Tag Archives: Henry VII

16th-Century Match.com

henryviihorizontal2The following post is a composite of a chapter that comes from Barb Alexander, who is the creator and author of TudorTutor.com and its associated social media outlets. Her book, The Tudor Tutor: Your Cheeky Guide to the Dynasty, will be published late summer 2013.  Please  do not quote, cite, copy, or distribute this excerpt from The Tudor Tutor: Your Cheeky Guide to the Dynasty without Barb Alexander’s permission. 

What is arguably the most interesting dynasty in English royal history may have never come to be. Before the Tudors of Wales became the Tudors, Richard III sat on the throne, head of the house of York. But during one little battle, Henry Tudor and his guys swept in and had the monarch knocked off his horse and onto his noggin. When his bones were discovered under a Leicester car park in 2012, they showed evidence of fatal blows: It seemed a sword had entered his skull on one end and came out the other after slicing through his brain, and another segment of his skull had been whacked clear away. The king was dead, long live the new king!

Henry VII was clever enough to wrap up the Wars of the Roses by marrying Elizabeth of York, Richard III’s niece and the only heir left on the York side. It was an opportunistic move at first: Pair up with the girl from the other side of the conflict, relocate her mother to a nunnery, bring peace and happiness to all of England (except, of course, the mother in the nunnery, as well as Richard III’s supporters).

Seventeen years and seven babies later, Elizabeth of York succumbed to complications of childbirth. Understandably, the royal widower  was heartbroken and ducked out of public view completely for six weeks. He came down with an illness similar to tuberculosis and it nearly killed him. However, he bounced back and got on with the business of raising his new heir, Prince Henry.

In time, the king was encouraged to remarry for diplomatic reasons. Sensing that her daughter (none other than Henry VII’s widowed daughter-in-law) Catherine of Aragon might be in his line of vision, Queen Isabella of Castille tried distraction: “Hey look, over there, something shiny! It’s Joan, Queen of Naples!” Henry VII was interested enough to send his ambassadors to get the goods on Joan; he clearly wanted to know what he might be getting into. Aside from needing to know the height of her forehead and the possibility of hair on her upper lip, he had the ambassadors report on:

•How was her complexion?
•Were her arms big or small, long or short?
•Was the palm of her hand thick or thin?
•Were her hands fat or lean, long or short?
•Were her fingers long or short, small or great, broad or narrow?
•Was her neck long or short, small or great?
•Were her breasts and “pappes” big or small?
…you know, the usual concerns. The answers were promising:
•Her complexion was clean, fair, and sanguine
•Her arms were somewhat round and not very small, but “of good proportion to her personage and stature of height”
•Her hands were somewhat full, soft, fair, and clean-skinned
•Her fingers were fair and small
•Her neck was full and comely, not misshapen, not very short nor very long. However, her neck appeared shorter “because her breasts were full and somewhat big.”
•More on the breasts! They appeared to be somewhat great and full, as they were “highly trussed.”
It just didn’t work out in the end, money and politics and all. There’s no word on whether Mr. Tudor gave Joan the “It’s not thee, it’s me” reason.
Before long, his tuberculosis was back with a vengeance. His breathing was labored and his joints were racked with arthritis. This well-organized micromanager had been planning for his death ever since that first bout with TB, a decade prior. He left England in a strong financial position, with a promising heir. What could possibly go wrong?


Filed under Across/Beyond Genres with The Tudors: Guest Posts by Novelists, Historians, Cultural Observers, Poets, Memoirists, Artists, and Bloggers

April 25, 1536

Henry, although he undoubtedly knows that an investigative commission has been appointed, acts as though nothing has happened. He writes a letter to Richard Pate, his ambassador in Rome, and to Gardiner and Wallop, his envoys in France, referring to “the likelihood and appearance that God will send us heirs male [by] our most dear and most entirely beloved wife, the Queen.” Is he dissembling, or does he really have hope for the relationship?

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Filed under May 19th, 1536 Feature