PERSON OF THE MONTH
Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves was the last survivor of Henry VIII’s six wives, relegated from queen, to the role of Henry’s ‘sister

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  • On This Day 19th January 1526

    On 19th January 1526, Isabel of Austria, Queen of Denmark, died, aged only 24. Isabel was the second daughter of Philip the Fair, Duke of Burgundy, and Juana I of Castile. Her brothers were later the Holy Roman Emperors, Charles V and Ferdinand I. Isabel’s father died when she was only five, and the mental state of her mother (Juana was considered to be insane) led to her being brought up at the court of her aunt, Marguerite of Austria, who was Regent of the Netherlands. At the age of thirteen, Isabel was married by proxy to Christian II, a man twenty years her senior. Christian’s proxy for the wedding, rather bizarrely, was Isabel’s own grandfather, the Emperor Maximilian. A year later, in 1515, Isabel travelled to Denmark to join her husband, by whom she had three children: John, Dorothea and Christina. The kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden were linked in a complex union, called the Kalmar Union (more here) and at various times Christian was King of all three countries.

    The marriage did not start well – Christian had a mistress, Dyveke Sigridsdatter, to whom he was deeply attached, and was also strongly influence by Dyveke’s mother, who held surprising levels of power for a woman not of noble birth. After Dyveke’s death, matters improved and Isabel acted as Regent in her husband’s absence. Christian was deposed in 1523 by his nephew and the royal couple went into exile in the Netherlands. Like many educated women of the 1520s, Isabella was interested in religious reform and even Lutheranism, but as harder lines began to be drawn between Catholics and Lutherans, this was a difficult position for the Emperor’s sister.

    Picture is of an altarpiece in the Carmelite Cloister in Elsinore showing Isabel and Christian II

  • On This Day 18th January 1486

    On 18th January 1486 Henry VII married Elizabeth of York. The marriage had first been mooted during the reign of Edward IV, Elizabeth’s father, as a way of reconciling the warring houses of Lancaster and York, but it seems unlikely Edward would have agreed – there were far better matches for his daughter than a penniless exile with a slim claim to the throne. After Edward’s death, however, there seemed to be more mileage in the idea, and Henry and Elizabeth’s mothers (Lady Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville, respectively), agreed that this would be the best way to overthrow Richard III, who had usurped the throne from Elizabeth Woodville’s sons.

    Henry, exiled in Brittany, swore an oath in Vannes Cathedral to marry Elizabeth. In 1485, Henry won the Battle of Bosworth, however, although Elizabeth was put into the care of his mother, he did not marry her immediately. In the Parliament of December 1485, Sir Thomas Lovell put forward a petition for the King to marry ‘the illustrious Lady Elizabeth’ to which Henry graciously consented. A papal dispensation was obtained (they were third cousins). The ceremony was performed by Cardinal Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, in Westminster Abbey, where they now lie entombed, side by side. The couple went on to have seven children and seem to have become been genuinely attached to each other.

    Picture is of tomb of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, in Westminster Abbey

  • On This Day 17th January 1517

    On 17th January 1517, Margaret Grey (nee Wootton), Marchioness of Dorset, gave birth to a son, who was named Henry, after his father’s cousin, King Henry VIII, probably at the family’s home at Bradgate in Leicestershire. Henry Grey inherited his title in 1533, and three years later, with the King’s permission, he married Lady Frances Brandon, the daughter of Mary, the French Queen, by whom he had three daughters. In 1536, he was created a Knight of the Bath, on the eve of Anne Boleyn’s coronation, and bore the Sword of State. Henry was an early convert to evangelicalism, and became increasingly attached to Protestantism as time went on. He was not named as a member of the Council appointed by Henry VIII to govern for the young king, Edward VI, but as a close associate of the Duke of Northumberland, who took over control of the Government in 1552, he was granted the Dukedom of Suffolk on the death of his wife’s two brothers. Together with Northumberland, he conspired to put his daughter, Lady Jane Grey, on the throne on the death of Edward VI. Initially pardoned, he became involved in Wyatt’s Rebellion and was executed in 1554. Read more on Henry’s second, equally unfortunate, daughter, Lady Katherine Grey, here

    Picture is of Arms of Henry Grey, 3rd Marquess of Dorset, 1st Duke of Suffolk


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