Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Question from Mary Ann - Henry VII mistresses or marriage after Elizabeth of York's death

After his wife's death did Henry VII have any mistresses? Did he ever think about re-marrying so that Henry would not be the only male heir?


  1. No mistresses that I know of, but he did at least make some motions towards re-marrying, although they obviously never came to pass. The painting of Henry with the rounded top at the NPG was painted during marriage negotiations to marry Margaret of Savoy, the daughter of the Emperor Maximillian.

    I want to say there was also an interest in Catherine of Aragon's sister Juana, but I can't remember if that was just rumor or if there is more of a basis to it.

  2. I think I read in one of Alison Weir's books that there was a very, very brief idea to maybe have Henry VII marry Catherine of Aragon herself after Arthur died, to clear up the whole dowry problem, but that was discarded and little Henry VIII was chosen as a better option? But that wasn't pursued seriously, I don't think.

  3. In his biography of Henry VIII, Derek Wilson notes that Henry VII himself sought to marry Katherine of Aragon after the death of Prince Arthur, but the idea was rejected by the Spanish crown on the grounds that it would eventually place Katherine in the weak position of being merely the future king's step-mother, a position with no real or potential political power. She would have been a "non-entity."

  4. I put this forward very tentatively, because I don't know if the rumor is supported by scholarly sources, but I recall reading somewhere that Henry VII was suspected of cherishing a tendresse for Katherine Gordon, the wife and subsequently widow of Perkin Warbeck.

    She was a longtime pensioner and hostage at Henry's court after her husband was captured and eventually executed -- evidently she was treated with honor, both because she was a noble relation of the Scots king and because Henry's policy was that she was an innocent victim of Warbeck's deceit. (She had married "Richard of York," not a Fleming would-be usurper of questionable birth). But I've read that it's been suggested that Henry VII's feelings for her were a little warmer than mere politic civility. She married twice more, but it was after Henry VII's death.

  5. Oooo, that mention of Katherine Gordon tickled something in the back of my brain (and not just because I'm related to the Clan Gordon!). I can't place my finger on anything specific though... maybe I have just come across the rumor or insinuation somewhere.

    I looked through my bios of Henry VII and only found the passing mention of her as Warbeck's wife and that she had been treated well after the conspiracy failed (and she proved to not be pregnant by Warbeck). She was placed in Elizabeth of York's service and apparently she married three times after Warbeck.

    I'm looking through the references to her in "The Perkin Warbeck Conspiracy" by Arthurson and I'll comment more if I find anything.

  6. Lara, I also think I've heard something to do with Katherine Gordon before, can't rememer what

    I'm part of Clan Gordon! Small world.

  7. Strickland retails the rumor, but of course she is unreliable. However, she appears to have gotten her information -- and amplified it -- from Francis Bacon's History of King Henry VII, which recounts:

    "When [Katharine Gordon] was brought to the king, it was commonly said, that the king received her not only with compassion, but with affection; pity giving more impression to her excellent beauty. Wherefore comforting her, to serve his eye as well as his fame, he sent her to his Queen ..."

    Pamela Hill wrote a recent work about the alleged Henry VII-Katherine Gordon affair, Lady Kate. Pamela Hill is primarily a fiction writer, yet her recent works have been highly genealogical and well-researched; I can recommend her recent A Tale of Strawberries for anyone hopelessly confused by Mary Queen of Scots' multitudinous relations among the Hamiltons and Stuarts and Hepburns, where everyone seems to have the name James. Lady Kate is also highly genealogical, but it's useful for learning about Katharine Gordon's three later husbands, although the narrative about her relationship with Henry VII and Henry VIII remains speculative.


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