Sunday, March 25, 2012

Question from Sylwia - Incident with the King's fool in 1535

I would like to ask something that is bothering me;
In Letters and Papers I found this information:

"The King wishes (a ouyt, qu. a enuye?) to kill his fool because he spoke well of the Queen and Princess "et disoit reb.....(ribaulde?) a la concubine et bastarde a sa fille. "He has been banished from Court, "et le rec.... elle le grand estonnee."
Chapuys to Grenevelle, 25 July 1535.
Lp. Viii. 1106

So the king's fool called Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth a whore, and he praised Katherine of Aragon and Lady Mary. This happened when Anne was still the king's wife, about one year before her execution.

Eric Ives in "The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn" states:
"At court, Nicholas Carewe made no bones about sheltering the king’s fool from Henry’s wrath after he had unwisely praised Katherine and Mary and denigrated Anne and Elizabeth." p. 302

Alison Weir in "6 wives of Henry VIII" states:
"Henry was angry - so angry, in fact, that Somers had to leave court for a while - but he did nothing more, whereas once he would have acted swiftly to punish anyone who slandered his wife" p- 284-5

I wonder why Eric Ives connected the king's anger at his fool with Nicolas Carewe? Did he had anything to do with this?
And also - was mentioned fool Will Somers? Chapuys mentioned only 'the king's fool' and Henry VIII had probably few court jesters.

Thank you :-)


Ladyhoby said...

Hi Sylwia
Sorry I can not answer your main question but Henry VIII did have a few fools and Jesters I have only just started to find out about them and haven’t got very far yet but I can say that; Henry VIII kept Mr. Martin after his father Henry VII died and also took in Sexton and Patch, providing attendants for each of them.

Patch, a 'natural' was in the household of Cardinal Wolsey, who could have sold him for 1000 pounds, but upon Wolsey's fall from grace he just gave Patch to King Henry. Patch was not too pleased, but he settled down after being befriended by the Greenwich Court's resident jester, Will Somers- an artificial.

They seem to get away with all sorts
James I’s fool Archy was known for his mischief making and getting involved in politics. Archy tried to make trouble between James and his son Henry. He accompanied young Prince Charles to Madrid where he was to woo the Spanish Infanta. Archy was against the match and did his best to insult his master's host King Philip IV's courtiers. While he was making snide dinner remarks about the Spanish Armada's defeat he kept up a correspondence to James, assuring him that he had Philip's ear. He then assured Philip he had James' ear. He decided he was more popular there than Philip's own 'fewles'. By the time the prince became Charles I Archy had been granted 1000 acres of land in Ireland, paid 2 shillings a day, given a Royal Warrant to make tobacco pipes and the freedom of Aberdeen in 1617

Tom Skelton was a jester in Muncaster Castle seems to be responsible for a number of deaths not merely the murder of the carpenter at could have been on Sir Ferdinand Pennington's orders. But one of his ideas of a "joke" was directing anyone asking him for directions to Ravenglass towards the hidden quicksand and bog marsh by the River Esk rather than the ford - some realised in time, many did not and were never seen again

I haven't found out if they were ever punished for what they did but it looks like they did not

Claire Ridgway said...

Re Carew - Eric Ives references Calendar of State Papers, Spain, 1534-1535, and in those records there is a letter from Chapuys to Grenvelle in July 1535 in which Chapuys writes:-
"P.S.—He the other day nearly murdered his own fool, a simple and innocent man, because he happened to speak well in his presence of the Queen and Princess, and called the concubine "ribaude" and her daughter "bastard." He has now been banished from Court, and has gone to the Grand Esquire, who has sheltered and hidden him."
The Grand Esquire was how Chapuys always referred to Carew in 1535 and 1536. Hope that helps.

Sylwia said...

Thank you Ladyhoby and Claire Ridgway. Claire, your answer was very helpful, thank you! :-)

Foose said...

Although Somers' name is most usually repeated in popular histories as the jester who attracted Henry's wrath in this incident, some other ones indicate that it was the fool called "Patch" (mentioned by ladyhoby above)

So who was Patch? There are two jesters associated with the name, and one difficulty is that the name apparently is a traditional nom-de-jester, and so it's difficult to be definite about the identity.

"The Tudors" wiki says this Patch was an individual called Sexton. Trying to trace this source, I came across Ladyhoby's story that Wolsey in disgrace, receiving a comforting message from the king, offered his fool to Henry as one of the few things he still had of value. Here's where it gets complicated. Some sources say it was a fool called Williams; others say that the Cardinal also had another fool in his service, Sexton or Saxton, who also wound up working for Henry but was not the Patch proffered to the king at this time. Still others, including Beatrice Otto, author of the recent study Fools are Everywhere, says that Sexton was Patch.

Whichever fool it was, he was not happy with the change in masters at the time: Cavendish' life of Cardinal Wolsey described his rage: "So Master Norris took the Fool with him; with whom my lord was fain to send six of his tall yeomen, to conduct and convey the Fool to court; for the poor Fool took on and fired so in such a rage when he saw that he must needs depart from my lord [Wolsey]. Yet nothwithstanding they conveyed him with Master Norris to the court, where the king received him most gladly."

The account of the fool's taking shelter with Carew tends to suggest that Carew put him up to it - insulting the king's wife and child. Carew, of course, was a leader of the anti-Anne faction, strongly associated with the Jane Seymour party (although the date for this incident, July 1535, is early for Jane Seymour by most traditional accounts). Perhaps the fool did not need to be suborned or paid or encouraged to attack the queen - he might have held a grudge on account of his old master, who was generally perceived to be one of Anne's first victims.

It would be interesting to know what the jester actually said. Did he make the joke in French, actually using "ribalde" and "batarde"? French was in use at the Tudor court, but a jester might more typically use Anglo-Saxon terms (I honestly don't know). "Ribald" was in use as a noun in Tudor England, but possibly Chapuys translated the actual word into French(batarde/bastard is practically the same in both languages).

Sylwia said...

Thank you for your reply, Foose. I quoted the Letters & papers and Claire quoted Spanish Chronicle. It is interesting how the king's fool expressed his opinion.

Scarlet said...

Will Somers was the fool who was with Henry VIII for approx 30 yrs, until the king's death, & as I recall, remembered in Henry's will. Somers was known as "the king's fool" so that would explain Chapuys.

Like Edward IVs fool who pranced about lacking nether hose because "The Rivers are so high in this kingdom", it could be that Somers could get away with any sort of humor & Henry wouldn't punish him.

And really, to call an anointed queen & a princess of the realm such names in front of the king actually seems to indicate complicity on the part of Henry more than Sir Nicholas Carew. I doubt Somers would've risked his own health & employment at Carew's instigation. Somers had to know Henry's reaction in advance, to throw out something like that.

Anne's sole "accomplishment" was a daughter, nearly aged 2, & a miscarriage not long after. She hadn't conceived in over a yr & that was, after all, her new purpose in life. Henry was already being openly unfaithful to her. Could be he just didn't care by this point in time.

Henry certainly brought Somers back to court after the incident. And it's not like he was exiled to Muscovy; Carew's seat at Beddington Park in Surrey was about 15 mi from Greenwich.

Ives's statement leaps to the conclusion that Carew had more involvement than just a good guffaw & offering a place to shelter.

This is because of Elizabeth Carew....courtier Francis Bryan's sister, daughter of Thomas Bryan, Comptroller of Catherine of Aragon's household, & Margaret Bryan, who had been Mary's Lady Mistress & now served as Elizabeth's in the new royal nursery.

During the struggle to get Mary to sign off on all of Daddy's little changes, including her own bastardization, Lady Carew supposedly sent Mary a letter in which she begged her to sign for fear of her life. (You know, those courtiers were so desirous that Henry should put this jewel to death & all.)

This letter has been taken to mean that the Carews were secretly Mary's partisans & perhaps working with Cromwell to take down the Boleyn faction. Carew, who was the Christendom jousting champion after the Field of Cloth of Gold, was very close with Henry. So it's thought he was influenced by his wife & her family to get rid of the Boleyns in the hope Mary would be reinstated as her father's heir.