Monday, 26 September 2016
Lord Guildford Dudley, son of the duke of Northumberland, is not usually depicted positively either in fiction or non-fiction. Often, Guildford is presented as a weak-willed, snivelling adolescent who sobbed on the scaffold, or as an abusive sociopath capable of bullying his gentle wife, Lady Jane Grey. In her study of the so-called nine days queen, Hester Chapman described Guildford as 'a spoilt, conceited and disagreeable young man', while in her novel Innocent Traitor, Alison Weir portrayed Guildford as a vicious abuser who mistreated Jane on their wedding night.
Guildford, who married Jane in 1553, could have become king of England, had events turned out differently. Little is known of him, but it is likely that he was well educated and was brought up to favour the reformist faith. It is possible that he was younger than his wife Jane, who was probably born in the spring of 1537. The Dudleys had a newborn son in March 1537, while one of Guildford's godfathers, Diego de Mendoza, visited England between the spring of 1537 and the summer of 1538. Thus making it likely that Guildford was born in 1537 or 1538 and inherently probable that he was younger than his wife. According to Grafton, Guildford was 'a comely, virtuous and godly gentleman'.
In the spring of 1553, Guildford married Jane Grey, the cousin of Edward VI. For the Dudleys, the Grey marriage was a notable triumph, for it allied them with the ducal house of Suffolk as well as to the Tudor dynasty. There is no evidence that John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, schemed to marry his son to Jane as part of his plan to have Jane made queen in the wake of Edward VI's death. Traditionally, it has been reported that Jane was bullied into marrying Guildford by her scheming family; some alleged that she had been physically beaten until she had submitted to the will of her parents. These stories are questionable. Certainly there is no evidence that she objected to Guildford on personal terms, although it could be said that the duke and duchess of Suffolk, Jane's parents, might have hoped for a more noble bridegroom for their daughter. After all, rumours had circulated in some quarters that Edward VI himself hoped to marry Jane. Once it became apparent that the king's demise was imminent, the Dudleys surely realised that Guildford might very well become king of England as the husband of Queen Jane, if the coup against Mary Tudor succeeded.
Above: Lady Jane Grey. After her marriage, Jane referred to herself as 'Lady Jane Dudley'. There is no evidence that she objected to the marriage with Guildford on personal grounds.
Unfortunately for both the Greys and the Dudleys, Mary Tudor was highly popular in the country at large, and following Edward VI's death on 6 July, the displaced Mary immediately acted to ensure that she was accepted, and then crowned, as England's queen. Jane had arrived at the Tower of London shortly after the king's death, and she was presented with the crown jewels by the Marquess of Winchester. Reportedly, Jane explained that she did not wish her husband to be presented with a crown, because she wished to make him a duke, rather than honour him with the title of king consort. This was not because of personal feelings on her behalf, given that she was 'loving of my husband'. Indeed, after her marriage Jane consistently referred to herself as 'Lady Jane Dudley'. On 19 July, the last day of her 'reign', Jane acted as godmother to a son born to one of the Tower guards. The child was named Guildford.
Mary Tudor took the throne with triumph. Eric Ives and Leanda de Lisle have explained, in detail, how Mary seized the throne from Jane; whether or not she should be viewed as the rightful queen and Jane the usurper, or vice versa, continues to be disputed. On 22 August, Guildford's father, the duke of Northumberland, was executed. Three months later, both Jane and Guildford were tried and found guilty of treason, but the queen made known her wish that the two prisoners should be spared death.
However, Sir Thomas Wyatt's rebellion in early 1554, which involved Jane's father, sealed the fates of both Jane and Guildford. Both wrote letters to the duke; Guildford signed himself 'youre lovyng and obedynent son', while Jane described herself as 'youre gracys humble daughter Jane Duddley'. On the day of their execution, 12 February 1554, it is reported that Guildford wished to see Jane one last time, 'desiring to give her the last kisses, and the last embrace'. Jane refused, however, because 'their sight would increase the misery in both, and bring much more suffering'. After their deaths, Jane believed, they would 'live perpetually joined in an indissoluble bond'.
Evidence suggests that Guildford, at the age of only fifteen or sixteen, went to his death with dignity. He made a short, unrecorded speech on the scaffold and prayed without losing control of his emotions. No mention, in this contemporary account, of Guildford's supposed sobbing in the moments before his execution.
Lord Guildford Dudley has traditionally been viewed as a weak-willed, vicious adolescent, who was loathed by his gentle, victimised wife Lady Jane Grey. There is no evidence of this, and the couple's closeness and loyalty to one another emerges from the sources even during the last hours of their lives. Had the events of the summer of 1553 gone differently, had Jane been blessed by fortune, Guildford could have become king of England as the husband of Jane I. It was not to be, and history has not been kind to him in the centuries since his passing.
Sunday, 4 September 2016
An exciting event will be taking place in London on Saturday 24 September 2016. Made Global Publishing are hosting "An Evening with the Authors" at the Venue in Malet Street. Not only can you meet a wide range of authors who will be discussing their latest research and projects, but you can discuss publishing your work with Made Global Publishing. This event, therefore, is perfect for aspiring authors, particularly those writing history or historical fiction. Made Global Publishing, however, are also branching out and authors writing modern fiction are welcome to get involved.
There will be a professional photographer, breakout question and answer panels, and a bar available. For those unable to attend the event, it will be live streamed, with an opportunity to ask questions. However, if you live in the UK then definitely consider coming down for the day, it really is a once-in-a-lifetime event.
In all, nineteen authors will be involved. They are: myself, Adrienne Dillard, Alan Wybrow, Amy Licence, Beth von Staats, Clare Cherry, Claire Ridgway, Derek Wilson, Gareth Russell, Heather Darsie, Hunter S. Jones, Jane Moulder, Kirsteen Thomson, Kyra Kramer, Melanie V. Taylor, Philip Roberts, Sandra Vasoli, Sarah Bryson, Samantha Morris, and Toni Mount; as well as Made Global's CEO, Tim Ridgway. The authors have, between them, covered a wide range of topics relating to the medieval and Tudor era, including Henry VIII and his court; George Boleyn; Katherine Howard; the Borgias; Anne Boleyn; Thomas Cranmer; Edward VI; and Katherine Carey. Moreover, topics will also include Tudor art; palace architecture; historical fiction; and a live performance of Tudor music. There really is something for everyone.
Above (from left): Edward VI; the Borgias; Whitehall Palace; Nicholas Hilliard; the Wars of the Roses; and Henry VIII and his wives are some of the topics that will be discussed.
Tickets are still available and can be purchased here. The event will begin at 7.30pm and is expected to finish around 10.30pm. You won't regret buying a ticket!
Friday, 2 September 2016
Mystery surrounds Anne Boleyn's appearance. Contemporaries were ambiguous in their descriptions of the appearance of Henry VIII's second queen: either she was a slim and very beautiful, small-breasted Venus, or a grotesque, deformed creature who had lured Henry VIII into breaking from the Roman Catholic Church and marrying her. Controversy centres, in particular, on the colour of Anne Boleyn's hair.
It is worth noting that no surviving portraits of Anne Boleyn date from her own lifetime. At the very earliest, they were painted in the reign of her daughter, Elizabeth I, and may have been based on lost originals; thus dating, at the earliest, fifty to sixty years after her execution in 1536. The standard portrait of Anne Boleyn, a copy of which is now housed in the National Portrait Gallery in London, depicts the queen wearing a French hood, black gown and pearls with a 'B' choker. In most of these portraits, Anne is portrayed with very dark brown or black hair.
When examining these portraits, it is worthwhile to bear in mind the now infamous description of Anne Boleyn put forward by the Elizabethan Jesuit, Nicholas Sander, in his Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism, published in 1585. Sander described Anne thus:
Anne Boleyn was rather tall of stature, with black hair and an oval face of sallow complexion, as if troubled with jaundice. She had a projecting tooth under the upper lip, and on her right hand, six fingers. There was a large wen under her chin, and therefore to hide its ugliness, she wore a high dress covering her throat. In this she was followed by the ladies of the court, who also wore high dresses, having before been in the habit of leaving their necks and upper portion of their persons uncovered. She was handsome to look at, with a pretty mouth.
Sander presented the queen as a witchlike figure who had cunningly seduced Henry VIII into abandoning his virtuous wife, Katherine of Aragon, and breaking with the true Church to marry her. Leaving aside the suggestion that Anne favoured high dresses - for which there is no other extant evidence - Sanders' description of Anne corresponds strikingly with the representation of the queen in the NPG pattern of portraits, two of which are provided at the top of the page. We can observe the queen's 'black hair', her 'oval face of sallow complexion' and 'pretty mouth'. His description of her raven hair, in particular, corresponded closely to contemporary notions of a witch's appearance.
No other contemporary author described Anne Boleyn's hair colour as black. The Venetian ambassador, whose description of Anne's appearance has been viewed as largely accurate, stated that she had 'a swarthy complexion'. Simon Grynee, a professor of Greek at Basle, similarly noted that Anne was of a 'rather dark' complexion. It is possible that she had black hair, of course, but as Susan Bordo suggests, the notion that Anne Boleyn had raven tresses belongs largely to the work of Nicholas Sander, an author unquestionably hostile to the queen and her daughter, Elizabeth.
Above: Often Anne Boleyn is portrayed in modern films and TV with black hair. Natalie Dormer (left) in The Tudors and Claire Foy (right) in Wolf Hall.
Anne Boleyn's hair was almost certainly dark. Cardinal Wolsey allegedly referred to her as 'the night crow', probably alluding to her appearance, and as we have seen, at least two other individuals described her as possessing a dark complexion. But it does not necessarily follow that her hair colour was black, and it is possible that it was the influence of Nicholas Sander's hostile description that meant that she was portrayed in portraiture as having black hair. It is important not to underestimate how influential Sanders' work was at the time. As Retha Warnicke explains, it formed the basis for every subsequent Catholic history of the Reformation, and by 1628 it had appeared in six Latin editions and was translated into six other languages.
Other portraits depicted the queen's hair as lighter, whether medium brown or even reddish. It is possible that these portraits 'beautified' Anne, so to speak, giving that queens were customarily depicted in artistic mediums with fair hair, because it was associated with fertility, virginity and goodness. But it is also possible that these portraits more accurately represented the queen's true hair colour.
Above: Just how dark was Anne? Two reputed portraits of her that show her with lighter hair.