2 May 1536 – Henry VIII meets with his illegitimate son

Henry FitzRoyAccording to Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, on the same day that Anne Boleyn was arrested and taken to the Tower of London, Henry VIII met with his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond:

“On the afternoon of the very day on which the concubine was lodged in the Tower, as the duke of Richmond went to his father, the King, to ask for his blessing, according to the English custom, the latter said with tears (larmoyer), that both he and his sister, meaning the Princess, ought to thank God for having escaped from the hands of that woman*, who had planned their death by poison, from which I conclude that the King knew something of her wicked intentions.”1

We don’t know where Chapuys heard this, but Anne Boleyn was never charged with attempting to poison either Mary or Fitzroy and this may well have been ‘bluster’ from a king who had also been “heard to say that he believes that upwards of 100 gentlemen have had criminal connexion with her.”2

*The word used was actually “putain”, meaning “whore”.

Notes and Sources

  1. Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5 Part 2, 1536-1538, 55
  2. Ibid., 54

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11 thoughts on “2 May 1536 – Henry VIII meets with his illegitimate son”
  1. Henry really must have been hurt by the further allegations and charges that were growing against Anne Boleyn. The number of possible lovers ballooning from three to 100 in just a couple of days must have really staggered his mind. Anne accused of being the lover of her brother is the worst crime that she could have been accused off; this charge of incest was a terrible sin. Henry clearly believed the charges and from his point of view the news was devastating. From the point of view of Anne, of course, she was experiencing terror and not knowing what exactly she was charged with; her brother and Norris were innocent as was she; we now know that to be true, we believe that she was innocent; but we should also see both sides of the story; a human tragedy played out by real people, a man and a woman, torn apart by terrible and fatal lies.

    I can well imagine Henry taking comfort and consolation in the son that he adored and trying to see some justice in what now happened. I can well imagine that he believed Anne capable of anything and Chapyrus has told us before that Anne wanted to kill Princess Mary, although this was just wild talk and she was told to hush by George. It is a natural assumption that if she wanted to poison Mary that she may want to kill Henry Fitzroy as well. After all Henry contemplated making the boy his heir shortly after Anne’s death and at this point he was the only male offspring that Henry has recognised and so a potential heir. He has the title Richmond, Henry’s own father’s title; a royal title. Katherine of Aragon worried that Richmond may be legitimized; their is no reason to believe that in times of parania that Anne may not have wondered this too. Henry saw Anne at this moment as the embodiment of all that was ill in his life; it is not hard to imagine that he may have believed she was capable of murder as well as adultery and treason.

    Even if the source that Chapyrs had is not accurate, Henry in turmoil and angry at the crimes that he was told his wife had committed is capable of believing anything, even things that today we cannot find any evidence for. The charges did not include anything of this nature; neither was Anne accused of witchery as is the popular myth, but at this point, Henry may well have been in shock, as the rest of the court were; and just as Anne would ramble in the Tower, in terror and turmoil, he, himself may not have been thinking altogether clearly.

  2. Lovely to read you here again, Banditqueen and I really do appreciate the nuanced points you raise. Hope all is well and continues well with you and your husband.

    1. Thank you, he is doing much better. Chapuys totally feared that Anne may attempt to have Mary poisoned as he had believed that the Boleyn faction may have murdered Katherine. Mary was often ill and he really was worried about her. It was natural therefore at this early stage, I think for Henry, as a father to react to the shocking allegations with the same fears. Even if Henry had ordered an investigation into rumours about his wife’s conduct or asked Cromwell to find a way of ending the marriage, alleged adultery and incest on this scale must have sent him into a spin. He soon became less shocked and more certain that she was guilty, therefore more determined to be rid of her, but at this stage Henry seems genuinely shocked, hurt and outraged by the growing list of Anne’s alleged crimes. The entire thing may now seem to us a set up, Anne being innocent, but just two days into the affair, the court is in shock and disbelief.

      1. Bandit queen,
        Wow you really seem to have a great deal of knowledge on this topic. I really enjoy soaking some of that in. Thank you. It’s my opinion that Henry really truly loved Anne and that her betrayel really hurt him and affected the rest of his marriages. Do you agree? I’m curious to hear your thoughts on that.

        1. I know this is a year late Jason but many thanks. Yes, for many years I believe Henry really loved Anne but at some stage he fell out of love, although why and when is very much any one’s guess. For two years of marriage as well he was said to be merry with Anne more than any of his other wives. The turning point is often believed to be in January 1536 after Anne tragically lost her baby boy. I believe Henry was deeply affected by that but there is no real evidence that he decided to leave Anne at this time. Anne was more vulnerable after this and her enemies took what chances they could to strike at her. There is conflicting activity by Henry throughout a crucial month, April which shows Henry on one hand trying to get Eustace Chapuys to acknowledge Anne as Queen on behalf of the Emperor Charles V and then talks about abandoning her a week later. While saying he hopes for a son he also started an investigation into acts of treason and put the legal apparatus in place for indictments to be brought before a trial. A couple of unfortunate conversations with Anne and Henry Norris and Mark Smeaton at the end of April lead to Smeaton being arrested and interrogated by Thomas Cromwell. There is a visit to France planned in May which is cancelled and then Norris, Anne and her brother are arrested. Susanna Lipscomb a historian from Hampton Court palace believes that Anne’s conversation led to her arrest and Henry, genuinely in love with Anne was indeed hurt and shocked at the accusations. However, Alison Weir and others believe Cromwell plotted the whole thing while Claire sees Henry as the instigator as Cromwell couldn’t act without his authority. I believe it’s both. I think Henry wanted out of his marriage but another annulment posed embarrassing questions and he would look foolish having torn England apart and broken with the Roman Catholic Church to marry Anne. Cromwell hearing rumours kept his ear to the ground, came up with the idea and then it all fell into his lap with Anne’s conversation with Norris over why he hadn’t married his sweetheart yet. She teased him about wanting her instead. Although this wasn’t one of the charges it was enough for an investigation. He was then named by Mark Smeaton. Cromwell made all of the dates up and Henry was far too angry to care enough to double check. He was shocked and angry at the scale of the charges, but having consented to the investigation saw an opportunity to get rid of Anne, whom he now hated. From the moment he heard the accusations Henry believed them and really didn’t care. He then turned on Anne and he was prepared to believe anything. His behaviour after her arrest makes him look very distant and callous as he went dining and feasting with the Seymours and had Jane moved closer to Greenwich. Henry acted as if his wife was already dead.

      1. I think since Henry went to so much trouble, {moved Heaven and earth to marry Anne}, that when he wasn’t getting a son and also was tiring of Anne, he may have felt he needed a massive excuse to get rid of her – without seeming as if he were a fool for having gone to so much trouble and so many years of waiting.

        If she were seen as a totally evil adulterer, he probably thought he’d look less foolish in getting rid of the woman he made such an issue of marrying. He demonized Anne, to save his own ego. After such a massive effort o marry her, he needed a massive excuse to be rid of her. {I’m not agreeing with that line of thought, I’m just saying}.

  3. In my opinion, Henry seems to have the symptoms of a person afflicted with Narcissist Personality Disorder. These people seemingly can move on rather quickly and always aim to fill their narcissistic supply first. I don’t believe Henry was too upset about Anne’s alleged infidelity as many claim. Rather, like his first wife, he was looking for a reason to be rid of her. She had long been a pain and her last miscarriage pretty much sealed the deal.
    He was already on to the next woman. Meeting with his son on that day was an outward sign that he was not dwelling on Anne and her death.

  4. I think part of the reason he hung Anne was; he had someone else in his sites and Anne being so jealous of her sister Mary (my gr……………………..grandmother) would never knowingly allow Henry to lay with her. The first time Henry saw Mary he was very smitten but knowing he must not marry a “commoner” but his sites on Anne because she was more elegant and carried herself like ‘someone who could DO a lot in his castle and politics) Mary was a lover of animals and people—–that would NOT be okay to have a Queen like THAT.

    1. Henry had another wife in the wings, that’s true enough, as Jane Seymour was waiting at the home of Nicholas Carew for the call to her wedding. They were engaged the next day.

      However, where are you getting this nonsense about Anne being jealous of her sister Mary?

      There is no evidence to support that, because we know very little about her, her relationship with her sister or with King Henry. That’s all myth, made manifest in the Other Boleyn Girl which isn’t accurate.

      Henry’s relationship with Mary Boleyn was most probably conventional, of short duration and as nobody knew about it until she was mentioned, but not named in a petition to Rome so as Henry could marry Anne, nobody knew anything at the time either. We don’t know how or when Mary and Henry met, let alone what he thought of her at “first sight” . I am sure you have fascinating family history, but its not based on the contemporary sources which tell us 0 about their relationship. It is often assumed that the banner Henry carried in February 1522 with the wounded heart on it was about Mary but that was a common banner at tournaments and everyone on the King’s team carried it. Henry had no intention of marriage with Mary and he only pursued Anne with such desire because she said no. By 1526 Henry was looking to annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and he fell in love with Anne, whose promise of a son led to a promise of marriage.

      Anne was indeed sophisticated and carried herself well, she had a lot in common with the King because of her advanced education. How do you know Mary was kind to people and animals? Anne probably was as well. What has that got to do with whom Henry could or could not marry? Where do people get this rubbish from? Mary might have been kinder than Anne, nobody knows that, she was certainly far less ambitious. Henry obviously found Anne far more attractive and her refusal only made him want her more. He clearly had more in common with her, yet his third wife was more passive, a more traditional Tudor wife and Henry desired that in her at the time. Anne failed to change from demanding, exciting mistress to compliant wife and that was one of the reasons Henry turned on her. Henry could have married whatever sort of woman he wanted.

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