On this day in history, 22nd July 1536, King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, died at St James’s Palace. He was just seventeen years of age, having been born on 15th June 1519 to the King’s mistress, Elizabeth (Bessie) Blount. In 1525, he had been elected as a Knight of the Garter and created Earl of Nottingham and Duke of Richmond and Somerset.
Charles Wriothesley records Fitzroy’s death in his chronicle:
“Also the twentith tow daie of Julie, Henrie, Duke of Somersett and Richmonde, and Earle of Northampton [Nottingham], and a base sonne of our soveraigne King Henrie the Eight, borne of my Ladie Taylebuse, that tyme called Elizabeth Blunt, departed out of this transitory lief at the Kinges place in Sainct James, within the Kinges Parke at Westminster […] and he was buried at Thetforde in the countie of Norfolke.”1
As Wriothesley records, Fitzroy was buried at Thetford Priory in Norfolk, after Henry VIII had left the burial arrangements to Fitzroy’s father-in-law, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. He was later moved to St Michael’s Church, Framlingham, Suffolk, due to the dissolution of the priory. His wife, Mary Howard, was buried with him there after her death in 1557.
We don’t know for sure what Fitzroy died of, but Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, wrote on 8th July 1536 that Fitzroy’s physicians believed him to be “consumptive, and incurable.”2 Fitzroy had been well enough to attend Anne Boleyn’s execution on 19th May 1536 and Parliament on 8th June 1536.
His death must have been a huge blow for King Henry VIII.
Notes and Sources
- Wriothesley, Charles(1875) A chronicle of England during the reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559, Volume 1, Camden Society, p. 53-54.
- Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 11, 40.