Who's Who in Shakespeare's Henry VIII

A Guide to the Personalities in the Play

Chapter 4 : Gardiner - Howard, T

Gardiner, Stephen, Bishop of Winchester c. 1483 – 1555 Gardiner first appears in the play as Henry’s new secretary, just transferred to Henry’s service, but still in cahoots with Wolsey. He then appears in the Council Chamber, where he is concerned about the increasing tide of Lutheranism and tries to have Cranmer sent to the Tower. Henry appears and reconciles the two men.

Gardiner was a graduate of Trinity, Cambridge and a Doctor of both Civil and Canon law. He was appointed as Secretary to Thomas Wolsey in the 1520s and fought well in the matter of the King’s annulment. He transferred from Wolsey’s employ to become Secretary to the King. Although a strong supporter of the Royal Supremacy, he was completely opposed to doctrinal changes in religion. He was an inveterate opponent of Cromwell, and as one of the leaders of the leaders of the conservative faction at Henry’s court, was instrumental in Cromwell’s downfall. He was imprisoned throughout the majority of Edward VI’s reign, emerging from the Tower in 1553 to be appointed Lord Chancellor to Mary I.

Grey, Henry, Marquess of Dorset 1517 – 1554 In the play, Dorset is seen as leading the coronation procession of Anne Boleyn, carrying the sceptre, a part he played in life, having been made a Knight of the Bath the preceding day.

Dorset was the grandson of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of Edward IV, by her first husband. He lost his father at the age of thirteen but remained in the wardship of his mother, Margaret Wootton (q.v.). When he was sixteen, he married his second cousin, Lady Frances Brandon, Henry VIII’s niece. The couple had three daughters who lived to adulthood – Lady Jane, Lady Katherine and Lady Mary Grey. In the later years of Henry VIII’s reign, Dorset held honourable positions as one of the King’s closest male relatives, but was never given any real power. He was a committed Protestant, and was a prime mover in the religious reformation of Edward VI’s reign. Whilst he is unlikely to have been the instigator, he was allied with the Duke of Northumberland in 1553 in an attempt to put his daughter, Jane, on the throne, in place of Henry VIII’s daughter Mary. Forgiven for his part in the coup, he could not leave well alone, but became embroiled in Wyatt’s Rebellion of 1554, resulting in the execution of both Jane and himself.

Griffith A character in the play, who is Queen Katharine’s gentleman-usher. He attends her to the Legatine Court at Blackfriars, and, when she walks out, suggests that she should return. Katharine refuses. Griffith is next seen at Katharine’s death-bed, where he disagrees with her assessment of the now-dead Wolsey, and tells her of his virtues. Katharine listens, accepts that he had some merits and wishes his soul to lie in peace.

Guildford, Sir Henry 1489 – 1532 Guilford has a minor part in the play, present at the party at Wolsey’s palace where Henry first meets Anne.

Guildford was a prominent courtier in the early days of Henry’s reign, taking part in masques and being granted the prestigious role of Master of the Horse. He was one of the justices in front of whom Buckingham was first indicted – a true bill was found and Buckingham went to trial. Guilford’s mother Joan, or Jane, was governess and later chief attendant of Mary, Henry VIII’s sister, accompanying her to the French court.

Guilford strongly disapproved of the annulment, and in his deposition for the court declined to comment on whether the marriage of Arthur and Katharine had been consummated, as he was too young at the time to know. When Anne Boleyn told him that, as soon as she was queen he would be deprived of his office, he replied that he would save her the bother by resigning immediately. Henry attempted to talk him out of it, by telling him not to worry about a woman’s words, but Guilford stuck to his word.

Henry VIII 1491 – 1547 Whilst it would not have behoved the authors to be too critical of Henry VIII, even at the court of James I, he is not portrayed as an unflawed hero. He is seen to be changeable, quick to anger, and suspicious. His councillors are fearful of his wrath.

I am fearful: wherefore frowns he thus?
'Tis his aspect of terror. All's not well.

Act V Sc. I

Nevertheless, he is shown as genuinely troubled in his conscience, and affectionate and respectful to Katharine even whilst trying to put her aside.

Henry, an extremely accomplished and intelligent man, began his reign in traditional fashion, promoting war with France and expressing strong support for Papal authority. By the late 1520s however, a combination of dynastic fears (he had only one legitimate child, a daughter) and his passion for Anne Boleyn, led him to request Pope Clement VII to grant an annulment of his marriage.The political situation in Europe did not permit the Pope to accede to this request and Henry sought other alternatives.

The advisors and friends of the first twenty years of his reign, Queen Katharine, Cardinal Wolsey, Sir Thomas More, Bishop Fisher, Sir Nicholas Carew and Archbishop Warham, were overthrown in favour of a new group of advisers who could deliver the King’s desire. Most prominent amongst these for the period 1531 – 1540 was Thomas Cromwell.

Henry broke with Rome, took the title Supreme Head of the Church in England and pursued a policy of ruthless repression of all dissent. By 1539, the court had broken into factions, largely based on the religious divide. Pro-reform leaders were Cromwell, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford.The conservatives were led by Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and Bishop Gardiner of Winchester. Henry married a total of six times, but still left a minor heir, a disputed succession, and a country that was almost bankrupt, despite the huge injection of cash from the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Howard, Thomas, 2nd Duke of Norfolk c. 1443 – 21 May 1524 In the play, Norfolk and Buckingham are portrayed as good friends, depressed by the appearance of low-born upstart, Wolsey, who is trampling on the rights of the nobility. Norfolk is seen as rather more circumspect, trying to temper Buckingham’s hastiness. The play opens with Norfolk and Buckingham discussing the Field of Cloth of Gold. Norfolk warns Buckingham who is fulminating against Wolsey to:

‘Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot
That it do singe yourself:’

As Earl of Surrey, Howard fought alongside his father, John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk, for Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. Following the battle, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, but was soon restored to royal favour and appointed as Henry VII’s Lieutenant in the North. He served Henry VII valiantly, and transferred his loyalty to Henry VIII. It is owing to Surrey’s brilliant generalship, that the English army defeated the superior forces of James IV of Scotland at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.The dukedom of Norfolk was restored in recognition of his services. Howard’s granddaughters were Anne Boleyn and Katheryn Howard, second and fifth wives of Henry VIII.

He presided over the trial of Buckingham, apparently passing the guilty sentence with tears pouring down his face.