope and faith.

‘[Sandys] so translated and augmented it, and beside built a fair Base Court that at this time [it] is one of the Principal Houses in all Hamptonshire.’

John Leland, 1542

illiam, Lord Sandys, is not a name that most of us are familiar with. It is a shame: this soldier and courtier was a regular Tudor ‘Flashman’, constantly popping up for a front-row seat at an improbably large number of key events during Henry VIII’s reign. The Vyne was the house he rebuilt to celebrate and chart his success, and it retains some incredible and unique treasures of the Tudor age.

Lord Sandys was one of those few lucky men who managed to pass from one reign to the next without losing royal favour. Born in 1470, he rose under Henry VII and after his marriage to Margary Bray became a Knight of the Body (an honorary bodyguard to the monarch), a ceremonial and coveted post that he continued to hold after Henry VIII’s accession. Sandys was evidently seen as a safe pair of hands as Henry VII entrusted him with two crucial roles: receiving Katherine of Aragon when she landed in England, and accompanying his daughter, Margaret, to Scotland to marry James IV.

For Henry VIII, Sandys was an early and long-time favourite, and the King heaped positions of status upon him. Several pieces of evidence point to Sandys’s privileged standing: Henry went to stay with Sandys at The Vyne less than a year after his coronation and later charged Sandys with accompanying his sister Mary to France in October 1514 to marry Louis XII. In 1517, Sandys was given the prestigious position of Treasurer of Calais, which he held for nine years and, like anyone who mattered in 1520, he attended the Field of Cloth of Gold [see L
]. He was also made Knight of the Garter, created Baron Sandys and returned to court in 1526 as Lord Chamberlain. This role meant, as Wolsey’s Eltham Ordinances decreed, that he was required to give ‘continual attendance in the causes of [the King’s] counsel, unto what place so ever his Highness shall resort’: he was one of Henry’s right-hand men, always present to advise.

It was during this fortunate and comfortable phase that Sandys started to renovate his brick and stone mansion in Hampshire. The house today has seen much change since: chiefly, it was originally far larger; possibly even as big as Hampton Court. It was much reduced by Chaloner Chute, when he bought The Vyne in the mid-seventeenth century, and further changed over the following 200 years. Nevertheless, three of the prized features that Sandys introduced remain as distinct and wonderful evidence of both his eye for design, and his lofty associations.

The first is the extraordinary floor-to-ceiling oak linenfold panelling (wood carved to mimic the folds of cloth) in the Long Gallery. Look closely and you will see that each panel is carved with the heraldry of one of Sandys’s contemporaries or patrons, thereby creating a visual
Who’s Who
of Tudor England in the 1520s. Although painted much later (probably in the nineteenth century), it can be dated to between 1515 and 1529 not only through dendrochronology (dating by counting tree rings), but also
through the coats of arms and insignia that have been chosen. Taken together, it represents an almost complete corpus of Tudor heraldry. Thus, you can hunt for: fleurs-de-lis; portcullises; Tudor roses and ‘HR’ standing for Henry VIII (the Latin
Henricus Rex
); the pomegranate (the symbol of Granada) and castle (for Castile) of Katherine of Aragon; the rose and pomegranate growing together on one stem; a cardinal’s hat and initials ‘TW’ for Thomas Wolsey (giving us our start and end dates); the mitres and initials for Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester, William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury and Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of Durham; three sickles and ‘WH’ for Sir Walter Hungerford (who in 1540 suffered the ignominy of being the first person executed under a new law outlawing buggery and sodomy); and Lord Sandys’s own devices, which include a winged half-goat, a rose merging with the sun and a ragged cross.

BOOK: A Journey Through Tudor England
5.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Devil Without a Cause by Terri Garey
Ripe for Pleasure by Isobel Carr
Sidekicks by Dan Danko, Tom Mason, Barry Gott