26 November – The first men executed under Elizabeth I’s new law and the marriage of Henry Fitzroy

On this day in Tudor history, 26th November 1585, Catholic priest Hugh Taylor and his friend Marmaduke Bowes were hanged at York.

They were the first men executed under Elizabeth I’s 1585 statute which made it treason to be a Jesuit or seminary priest in England or to harbour such a priest.

These two Catholics were beatified in 1987 by Pope John Paul II as two of the 85 Martyrs of England, Scotland and Wales.

Find out more about these men and what this 1585 legislation was all about in this talk…

Also on this day in Tudor history, 26th November 1533, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII, married Mary Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, at Hampton Court Palace. They were both fourteen years old.

It appears that the marriage, which was a political match rather than a love match, was the idea of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn.

You can find out more about the marriage and its context in this video…

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3 thoughts on “26 November – The first men executed under Elizabeth I’s new law and the marriage of Henry Fitzroy”
  1. Marmaduke Bowles had a tutor for his children who was a Catholic but according to the history it was they who gave Father Taylor to the authorities. Father Hugh had been hiding in his home and may have been caught there, its not entirely clear. Father Hugh was taken on 23rd November 1585 and he was hanged, drawn and quartered at York on 26th without a trial. His friend was on license for previous Catholic behaviour and was summoned to the Assizes. He had no choice and as soon as he got there, Marmaduke Bowles realised that Father Hugh had been arrested. He gave himself up and confessed himself a Catholic. He was arrested and executed without a trial on 26th or 27th November as well.

    Elizabeth I had this new law passed making it illegal just to be a priest in England and to hide them. It was an automatic death sentence. Father Hugh was the first person martyred under this new law. He wasn’t the first Catholic martyr though. Of the 559 official Irish, English and Welsh Catholic martyrs under Elizabeth I 220 were killed in Ireland and often not counted by English historians. 189 died after this Act was passed in England but several more died in prison or under other legislation during the 1560s and 1570s. Blessed Cuthbert Maynard was the first official priest who was killed but he was not the first either. Martyrs died in prison, monks and lay people died the same way from the start of the reign, regardless of the official policy.

    Elizabeth increased her hard-line towards Catholics after both the Northern Rebellion of 1569 and the Pope’s Bull of Excommunication in 1572 which wasn’t without cause. Over 700 people were judicially murdered afterwards, plus several people were simply martyred and rounded up. Pope Pius was a hard liner and took a firm view of Elizabeth and her politics. He not only declared her as an illegitimate ruler but he legally deprived her of her right to rule. Her subjects no longer had to obey her and she could legally be deposed. She couldn’t be killed. That was also in the Bull. The anti Catholic legislation which followed grew more and more severe, cumilating in bills such as this one. Now it was illegal and treason to even be in the country as a Catholic priest and hundreds would die, some in jail, 100 plus in the most gruesome manner ever and others through starvation etc. The number of unofficial martyrs is unknown. Elizabeth may not have set out to endorse such a policy but a variety of circumstances hardened her resolve and her advisors made her paranoid. The threat of Mary Queen of Scots, a prisoner on English soil, her supporters and the thought of her taking her throne also added to her ruthless policy after this time. This doesn’t condone her or the policies of the Tudors towards religious radicals, but it has to be put into context.

    The Tudors were part of a universal disease, one in which tolerance was a practically unknown and unwelcome concept. It was feared because toleration meant giving up power. If you gave people religious or political freedom, they would use it against you and rebellion didn’t help either cause. It never occurred to anyone that the reasons people rebelled where because they were being persecuted or feared persecution. Change was enforced from the top down, especially in England where no popular reformation took place. Pilgrimage of Grace, Prayer Book Rebellion, Northern Rebellion, Ketts Rebellion, etc. They all had a religious, social and political agenda and they all came from areas that change was being enforced. Some even found nobility leading them because they too had grievances or saw an alternative as a more worthy Queen. Mary Queen of Scots was one of the ultimate aims of the Northern Rebellion and plots which evolved from it. Even the fourth Duke of Norfolk, Elizabeth’s own cousin became caught up in one of the aftermath plots in 1571 and 1572. He was meant to marry Mary. He said he had tried to stop the conspiracy but he was still executed and he was a Protestant. Elizabeth did hesitate for several months but gave in in the end. Norfolk also converted at the end. His son, Philip, Earl of Arundel and his wife hid priests and where placed in the Tower. After three years, Philip died and has been canonised for his faith. He was officially killed by fever but it is widely accepted that he was poisoned. We don’t know the truth, perhaps we never will. He was laid to rest in his family vault but now is in Arundel Cathedral instead. I was lucky as we got to the Cathedral 20 minutes before it closed on the same day as we went to the Castle. We got a very good private tour.

  2. Mary Howard, daughter of Thomas, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and his second wife, Elizabeth Stafford was 14 as was her bridegroom, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, the illegitimate son of Henry Viii and Elizabeth Blount, his mistress in 1519. The Wedding took place in the Royal Chapel in Hampton Court Palace and Anne Boleyn was accused of of making the match by Mary’s mother. Anne probably did have some influence pn on the match as Mary was her younger cousin. Henry wasn’t keen on the marriage being consummated, nor was it the norm at this age because sex was thought to be bad for the health of young teenagers. The marriage wasn’t consummated and in fact it never was. Mary became a widow in July 1536 when Henry Fitzroy died of consumption.

    Very little is known about their marriage but it was a political alliance and Mary swore that she had not consummated it. However, this was a disaster for her when Fitzroy died because it meant that she wasn’t entitled to her dower rights. Mary wailed and her father was forced to intercede on her behalf. He spoke with Thomas Cromwell who investigated the matter and then asked the King to provide a pension for Mary.

    Mary Howard was also a reformer and fell out with her family over this and a number of matters. Henry Howard tried to make a number of alliances with the Seymours who were the family of Prince Edward, one with Mary, but she refused to allow this. It is said that later at his trial in 1546 Mary gave at least written evidence of her brothers treason against the crown. The only real evidence is that the coat of arms he had showed the Royal Arms but it was his right and the lion was in the second quarter, not the first. The Judges could find nothing against him but they were instructed to find Henry guilty, so Henry Howard was executed on 19th January 1547 for treason. It is much more likely that the Seymour brothers set him up and the accusations against him certainly are nonsense.

  3. It seems the Duchess of Norfolk was as proud and haughty as her father Edward the Duke of Buckingham whom the king had had beheaded early in his reign, on her mother’s side she was a Percy, so a lot of noble blood there, but maybe it’s unfair to slur this woman’s character, we never knew these people we only know of them, and what the sources tell us, we know she had an unhappy marriage and her husbands mistress was one of Anne Boleyns ladies, wether that was Anne’s idea but I feel it’s more than likely it was the Duke Anne’s uncle, who coerced Anne into accepting her into her household, that more than likely made the duchess furious and she also was against the marriage of her daughter to the kings bastard son, one would have thought it an honour but not so the Duchess, maybe she thought it an insult to her Stafford blood, she also mocked the queen for claiming her fathers descent from the Earls of Bolougne, her son the reckless Earl of Surrey who was one of the most talented poets of his day, was quite a character to, it is true he was probably stitched up by the Seymours, they had growing influence in the council through their sister Jane being the third wife of Henry V111, Surrey was a bit of a loud mouth however and even tried to get his sister to seduce the old king when he was accused of treason, so he would look more kindly on him, the Lady Mary was incensed quite rightly, this of course was after her husband had died, Henry Fitzroy was a healthy lad but like his uncle and younger half brother died of a wasting disease, it could have been TB or consumption as it was called then, a serious disease of the lungs, or it has been speculated he fell victim to the same illness that had robbed the young Prince Arthur of his life, there have been a number of theories as to what killed Arthur, so Henry V111 lost another child – another son, he must have pondered on all the children he had lost throughout his reign, all of them were heirs to his realm, now his bastard was gone and his wife a young widow, no other husband was found for Mary either and she died childless, a rather sad ending for a couple who had been married while still children really.

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