July 22 – The death of Henry Fitzroy, Henry VIII’s illegitimate son

Posted By on July 22, 2022

On this day in Tudor history, 22nd July 1536, Henry VIII’s son by his former mistress, Elizabeth Blount, died at St James’s Palace.

Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, was just 17 years of age at his death, and the death of his only son was a huge blow to the king.

In the video and transcript below, I share details about Fitzroy’s illness, death and burial, and also just how much of a favourite he was with his father.

Transcript:

On this day in Tudor history, 22nd July 1536, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, King Henry VIII’s seventeen-year-old illegitimate son by his mistress Elizabeth or Bessie Blount, died at St James’s Palace.

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”, i.e. suffering from tuberculosis. Fitzroy had been well enough to attend the execution of his father’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, on the 19th May 1536, and also Parliament on 8th June 1536, but was taken ill in early July. His death must have been a huge blow for King Henry VIII, and also for Fitzroy’s wife of less than three years, Mary Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk.

Charles Wriothesley records Fitzroy’s death in his chronicle:
“Also the twentieth two day of July, Henry, Duke of Somersett and Richmonde, and Earle of Northampton [actually Nottingham], and a base son of our sovereign King Henry the Eighth, born of my Lady Tailboys, that time called Elizabeth Blunt, departed out of this transitory life at the King’s place in Saint James, within the King’s Park at Westminster […] and he was buried at Thetforde in the countie of Norfolke.”

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, the Duke of Norfolk. His remains were later moved to St Michael’s Church, Framlingham, Suffolk, due to the dissolution of the priory. His wife, Mary, was buried with him there after her death in 1557.

Trivia: With his double dukedom, Fitzroy was the highest ranking peer in the country. He was also a Knight of the Garter, Lord High Admiral of England, Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord President of the Council of the North, Warden of the Marches and Chamberlain of Chester and North Wales. Phew!

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