Although the King and Queen’s Progress to Dover, to inspect the new harbour and fortifications there, has been cancelled, everyone breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced that the traditional May Day joust was going ahead. With everything that is going on at court at the moment, it was thought that it would be cancelled. We sent Sir Tim Ridgway to report on the event and he has just got back to the studio now.
Sir Tim, how was the May Day Joust, was it a breath of fresh air amidst all of the worry at court at the moment?
Sir Tim: Well, Lady Claire, the joust was brilliant fun. The sun was shining down on us and when the King and Queen arrived together the crowd were in seventh Heaven, they both looked so relaxed and happy. The King was in such a good mood that he even lent his own mount to Sir Henry Norris when Norris’s horse refused to charge! Very gracious of him. The Queen was happy too, all smiles. Her brother, Lord Rochford, led the challengers and Norris led the answerers. It was a wonderful event!
Unfortunately, as soon as the joust ended it was if a black cloud suddenly came over. It appeared that the King received a message and he very abruptly stood up and announced that he had to get back to York Place urgently. So urgently did His Majesty need to get back that he could not even wait for the tide to change and chose to ride instead. He asked Henry Norris to accompany him.
We are fortunate enough to have George Constantine, Norris’s loyal servant, here in the studio with us to tell us what happened on that ride back to York Place. George, please do enlighten us.
George: “Well, Sir, the King had Mr Norris in examination and promised him his pardon in case he would utter the truth. But whatsoever could be said or done, Mr Norris would confess nothing to the King. He is to be held at York place overnight and there is talk that he will be committed to the Tower in the morning. It is a sad state of affairs.”
Sir Tim: Thank you, George, for this information, we realise how worried you must be about your master.
Lady Claire: While Sir Tim was talking to Mr Constantine, we have just heard news that at 6pm this evening Mark Smeaton, the court musician who was seized and taken to Thomas Cromwell’s house yesterday, was admitted to the Tower of London. Our source expects that he will be racked. In the meantime, the Queen is spending the night in her apartments as usual and seems unaware of these worrying events.
Lady Claire: More news just in… We’ve just been given a draft copy of tomorrow’s “Spanish Chronicle” front page, which reads:-
“The Secretary at once [after Smeaton had confessed] wrote to the King, and sent Mark’s confession to him by a nephew of his called Richard Cromwell, the letter being conceived as follows: “Your Majesty will understand that jealous of your honour, and seeing certain things passing in your palace, I determined to investigate and discover the truth. Your Majesty will recollect that Mark has hardly been in your service four months and only has £100 salary, and yet all the Court notices his splendour, and that he has spent a large sum for these jousts, all of which has aroused suspicions in the minds of certain gentleman, and I have examined Mark, who has made the confession which I enclose to your Majesty in this letter.”
It appears that it was some kind of confession from Mark Smeaton which caused the King to leave the joust so abruptly and that the gutter press think that Smeaton was being paid by someone for something. We will, of course, investigate these claims and update you as we hear further news.
- George Constantine’s words are based on his record of events in “A Memorial from George Constantyne to Thomas Lord Cromwell” which can be read in Anne Boleyn: In Her Own Words & the Words of Those Who Knew Her by Elizabeth Norton, p205
- The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives, p320
- Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, David Starkey, Chapter 68
- The Chronicle of King Henry VIII, “The Spanish Chronicle”, online version p62-63