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TudorCast #9
February 2007


Welcome to Tudor Cast, a podcast dedicated to Tudor History.

Hello, and welcome to Tudor Cast for February 2007. I’m your host, Lara Eakins owner of tudorhistory.org and the TudorTalk email list at YahooGroups.

I would normally start out with a recap of news since the last podcast, but there wasn’t much this month, so we’re going to skip this section this time around.

So, now on the Website of the Month where I look at websites that explore aspects of Medieval, Tudor, Elizabethan or Renaissance history in depth.

This month we’re going to look at the François Velde’s heraldica.org, a great compendium of information on heraldry that has been on the web for over 10 years. The site presents a general guide to heraldry, including history and origins, colors and charges used in heraldry and the rules of granting arms. There is a specific section on British heraldry, including explanation of the Royal Styles, the Royal Arms, and the proclamations of accession to the throne from Edward VI to the present Queen. Besides the British-specific heraldry, there is information for many other countries including an extensive discussion of French heraldry.

In addition the articles written by the site’s creator, there are links to other resources. The site is also the host for the Frequently Asked Questions list for the rec.heraldry and the alt.talk.royalty newsgroups. If you have a question about heraldry, this is definitely the place to start.

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And now for This Month in Tudor History, where I feature some well known and maybe not as well known events that took place during this month.

When I was originally putting together the lists of dates for my website many years ago, I was struck by how several famous executions took place in February. There were almost certainly more than the few I’m going to mention this month, but I figure that I have enough heads rolling for one podcast! Instead of going in calendar order, I’m going to discuss each in chronological order.

On the 13th of February 1542, Kathryn Howard, the fifth queen of Henry VIII was executed privately within the precincts of the Tower of London along with Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford. Kathryn was arrested on November 12th, 1541 and charged with adultery, which was high treason for a Queen and unlike her cousin Anne Boleyn, there is reason to believe that Kathryn was in fact guilty of the crime. Kathryn’s main accomplice was Lady Rochford, Jane Boleyn. Jane was the widow of George Boleyn, who was executed in his sister Anne’s downfall after being accused of having an incestuous relationship with her. Neither Kathryn or Lady Rochford stood trial, but rather had bills of attainder passed against them. After their executions Kathryn and Jane were buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London, where Kathryn’s cousin Anne Boleyn - her predecessor in marriage and downfall - was also laid to rest.

Twelve years later on Feburary 12th, 1554 Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guildford Dudley were executed after a rebellion was raised against Mary I’s marriage to Philip of Spain. Both had been arrested and found guilty of treason in 1553, but were not executed until after Wyatt’s rebellion early in 1554. Guildford Dudley was executed publicly out on Tower Hill, but Jane’s beheading was private within the walls of the Tower, like most of the executions of noblewomen in the Tudor era. The two were also buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula.

Two more notable executions took place in February in the reign of Elizabeth I.

Probably the most famous execution of Elizabeth’s reign was on February 8th, 1587 when Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded at Fotheringay Castle in Northamptonshire. The castle no longer stands but some of the earthworks remain. Mary’s relationship with the Scottish lords had always been a tumultuous one and it eventually reached the point where she was held captive and forced to abdicate the crown to her young son James. Mary eventually escaped to England where she ended up imprisoned for nearly 20 years. Mary was tried and sentenced to death for plotting Elizabeth’s assassination. After much hesitation and stalling Elizabeth eventually signed Mary’s death warrant. I’ll feature the eyewitness account of Mary’s execution in the primary source section of the podcast. Mary was originally laid to rest at Peterborough Cathedral, where Catherine of Aragon was buried, but when Mary’s son James became King of England, he had a tomb constructed for her at Westminster Abbey, where she was re-interred in 1612. Mary’s tomb is in the Henry VII chapel in the Abbey, alongside many other famous Tudors, including her great-great-grandmother Margaret Beaufort, her great-grandparents Henry VII and Elizabeth of York and of course, her cousin and rival, Elizabeth I.

The final execution for this podcast is of Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex. Essex was the step-son of Robert Dudley, Elizabeth I’s favorite and after Dudley’s death Essex followed him into Elizabeth’s favor. After his troublesome posting as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and his fall from favor, Essex gathered a group of supporters and marched to London to force an audience with the Queen. These actions were taken as treason against the Queen and Essex was arrested and put on trial. He was found guilty and given the death sentence. Most noble male executions were public events out on Tower Hill, but Essex was beheaded privately on February 25th 1601 within the Tower grounds.

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And now for a page from the Tudor History glossary.

This month’s term is bull, or more often referred to as a Papal bull. The name ‘bull’ comes from the Latin ‘bulla’ which refers to the seal that was attached at the bottom of a papal edict. The basic definition of a papal bull according to the Catholic encyclopedia is "an Apostolic letter with a leaden seal". In the 16th century the bulls could be marriage dispensations, excommunications and in the case of Gregory XIII in 1582, a calendar reform. Some examples from Tudor History: The bull of Pope Innocent VIII approving the marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, the two issued by Julius II that granted the dispensation allowing Henry VIII to marry his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, and the bull by Pius V against Elizabeth I. The bull against Elizabeth declared her a heretic and released her Catholic subjects from their duty to be loyal to their Queen. In 1588 Sixtus V issued another bull against Elizabeth upholding her excommunication and that supported the Spanish Armada’s actions against England.

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Now it’s time for a segment where I feature a text from the Tudor period.  We’re going to continue with the grisly theme of executions this month and feature the account of the Execution of Mary Queen of Scots as recorded by Robert Wynkfield.

Her prayers being ended, the executioners, kneeling, desired her Grace to forgive them her death: who answered, 'I forgive you with all my heart, for now, I hope, you shall make an end of all my troubles.' Then they, with her two women, helping her up, began to disrobe her of her apparel: then she, laying her crucifix upon the stool, one of the executioners took from her neck the Agnus Dei, which she, laying hands off it, gave to one of her women, and told the executioner, he should be answered money for it. Then she suffered them, with her two women, to disrobe her of her chain of pomander beads and all other apparel most willingly, and with joy rather than sorrow, helped to make unready herself, putting on a pair of sleeves with her own hands which they had pulled off, and that with some haste, as if she had longed to be gone.

All this time they were pulling off her apparel, she never changed her countenance, but with smiling cheer she uttered these words,'that she never had such grooms to make her unready, and that she never put off her clothes before such a company.'

Then she, being stripped of all her apparel saving her petticoat and kirtle, her two women beholding her made great lamentation, and crying and crossing themselves prayed in Latin. She, turning herself to them, embracing them, said these words in French, 'Ne crie vous, j'ay prome pour vous', and so crossing and kissing them, bad them pray for her and rejoice and not weep, for that now they should see an end of all their mistress's troubles.

Then she, with a smiling countenance, turning to her men servants, as Melvin and the rest, standing upon a bench nigh the scaffold, who sometime weeping, sometime crying out aloud, and continually crossing themselves, prayed in Latin, crossing them with her hand bade them farewell, and wishing them to pray for her even until the last hour.

This done, one of the women have a Corpus Christi cloth lapped up three-corner-ways, kissing it, put it over the Queen of Scots' face, and pinned it fast to the caule of her head. Then the two women departed from her, and she kneeling down upon the cushion most resolutely, and without any token or fear of death, she spake aloud this Psalm in Latin, In Te Domine confido, non confundar in eternam, etc. Then, groping for the block, she laid down her head, putting her chin over the block with both her hands, which, holding there still, had been cut off had they not been espied. Then lying upon the block most quietly, and stretching out her arms cried, In manus tuas, Domine, etc., three or four times. Then she, lying very still upon the block, one of the executioners holding her slightly with one of his hands, she endured two strokes of the other executioner with an axe, she making very small noise or none at all, and not stirring any part of her from the place where she lay: and so the executioner cut off her head, saving one little gristle, which being cut asunder, he lift up her head to the view of all the assembly and bade God save the Queen. Then, her dress of lawn [i.e. wig] from off her head, it appeared as grey as one of threescore and ten years old, polled very short, her face in a moment being so much altered from the form she had when she was alive, as few could remember her by her dead face. Her lips stirred up and a down a quarter of an hour after her head was cut off.

Then Mr. Dean [Dr. Fletcher, Dean of Peterborough] said with a loud voice, 'So perish all the Queen's enemies', and afterwards the Earl of Kent came to the dead body, and standing over it, with a loud voice said, 'Such end of all the Queen's and the Gospel's enemies.'

Then one of the executioners, pulling off her garters, espied her little dog which was crept under her cloths, which could not be gotten forth by force, yet afterward would not depart from the dead corpse, but came and lay between her head and her shoulders, which being imbrued with her blood was carried away and washed, as all things else were that had any blood was either burned or washed clean, and the executioners sent away with money for their fees, not having any one thing that belonged unto her. And so, every man being commanded out of the hall, except the sheriff and his men, she was carried by them up into a great chamber lying ready for the surgeons to embalm her.

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Well that’s it for this month! I want to again thank all the folks who have been emailing and leaving comments saying how much they have been enjoying the podcast. It really means a lot to me. A lot of people have mentioned that they are enjoying the music between sections, so I thought I would plug Magnatune again and encourage folks to support the artists whose music I use. I’ll put links to the individual albums in the show notes.

If you want to comment on this podcast, you can do so at tudorhistory.org/podcast or send me an email at lara@tudorhistory.org A transcript of this and previous podcasts are also available at the website.

Until next month, fare the well!