Henry Fitzroy and Mary HowardOn the 26th November 1533, Henry Fitzroy, the Duke of Richmond and Somerset, married Lady Mary Howard at Hampton Court Palace.

Richmond was the illegitimate son of Henry VIII, by his mistress Elizabeth Blount, and Mary was the daughter of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and his second wife, Elizabeth Stafford. The bride and groom were both aged fourteen and the marriage was a political match. Mary was the cousin of Anne Boleyn, who had become queen that year, and was also one of her ladies, and although it is not known who arranged the match Mary’s mother blamed Anne for it. The Duchess of Norfolk had apparently been keen on another match for Mary, marriage to the recently widowed Earl of Derby, but Anne Boleyn had opposed it.1

The couple did not live together after their marriage. Beverley Murphy writes of how “indulging in sexual intercourse before the body was physically mature was believed to be dangerous to the health of both partners” and that it was said that Crown Prince Juan, brother of Catherine of Aragon, had died because he had consummated his marriage to Margaret of Savoy “with rather more fervour than his adolescent body could stand.”2 Henry VIII did not want to risk the life of his only son. Unfortunately, Richmond still died young, dying in July 1536.

You can read more about Richmond and his wife in my article “Henry Fitzroy Marries Mary Howard”.

Notes and Sources

  1. Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 4: Part 1, Henry VIII, 1529-1530, 762.
  2. Bastard Prince: Henry VIII’s Lost Son, Beverley A. Murphy, Chapter 4

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11 thoughts on “26 November 1533 – The Marriage of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, and Lady Mary Howard”
  1. Firstly, I have to say, looking at that particular portrait of Henry Jnr, he wasn’t exactly the best looking boy, in my opinion, however…

    I think the whole Tudor-marriage thing is a little more than confused. Whereby I understand that some/most matches were made for political and harmonious reasons, why not keep the couple betrothed until an agreed age of consent when both bodies would be “physically mature”? The more I read, about how children were looked after in this age, including the tales of some being worked so hard to even being executed, I do have to wonder if children were shown any regard , thought or care at all. It seems so disjointed to on one hand, advised for the health of the young married couple but willingly accept a child working all hours or being hurt… In that respect I am glad we have moved on somewhat – although there is still far too many children suffering today for my liking.

    Another thing I find almost hypocritical is that young teenagers are advised not to, or not supposed to, consummate their marriages out of fear for the effect on their young bodies but yet we’re reading about all kinds of adulterous and disease inducing philandering and these are, in some cases, the very same adults – dictating how people should live!

    These are but a couple of the many things I love about times past – the very confusing, and almost always astonishing facts,acts and double standards!

    1. I doubt if double standards are a historical thing. We have our fair share of double standards as well. People are people…
      Having said that, it is wrong to think that in the past children were not shown any regard. The 21st century can not be compared to the 16th, nor how people looked at things. The confusing thing is not how 16th century people looked at things and acted accordingly. The confusing thing is that we look at things from a very different perspective.
      History is not just a matter of names, dates and facts. To understand what happened in the past, is to look at what people believed in. And that is something one can not, should not ignore. Ignoring that is looking at the past through our own (biased) glasses. That way we get a distorted view of the past, creating vilains out of people who were just ordinary people when they were alive.
      And ofcourse, the double standard reigned, like it does today. In that respect it was okay for a king to have a mistress and have children by her. And it was not right for a queen to do the same. Patriarchal society. In other cultures other behaviour was the norm. And that is just one aspect…

    2. I think the issue about going through the actual marriage was that any goods would transfer over (look up the marriage of Richard, Duke of York, and Anne Mowbray, for example–they were both under 10 years of age. No consummation there! But she was a major heiress, so that gave his family actual possession of the goods, since the husband got control of the wife’s inheritance.) and it was a more stable way of forming alliances than a simple betrothal that could be dissolved. In Fitzroy’s case, it may have been a way to indicate Henry was NOT going to name him as heir, thus removing him from the international marriage market.

      Of course, easier to end an unconsummated marriage if circumstances should call for it…

  2. Wow I doid not know that the marriages were arranged at anearly stage whatts. The point of the marriage if there to young to consumate the marriage in another wordS no sex different times back then maritzal

  3. Wow. I didn’t know that back then the marriages were arranged its astonishing that it was that way but what was the point oof the marriage if they couldn’t consumate it in other words no sex kind regards Maritzal

    1. It was the norm for marriages to be arranged – see https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/helen-castors-medieval-lives-birth-marriage-death-episode-2-good-marriage/ for more on this – and royal marriages could be arranged when the bride or groom were babies for treaties/alliances. It was also quite normal for a marriage to take place and then a couple wait for a while before consummation. The marriage solidified the union, preventing the family marrying the bride/groom off to someone else, but the couple were not meant to have sex until they were physically ready.

      1. Did anyone see the documentary on BBC 4 a few weeks back called ‘Too Much Too Young: Children of the Middle Ages’…it was really interesting, and gave a good insight in to the ‘child’s lot’ in these times, and it wasn’t as bad as you would imagine.
        It was presented and researched by Dr. Stephen Baxter, and this is what has been said…..
        Very little was written about it until the 1960’s, when a pioneering book was published arguing that the concept of childhood didn’t exist in the medieval period – children were just mini adults compelled by uncaring parents to enter the adult world long before their bodies matured. Since then, a rapidly growing body of research has transformed the subject. It turns out there is abundant evidence that the concept of childhood was understood and respected by parents who clearly loved their children….That is not too say that the experiences of childhood are similar to our own. In the medieval period children were more precious in more ways than one…and so on. There was also Carenza Lewis a British archaeologist from Time Team fame, showing finds of toys and games etc. from these ages.

        There are some links to read about the programme out there, and clips, with a bit of luck the programme may be repeated in the near future, or be available to down load, keep an eye out for it, it gave a really good insight into childhood.

  4. The point of marriage was exactly as Claire states. It’s a political/business transaction. The age of consent was 12 for girls, 14 for boys. You could consummate at the time (see Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Tudor), but the real issue was financial or social advantage. Being married to the King’s only son, regardless of the circumstances of his birth, tied the Duke of Norfolk’s family even more to the royal family.

    1. Marriage was and is a contract between two individuals. A contract under civil law. Nothing more, nothing less. The 18th / 19th century Romanticism made it something more, as did the church, by making it a sacrament.
      But as Diane says, the real issue was financial or social advantage. Sometimes climbing up the social ladder, but in many cases also to keep at least the same level in society. In some circles marriage is still used that way.
      When my granddad married my grandmother, he was criticised by some in the family. He married for love, and the girl was poor. The first was not the problem to some in the family, the second was. He should have married one of the “right” girls his mother and brother selected for him. That was in the Netherlands around 1900…
      Even my sister (born in 1936) was introduced to “the right sort of boy” by one of my mum’s cousins. Sis found the guy she was introduced to a bore and found some one else she liked… and that was in the nineteen fifties. I think she was 17 when introduced to this guy…

  5. 26th November is also the anniversary of the death of Catherine of Aragon’s mother, Isabella of Castile.

    The Queen died of cancer at Medina del Campo on 26th November 1504. Catherine knew that her mother had been unwell but was unaware of the seriousness of her condition: she actually wrote to her on the day of the Queen’s death concerning the marriage of one of her ladies. It must have come as a great shock to the Princess when she received a letter from her father shortly afterwards advising her of her mother’s passing.

  6. Do you think this marriage would have occurred in the Great Hall, the Chapel or a private chamber? Also, do you have a floor plan of Hampton Court at the time of Anne Boleyn? I heard something about a magnificent balcony extending from her apartments and overlooking the river…., Christopher Wren just confused everything!

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