On this day in Tudor history, 7th February 1526, in the reign of King Henry VIII, the annual Shrovetide joust took place at Greenwich Palace.

The king jousted that day and he wore an interesting motto: “declare je n’ose”, or “declare I dare not”.

What did this motto mean? Was the king in love? Was he wooing Anne Boleyn?

Below, you will find today’s “on this day in Tudor history” video, which is about this event. Here are some further articles on Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s courtship:

Related Post

20 thoughts on “7 February 1526 – Declare I dare not”
  1. It would be interesting to know what other participants wore as that may answer the question as to whether Henry’s motto meant something or was simply the device he chose for the jousts. Is any information on what others wore known?

    1. It would have been the theme for the joust but it appears from the accounts of this one and from 1522 that it was the king who wore the motto. The king was the important one so his trappings displayed the motto, but I don’t take that to mean that it was special to the king, just that the king’s apparel was better and more interesting than the others’.

  2. I don’t believe the motto had any underlying message in regards to Henry’s romantic desires. A theme of unrequited love would have raised no eyebrows in these days of the ‘courtly love’ tradition. Also at this point in time, Henry kept his dalliances private avoiding as much as possible embarrassment to his Queen

  3. I know Eric Ives dated this day to when Henry Viii had fallen in love with Anne, but surely such a thing cannot be precisely dated. Starkey believes New Year because she exchanges New Year gifts but I think sometime during 1526 or early 1527 is the consensus because Henry sent to Rome for permission to marry a lady who was related to one of his mistresses. Henry was very protective of his occasional mistress and he was very discrete. We don’t know when he was with Mary Boleyn because of his discretion. It is believed that her affair with Henry ended before he pursued Anne but we don’t know exactly when and unfortunately this leads to the usual debatable guessing games among academic superstars, who unlike Claire, who works to try to pinpoint stuff and runs two sites, a business, family and several pets, don’t appear to do anything else but speculate. At least some of the older scholars like Jasper Ridley and Antonio Fraser simply say they don’t know, which I personally prefer. Here Claire is telling us the truth, nobody knows who Henry was riding for on this day let alone when he fell in love with Anne or Mary Boleyn. Unfortunately we don’t have diaries as such until much later in the century and when we do they don’t usually say ”

    “Dear Diary, met King Harry behind the stables today. Ooo it was so lovely, he kissed me and told me he loved me. Oh, it was so romantic. My heart is fluttering like a butterfly . I am breathless with hope and wonder. Meeting him again tomorrow after supper. Have to be ever so discrete in case Queen Kate finds out.”

    Diaries such as we have give us descriptions of important public events and life in general, very rarely affairs of the heart.

    I know, I am being sarcastic, but it really is distracting to read endless maybe this that and the other where x met x or stayed for the night. Honestly I spent half an hour last night reading a list of possible places and why a certain Queen stayed on her way to somewhere else but it really could only be two places as they were the only ones big enough. At the end of four pages and a headache, I am thinking, yea o.k we don’t know but they came to Coventry which had a run down castle so she could only have stayed at the largest manor belonging to noble bod with money. Yea we get it, and four brief sentences could have said it. Now I am rambling, so I apologise.

    We don’t know who if anyone Henry had a particular affection for at this joust and it was a traditional joust at which banners were displayed but such banners were displayed in any event. The theme suggested they all had similar banners and dress, which was also a theme of jousting teams. All we can assume is that by the Summer of that year Henry was in pursuit of Anne, probably felt he was in love and was questioning his marriage with more intent. We can speculate that the couple became an item between 1526 and 1527 and then the romantic relationship started in earnest. Henry was writing to Anne, following her to Hever, sending gifts and she responded and by the middle of the following year she had even agreed to be his wife or set herself as a potential spouse. Romantic as the suggestion is that Henry had an eye for Anne or a particular lady here, it is more likely it was just part of the chivalrous display of love during the tournament.

    Henry was also still very much with his Queen at this point, still honouring her as his Lady, still treating Katherine and Mary as they should be treated and there is no indication as yet that this was going to change. He has made enquiries about the validity of his marriage but there is no strong evidence beyond tentative enquires that he intended to annul his marriage in favour of Anne. This is very early in what would become long drawn out proceedings and when it began Henry had hoped Katherine would accept any findings and negotiation would start to find him a suitable Princess. The passion Henry felt for Anne during the following Summer changed things and her suggestions that she would only accept marriage and his proposal was based, again, this is speculation, on a promise of sons as well as his growing love for her. By the end of 1527 I believe, as do the vast army of academics that Henry and Anne were in a warm and passionate and committed relationship. Based on this, people tend to project backwards and link events like the Shrove Tuesday Joust to a revelation of the King’s feeling for a new love, aka Anne Boleyn. The same projection and speculation is made by an earlier Shrove Tuesday joust which is liked to a banner Henry displayed, being a declaration of his love for Mary Boleyn.

    1. Eric Ives dates the start of their relationship to around this date but Starkey goes earlier and goes with the Cavendish account of Henry VIII ordering Wolsey to break up Anne and Henry Percy because he was interested in Anne. He goes for around 1524 and then dates Anne’s acceptance of the king’s marriage proposal to New Year 1527 as he believes the jewelled ship trinket she gave him was her “yes” and that it was her New year gift for him. It’s just a shame that Henry didn’t date those love letters!

  4. IT does seem a bit of a coincidence that 1526 was the year we know Henry was pursuing Anne but maybe that’s all it was- a coincidence, if we know for certain that Henry chose that theme, and being King we can assume he did although he may have allowed one of his courtiers to have chosen it, then it does appear to have been his way of declaring his feelings to the world, but maybe we read too much into it, the courtly love traditions do seem to us very cheesy now, the lovesick would be lover sitting at the foot of his lady strumming his lute, puppy eyes cast in adoration while she invited yet at the same time rejected him with her indifferent gaze, the courts of love were brought to England from Eleanor consort of Henry 11, it was something Henry 11 scorned at, he was a warrior King not some scented jewelled monarch who accepted such behaviour as normal in a court, nevertheless it was a tradition which carried on down to the court of Henry V111 and it was used as part of the pageantry and jousting, if that motto was attributed to Anne it must have made her feel very awkward as we know she desperately tried to resist his advances, she was only young, sophisticated yes but young and how can you fend of the King of England forever without making an enemy of him? The anxiety she felt would have mingled with excitement to, it must have been a thrilling rocky ride, she had the King of England in the palm of her hand, she must have watched him at the joust, this omnipotent King whose heart she had enslaved whilst his unknowing queen sat on the dais, pennants fluttering in the breeze, one can imagine the scene, of course as mentioned Henrys motto may not have meant anything but it’s tempting to think it could have been to do with Anne, jousting was incredibly dangerous and I too heard about the tragic death of the young man who was killed, Sir Francis Bryan a cousin of both Anne and Jane Seymour was injured horribly when he lost his eye, inThe Tudors it showed him with an eyepatch, that was probably accurate and it was lucky he survived and received no further fatalities because of it, it would have been far better for the King had he just lost an eye instead of the sharp blows to the head he suffered later, which has led to the theory that he had brain injury, jousting was traditional yet many a lady and the queen too must have been anxious every time their sweetheart and husband ventured onto the field, when did jousting as a sport die out I think it was still being played at the court of Charles 11, but am unsure? I was at Belvior castle many years ago and they did a jousting there, it was fun to watch and very colourful.

  5. I saw several Medieval festivals when I was a teen or in my twenties, regularly but I did see someone hurt once, but fortunately medical staff were on hand and he was up waving to the crowd later on. I remember the article a few years ago when that man was killed. It was indeed very tragic. Sir Francis Bryan was a very lucky man to escape with his life. He lost his eye as it was and could have died from infections or from splintering in his brain. Henry almost got his brain scrambled by Charles Brandon in 1524 and Kings were killed. It was a dangerous sport, still is but it was an essential part of manhood among the ruling class and preparing a man for war. If Knights didn’t have fighting to go of to, essentially they became restless and acted as thugs. The tournament was a method of honing skills and letting out their restlessness. It was about bonding and it was about companionship and it was about duty and loyalty. There are descriptions in Terry Jones book on Medieval Life of Knights roaming around at night and causing trouble or attacking local towns because they had nothing to do. The Medieval Knight was a killing machine, his horse a tank. A lot of them were younger sons like William Marshall and they made their living going from one tournament to another as they had no property unless their older siblings died or they married well. If you beat a Knight you won his horse and armour, although you left him his sword and maybe sold them back to his family. If you took him prisoner you ransomed him back to his family. By the time of Henry Viii the time of the fighting knight was in decline but men still went to war and Henry loved the Arthurian legends and thought he was Henry V or Edward iii reincarnated (not literally) and kept up the traditions which he loved and excelled at. Henry loved the tournament and anyone in with the King did too, sometimes on his team, sometimes on the other team. Charles Brandon was the best jouster at his Court and his best friend because of that shared interest.

    Courtly love was an essential theme of every tourney. Henry and his knights would have shown off to impress the ladies, the Queen and her companions and it is often recorded that they dressed alike, save personal badges to recognise an opponent. Henry would dress in elaborate disguise and his friends did as well. He dressed as a hermit or Robin Hood or hid under a dragon or canopy. Banners may be uniform to the theme. He did take part in designing the theme himself, although he had people to do the details or to design things for his approval. This was a Renaissance Court with no expense being spared. We are also fortunate in that we know what some of his tournaments looked like as we have drawings of them or tapestries. In 1509 we have the Westminster one from the coronation, we have a famous one from 1511 and so on. Maybe Henry was showing he loved someone new, maybe it was a grand coincidence, but one thing is certain, it can only be a matter of twelve months or so before he most definitely was looking at Anne for his mistress, if not his new love. By August 1527 Henry and Anne were in a relationship and six months later the cat was out of the bag.

    Talking of cats, please say Hello to the pussycat in the video, pleasantly meowing to us and showing us their lovely black tail.

  6. Something I’ve not come across is what happened to the knight who accidentally killed Henri II of France. Does anyone know? He had to have felt worse than terrible

    1. I am not sure to be honest, I believe Henri wanted him pardoned but I have a horrible feeling something awful happened to him as he was of Hugeneot (French Protestant) family and may even have been one. There of course was terrible tension at this time, which would later explode in the massacre of Saint Bartholomew Day 1572, but there was a brief experiment in tolerance and reform by Catherine de Medici, who is often blamed for the massacres. I have a couple of books on Catherine. I will look and get back to you.

      1. I read ad book last year called ‘Rival Queens’ about Catherine de Medici and her daughter Margaret. Margaret was so different from her mom in very good ways.

      2. O.K this is actually from Mary Queen of Scots by John Guy who is talking about her marriage celebrations with the Dauphan of France, Francis at sixteen and the King at 40 had a lively joust. He was hit by the lance of Gabriel de Lorges in 1559 and wanted a rematch. De Lorges is the Count of Montgomery, a champion jouster. The King’s mistress Diane de Poiters and his Queen, Catherine de Medici, who according to the story, had a dream in which see saw her husband’s death, tried to persuade him not to joust. Henri was having none of it. Montgomery was ordered to re-arm and reluctantly rode again against the King. Bang, his lance hit the royal chest and then in a freak accident, slip up the King’s armour and shattered in his helmet, the fragmented splinters went under his visor, hit his forehead and his face was full of lacerations. A fragment went into his left eye. Henry was carried into the building and his best surgeons summoned. Fine instruments were available for eye surgery and eye surgery could be carried out successfully in certain cases, but this was far more serious. The fragments had slid into his brain and they couldn’t save him. He was talking coherently but then he had a seizure and violent convulsions and he tottered between life and death.

        Mary, the Dauphan, Catherine and others stayed by his bed until he died of a stroke and probably a brain haemorrhage on 10th July 1559. The Constable of France guarded his body until he was laid to rest and Francis and Mary were crowned later in September.

        But what happened to the Count of Montgomery? Well, initially nothing. Henri pardoned him but Catherine was furious and the young Captain of Henry’s Scots Guard escaped to his estates in Normandy, where he kept a low profile. He eventually became a Protestant and had a mixed run in with the Royal Army, defending Rouen from them in 1569_survived the massacre in 1572,_aided La Rochelle, the Protestant hive and escaped to England. He remained in exile for almost two years. He returned to France and was captured. Catherine had him beheaded in 1574. The above is from various sources.

        There is a fascinating report on the medical treatment of Henry ii who lived for eleven days and the splinters were carefully removed but it was not enough to save him and a combination of infection and damage to his brain killed him. The article is on the Haeciencia Publishing website, which puts medical journal articles on line. The article is in the Journal of Neurosurgery and you can either just put Death of Henry II and it comes up or follow the links

        http://www.haciendapublishing.com/articles/death-of- henry -II – France

        The article for citing was published on Tuesday December 1st 1992 under the source http//thejns.org/doilabs/10.3171//jns.1992.77.6.0964 which is its original library academic references. You don’t need that to find the article, just if you are citing it in an essay or later paper. If you just put Death of Henri ii in Bing it takes you directly to the article. The full treatment is described and the aftermath of course.

    2. The man was Gabriel, comte de Montgomery, Captain of the Scots Guards. Henri absolved him but Gabriel was overcome with guilt and retreated from court. Apparently, he then threw himself into studying theology and converted to Protestantism!

  7. I apologise for the multiple postings, but it wasn’t going and then vanished. I must have pushed the button and then posted with my other email as I didn’t think it was working. Sorry folks.

    Yes, I enjoyed Rival Queens by Nancy Goldstone. Marguerite is very much maligned but I feel she made a real effort to try and bring peace and to be loyal to her new husband. She was expected to set him up but she refused and stood by Henry of Navarre. It was a very strained marriage, but there is evidence that Marguerite attempted to show affection towards her husband. It was extremely tragic and unfortunate that the marriage of Marguerite and Henry of Navarre was marked with terrible and horrendous massacres across France and a shotgun conversation to save the life of her husband. I really believe she did strive to be different to her mother, Catherine de Medici and she wasn’t the wh*re of Babylon as she is shown in La Reine Magot the French film which showed her life in a very skewed manner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *