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Henry VII dies 21st April 1509

Henry VII dies 21st April 1509
Henry VIII is king!

Henry VII dies 21st April 1509

Henry VII was the founder of England's most famous dynasty. His son, Henry VIII, one of the most famous English kings of all time. However, both shared the same crushing burden of dynastic expectation. This was a newly established dynasty based on shaky foundations and both worked tirelessly to build the enduring myth of legitimacy for their family. They may have shared the same problems but as men, they shared very few characteristics.

The passing of the crown from the elder to younger Henry, on 21st April 1509, was the first peaceful transfer of power in living memory. The sharp contrast in characters of the two Henrys gave contemporaries hope that the accession of a new Henry would herald the dawn of a new epoch of rule, one where subjects openly loved their king without fear of his actions. The last decade of Henry VII's reign had become increasingly oppressive as his suspicious character and paranoid temperament dominated more and more. The death of his first born son, Prince Arthur the Prince of Wales, in 1502 followed by the death of his wife in childbirth a year later, only exacerbated matters.

Henry Tudor's world was rocked by this sudden and public threat to the stability of the dynasty. Why should the death of a child, a not uncommon experience in 16th century England, when he had another son, be such a cause for concern? That lies in a truth which the grand memory of Henry VIII and his infamous daughter Elizabeth I belies - the tenuous claim to the throne of Henry Tudor.

No one could have predicted the even greater turmoil that the second Henry would bring to the country and the very souls of his subjects through his efforts to secure an heir but, for now, the young Henry represented hope for the future.

Henry VIII died on 28th January 1547, what would have been his father's 90th birthday, and the crown of England once again passing from father to son. Only 56 years later the Tudor dynasty was to end with the death of the last surviving child of Henry VIII, the childless Elizabeth.

The throne then passed to the Stuart family, the Scottish descendants of Henry VII through his eldest daughter Margaret, and so Tudor blood still ran through the veins of the English monarchs even though by a different name.


Written by Philippa Brewell

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Keep your nose to the Grindstone

Keep Your Nose to the grindstone

Language from Milling

While you are tucking into your toast at breakfast this weekend I thought you may be interested to learn of some of the every day phrases which came about through the process by which you get your bread, or more specifically to the milling process of the grain to make flour.

On a trip to the beautiful, historic city of Winchester, well known as a place a packed with history from Alfred the Great to the Romans, the Tudors and Jane Austen, I decided to drop in to the City Mill and I was so glad I did.

The mill was working that day, milling flour which, along with recipe cards, was available to buy in the shop.

Henry Fitzroy

There is a lot to know about milling flour it turns out! The staff were extremely knowledgable too...and vigilant, as they must be whilst the mill is in operation. Flour dust, as you may or may not know, is explosive! I am always fascinated by the origins of language and the mill provided a number of finds to add to my ‘collection’, well known sayings that originate in the milling industry.

Henry Fitzroy - Horenbout Minature

'Keep your nose to the grindstone'
The millstones must never be allowed to run without grain. They quickly wear out and could even cause sparks which would set fire to the mill. A quick sniff of the stones would tell you if they were getting hot, hence the phrase!
'Fair to Middling'
The quality of the flour was graded fair, middling or fine. If you are feeling 'fair to middling' you're not at your best!
'First come first served'
A strict rule of milling to prevent impatient farmers jumping the queue!
'Show your mettle'
Millstones were often re-carved by travelling stone dressers. If the stone dresser had tiny slivers of metal embedded in his hands and forearms (which would have been thrown up from his stone cutting tools) the miller knew that he was experienced.
'Rule of Thumb'
Millers would test the quality and grind of the flour by rubbing a small quantity between finger and thumb. From this they would know if it were too fine or coarse and could change the conditions to rectify the grind.
  • First Come First Served
  • Show Your Mettle
  • Rule Of Thumb

Written by Philippa Brewell

Email me: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Visit City Mill

For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/winchester-city-mill 




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Who was Henry Fitzroy?

Who was Henry Fitzroy?

In a previous blog I talked about the children of Henry VIII and the relationships between them [Read that blog here] I talked about Edward (VI), Mary (I) and Elizabeth (I). However, there was a fourth child.

His name was Henry Fitzroy, the openly acknowledged illegitimate son of Henry VIII. The boy's mother was Henry VIII's mistress, Elizabeth Blount.

Henry Fitzroy was born in 1519, conceived around the time of one of Katherine of Aragon's many confinements. Henry VIII threw caution to the wind and openly acknowledged the boy as his son. His name 'Fitzroy' being a Norman term meaning 'son of the king' and Henry, obviously, after himself. Perhaps it was the fact that after 10 years of marriage to Katherine they had only one daughter, this latest confinement resulting in yet another miscarriage. Any slight on the king's virility and capability to produce sons must surely be at least partly addressed through the knowledge that he had a thriving son, Henry must have thought, even if it wasn't by his wife!

Was this purely down to ego? There's no doubt that as egos go, Henry's was pretty large but then it wasn't above him to play long term politics as well.This was at a stage where there was no alternative to his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Was he hedging his bets on making Henry heir to the throne? Was Fitzroy his only option for providing more than one heir to his throne?

Henry Fitzroy

Openly acknowledging a child born out of wedlock was one thing but for that child to lay claim to any inheritance, not least a father's title and then for that to be of king, was quite another! However in 1524 and 1525 Henry VIII was shook by accidents which could have taken his life, the first when jousting, the second when his attempt to pole vault over a muddy ditch ended with him head down in the mud. He would have almost certainly drowned had a man servant not managed to pull him out. These two incidents may have sharpened Henry's mind to what was actually going to happen to the throne of England should he die.

Perhaps a first step in this seemingly unlikely plan was to elevate the position of his 6 year old son, with titles and lands. Just before his 6th birthday he was made a Knight of the Garter and shortly after, he was raised to the peerage as 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset. This double dukedom invoked two family titles, that of his grandfather Henry VII who had been Earl of Richmond and that of his Great-Great Grandfather, the father of Margaret Beaufort, John Beaufort 1st Duke of Somerset.

Henry Fitzroy - Horenbout Minature

With the arrival of Elizabeth in 1533 Henry had one more heir but no less of a problem in terms of a legitimate, male succession. Perhaps Fitzroy was to be Henry VIII's trump card. In the end it didn't matter, he could never have played it, Henry Fitzroy died in 1536 at the age of 17 years. The cause of death is unclear with some historians arguing  a genetic disorder, others a short term illness such a Tuberculosis or even plague.

A year later Henry VIII finally got his legitimate son with the birth of Edward in October 1537.

His story is one of the great what-ifs in the story of the Tudor family. What if he had survived?

Would Henry VIII have named him in the succession along with his other illegitimate (by the law at the time) children, Mary and Elizabeth? In what order would he have put them? Could Henry Fitzroy have been a credible alternative to Lady Jane Grey in Edward VI's eyes in his device for the succession? Would Fitzroy have raised his own forces against the other claimants? Or perhaps later on still, could his descendants have provided Elizabeth with potential heirs for her succession?

We will never know but that's the fun of what-ifs!

- Philippa Brewell

History Writer and History Tour Creator





Henry VIII: King and Court by Alison Weir published by Pimlico: 2002


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Princess Charlotte - The English Rose

Princess Charlotte - The Original English Rose

The death of Princess Charlotte, daughter of the future George IV, in 1817 due to complications following the birth of a stillborn son, was a personal tragedy for the family but it didn't end there.

The knock on impact of Charlotte's death was far reaching, the family's grief was echoed across the country but beyond that, there was now a succession crisis worse than any in English history.

There was not one surviving, legitimate, grandchild of George III. The loss of Charlotte and her baby wiped out two generations of legitimate heirs. It was the 'race for a new heir' which led to the birth of Victoria, later Queen Victoria.

Yet, many people have not heard of Charlotte. Type her name in search engines and they will return, understandably, countless pictures of the daughter of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Such is the tragedy and significance of Princess Charlotte's story that it is one we should all know.

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The Tudor Siblings

The Tudor Siblings

The Tudor half-siblings, children of Henry VIII, are known successively as Edward VI, Mary I and, most famous of all, Elizabeth I. (You can also read about Henry Fitzroy here). The timeline of monarchs gives a lovely linear order in which one by one they take centre stage in the politics of the time and our historical interest but how did they interact? What did they think of each other?

Firstly, let's look at some facts and figures to help us understand the background to this unconventional Tudor family.

The first of these three Tudor children to be born was Mary, in 1516. Her mother was Henry's first wife Katherine of Aragon, the Spanish princess whom Henry had wed a few months into his reign. 

Katherine was a pious catholic and brought her daughter up to be also. Henry had his marriage to Katherine annulled, on the grounds that it had been against God, when Mary was 17 years old. Mary's status as Princess was swiped from under her, as she was also declared illegitimate and she became the Lady Mary. 

The second of these three to be born was Elizabeth, in 1533, daughter of Henry's second wife Anne Boleyn. Her mother was executed when she was only 2 years old. She underwent the same severe demotion in status as Mary had done and was reduced from Princess to the Lady Elizabeth.

Edward was born in 1537 to Jane Seymour, Henry's third wife and the last wife to bear him any children. He had been born into an indisputably lawful marriage (both of Henry's previous wives being dead), legitimate and was the right sex.

So how did the children of Henry VIII get along? What were their relationships like?

Mary I - Daughter of Kathryn of Aragon

Elizabeth and Edward, much closer in age developed a close bond which only strained under the necessary formalisation of their correspondence and interactions with Edward's ascension to the throne.The point at which their relationship changed forever can be pinpointed to the death of their father. Elizabeth and Edward were brought together to be told of their father's death. Apparently the siblings wept uncontrollably and for so long that the servants in the room could not help but weep also. Eventually composure was found and the brother and sister, now aware of the change in their relative positions, would never again be this close.

Edward VI - Son of Jane Seymour

Mary, being 17 years Elizabeth's senior and 21 years Edward's, couldn't have formed a childhood type bond typical of siblings. Mary's attitude toward Edward and Elizabeth differed greatly. She considered Edward her father's legitimate heir and therefore did not experience the same barriers to showing affection as she did towards Elizabeth. Elizabeth however was the personification of the wrongs that had been done to her, her mere existence coming directly as a consequence of the painful events Mary had had to endure. Mary showered gifts on Edward, many of which she had made herself, and showed a genuine, almost maternal way toward him.Towards Elizabeth she was not mean, indeed when Mary became Queen she often appeared with Elizabeth by her side.

Edward and Elizabeth were both protestant in stark contrast to Mary's fervent catholic faith. It was this that had the greatest impact of Mary's relationships with the other two.

During Edward's reign relationships with his sisters were very much a sovereign to subject. Any genuine affection for either of them, which was undoubtedly there, was obscured by his kingly attitude toward them. A serious boy, only 15 when he died, this seems typical of his personality as opposed to specifically how he dealt with his sisters. On matters of religion he was steadfast and he and Mary quarrelled violently over his expected compliance to the new religion and her commitment to the old.


Interestingly, Edward wrote both of his sisters out of the Act of Succession for who would succeed him to the throne favouring, for sound legal reasons, his cousin Lady Jane Grey. When it came to business Edward was very straightforward and emotionless…both his half-sisters were illegitimate and therefore could not inherit the throne.

When it came to Mary's turn to pass on the throne familial ties took precedent and she named Elizabeth her successor, still pleading with her to carry on what she had started and return England to Roman Catholicism. Elizabeth did not and took, initially at least, a rather liberal view of the religion of her subjects.

To go into the events, arguments and plots between the siblings will take another blog, perhaps more than just one, but I hope this 5 mix history fix has given you a good, quick insight into the Tudor Siblings.

Elizabeth I - Daughter of Anne Boleyn

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