Elizabeth I’s Final Decade: “The Glory Of My Crown.”

November 30, 1601.

140 members of the House of Commons collected unceremoniously in the Council Chamber of Whitehall. Kneeling in respect of their sovereign who had ruled them for these past forty three years, they both heard and recorded what was to go down as Elizabeth’s “Golden Speech.” Additionally, it was to be her last address to Parliament at the age of sixty eight. Within its “Letters of Gold”, one could not only better understand the political and diplomatic aptitude of Her Majesty, but also her vivacious talent. She was an astute public speaker, knowing how to  rally her soldiers in defense of both the country and her crown. She was the figurehead of a cult-like following in homage to her as the Virgin Queen, solely wedded to her Kingdom. Elizabeth was also equally adept at striking the sentimentality of her populace. A people whose average lifespan was around forty two years meaning that many of her subjects had only known her as Queen. Long forgotten were the days of turmoil in the reign of her predecessor and sister and furthermore her brother. An even fewer amount could recall the reign of her notorious father who had died over 50 years prior to that fall day of 1601. It was a speech that would perfectly wrap up an incredible, unprecedented and productive reign. A reign which began in an old world and seemed to end in a new one. Inheriting a country whiplashed by religious wars and financially unstable, owing some £227,000 or £100,000 modern equivalent. Additionally, she had all the eyes of Europe upon her who saw her Kingdom as ripe for the picking.

 

Screen Shot 2019-09-18 at 4.30.34 PM.png

Surely Elizabeth’s accomplishments could never be overstated. History often prefers  to recount the peaceful, triumphant and perfect patch of time under Gloriana rather than the truth of it. Elizabeth’s reign, like any other, had its highs and lows. Naturally it is only to be expected in such a lengthy lapse of time. Sadly, the great lows of Elizabeth reigns found themselves in the final decade of her rule. The 1590s had been beset with struggle at every turn; politically, economically and even personally. The sun had risen and was now falling in the reign and life of the Virgin Queen, but was that to reflect the state of her England? Without the blessing of historical retrospect, it must have surely seemed that way. Without further adieu, let us enter the world in which Elizabeth had delivered her “Golden Speech.” Let us examine how politically advantageous it was of her to reform her policies after years of economic struggle. Furthermore, how truly needed it was to remind her subjects of her love for them from past to present. A notion which sealed and capped her legacy in such a way that the modern audience has all but forgotten the landscape of when and why this speech was given.

 

Screen Shot 2019-09-18 at 5.00.15 PM.png

Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone.

Politically:

The Nine Years’ War or Tyrone’s Rebellion began in 1593 and ended in 1603. The rebellion was led by a man called Hugh O’Neill. The O’Neill clan is an ancient Irish family descended from the High Kings of Ulster in Northern Ireland. They held great political sway over both Ulster and all of Ireland as a result. They were well-respected and thought to be something like the King of Kings in their native Tyrone, all while England struggled to keep their foothold. Ireland had been left somewhat alone in the wake of the dynastic wars wreaking havoc through England. As a result, Henry VIII sought to reclaim what he felt was his just historical inheritance. This set the scene for the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 which allowed hereditary Kings and clans to trade in their former titles, recognize Henry’s supremacy and be given new Earldoms in return. At the risk of full out extermination, many complied. Including the O’Neill clan who surrendered their kingship of Tyrone for the Earldom of Tyrone. Of course it was never to be that easy. In addition to recognizing Henry as their liege lord; the Irish were also obligated to renounce their ties to Catholicism and embrace Henry’s new church. The Irish could no longer practice tanistry for passing on titles had to adopt primogeniture. Irish customs including dress and language were to go by the wayside as well. Needless to say, it was a little too much too soon.

Hugh O’Neill had become a ward of the crown after the assassination of his father. Hoping to foster loyalty to the crown, he had been held in court at London before returning home to claim his inheritance as Earl of Tyrone. He took advantage of his relationship with the crown to find his power but soon gained too much of it. All in all, the Irish wars were not only pricy and drained the royal treasury but also humiliating for the country who seemed unable to put it down all together. The Pope in Rome offered his support of the Irish cause against the Protestant Queen. Worse yet, The Spanish offered aid in troops and were determined to land a strategic grip on the land just 58 nautical miles from Dublin to the coast of Wales. Needless to say, it was an absolutely daunting concept which Elizabeth would not live to see the conclusion of. Hugh O’Neill and his forces surrendered on March 30, 1603. Six days after Elizabeth’s death.

In addition to the Lopez Plot in 1594 which saw Elizabeth’s own physician charged with high treason and executed accordingly, her court was dense in political strife. Cliques dominated and waged war against one another in the privy council and beyond. Elizabeth was known to be a great judge of character and much of her success is owed to this fact. Yet, she also became slower to recognize new courtiers to high positions and preferred to replace fathers with sons. After the death of William Cecil, he was replaced by his son, Robert Cecil in his father’s seat of principle advisor. In much the same, Francis Bacon earned his place at Elizabeth’s side due to his father’s position as Lord Keeper. However, this created a tide of dissension amongst the younger courtiers who felt themselves ripe for the picking but not being recognized for their talents. The leader of this opposing faction would be none other than the stepson of the late great Robert Dudley, Robert Devereux.

Screen Shot 2019-09-18 at 5.02.47 PM

Additionally, in 1595, England was attacked for the first time by hostile forces in form of the Spanish. Years prior, Spanish forces had taken root in Northern France and constructed a power base. They’d make landfall along the coast of Cornwall where three towns were sacked and burned. The Spanish were a constant threat. They did not merely go away to lick their wounds following the defeat of the Armada as that was but the first of two. Those latter attempts would ultimately be wrecked by storms at sea.

 

 

 

 

Economically:

In Elizabeth’s reign, the population of England rose from three million to four. Simply put, there were more children being produced and those children were living longer. Additionally, this required vast resources to feed a growing population though the harvest failed each year from 1594 to 1597. This lack of goods drove up the prices of what did exist which in turn drove inflation. William Cecil, Lord Burghley would remark “the lamentable cry of the poor who are likely to perish by means . . . of the dearness and high price of corn.” From 1595 through 1597, there were riots across the country. In Somerset, Kent, Norfolk and most notably London. In 1595, app

 

roximately 1,000 apprentices collected in what was to be the biggest riot in London in 80 years. Amongst their complaints were rising food prices and the behavior of the wealthy in the wake of their despair. Five of the apprentices were charged with high treason and hung, drawn and quartered. Ironically, it is around this time that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was being penned with the possible reflection of London’s violent street brawls in its pages.

Screen Shot 2019-09-18 at 5.08.25 PM.png

Gloriana herself.

It is due to this economic decline that the populace began to take notice of the monopolies that made their lives even more difficult. During this period, The Queen would reward those around her with these taxes. From wine to playing cards to salt and starch. The monopolies ranged from creature comforts to downright necessities. Parliament reflected those worries in cutting some of the cumbersome tax from the back of English citizens but outrage amongst the remainder remained. Unknowingly, these monopolies were held as royal prerogative. Thus, when Good Queen Bes dismissed her own personal monopolies in her final speech to parliament, it was hardly an unprovoked or charitable act. It was an absolute necessity that had taken years upon years to conclude. Yet, you could still see it as an act of good faith considering the estate of her own personal finances due to the weighty decade. Elizabeth had previously climbed her way out of the debt left to her only to be rolled back into it due to factors far out of her control.

Additionally, The Black Death would return in 1592. Its presence would render 10,675 London inhabitants dead in all but one year. Its effect can be best seen when it caused a halt to one of Elizabethan England’s most favorited activity; the theatre. The globe was shut down for almost two entire years as the plague swept.

Personally:

Last but certainly not least, the matters of personal effect that plagued England’s Queen. Elizabeth’s long life was indeed admirable and great politically but not all those around her were to be so fortunate to share in its longevity. It was in the last decade of her reign that she’d see tragedy after tragedy, death after death. From her ladies including Margaret Radcliffe and Blanche Parry to her favorite courtiers. Sir Francis Drake, Francis Walsingham, William Cecil, Christopher Hatton, Henry Carey and of course, her last court favorite who died by the stroke of her own pen; Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.

 

Screen Shot 2019-09-18 at 5.11.47 PM

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.

Robert was the son of Walter Devereux and Lettice Knollys (the daughter of Catherine Carey, she herself being the daughter of Mary Boleyn and allegedly the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII) making him Elizabeth’s cousin. He was introduced to court by his stepfather, Robert Dudley and quickly made an impression. An expert courtier, Robert was handsome, charming, well spoken and ambitious. However, his ambition made him self-seeking, overly-confident and defiant. He was a soldier but his military campaigns often led to little to no productivity. He spent the better part of his time attempting to triumph over the Cecil family as the leader of his own faction. His grasp would extend his reach again and again as did his burden triumph over his usefulness. In 1596, he and his forces sacked and seized Cádiz, Spain and put him at the height of his fame with mostly the common people. A fame which threatened Elizabeth’s success with her own people. However, he’d fail during further campaigns against the Spanish and all eyes were turned towards the warfront in Ireland.

Despite his lack of respect for her, Elizabeth favored him. Be it his youthful and naive nature or his relation to her long lost Dudley, no one will ever know for certain. Yet, it seems this was the one man who threatened Elizabeth’s jurisdiction and prospered while doing it. Essex even went as far once to half draw his sword on his Queen in the privy council. Yet, instead of earning himself a free trip to the tower, he was sent to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. It was there that he led a subordinate and utterly disastrous campaign of his own making. Armed with 16,000 troops and orders to confront the rebellion in Ulster, Essex ordered his men to Southern Ireland. Furthermore, he met with O’Neill. Not on the field of battle but to negotiate a truce that was the humiliation of the crown. Hearing of the Queen’s displeasure, he abandoned his post and burst in upon the Queen undone in her private chambers. Once again, Bess took mercy upon him. Sentencing him to house arrest and revoking his monopoly, Essex was led into financial ruin. In defiance, he attempted to use his popularity against the Queen and lead a revolt of London. Like most other things to do with Essex, it failed and he was brought up on charges to high treason to later be executed.

 

Screen Shot 2019-09-18 at 5.13.56 PM.png

Lettice Knollys; the mother of Robert Deveraux, second wife of Robert Dudley and child of Sir Francis Knollys and Catherine Carey. Some would even suggest her to be the grand daughter of Henry VIII. 

It is well documented that Elizabeth’s own health had begun to fail her during this period. Bouts of melancholy plagued her. No doubt a result of deep self reflection upon her life, reign and decisions as a whole. One can only imagine the things that hung in the conscience of the elderly Queen. The execution of her royal cousin Mary Queen of Scots, the hardships of ruling which caused one to revolt against their own private morality, maybe even the possibilities of what could have been. Love, marriage, children. All exchanged for the love and longevity of her Kingdom which had left the fate of her country in the hands of a virtual unknown. A seemingly odd act of karma that the son of the woman whose death warrant she had signed, was now to succeed her most precious station beyond her.

In conclusion, the Golden Speech might have been the end of a golden reign but hardly a golden decade. One upon which surely the Queen was grateful to hand back to the ages. Despite her struggles and disappointments that would have hardened the hearts of so many, she remained the Queen that history records her as being. “Semper Eadem” or “always the same.” Despite wars, betrayal on both public and private fronts, age and tragedy; it was always this. This 68 year old woman was the same who had looked down the Armada and declared she too had  “the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England.” The same who had defied all odds placed against her from the very beginning and succeeded to a throne that was never meant to become hers. The same whose name rides triumphantly through the chronicles of history. Who gave her namesake for a period of time known for its national pride, literature, pomp and triumphant. While Elizabeth’s final parliamentary speech might not have been as innocent as many portray it to be, that does not weaken it. Neither in sentimentality or political value. So let us all hope to be as wily as Bess at the age of 68 with a little less to do with the stepsons of our deceased sweethearts.

 

Sources:

SEA-DISTANCES.ORG – Distances, sea-distances.org/.

PLOTS AND REBELIONS, hfriedberg.web.wesleyan.edu/engl205/wshakespeare/plotsandrebelions.htm.

“Daily Life in the Elizabethan Era.”. “Daily Life in the Elizabethan Era.” Gale Library of Daily Life: Slavery in America, Encyclopedia.com, 2018, http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/daily-life-elizabethan-era.

Briscoe, Alexandra. “History – British History in Depth: Poverty in Elizabethan England.” BBC, BBC, 17 Feb. 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/tudors/poverty_01.shtml.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Hugh O’Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone.” Encyclopædia

Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 16 July 2018, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Hugh-ONeill-2nd-Earl-of-Tyrone.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 18 Feb. 2018, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Robert-Devereux-2nd-earl-of-Essex.

Donnchadha, Pádraig Mac. “Introduction of the Crown of Ireland Act 1542.” Your Irish Culture, Your Irish Culture, 21 Mar. 2017, http://www.yourirish.com/history/16th-century/introduction-of-the-crown-of-ireland-act-1542.

“Elizabeth I and Finances.” History Learning Site, http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/tudor-england/elizabeth-i-and-finances/.

“Elizabeth I’s ‘Golden’ Speech.” History Today, http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/elizabeth-golden-speech.

Hull, Eleanor. “Home.” Maria Edgeworth, 1 Jan. 1970, http://www.libraryireland.com/HullHistory/Henry2.php.

“Rebellion by London Apprentices in 1595.” The British Library, The British Library, 26 Jan. 2016, http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/rebellion-by-london-apprentices-in-1595.

“Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Aug. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Devereux,_2nd_Earl_of_Essex.

The Mortality Of Elizabeth Of York: “For lo, now here I lie.”

      Screen Shot 2019-09-16 at 7.51.34 PM

  The day was February 11, 1503. The bells of Saint Paul’s Cathedral tolled while London’s wearied masses collected in assured astonishment of the news. The Queen was dead. Queen Elizabeth of York had been introduced to the realm 37 years to the day of her death in an England much different than the one she left. She was the first child of King Edward IV and her namesake, Elizabeth Woodville. Born amidst the turmoil of the dynastic wars; her formative years were spotted with war, instability, death and betrayal. Narrowly escaping the grasp of her Kingly uncle who stood in place of her misfortunate brothers, the succession of a Lancastrian incumbent would change her fortunes. Following the defeat of King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, Elizabeth married the freshly crowned King Henry VII. By uniting their houses formally, the Tudor dynasty sought to establish itself as the premier royal house at all means necessary. England’s new Queen would play an essential part in her country’s security by providing the necessary heirs to its future. She would hardly disappoint. Nine months and one day after her wedding, she gave birth to the golden prince meant to be the first King to receive the crown by means of natural inheritance since the days of Henry VI; Prince Arthur.

Screen Shot 2019-09-16 at 7.54.06 PM

Elizabeth of York’s parents; Elizabeth Woodville and King Edward IV. The marriage that nearly ended Edward’s brief tenure as King and the first true wedding of a monarch to a commoner.

        In the course of her life, Elizabeth would provide seven additional children as adornments to the Tudor tapestry. By all accounts, Elizabeth would prove herself to be a figurehead for the ideal late medieval Queen. It is even suggested that through her, The Tudors earned their trademark coloring. Erasmus described her in singularity as “brilliant.” A Venetian report detailed Elizabeth as “a very handsome woman of great ability, and in conduct very able,” while commenting personally on her “charity and humanity”. She may have even conducted some power herself from underneath of her husband’s iron first in forms of rebuking letters sent to members of the peerage. Yet, despite all of her glories and characteristics, she too proved to be made of clay. Succumbing to post partum infection following the birth of a short lived daughter just over a week later. Her distraught and notoriously thrifty husband spent lavish sums on a funeral fit for her importance in a sum estimated at 721,270 in modern terms. A London lawyer delivered an elegy which effectively summed up the realms opinions of their lately departed Queen:

“If worship might have kept me, I had not gone,

        If wit might have me saved, I needed not fear,”

 

Screen Shot 2019-09-16 at 7.56.30 PM.png

The funeral effigy of Elizabeth of York that survives today.

 

        That same lawyers name was to return to the chronicles of history again and again; Thomas More. Specifically when he served under the son of Elizabeth; Henry VIII. Ironically, it was from the death of Henry’s mother that one of the most prolific influences would enter his life stage. Henry, described as Elizabeth’s “loving son”, was a mere eleven years old at the time. His entire life had been turned on its axis the previous year following the death of his eldest brother. This left him as his father’s sole male heir. Gone was the Tudor’s golden egg and in its place, a scarcely known boy whose life had predetermined towards the church prior. As one could only imagine, the events of the past two years would prove to be traumatic for the pubescent Harry but how affected was he by the passing of his mother?

Screen Shot 2019-09-16 at 7.58.34 PM

The Vaux Passional.

        The Vaux Passional is an illuminated manuscript dated from the late 15th or early 16th century. In its rare, original binding lays some means to answer this question. The books first miniature depicts the same manuscript being presented to a regent that is thought to be Henry VII. Yet, just past that lays its true peculiarity. The background of the illustration contains two young girls before a fireplace in colors of mourning. Besides them, a young man seeming to weep into a bed of black cloth. His face hidden despite his full head of reddish-golden hair. It is almost with complete certainty that one can suggest these three children represent Margaret, Mary and Henry following the death of the Queen. Given it is likely a contemporary source, this manuscript seems to know better than we may about the reaction of the young Prince. Be it of her death of the events that had transpired in such quick succession. The miniature depicts not the Kingly man that Henry was to become but a small, broken boy. In a letter to Erasmus in 1507, Henry would later reflect following the death of Philip the Handsome that “never since the death of my dearest mother hath there come to me more hateful intelligence. And to speak truth, I was the scanter well-disposed toward your letter than its singular grace demanded, because it seemed to tear open the wounds to which time had brought insensibility. But indeed those things which are decreed by Heaven are so to be accepted by mortal men.” Henry was particularly fond of the archduke who was married to his wife’s sister and who had visited him in 1506. In many ways, Henry saw Philip as the ideal man of his era against the advisement of Henry’s own father. This death seemed to shake the Prince to his core. Another death so close to home as his life seemed virtually full of them.

 

Screen Shot 2019-09-16 at 8.00.30 PM

A bust of what could be a young Henry; far be it from his throne and unlikely to ever seat one.

 

        Henry (by this time Harry) was no doubt profoundly upset by the lost of his mother which, to a modern audience, should come as no great surprise. Yet, by the contemporary standards of the day, it should be noted with some air of curiosity. Royal mothers were notoriously aloof in their parenting style and often too busy with matters of Queenship to be much concerned over their children. The job of caring for royal children was often shuffled off to high ranking members of society who saw it not as a burden but as a rare honor and privilege. From virtually the moment of birth, Queens of medieval society vacated their responsibilities. To breastfeed one’s own child was unbecoming of their station and thus, the honor was passed to a wet nurse and a number of attendants. From royal cradle rockers and beyond, A queen’s place was by the side of her husband and within her court. Children would be established in their own residences where their education and upbringing was monitored by those appointed to do so. That is not to say that a Queen did not care greatly for her children but it was merely the way of it. As best stated in Virtuous or Villainess? The Image of the Royal Mother from the Early Medieval to the Early Modern Era: “On the one hand, the royal mother is expected to produce and nurture future heirs who will ensure dynastic and political security, but on the other, a woman who appeared to have too much influence was seen as meddling, overwhelming in her authority, and a threat to the stability of the realm.” Due to this, Elizabeth of York would be expected to do much the same.

       However, it is worth noting that Elizabeth’s own childhood was less than traditional by standards of the day. Elizabeth’s mother, Elizabeth of Woodville, had stolen herself and her family to the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey twice. First when Edward IV was forced to flee England due to the rebellion of his once allies; George, Duke of Clarence and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. It was there that she’d give birth to her son and heir, Edward. The second time would be when her brother-in-law took possession of that same Edward and seized the title of Lord Protector. Rife with instability, Elizabeth would have likely spent vast amounts of time with her mother and her siblings. It is reasonable to suggest that her bond would have been more familial than most of her station due to this. Additionally, Elizabeth Woodville was a commoner before her royal marriage and was likely to have a much more hands on approach to parenting due to this. Thus, it is not difficult to suggest that Elizabeth of York’s relationship with her children would be reflective of her own childhood.

Screen Shot 2019-09-16 at 8.02.44 PM.png

The urn of Westminster Abbey thought to contain the skeletal remains of Elizabeth of York’s brothers; Edward and Richard.

        Little is known about Henry’s early life before the death of Arthur. It seemed almost not worth recording to contemporary scholars at the time. Incredulously, Henry’s grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, would incorrectly label his birth in her Book of Hours and seemed to amend it at a later date. However, it is within his obscurity that we may better understand Henry’s relationship with his mother. The evidence of deviation in royal protocol lays in an unexpected yet obvious place; Henry’s handwriting. As noted in David Starkey’s Mind Of A Tyrant series, Henry’s handwriting is uniquely his own and nothing like that of his tutor. Instead, it is much like his Queenly mother’s which suggests that she was the one to teach him in the first place. Though there is little known evidence of Elizabeth’s handwriting that remains, what we do have shows staunch similarities even to the untrained eye. Furthermore, Starkey recalls “it’s characteristic enough in weight, rhythm and letter forms to prove conclusively, I think, that Elizabeth was the first teacher of her daughters and her second son, Henry.”

Screen Shot 2019-09-16 at 8.05.48 PM.png

Elizabeth of York’s signature.

        Though we may never know the true extent of the bond between the two, the mere suggestion that the future King would be tutored firstly by his own mother allows us to better understand the man himself. Be it his devastation in the face of her death which smacks of modern maternal bonds, or how it later shaped him. All of this provides modern audiences with the early operative pieces of what was to be a Freudian daydream. In so many ways, the new age idealism that Henry aspired to can be traced back to Elizabeth of York and the marriage that begot him. His desire to love the woman he married was in homage to his father who was thought to never stray from his marital bed. The traits of loyalty, fidelity and humility which he sought most in a wife, was a mold first cast by his mother. A mold that had not had time to be broken due to her early and untimely death. Freudian theory tells us that his mother would have become something of an idolatrous figure for him. Aspiring to a flawless and immortal figure which could never belong to this life. All of this and more proves that while Elizabeth’s body may have been laid to rest in ceremony and pomp in the luxury of Westminster Abbey, her presence was very much there in Henry. All of his decisions regarding love, loss, standard and ultimately what it was to be King was due in part to her. That figure of the old world who died in the new. She who heralded the dynasty which would become the stuff of speculation for centuries to come; Elizabeth of York.

Screen Shot 2019-09-16 at 8.09.30 PM

Sources:

Weir, A. (2014). Elizabeth of York.

“Elizabeth of York: a Tudor of Rare Talent.” History Extra, 7 Aug. 2018, http://www.historyextra.com/period/tudor/elizabeth-of-york-a-tudor-of-rare-talent/.

“Sir Thomas More: ‘A Rueful Lamentation’, 1503 [Poem on the Death of Queen Elizabeth of York].” The Life of Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford (1550-1604), http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/ruefullamentation.htm.

“The Vaux Passional.” Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – The National Library of Wales: Aberdulais Mill, Glamorgan, http://www.library.wales/discover/digital-gallery/manuscripts/the-middle-ages/the-vaux-passional/.

Wight, Colin. “Beaufort Book of Hours.” The British Library, The British Library, 24 Apr. 2012, http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/henryviii/birthaccdeath/beaufort/index.html.

 Fleiner, Carey, and Elena Woodacre. Virtuous or Villainess?: the Image of the Royal Mother from the Early Medieval to the Early Modern Era. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Starkey, David. Mind Of A Tyrant.

Hail Teaser:

Blackened tendrils spread ash-dipped fingers though the chilled and windless night. Outstretched palm encompassing and grasping as its thick billows rose higher and higher still. The stars which had once been like the glowing and hungry eyes of a thousand creatures in the deep, now nothing more but sickly and pale embers. It was all a diversion. For surely not even the Gods themselves could see into the deep of onyx and licking titian. The dry thatch crackled and whispered with the kiss of the flames. Lusty and consumptive as it beckoned for the next taste of the foliage. Yet, not even a hundred pyres could keep the Gods from hearing the calamity which had overtaken the village that night. Goats bleating and dogs bayed. Timber moaned as the fibers stretched and collapsed. Women screamed in primal howl as they were forced from their seeds. Men, women, children and elders divided amongst themselves. All while each structure was raided and searched. Rallying up the villagers like so many cattle. One by one, family by family onto the common green.

 

The rattling of the chains had never been a quiet past time. Even more so when they were meant to be broken all together. Livestock bayed and bellowed while hounds barked. Blue steam winding through taut lips drawn over slathering and snarling teeth. These dogs standing as tall as any man on their hindlegs. Thin coats of black fur outlining and drawn into the muscle coveting their structure. A dozen surrounding and standing as a ferocious warning for all those taunted with the idea of taking cover in the neighboring forests. Should that not be enough, they were matched and complimented by just as many armored knights in similar coats. Their exoskeletons forged black in the fire that created them. Said to be turned by the magic that embedded and the alchemy that forged it. Each divided by their duty but even in height. Entirely uniform from one to the next. Fearsomely large in helmets of the same black metal that made up the rest of their suits of war. A netting of chainmail connected to the bridge of the nose guard hid anything south of the cheekbones. The eyes standing unobstructed in sockets though each an unnerving shade of grayish-blue. Each soldier bearing a vertical slash of a scar flush through dark brows. Virtual imprints of the other with no way of knowing who was the stamp upon which the rest were pressed or who was a mere reproduction.

 

The mayors stay overlooked the hamlet like a older sibling. Ever astute, ever enviable in its stature and even more so its material. White washed stone that moss had yet to spread into. The earth had not yet reclaimed in and in that alone, it was an odd and eye drawing structure centered within its structure. A single candle glowed within the bedroom window. Its flame standing tall and straight like a sentinel within the stale and unmoving chamber. The breath of it not struggling to keep in the stir of human created breezes. Tauntingly looking onto the destruction that its brotherly fires cast. A town ablaze casting shades of orange onto that thick, foreign glass. The candles carnage contained in one pewter saucer coated in each thick drop of sweet scented wax.

 

Its vapors whispered through the caverns of his nostrils. So thickly coated in the mud and the blood that made it mud in the first place from mere dirt. Yet, it was the scent of luxury and even that could not coat the distinct wash of unkept bodies in sweet sin. Booted feet found each step slowly. Testing the wooden boards underneath that were so fresh off the trees they were cut from that they still retained their bend. Like the bend of cut fingernails just trimmed, bending when recently liberated from the body yet growing brittle with the more time away. His movement would betray no sound until he so desired it. Pupils dilating and absorbing the grey of his eyes while he cast a glance just a few feet from where he stood. A bed of four posters and fabric draped canopy. Two figures swaddled within though. The wheezing, snoring and red-faced man of particular interest to him. The young woman plotted mere inches on the bed nothing more than a casualty by this point.

 

Not far from the foot of the bed, there was a small scarred table bearing two goblets and a pitcher atop it. Turning his back upon his sleeping company, he’d approach. Eyes down to the thickening contents of the container where notes of purple and red became one. The silver interior stained with the paint of previous usage. Pouring himself a goblet where the lofty vintage sloshed audibly overtop the intakes of breath. A gauntleted hand overwhelmed the belly of the goblet as he’d lift it to his nose. Inhaling the scent curiously as a milk-fed dog may a scrap of rare meat. The bitterness flared the sides of his nostrils rendering it undrinkable. Disappointment flooded the youth in him. This was not sizing up to be as enjoyable as he thought it might have been. No surprise entrance, nothing to drink that he could choke down. The once formidable man who he had known in days before had grown fat, old and grey and maybe even deaf. The one who had mussed his hair with sunburnt hands the size of anvils. Whose war cry had been the stuff of the battle legends he had poured away upon in dusky and mold-eaten rooms. Who had had envisioned one day might kick down his door and save him from his imprisonment. Now vengeance dripped from his teeth and disappointment was not a feeling he was often well to overcome.

 

Irritation swelled his fingers, forcing them to curl around the goblet. Forearm drawn from his elbow before all the force in him launched it from behind his shoulder and forward. The cup striking with deadly accuracy the headboard above the sleeping pig with a sound remnant of cannon fire. Purple trickles dancing along his trajectory where the thickest collection of it seemed to explode across the wooden carvings. It was enough. Snorting and choking himself awake, the grey beast would attempt to wretch himself up from the sweat-stained sheets but too slowly. By then, the armored man had crossed the small space. Jumping, one long stride landing a boot to the footboard as he stood overtop of the bed while the other found a place on the mattress by his side. Dropping his knee and all of his weight into the tremendous, swollen sternum.  One hand riveted in chainmail found the space between his chin and chest. Gripping the doughy neck onto the bed while his opponents hands clutched desperately to forearms covered in links. The breath wheezing right out of the other from the drop as his head was stilled. “I see you still won’t stand for me, aye?” the mouth hidden behind the mail would barter. Even with the better part of his face concealed, the older man would recognize him. Recognize his eyes and the color draining out of them. Recognize the scar tissue raised and red atop nearly translucent skin. Recognizing what that scar was from and who had applied it to the face of marble; the same hands clutching desperately for breath with flailing arms and legs. Forcing his bedmate to be tossed clean from the linens and onto the floor underneath.

 

“Then you shan’t breath for me either.” The younger man declared, the smile creeping up over his eyes where drawn brows would crease in the amusement the struggle betokened. The red-faced struggle seeming to force the milk of his eyes even whiter. Watching as blood vessels popped and ran through like the broken yok of an egg. Starbursts of deep red looking something like the sweetened wine which stained his tongue and breath. Veins widening under the compression as the deepening red meshed with a growing blue and as he discolored, so grew his satisfaction. His flailing slowed as all the air was compressed out of him. Lids growing heavy and drooping over black irises that seemed to have no direction between where the pupil began and ended before his eyes shifted. Seeming to look over the shoulder of the knight who had rode in on the hooves of death himself. Kaden had seen many of dying man cast their gaze towards the sky like tethers had been cast down from the heavens to draw them up. Maybe even he had done the same when hanging from the gallows’ tether. His eyes seemed to follow some figure far behind him. Another trace of blood swimming up his eyes like a trout in stream. “Look at me as you die, old man. I want you too l-“

 

Clunk.

 

Then all at once, a hammer struck the anvil in the cortex of his brain. The song of metal to metal colliding reverberated like chapel bells in his ears. Calling his mind to overload. Singing, screaming in hideous song. Seeming to echo against the walls of his skull. The surprise forcing him to lurch sideways from the shock of it all. Hands drawn from the airway of the man under him where his palms clasped to the sides of his helmet. Willing the all-encompassing and damnable ringing to stop with the insulation of his own flesh. It took scarcely a few seconds before Alger was tumbling to his feet. Knees thudding to the ground, scrambling to action. Swollen feet thudding against the wood like chunks of meat running back to its host. Yanking the helmet free from his head, he’d look back incredulously at the cause of his discomfort. The door launched open and splintering at the force as the stairs moaned as they were mounted. Irritated beyond words at the sudden intrusion, he yanked himself from the bed and towards the door. The discomfort meshing with disappointment making his face red. Questioning eyes searching the woman whose petite shoulders moved in complete aloof apathy. Dropping her weapon of choice as it collided with a shimmer much like the one in his head. Kicking it away in passing where the rebound sadly missed her.  “It did the job well enough!” she’d holler back but by then he was already halfway down the steps. Pursuing his hunt as he squealed. Yanking down furniture in his wake to hide the scent of his path. Yet, the hunter was hot on his haunches. Unphased by the collision and falling of household furniture. Thumbing at the riband sash as he drew the excess from his chest and reached for the repeating crossbow mounting his shoulder. Kaden drew the wooden handle to the hilt and allowed the thread to notch, aiming his shot skillfully. Squeezing his finger down upon the latch and expelling the bolt which quickly found its wind. Like a bird of prey soaring with the jetstream, its velocity collided the sharpened head into the back of the knee. Expelling itself through the front of Alger’s kneecap where his mass collapsed all at once over his shattered knee.

 

“Who’d have thunk it? The greatest King in all of Cydonia was nearly undone by a fair maiden and a pitcher.” the feminine voice issued.

 

T.I.H.: The Death of Robert Dudley

6ec656c3d14c3641cee523fb9c1b1718--uk-history-tudor-history

Today in history, September 4, 1588, Robert Dudley died at his home in Oxfordshire. Dudley had been of ill health as of late and was on course to Buxton in Derbyshire to “take the waters” which were said to have healing properties. Despite this, his death still came as a shock to the Queen and likely Robert himself who wrote to Elizabeth just days prior praising “your medicine and find that (it) amends much better than with any other thing that hath been given me.” The death of her court favorite and oldest friend hurt Elizabeth profoundly. While still riding high from the defeat of the Spanish Armada that summer, Elizabeth was distraught at the loss and reportedly locked herself away in her apartments for days. Only the wily Lord Burghley had the power to have her chamber door broken down and her isolation ended. His final letter was found in Elizabeth’s close possessions 15 years later just after her own death speaking to the incredible, non-traditional nature of the two. Yet, let us examine what exactly bound the two together in such a way over their decades together.

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 4.25.23 PM

(John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland.)

Robert Dudley was one of thirteen children belonging to John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland. Contrary to popular belief, the Dudley family were hardly upstarts. Edmund Dudley (Robert’s grandfather) had been Speaker of the House of Commons and President of the King’ s Council under the reign of Henry VII. However, Edmund Dudley was brought up on high treason and executed in what is often referred to as one of Henry VIII’s first acts of King. Edmund, who had been acting strictly on the orders of his King, is often seen historically as a scapegoat. His execution garnered the young King public favor. The populace was glad to see the downfall of the man who they saw responsible for the taxation under the previous regime. Despite this, John Dudley claimed his inheritance and went onto witness many pivotal happenings in the reign of Henry VIII. He served Cardinal Wolsey diplomatically, was knighted by Charles Brandon and served in the 1523 Invasion of France. He was present in the Reformation Parliament, the Pilgrimage of Grace, The Burning of Edinburgh and was elected as one of the 16 members of the regency council under Edward VI. After the execution of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector, he took over as Lord President of the Council. Rejecting the title of Lord Protector unlike his predecessor, John Dudley had a close yet respectful working relationship with the King. Seeking to bring the now teenager more into affairs of state, Edward began to exercise some of his own authority independent of the council and even of John Dudley himself.

Sadly, what we know best about John Dudley is ironically where the paths of Robert and Elizabeth merge forever. Prior to the death of King Edward VI, after a bout of illness which left the young King’s health in question, John Dudley married his second youngest son to Lady Jane Grey. Jane Grey was the daughter of Henry Grey and Frances Brandon. Frances Brandon herself was the daughter of Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor making Jane Grey the great-granddaughter of Henry VII. Fascinatingly enough, Jane Grey’s father Henry was the grandson of Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset who was the son of Elizabeth Woodville by her first marriage. Though the bloodline is not royal, I’ve always found this interesting. Though the marriage seemed politically insignificant, that would not stand that way for long.

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 4.28.50 PM

(Edward VI’s “Device For The Succession.”)

Prior to Edward’s passing, he had worked ardently to change the act of succession and exclude his half-sisters. Whether it be Edward’s fear of a Catholic England under Mary or the work of his councilors attempting to convince the dying King of the best next step, no one can say for certain. Yet, what we do know is that Edward supervised and worked to have his “Device for Succession” legitimized despite his own father’s act of succession passed prior to Edward’s accession. Surprisingly enough, his unlikely yet Protestant cousin and the daughter-in-law of his main counselor was to take up the helm. After Edward’s death on the 6th of July, 1553, Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen days later. Yet, it wasn’t too last. Mary Tudor rose up through East Anglia. Garnering strength and Dudley was overwhelmed as was the whole of his regime.

Robert Dudley had been arrested and tossed into the Tower of London after attempting to lead a force against Mary in Norfolk. He was condemned to death along with his father and four brothers. Yet, only Guildford and John Dudley were to be executed. It was around this same period of time that Mary’s half-sister Elizabeth had been imprisoned in the Tower as well. Though the two had known one another as children in the court of Elizabeth’s father and may have even shared a tutor, this seemed the period that bonded them together best. Wyatt’s Rebellion was a direct answer to the impending marriage of Mary to Philip II of Spain. Though Elizabeth had never been directly implicated, Mary suspected her involvement and her life was at risk. Both of them narrowly escaped with their lives and the Dudley’s were restored after their support of Philip II’s forces in France in 1558. Needless to say, the circumstances of their initial meeting at such a lowly period of their lives would forge something deeper between them. Elizabeth knew she could trust the man when she was fighting but a subject in the Tower and so she knew she could trust him when she had come to her throne.

With Mary’s death and Elizabeth’s accession, Robert was remembered as was all of the Dudley family. Ambrose Dudley, as heir, received his father’s titles which had been stripped of them. Robert was made Master of the Horse on the very day that Elizabeth received the Great Seal. His rise was quick and alarming to many. As a favorite, he was recognized as one of the few men leading the country and many thought him to be a substantial threat that needed to be eliminated. Foreign suitors came and went but to the naked eye, it was obvious that Robert carried the Queen’s favor and should he not already be married, he could have even become her husband.

 

170px-Unknown_lady_by_Levina_Teerlinc_c1550_Yale_University

(Amy Dudley)

On September 8, 1560, Robert’s wife, Amy Dudley, was found dead at the landing of a flight of stairs. An inquest was opened immediately as the events were suspicious, strange and furthermore scandalous. Robert Dudley was nearly in constant attendance to Elizabeth at this point and for his wife to abruptly be found dead in such a manner raised many eyebrows. Especially when he seemed to be so high in Elizabeth’s favor that marriage between the two seemed not only plausible but likely should he be suddenly a bachelor. The case was reviewed by a coroner and 15 jurors who found Amy Dudley’s death to be an accident as a result of a broken neck. While some suspected suicide, others ruled out the suggestion due to Amy’s pious nature. Through the years, breast cancer has also been suggested. Yet, to this day there is no true explanation and there likely never will be. Regardless, scandal ensued and Robert’s enemies used it as a chance to stunt his political ambitions and his hopes of marrying Elizabeth. At the conclusion of his period of mourning, Robert pursued Elizabeth with complete abandon. Sabotaging all attempts by foreign suitors and limiting his own pursuits between 1561 and 1578. For 17 whole years Robert Dudley fought for the hand of his longtime friend and Queen, announcing that he “could not contemplate the queen’s marriage to anyone else… without great repugnance.”

In 1575, Robert or “Sweet Robin” as Elizabeth knew him, staged the most elaborate, expensive and longest party in Elizabeth’s honor at Kenilworth. This celebration went on for three weeks and reportedly cost £60,000. With emphasis placed on Robert’s dedication and willingness to sacrifice all of himself for his would-be brid. The wine, beer and gifts ran just as wildly as the masquerade. Robert had enlisted the help of Italian painter Federico Zuccaro for two portraits depicting both himself and Elizabeth. Within the portraits, the two were facing one another in a tradition usually held for married couples. Clearly he was laying it on thick in a last and final attempt that would not succeed. By 1578, Robert Dudley had married Elizabeth’s cousin Lettice Knollys in yet another scandal that had Lettice banned permanently from court. It had been suggested that the two had been involved for sometime and only married when Lettice became pregnant. Elizabeth was to never forgive her cousin for the happening and exhibited that infamous Tudor temper of hers. Though the marriage was to never be for one reason or another and the extent of their relationship may never be truly known to be anything more than just this, the two did truly seem to be soulmates. It is thought that Robert was the only suitor that Elizabeth truly ever entertained.

 

(Though those original portraits by Federico Zuccaro no longer exist, his drawings provide us with a glimpse of the type of symbolism employed. Notice the dog representing fidelity and ermine for purity.)

Their relationship was damaged but managed to mend following the crisis. It is thought that Elizabeth relied heavily on Robert during the proceedings of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots and for sometime after. A happening that no doubt shook the anointed Queen to her very core. Robert was of the essence once more in the coming of the Spanish Armada when he led Elizabeth’s horse during her famous speech at Tilbury. He stood beside her prepared to fight for her safety during the Armada and following her success during the celebrations. Yet, by the fall, her friend and sometimes-sweetheart was gone from this world. Dudley’s stepson Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, would attempt to fill the void. Maybe even for a moment he did. Yet, Elizabeth was mistaken to think the loyalty and good intention of stepfather laid in stepson. With the execution of Robert Devereux in 1601, Elizabeth would follow not long after with Robert Dudley no doubt in her heart and mind.

T.I.H.: The Great Fire of London.

firemap_2

(The areas of white show you the extent of the fire.)

Today in history, September 2, 1666, the Great Fire of London began. It is known as the most devastating fire in London history which destroyed some 13,000 houses, 87 churches and Old Saint Paul’s Cathedral. The country’s capital inhabited some 350,000 people at the time. In addition, homes were made of pitch-soaked timber with thatched roofs and tightly packed into small quarters. The tight confines and narrow, winding streets compounded with a dry summer made London a tinderbox waiting for a spark. That spark would come from an unlikely place.

A Baker’s shop in, aptly called, Pudding Lane would go up in flames in the early morning hours of the 2nd. Thomas Farrinor, ironically the King’s own baker, had gone to bed the night of the 1st quite convinced that he had entirely put out his oven. He was wrong. Lit embers took to the firewood besides the oven and his house was engulfed momentarily. While Farrinor escaped, his bakery assistant did not. All too quickly the fire was to claim its first victim but it was just getting started. The fire, which was aided with easterly winds, spread quickly. Warehouses filled with oil, whiskey, coal and all sorts of other flammable materials burnt with reckless abandon. It is around this time that fellow Londoners began to notice the ferocity and danger of the spreading blaze and abandoned their efforts at extinguishing it. Many would run home to save their families and valuables. What could not be carried was buried.

 

fbf0322980e76f3df5ec4e66700ee3213e2f087d

Interestingly enough, it seems evident that fires must have been quite common in central London. Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary for that day that he had been told twice of the fire and thought little of it upon both times he reviewed it. The second time he writes “About seven rose again to dress myself, and there looked out at the window, and saw the fire not so much as it was and further off” and so he returned to the plans of his day. It wasn’t until the fire had committed to its warpath did he seem to truly find interest in its severity. Pepys diary is perhaps the best firsthand account of the Great Fire which we have today though it is with curiosity that one can consider some odd intrigues. If these fires were so commonplace that a man thought it best not to get out of bed, this fire must have truly been a wonder of the day. Either that or it began at exactly the wrong place at exactly the wrong time.

“The churches, houses, and all on fire and flaming at once, and a horrid noise the flames made, and the cracking of houses at their ruin.” – Samuel Pepys.

It carried down Fish Hill and down to the Thames which acted as a natural buffer. It spread quickly leaving 436 acres destroyed in what must have been days of complete and utter hell. To put the size of the fire in perspective, London at the time was only 677 acres. That means that over 60 percent of the city was either on fire, had been on fire or was to be on fire. But how was a fire of such magnitude meant to be contained much less put out? Well, not easily as one can imagine. There were no fire companies and fire laws were just as medieval as the city they were attempting to save. A common method of this time was demolition. Demolition teams equipped with firehooks or gunpowder would create empty spaces in rows of houses and shops that could burn themselves out without fear of spreading. However, time had been wasted by the indecisive leadership of Thomas Bloodworth, the Lord Mayor of London. Whether he was used as a scapegoat or was a true culprit, we’ll leave that for history to examine. What we do know factually is that Bloodworth refused to allow the demolition of key buildings that could have controlled the fire. In fear of liability, he was later ordered to by the orders of the King himself.

 

Wenceslas_Hollar_-_Plan_of_London_before_the_fire_(State_2).jpg

King Charles II answered the call of devastation with ‘with alacrity and vigour” and arrived at the heart of the city that afternoon. A campaign was organized by the privy council and soldiers/volunteers were dispatched to various points to battle the blaze. Primitive fire engines were used which were hardly functional considering the scale of the fire. At its greatest point of escalation, the Tower of London had even been threatened. It wasn’t until winds finally begun to die down that the demolition of houses and shops or firebreaks, had finally become efficient ways of containing the fire. Ultimately, the fire continued to smolder for months but it had done its damage. By result, London as the world knew it was smoke and ash. Now it was time to rebuild and wrestle with the thousands of homeless, the threat of rebellion and become the London we know all know it to be. Ironically enough, the fire did have some benefits. The bubonic plague had returned with a vengeance the year before in 1665. Though the chronicled number is around 69,000, the true number is suggested to be around 100,000. The same heat that made conditions perfect for the fire also helped the plague to spread. Yet, with the outbreak of the fire, it killed many of the rats and thus the fleas they carried. An odd silver lining perhaps but at a tremendous cost for poor Londontown.

“The hand of God, a great wind, and a very dry season” – The official inquiry into the Great Fire and its origins.

T.I.H.: The Battle of Bosworth.

92418134-1-ad64971

Today in history, August 22, 1485, Richard III was killed in battle at Bosworth Field. The battle of Bosworth was to be the last of the dynastic wars which had wreaked havoc on England for decades. Richard of House York had succeeded to the throne of England two years prior by some…messy means but succeeded he did! Yet, it was not to be for long. An unlikely incumbent lay in the lurch representing the House of Lancaster and seeking to make right the foul deeds which had brought down his step-uncle, Henry VI. One could only imagine that Richard and his forces of 5,000 were likely quite confident marching into that battle. Seeing it as little more than a spur of rebellion or a chance to put the Welsh upstart down Old Yeller style. Richard held 5,000 men behind his banners while Henry had French mercenaries and had collected rag-tag bands of soldiers since his arrival.

Yet, not even Richard (who many find to be well-seasoned in the art of betrayal himself) had anticipated what was to come. The Earl of Northumberland who had been charged with the holding of a third of the royal forces, did not answer Richard’s call for movement. Seeing eminent defeat, Richard opted to “either win the battle as a king, or die as one” and refused the notion of retreating. Thought to be accompanied by little more than his household men, Richard would cut down Henry Tudor’s standard bearer and unseat the standard bearer who had served under his own brother. Henry Tudor meanwhile was protected by the reserve of his vanguard and seemed to ironically want no parts of the action. Yet, he had a trick up his sleeve. Stanley forces would take note of the King separated from his army and rushed the scene. Thomas Stanley, after all, was the husband of Henry’s dearly beloved mother making Stanley Henry’s stepfather effectively. The Stanley forces surrounded Richard and his men, Richard would find his horse stuck and would be struck down by violent means even by those standards. The day was lost for the Yorkists and Richard III was no more. Henry Tudor because King Henry VII and there was no going back.