Bessie Blount in The Tudors

Following on from my article regarding The Daily Mail’s article on Henry VIII being the father of Bessie Blount’s daughter, Elizabeth Tailboys, I just wanted to let you know that Elizabeth Norton will be writing a guest article for us on this issue and she has pointed out that the salacious angle of the newspaper’s article was not her choice. Still, the newspaper headline did its job didn’t it? It piqued our interest!

Here is some further information from Elizabeth Norton, which she posted on The Anne Boleyn Files Facebook page yesterday:-

“The evidence for Elizabeth Tailboys being Henry’s daughter is very strong – read my book! One thing I would point out is that, legally, Mary and Elizabeth I were only heirs to the throne due to their inclusion in the third Act of Succession. They always remained legally illegitimate (at least until Mary legitimised herself when she came to the throne). Henry never recognised his first two marriages and it is highly likely that, if Henry Fitzroy had survived, he would have been inserted into the succession in the third Act of Succession behind Edward (but ahead of Mary and Elizabeth) – so who knows what would have happened with Elizabeth Tailboys…”

When I asked Elizabeth about the date of Elizabeth Blount’s marriage to Gilbert Tailboys, which, depending on which book you read, is dated anywhere from late 1519 to 1523, Elizabeth replied:-

“For the marriage, there is nothing at all to suggest that Gilbert and Bessie were married before early 1522. Given that Gilbert was marrying the king’s cast-off mistress it would be odd if he did not receive any rewards from the king at the time of the marriage – she was beneath him socially . In early 1522, when Bessie is first recorded as Gilbert’s wife, there are a high number of grants to him and to Bessie. We also know Elizabeth Tailboys’ age quite precisely – she was conceived in the summer of 1519, within a few months of Henry Fitzroy’s birth and when Henry VIII was spending time in Essex, close to Bessie. There is other evidence both from royal sources and Tailboys family sources.”

When I did some preliminary digging yesterday, and it wasn’t in depth, I found mention of a grant to Gilbert and Elizabeth in June 1522:-

“Sir Gilbert Talboys and Elizabeth his wife. Grant, in tail, of the manor and town of Rokeby, Warw., forfeited by Buckingham. Del. Windsor, 18 June 14 Hen. VIII.” LP iii. 2356

So they were certainly married by June 1522, making a 1523 wedding date inaccurate.

Although I can see Elizabeth Norton’s point about Mary and Elizabeth being made illegitimate, they were still born legitimate to wives of Henry VIII and crowned queens of England, not to a royal mistress. Henry VIII had recognised them as legitimate at their births and also added them back into the line of succession before his death, so acknowledged them as his daughters. Elizabeth Tailboys, if she was Henry VIII’s daughter (and it sounds like Norton has some compelling evidence for this), was a royal bastard and whether Henry VIII helped her or not he did not acknowledge her as his daughter or as a potential heir to the throne. I just cannot see that she had any claim to the throne. Just my opinion!

You can read a bit more about Elizabeth Tailboys in yesterday’s article, which also has more details on Elizabeth Norton’s book. See Was Henry VIII the Father of Bessie Blount’s Daughter?

By the way, other children have been linked to Henry VIII too – see Elizabeth I’s Early Life – Illegitimate Siblings

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15 thoughts on “Update on Was Henry VIII the Father of Bessie Blount’s Daughter?”
  1. I am intrigued and looking forward to Elizabeth Norton’s guest post. Claire, keep digging, you are doing an amazing job!

  2. A number of points! I am with you, Claire, in that Mary and Elizabeth were legitimate in that they were born to crowned queens.
    Whether or not Elizabeth Norton’s ‘evidence’ on Elizabeth Blount’s daughter is compelling remains to be seen. I would like her references.
    I also write for Amberley and have insisted that they remove advertisements for her book on Margaret Beaufort from mine. Her blurb – we all check the blurb – claims that Margaret was ….’Born in the midst of the Wars of the Roses’.. Absolute nonsense!! and that ‘ she ended her life as regent of England, ruling on behalf of her seventeen-year-old grandson, Henry VIII’ !!! Absolute nonsense!
    The authoritative book on Margaret Beaufort was written by Jones and Underwood in 1992 and published by CUP.
    David Loades

    1. Hello David,
      Thank you for your comment. I haven’t got Elizabeth Norton’s book but she has said that she’ll do a guest article so I hope that she will share her sources in that, or perhaps someone who has the book can comment. I don’t think it makes one jot of difference, though, who her father was, it still would have not changed anything. Elizabeth Tailboys was a girl and a bastard at that, so she was meaningless in terms of the succession.
      I really don’t like Amberley’s blurb. I remember the blurb for Josephine Wilkinson’s book on the early life of Anne Boleyn which made out that Josephine was saying that Anne had slept with her father’s butler and chaplain, yet Josephine dismissed that claim (from Sander) in her book. I can understand that the blurb is written to sell a book but it does put people off when it’s not accurate.

    2. Hi Jonathan Reeve here from Amberley publishing, just to set the record straight on this, the blurb David is referring to was put together by myself not Elizabeth Norton in advance of her blurb arriving so it was me that got it wrong! No where in Elizabeth’s book (or on the final jacket blurb) does she state that Margaret Beaufort was Henry VIII’s regent.

  3. It’s untrue to imply Henry VIII would have tried to legitimise Fitzroy. There is not one shred of direct evidence for this supposition. Everything in fact points to the opposite conclusion. The boy’s position like any other children of his mistresses could never have been conceived in good faith. Like Mary Boleyn who succeeded her in the king’s affections she was his Mistress never a putative wife.

    This did not apply either to Mary of Elizabeth. They were both daughters of his marriages. Their status was not in the same category. Their illegitimacy in part was there to protect children who might be born subsequently….the king married three more times after Jane Seymour dies after giving birth to Edward.

    The powers bestowed upon Henry VIII required a signed Will and the king’s will was signed with the sign manual and its legality is disputed over and over in the later sixteenth century. His children are named in the exact order they would have obtained the succession had there been no Acts of Parliament. Then he names the Grey children via his sister Mary over the senior Stuart line via the eldest sister Margaret.

    That aside Henry never showed any inclination to legitimise his son Henry Fitzroy indeed were he so minded to solve the succession issue by that means he need never have divorced his first wife. The boy is made a duke not a prince of blood. There is talk in the 1530s of the king marrying him to the Lady Mary…part of the gossip about the time Anne is beginning to fall from favour.

    In the event he is married to the youngest of the duke of Norfolk’s daughters… precisely the sort of ‘good marriage’ made again and again and again by royal bastards. Indeed its again the sort of marriage being proposed into the Talboy’s daughter and her subsequent marriage to Leicester’s elder brother Ambrose earl of Warwick.

    So whatever the truth in the paternity of the child, she could never have been given inheritance under the obtaining laws of succession unless by force of arms she had successful fought for the throne and set aside the dynasty. That was what Henry VII had done and indeed his marriage to Elizabeth of York and Henry VIII’s many marriages were all premised upon avoiding that repetition at any cost.

    The point about Mary Tudor and Elizabeth’s wildly popular acccessions is that in both cases popular sentiment regarded them as de fact legitimate….and Parliament merely caught up with that reality upon their respective successions.

    1. I completely agree, John, I don’t think Elizabeth and Mary’s illegitimacy can be seen in the same light as Fitzroy, and possible Elizabeth Tailboys, as Elizabeth and Mary were daughters of queens when they were born and were Henry’s acknowledged daughters and heirs for some time. Yes, Henry annulled his marriages to their mothers but they were still his acknowledged daughters and the English people saw them as princesses.
      I’m open to believing that Elizabeth Tailboys was the daughter of Henry VIII and will make my own decision once I have checked the sources, but I don’t believe that her paternity could ever have changed the course of history.
      Thanks for your comment!

  4. She may have been his daughter, but she was still his bastard regardless of anything else. Henry Fitzroy was only acknowledged because he was a boy and Henry was so paranoid about having a male heir. And Fitzroy was officially named heir about 6 weeks before he died, just a few weeks after Anne Boleyn. But Elizabeth was not and would not be recognized because she was a girl. Another daughter was little use to Henry, he already had Mary.

    1. Yes, I agree, at best she was only a royal bastard.

      Henry VIII never recognised Henry Fitzroy as his heir. He was favoured by his father and was given many important titles and offices but was never named heir or added to the line of succession. Mary and Elizabeth were added back in to the succession before Henry VIII’s death in 1547.

  5. Well, bless me! I will have to read that book, because I will have to see these sources for myself! If indeed Bessie’s daughter Elisabeth was Henry VIII’s daughter I totally agree, that it would not have changed one wit in the succession… Not even if Henry would have acknowledged her as his bastard, like he did Henry Fitzroy.

    Henry Fitzroy was a boy. Henry VIII would have had a son, if he would have just legitimised him. Henry didn’t do that for a boy, which he so badly wanted and for which he married in succession to achieve. Why in the world would he have done it for a daughter? He had two from crowned Queens…

    So, it’s interesting to find out if Elizabeth was Henry’s daughter, but to say it could have change the History of England is a bit like passing a pigeon for an eagle…

    I also agree on the blurbs! VERY off-putting if they are just so obviously inaccurate!

  6. Well Claire you are right – it has certainly got us talking. Norton’s book is a bit on the pricey side for me, and I can’t really see how Bessie Blount merits a biography. And it makes no difference to me whether Henry VIII was the father of her daughter. Just a thought – Henry certainly flaunted their son at court and lavished affection and titles upon him – and he sought and found a good marriage for him – surely the sister of Henry Fitzroy would be ‘worth’ acknowleding, and could have been of some use in safe-guarding Fitzroy’s importance through an advantageous marriage?

  7. Well, If the book is published here in the states I’ll check it out.Have to agree with everyone here.I was unaware that Henry had another child by Bessie Blount.
    But since it was a daughter, there was little reason to acknowledge her,unlike her brother Henry.And even then I don’t think Henry made him legitamete,though he could have.

  8. This child would have been a royal bastard, her brother Henry Duke of Richmond couldn’t even inherit the throne, why suggest that his sister could? I think this woman insults the intelligence of those of us who are learned about the way things were done in Tudor times.
    Maybe I’m taking this wrong but it seems to me that if she wants to write a book about a possible female child with Bessie Blount, fine, I will get that book. But if she wants to speculate that a royal bastard, especially a female would even be considered, she is way off base.

  9. Another reason I doubt Henry was the father of Bessie’s daughter was his personality. With the notable exception of Anne Boleyn Henry tired very easily of his mistresses and wives. Even with Jane Seymour there was a period after the first few months of marriage when she had still not fell pregnant that he was reported to have started to tire of her. I can’t see someone like Henry wanting to re-visit an old mistress who he had already had a child with when there were so many willing fresh, new ladies at court.

  10. I really don’t think that Henry fatherd any children other then the son the Duke of Richmond out of Bessie Blount, he was far to buzy with Anne getting rid of Catheren,the Pope be heading those that did not agree with him ect,ect, ect! Even if he had it could not be proven as she was marired, same as Annes sister Mary she had a a child so it was said the Kings, but that to could never be proven as she to was married.I am sure there were many of the Kings OFF SPRING as Henry would say Prove It.

  11. As a Blount descendant, There are many things that I find confusing about that time period. I just find this so fascinating. Bessie`s birth family started using a different surname after her generation.

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