Henry FitzRoyThe 15th June 1519 is the date traditionally given for the birth of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, in Blackmore, Essex. Richmond was the acknowledged illegitimate son of Henry VIII by his mistress Elizabeth (Bessie) Blount.

Bessie had been sent by Cardinal Wolsey to reside at the prior’s house of the Priory of St Lawrence, in Blackmore, before her pregnancy became visible. It is not known when Bessie gave birth to Richmond, or when the child was christened but Elizabeth Norton, historian and author of “Bessie Blount: Mistress to Henry VIII”, wonders if Richmond was actually born on 18th June because Cardinal Wolsey was with Henry VIII on that day and then although he was expected at Hampton Court Palace on 19th June he disappeared until 29th June. It was Wolsey who acted as Richmond’s godfather and who organised Bessie’s confinement, so it is reasonable to assume that he went to Blackmore. Also, as Norton points out, Henry VIII chose 18th June 1525 to elevate his son to the peerage and 18th June 1524 to award Bessie and her husband with a royal grant, so these events may well have tied in with the boy’s birthday.

Richmond was baptised at the chapel at Blackmore with Cardinal Wolsey acting as his godfather. Although, as I said, the date is unknown, it was usual for it to take place within a few days of the birth. You can find out more about Richmond’s life in my article The Death of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset.

Bessie Blount went on to marry Gilbert Tailboys, a man from Wolsey’s household, in around 1522 and the couple had three children: Elizabeth, George and Robert. Elizabeth Norton is convinced that Elizabeth Tailboys was actually Henry VIII’s daughter because records suggest that she was born before Bessie married Tailboys – see Was Elizabeth Tailboys the Daughter of Henry VIII. Following Tailboys’ death in 1530, Bessie married Edward Fiennes-Clinton, Lord Clinton, and the couple had three daughters: Bridget, Katherine and Margaret.

Richmond died on 22nd July 1536 at St James’s Palace. He was just seventeen years old and it is thought that his death was caused by some type of pulmonary infection, probably tuberculosis.

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9 thoughts on “15 June 1519 – Traditional Date for Birth of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond”
  1. Does anyone know why this portrait of Henry Fitzroy would have him in this cap instead of showing his hair or the kind of more formal hat with a feather in it etc? It has just always struck me as peculiar– interesting pattern– but a strange choice for a portrait.

  2. This is on a playing card, it is not a portrait. From the website about the drawing


    Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset (1519-1536)

    current tab: OverviewFurther details
    Creator: Lucas Horenbout (c. 1490/5-1544) (artist)
    Creation Date:
    Watercolour on vellum laid on card (the ace of hearts)
    4.4 cm (Sight)
    Reynolds 1999 4
    Cust 1910 I/15
    XQG 2002 Treas 38
    Lord George Stuart; by whom given to Charles I(?); Charles II; left Royal Collection c.1700; Horace Walpole; by descent; sale of the contents of Strawberry Hill, George Robins, 17.5.1842 (31); bought for 2nd Duke of Buckingham; Stowe Sale,Christie’s, 15.3.1849 (49); Charles Sackville Bale; by whom sold Christie’s, 24.5.1881 (1418); bought by Queen Victoria
    Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset (1519-36), was the illegitimate son of Henry VIII by Elizabeth Blount, a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon. The child was officially acknowledged by the King after the early deaths of the three sons born to the Queen. Following his divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his subsequent marriage to …Read more

  3. The why of the cap and informal miniature is in the last paragraph.

    Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset (1519-36), was the illegitimate son of Henry VIII by Elizabeth Blount, a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon. The child was officially acknowledged by the King after the early deaths of the three sons born to the Queen. Following his divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s attachment to Henry Fitzroy assumed a greater significance, particularly when his second wife also failed to produce a male heir. Appointed Knight of the Garter in 1525 and made Duke of Richmond and Somerset in the same year, Henry Fitzroy was given several important positions, including that of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. His education was entrusted to the distinguished classical scholar Richard Croke, who had taught Greek to Henry VIII, and was extended by attendance at the court of Francis I in France for eleven months in 1532. It appears that Henry VIII contemplated making Henry Fitzroy his heir, but whatever the King’s intentions may have been, the plan was spoilt by Henry Fitzroy’s premature death of tuberculosis at the age of 17. It is possible that this miniature was painted at the time of Fitzroy’s marriage in 1534 to Mary Howard, daughter of the third Duke of Norfolk, Treasurer of the Household and Earl Marshal.

    *****The miniature is a typical work by Horenbout, whose style is detectable in the modelling of the features, the prominent shadows under the eyes and mouth, and the form of the inscription seen against a blue background. The sitter is vividly characterised in what is in essence an informal portrait, one of the first in British art, and a significant prototype for what was to prove the keynote of intimacy in the art form of the portrait miniature over successive centuries. The casual clothes, probably a *nightcap and chemise, may be associated with his physical frailty.*****
    Catalogue entry from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002

  4. Regarding the cap, it is thought that the miniature was painted in 1534, in celebration of Fitzroy’s marriage, and there is no evidence that Fitzroy was at all sickly at that point. I don’t believe that Horenbout would have wanted to depict the King’s son as sickly or frail in any way, so I suspect it’s simply informal attire and perhaps even sporting attire.

  5. He looks like he’s in his night attire, you can see a resemblance to Henry V111, he has his long nose, it’s a pity there’s no portrait of his mother as she was said to be very pretty.

  6. I think that Henry the VIII had with FItzroy the certainty that he could have HEALTHY children – and also IF the first two children that he probably had with Mary Boleyn probably made him more determined to try and divorce Karherine of Aragón and marry again to have the male child he absolutely needed –

  7. Henry really took a real parental interest in his only recognised illegitimate son and child. Not only did he ensure he received royal honour and a household appropriate for his status, he made him a Duke snd he rewarded his mother. He publicly recognised him, made certain he received the best care and education, placed him with trusted households to raise, visiting regularly, bringing him to court, then gave him an important public role. He represented the King in numerous negotiations, in Parliamentary matters and on matters concerning Ireland. He was also married to Mary Howard, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk. The marriage was never consumated as the couple were kept separate but as Henry Fitzroy died when he was seventeen, it was tragically never to be so. Again, here was a young man of potential, cut down before that potential could be fully tapped. In 1536 Henry Viii even saw his son as his heir.

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