I have just started reading AFTER ELIZABETH, by Leanda de Lisle, and I have found something I have never come across before. She mentions very early on that Henry VIII had an illegitimate daughter named Ethelreda. I knew about Henry Fitzroy, and the arguments that Mary Boleyn's two children may have been fathered by Henry. But I have never heard of Ethelreda. Henry never acknowledged her? What is known about her? Were there other children fathered by Henry that were not acknowledged by him? Where did Ms. de Lisle find out about Ethelreda?
[She has popped up in other threads about possible bastards of Henry VIII, which I've linked to below. There are a lot of other discussions on this site about unacknowledged children of Henry VIII which can be found by searching on "bastard", "illegitimate", "mistress", etc. - Lara]
I am ashamed to say I don't remember. But this is from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography on John Harington (pa to Elizabeth's godson): 'Probably in 1547 Harington married Ethelreda (also known as Esther or Audrey) Malte, supposedly the natural daughter of Henry VIII, who had been passed off as the illegitimate daughter of a tailor named John Malte in exchange for grants of land and revenues. Through this match Harington received dissolved monastic estates in Berkshire and Somerset, among them the manor of Kelston, which he would later make the family's country seat. ' It is curious. A tailor's child would not bring a large estate with her!
I was interested when this question came up before, but have not been able to find anything new about her.
Isn’t Ethelreda a very unusual name for this period? One usually comes across Ethelredas, Ealswithas, Eadgyths etc in Saxon times. And why would she also be known as Esther or Audrey?
I was fascinated about the name, as my husband was born in Chicago, and baptized at St. Ethelreda Cathoilc Church on the south side in 1957. Just the school is left, the church itself was bought by a Baptist congregation. And there is a neat statue of St. Ethelreda in front of the school.
But I have always wondered if Henry had illegitimate children he never recognized. I don't know if he was as virile in real life as he is portrayed in The Tudors, where he beds virtually anything remotely female. I can see why, if Mary Boleyn's children were his, he would not acknowledge that, as even when he was "dating" Anne, that would have been an impediment to a marriage with her. But I wonder if there are any records extant that show he made some sort of financial provision to any supposed illegitimate children. Richard II, for example, made a nice marriage for his illegitimate daughter.
I truly love your books, Ms. de Lisle. I just finished The Sisters Who Would Be Queen, and I felt so sorry for the Grey sisters. I did not know much about Katherine and Mary, except the basic facts. The book made all three sisters come alive in all their moments of happiness and sadness and tragedy. I had never known that poor Margaret Clifford also suffered from a long-term imprisonment at the hands of Elizabeth--I would like to know more about her and her branch of Mary Tudor's family. Do you have anything else in the works?
Thank you very much. It means a lot coming across people who have enjoyed my books. I hope I will improve as I go on. I have not yet decided what I am doing next. I am going to discuss various ideas with my publisher at the end of the month - I like to cover areas that haven't been well researched or have been overlooked. Tricky when publishers are, in the current market, very risk averse
Oops, forgot to mention about the names: I believe the Saxon princess. St Etheldreda, was also known as Audrey.
This is just a little side note about St. Ethelreda from "Catholic Online"
Saint Ethelreda (Audrey)
Feastday June 23
Around 640, there was an English princess named Ethelreda, but she was known as Audrey. She married once, but was widowed after three years, and it was said that the marriage was never consummated. She had taken a perpetual vow of virginity, but married again, this time for reasons of state. Her young husband soon grew tired of living as brother and sister and began to make advances on her. She continually refused. He eventually attempted to bribe the local bishop, Saint Wilfrid of York, to release Audrey from her vows.
Saint Wilfrid refused and helped Audrey escape. She fled south, with her husband following. They reached a promontory known as Colbert's Head, where a heaven sent seven day high tide separated the two. Eventually Audrey's husband left and married someone more willing; while Audrey took the veil and founded the great abbey of Ely, where she lived an austere life. She eventually died of an enormous and unsightly tumor on her neck, which she gratefully accepted as divine retribution for all the necklaces she had worn in her early years. Throughout the Middle Ages a festival, "St. Audrey's Fair", was held at Ely on her feast day. The exceptional shoddiness of the merchandise, especially the neckerchiefs, contributed to the English language the word "tawdry", a corruption of "St. Audrey."
Here are some tentative notes I made some time ago regarding Ethelreda:
'Henry's tailor, John Malte, was persuaded to recognise Ethelreda as his illegitimate daughter, born in the late 1520's. Her mother, Joan Dingley/Dyngley, a royal laundress, was married off to a man named Dobson. Ethelreda (or Audrey) took the surname Malte and married John Harrington in 1547.
Henry granted lands to Ethelreda. She was still living in 1555, but died before 1559 as her husband remarried in that year. He inherited all the lands Henry VIII had granted her.
However, regarding the name Dingley: was Joan really a ‘royal laundress’? I note that a Sir Thomas Dingley, Knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, was beheaded on Tower Hill, London on Wednesday 9 July 1539 along with Adrian Fortescue (1480-1539), a cousin of Anne Boleyn’s. Adrian was attainted of High Treason without trial, by an Act of Parliament which condemned fifty persons opposed to Henry VIII's ecclesiastical policies.
Again, more questions than answers!
There's a chapter about Ethelreda in Phillipa Jones's book- 'The Other Tudors- Henry VIII's mistresses and bastards'. Not a bad read about the 'forgotten' bastards and some of it is quite convincing.
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