Friday, April 03, 2009

Question from Michelle - Henry Fitzroy's possible place in the succession

I'm wondering what everything knows/thinks about the following:

Does anyone know if Henry ever made or discussed plans to add Henry Fitzroy to the line of succession before Edward was born?

Also, even after Edward's birth, if Henry Fitzroy had lived, what is the likelihood that he would have been placed in the line of succession? And if Fitzroy was added, where would he have fallen - after Edward/Edward's issue, but before Mary and Elizabeth since he was a male? Or, since legally all three (Mary, Fitzroy and E I) were "bastards", would he be between Mary and Elizabeth based on age?


PhD Historian said...

Some historians do believe that the clause in the Act for the Succession of 1536 that empowered Henry to bequeath the crown by means of his last will and testament was intended to make it possible for Henry to name Fitzroy as his successor. I am among those who believe that to be the case.

No plans were openly discussed or firmly documented, however. The only evidence we have is circumstantial.

Had Fitzroy lived, he would not have been a legal heir to the throne unless Henry's will made him so. And after Edward's birth, it is unlikely (in my opinion, anyway) that Henry would have placed Fitzroy in the succession.

And where he would have been placed, in the unlikley event that he was placed, would have depended entirely on whether or not the third Act for the Succession (1544) had been passed. If not, Mary and Elizabeth might have remained out of the line of succession permanently. As might Fitzroy, had he lived.

So there are multiple counterfactual possibilities:

Fitzroy as sole heir in the absence of Edward.

Fitzroy following Edward and his issue, with Mary and Elizabeth out.

Fitzroy and his issue following Edward and his issue, with Mary following all of them, but Elizabeth out.

Fitzroy and his issue following Edward and his issue, with Elizabeth following all of them, but Mary out.

Fitzroy and his issue following Edward and his issue, with Mary and her issue following them, and Elizabeth and her issue following all of those before her.

Complicated, huh?

Tudorrose said...

Henry Fitzroy was the illigitamate son of King Henry VIII and Elizabeth Blount.He was given the name Fitzroy because this was a surname given to an illigitamate child born of a king or monarch.(Fitzroyal)is what Fitzroy means.Fitz is a name that comes from scotland.But I think the name Fitz would have only been given to a male born to an unmarried monarch.It would have been something else if it were a girl.(something roy.Henry did have plans to get his son legitimized and was trying to get him legitimized in his meetings with parliment.But the legitimization didn't go through for some reason.If he had of gotten him legitimized he would have standed in line in succession to the throne and being the elder son and second eldest child he would have deffinately succeeded the throne before Edward.Also probably before Henry's three legitimate children.I would say Henry the king would have put Fitzroy as his first in line to the throne in his will.Dont forget because it was considered that a woman couldn't rule England as well as a man in the Tudor era.Also Henry Fitzroy was his first son.Edward was his second.

Foose said...

Fitzroy's prospects appeared at their zenith after the death of both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn.

On July 8, 1536 (about two months after Anne Boleyn was executed), Chapuys reported:

"[The news] was quite common that the King was to declare [Mary] heir apparent, but he has changed his mind and has got a statute passed that it should be in his power, in case he had not lawful children, to declare whomsoever he pleased as heir, and that his said declaration should be as good as an Act of Parliament, and there is little fear that the lot will fall on the Princess, especially failing the duke of Richmond, who, in the judgment of physicians is consumptive (tysique), and incurable ..."

On July 23, 1536, Chapuys recorded, with cheerful diplomatic callousness:

"I have just this moment heard that the duke of Richmond died this morning; not a bad thing for the interests of the Princess [Mary]."

Dr. Pedro Ortiz, a Spanish theologian apparently based in Rome, reported to the Empress on August 17, 1536 (about 3 months after Anne Boleyn's execution):

"Parliament was concluded four days before, on 18 July, but the statutes were not yet printed. Both the Princess [Mary] and the daughter of La Ana [Elizabeth] are declared illegitimate, and the issue of this new marriage [to Jane Seymour] is to succeed to the throne. In default, they have left it to the King to name a successor. He had determined to name his bastard son, the duke of Zuhamont (Richmond), but he died on July 22."

Zuhamont! There's a name for an alternative-reality Tudors novel.

But I digress. If Fitzroy had lived after Edward's birth, the consequences would have been interesting. I think he would still have come in the succession after Mary and Elizabeth; Henry had to consider that Mary had strong support abroad and Elizabeth the extensive Howard network at home to back her. Fitzroy had only the Blounts, although if a sustained campaign highlighting his "Englishness" had been made, he would have been a stronger candidate than Mary.

Regarding a bastard son -- it seems inconceivable to moderns that one could become king of England, but at the time it might have seemed feasible to Henry. Alfonso of Aragon had been able to make his illegitimate son Ferdinand king of his conquests in Italy (although not of Aragon); Pope Clement VII had been able to make his alleged illegitimate son (possibly the illegimate son of Lorenzo de Medici) Duke of Florence; people could reckon back to Enrique of Trastamara in Spain, and Joao of Aviz in Portugal, both bastards who wound up kings. It all depended on the attitude of the people and nobles, the weakness of the rivals, the international and domestic situation, and the legitimacy of the state instruments putting Fitzroy forward as heir, and of course the influence of Henry's and Fitroy's own personalities.

Marilyn R said...

How serious was the suggestion that Henry FitzRoy marry Princess Mary? I have read that the Pope, presumably Clement VII, was prepared to issue a Dispensation to allow the marriage.

I wrote a book on the Mowbray family, the original Dukes of Norfolk (a Howard married a Mowbray heiress and, the male line having died out in 1476, their son John was made the first Howard Duke of Norfolk by Richard III in a new creation in 1483) and had to research the 1478 marriage of Lady Anne, the last of the Mowbrays, to Richard Duke of York, later one of the Princes in the Tower, when she was five and he was four. His grandmother, Cicely Neville, and her great-grandmother, Katherine Neville, were sisters. This from a contemporary account,

“...the young lady was led by the Earl of Lincoln on the right hand and on the left by the Earl Rivers, unto St. Stephen’s Chapel where, at the door, the Bishop of Norwich received her, and Dr. Coke declared that the high and mighty prince Richard Duke of York, ought not to be wedded to that high and excellent princess, for they were within the Degrees of Marriage, the one at the fourth and the other at the third, for which cause he forbad the spousal without there were a special licence from the Pope, and a dispensation for the nighness of blood. Then the Dean of the King’s chapel showed an ample Bull authorising them to proceed ‘ad contractum et matrimonium’. Whereupon the Bishop asked who would give the princess to the church and to him, which being done by the King, he proceeded to the high altar to mass.”

I have come across several Hapsburg unions between uncles and nieces and even a teenaged nephew who married an aunt twice his age in an attempt to keep the dynasty going, but wouldn't a marriage between half-siblings have been a step too far?

Foose said...

I had forgotten that Fitzroy was married to Norfolk's daughter, which would have probably secured him the support of the Howard affinity. This prompts a reevaluation.

Fitzroy was the only one of Henry's children that was permitted to marry during the king's lifetime. If he had lived and fathered children, there might have been a substantial bias in his favor among both the nobility and the commons, as neither of his sisters would have had offspring by the time of Edward's death.

However, what would have been Henry's attitude in this case? If he had legitimized Fitzroy in some fashion after Anne Boleyn's death to make him heir to the throne (or simply gotten him declared heir by act of Parliament), he would have had to consider it might prejudice the rights of any future children he had by subsequent wives. It would have been problematic to make Fitzroy heir to the throne and then, when Jane Seymour gave birth to an undoubtedly legitimate son, to either relegate Fitzroy to junior status or allow him to take precedence over Edward.

If Henry had avoided the question of making Fitzroy his official heir and retained him in his somewhat anomalous "king's natural son" position, Fitzroy might still have been fathering children by Howard's daughter during his lifetime. How would that have affected Henry's view? Would he not have perceived Fitzroy to be a mortal threat to Edward, whom Henry realized would be still a minor when the king died? Or would he have favored the succession of Fitzroy, who would be a man of 30 or so when Henry died, with that most valuable asset, living offspring, over 9-year-old Edward?

There is also Mary's attitude to consider. After Edward's death, she might have been inclined to fight a civil war with a brother who was undoubtedly illegitimate, but would the support that rallied to her during Northumberland's attempted usurpation still have been willing to side with a half-Spanish woman of 37, unmarried and childless, against an all-English man with a family of his own and the extensive Howard connection behind him? Even the Emperor was unwilling to back her during Lady Jane Grey's queenship, telling his envoys to counsel her to avoid a challenge.

It's all speculative, of course, but a very interesting question.

Foose said...

Per Fitzroy's potential marriage to Mary Tudor, in October 1528 (a couple of weeks after he arrived in Engand), Cardinal Campeggio wrote a letter to Giovanni Baptista Sanga, a papal advisor:

"They have thought of marrying the Princess, by dispensation from his Holiness, to the King's natural son, if it can be done. At first I myself had thought of this as a means of establishing the succession, but I do not believe that this design would suffice to satisfy the King's desires."

It's not clear from the rest of this letter who "they" were -- I wonder if "they" in the original was similar to the French word on - "they say," "it's being said," "the talk is" -- meaning that it wasn't anyone specific who made the proposal but the rumor was in the air. Wolsey appears in the letter immediately prior to this statement, however, so it could have been he who made the suggestion. However, the way the letter is written might indicate that Campeggio himself made the proposal, perhaps having taken previous counsel with the Pope. I don't think a canonically approved brother-sister marriage would have added to the reputation of the Church, though.

The Pope okayed the arrangement, though, but craftily suggested that his approval and the dispensation were conditional upon Henry dropping his divorce suit. Whereupon Henry lost interest -- which may suggest it was indeed a bluff, a gambit -- by the English or by the Pope -- rather than a serious idea.