Monthly Archives: February 2014

Roland de Veleville’s Marriage

Someone asked me about Roland de Veleville’s marriage, because as far as we know he did not receive a papal dispensation to marry his wife, Agnes Griffith. They pointed to her Stanley ancestor as a blood link to the English throne, saying that the failure to receive a dispensation means that de Veleville could not have been the son of Henry VII. There are several problems with this argument.

I am unsure of who Janet de Stanley, Griffith’s grandmother, was. My documents have Janet de Stanley being born in Cheshire, England in about 1400. Alternately I have the Stanley’s going back until 1405, at which point my records diverge to the family of Joan Goushill, the wife of Thomas Stanley, the 1st Baron Stanley. Her family was the FitzAlans, who were descended from Henry III giving a blood-link to the throne. However, these dates do not add up to Janet being part of that line, as she and Thomas are about the same age. The Stanleys were the kings of the Isle of Mann, a title which was downgraded to “Lord of the Isle of Mann” when the 1st Earl of Derby’s stepson became Henry VII.  Going back further into the Stanley family there is no blood connection to the English throne in the generations I was able to research.

One clue as to why this blood link is questionable comes from the marriage of Thomas Stanley, the 1st Earl of Derby, and Margaret Beaufort, “Our Lady, the King’s Mother.” As far as my research shows there was no dispensation for this marriage. If the grandmother could marry a Stanley without dispensation, why would the grandson need one to marry the granddaughter of a Stanley?

This theory is also based on de Veleville thinking of himself as a prince, which it does not appear he ever did. De Veleville never rose above the rank of knight, and even though he earned the second-highest income in North Wales he was still never of the nobility. Papal dispensations were very. They were given to princes, and only very, very rarely given to knights. I don’t doubt that he could have obtained one, since he was so close with Henry VIII, but he may not have felt he needed one.

There is also the question of the date of their wedding. We know that Agnes Griffith was living at Beaumaris Castle before they were married, because she is referred to as de Veleville’s “concubine” in documents. Their marriage may not have taken place until after she had become pregnant, and as such they may not have cared about a dispensation, if one had been needed. She was a widow, but did not have any children from her first marriage. The date of birth given for their daughter, Jane de Veleville, is between 1510 and 1514. Their wedding may not have taken place until after Jane’s birth, or very close to it.

The first marriage of Katherine Tudor of Berain is more questionable than that of her grandparents. Her first husband, John Salisbury, was a closer cousin to her, as his great-grandmother was Janet Griffith, the sister of Agnes. This marriage took place in 1556, after the Reformation, and because of the break with Rome there was no need for a dispensation.

There may have been a dispensation for Roland de Veleville and Agnes Griffith that was lost to time, but I doubt it. I also doubt that they would have needed one. Yes there was a Stanley ancestor, but it was so far removed that it may have been deemed unnecessary. Likewise, the Griffiths being an old branch of the “Tudors” was so far removed by that point that it may have been not regarded as damaging. De Veleville may have not considered himself high enough in rank to need a dispensation, and as Agnes was already pregnant, he may have not thought it mattered.

The life of their daughter Grace is unknown, and she may have died in childhood, but their daughter Jane did very well for herself, marrying Tudor ap Robert ap Vychan, a man of great wealth and standing. Their only surviving child, Katherine, went on to four marriages, scores of children and grandchildren, and the nickname “Mam Cymru”- “Mother of Wales.” Her sons from her first marriage earned two very different places in history. The oldest, Thomas, was involved in the Babington Plot and was executed. The younger, John, married Ursula Stanley, and was a body servant to Queen Elizabeth I. He was a poet, and a friend/patron to William Shakespeare.

If you have any other information about Margaret Beaufort’s marriage to Thomas Stanley, the Stanley family, or papal dispensations in general, please leave it in the comment section.

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A close-up of a portrait of Katherine Tudor of Berain. I wonder if she looked like her grandparents or mother?

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The Tudors- Background

In 2007 Showtime began the produce and air the historical drama The Tudors. The show takes place over 4 seasons, between the 1520s and the 1540s and focuses on the life of King Henry VIII. It begins with Henry’s youth and intrigue with Anne Boleyn and ends with the production of the famous Holbein painting just prior to Henry’s death in 1547. With the title saying “Tudors” plural, I half-expected the show to continue in future seasons with the lives of Henry’s children, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, but it did not.

This drama comes from Michael Hirst, who cut his teeth in historical costumed dramas with the feature film Elizabeth I in 1998. I remember going to that film in high school (receiving extra credit in my English class for seeing it), and and I loved it. Michael Hirst guarantees a visually-stimulating show, with unbelievably beautiful costumes, sets and props. His productions often blend the line of fact in fiction because while he attempts to keep to the history he deliberately breaks from it for story or to make production easier. Hirst got rid of Henry’s sister Mary, blending a general idea of her person into Henry’s sister Margaret (this causes several problems later in the series), because he didn’t want two “Princess Mary Tudor”s on the call sheet- the king’s sister and daughter shared the same rank and title at one point in their lives. After the cancellation of The Tudors, Hirst went on to create Camelot, The Borgias, and Vikings.

The show cast Irish star Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry, Maria Doyle Kennedy as Katherine of Aragon, Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn, and Henry Cavill of Superman fame as Charles Brandon. Cavill apparently auditioned for Henry but in the end was cast as the rakish Brandon, as whom he gives an a commanding performance. Especially towards the end of the show, as Brandon ages Cavill becomes the sexiest men on the show, at least in my opinion.

Casting Meyers as Henry caused several problems in the show. Firstly, he doesn’t have the full presence of the actual king. Henry VIII was more of his grandfather, Edward IV, than his father, Henry VII, but Meyers looks more like VII than VIII. Meyers just isn’t a large enough man. His physical appearance became more of a problem as the show went on because Meyers would not gain weight and refused to wear a fat suit. I can’t imagine that he took the roll without thinking that one day the character was going to have to be fat. It is not as if he could claim that he had no idea that Henry VIII was fat towards the end of his life, when he couldn’t ride and play sports anymore. I’ve always wondered if Cavill would have put the suit on?

Natalie Dormer was one of the break-away stars of this show. She went on to feature films and Game of Thrones, but continues to be the mental image for many when they think of Anne Boleyn. A stunningly beautiful woman, Dormer dyed her hair a dark brown to play Anne. According to Susan Bordo’s The Creation of Anne Boleyn, Anne’s “dark features” did not mean that her hair was almost black in color. On the contrary, her hair being called dark just means that she was not a blonde, which was the popular “romantic” hair color. Bordo believes that Anne’s hair was in fact light brown, as it is shown in the National Portrait Gallery portrait.

Some of the worst deviations from the history happen due to what I call a “Hirst wink-wink.” This happens in all of his productions. The show will diverge and a character will make an announcement that “nobody must know of this having happened,” as though the history is wrong and Hirst alone stumbled into the truth. “This is what really happened, wink-wink, but the history was deliberately changed, wink-wink, which is why you’ve never heard of it before, wink-wink!” Whenever you hear a character comment that nobody must ever know that this happened you are viewing an alteration to the know history.

But what is it that can make a viewer, even one like me who knows better, watch this show again and again? Because we want to think that we are flies on the wall to what happened. It may be flawed, but it is the best chance we have of watching Henry VIII live and love, at least until a time machine is invented. The story, the train-wreck knowledge that the wives of this man are going to end badly, that he will get fat and sick and mean, keeps us watching.

The show is available on Netflix Streaming, and the DVDs are available for purchase. At times Showtime will include it in their On Demand offerings for subscribers.

One note about watching- this show is one that you want to watch in HD. The costumes are amazing pieces of work, and in HD you can see every little thread and texture. The jewels and sets have amazing details, as do the hairpieces, and if you can you’ll want to be able to see every one of them.

Another note is that every time I watch it, our puppy Henry Rex goes nuts when he hears his name coming from our speakers! It’s very, very cute!

EDIT: Susan Bordo has pointed out to me that she believes Anne Boleyn had dark auburn hair. I apologize for the error.

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Review: “Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World” by Alison Weir

I received this book as one of my Christmas gifts, and it’s on my list after finishing “Bosworth” and “Royal Exiles,” as part of the research for my 2nd book, which takes place after Bosworth. But that’s jumping ahead of myself. I can’t wait to read this book, and this review is well written and enticing.

The Freelance History Writer Notes and Reviews

Portrait of Elizabeth of York Portrait of Elizabeth of York

When I heard that Alison Weir was writing a biography of Elizabeth of York, I eagerly awaited its release. Having been a long time reader of Weir’s non-fiction works and knowing very little about Elizabeth of York made this book highly anticipated. And I was not disappointed!

Elizabeth of York has very much been an enigma to historians. While we still don’t know what her personality was really like, this book shines a bright spotlight on her. It starts out by explaining the circumstances into which Elizabeth was born as the eldest child of King Edward IV. The War of the Roses had been ongoing for about ten years at the time of her birth. Weir tells us of the family dynamics and how the throne of England vacillated back and forth between the members of the Houses of Lancaster and York. When Elizabeth was…

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William Hastings, the Man Richardians Want to Forget

When I have spoken with Richardians about Henry VII they often point out the innocents who were executed during his reign. One name is always brought up- Edward, the 17th Earl of Warwick. Warwick was the son of George, Duke of Clarence, and grandson of Richard Neville. He had spent most of his life as a prisoner. Under Henry VII Warwick was found to be guilty of treason because he had given his support to Perkin Warbeck. The 24-year-old earl was executed on November 28, 1499. He is believed to have been a simple boy and the charges against him may have been dubious, but in the end Warwick was too risky of a prisoner and had to be executed to make Henry and his family safe on the throne and prevent the country from returning to the days of civil war.

“Richard never killed anyone innocent like that!” his fans have often exclaimed, while we all know that Henry VII did just that. Of course there is one name that will cause them to look very uncomfortable: Baron William Hastings.

The death of Hastings is a little questionable, but there are some things we do know about what happened that day. When his friend and cousin-by-marriage Edward IV died suddenly, Hastings promised to do everything in his power to assist the next king, Edward IV’s son Edward, now known as Edward V, and make sure that he was safe on the throne. With his brother now dead, Richard of Gloucester had his nephews confined to the Tower, where they were never seen again.

It is not clear where Hastings’ loyalties actually lay. While he was a loyal and true best friend to the now-deceased king, when Richard seized the throne he did so with the support of Hastings. Richard kept Hastings in his seat on the Privy Council, and most accounts of the days before the day he died show that there was no rift between the two men.

What we do know is this:

On the 13th of June, 1483 Richard called a meeting of the privy counsel to the Tower, where he was residing. Hastings came in and by some accounts the meeting went well and Hastings left with the other council members without incident. Some accounts show that as the meeting came to an end Richard turned on Hastings, accusing him and other council members of working with Elizabeth Woodville’s family through Edward IV’s former mistress (who had become Hasting’s mistress) to restore her son to the succession. Hastings was allowed to leave while of the other members of the council were arrested.

While the activities inside of the Tower are up to debate, most agree with what happened when the meeting ended. While the true motive is unknown, when Hastings stepped out of the Tower onto the Green the guards grabbed him and hastily removed his head. No charges were given against him and no arrest was attempted. He was executed very suddenly, and the real reason for it is unknown.

I have heard Richardians say that he made Richard mad, and that’s why he was executed. Of course that doesn’t sound like the makings of a good king, since under the Magna Carta no monarch can end a citizen’s life without charges and a trial. Though some have said that the trial of the Earl of Warwick was a sham, he still had charges and a trial. By executing Hastings in such a way, Richard not only became a tyrant but frightened all the other lords and made them question their own safety. If Richard did not think it was necessary to give someone due process before their execution, there was no reason to believe he wouldn’t kill anyone else at any time. More frightening, there was no reason to believe that Richard would follow any of the laws that were supposed to be imposed on him by Magna Carta, which made him even more dangerous. Is it any wonder that so many lords had no problem turning on him in 1483 and again in 1485?

My apologies to any Richardian who thinks that this is an unfair assessment. In my opinion Richard was NOT a good king for no other reason than he thought he was above the law. Compare that to Henry VII, who went through with trials of people he believed to be threats against him and went to Parliament to raise funds to go to war. This show a healthy respect for law, even if it forced Henry to undertake actions he may have found superfluous or unnecessary. Richard clearly did not have any respect for the law, and if he had been king longer, I don’t doubt we would have seen more deviations from the rule of law in the rest of his reign.

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