Friday, April 22, 2011

Question from Guy - "Almost wives" of Henry VIII

What women did Henry VIII almost marry? I can think of Mary of Guise, Christina of Milan, Eleanor somebody?


Foose said...

Henry's father apparently made diplomatic overtures to secure Eleanor of Austria (the future Emperor's sister) or Marguerite of Angouleme (the future Francis I's sister) as his son's wife, either in genuine good faith or to put further pressure on Ferdinand of Aragon, whose daughter Catherine was of course Henry's affianced bride.

Old Henry apparently may have put in a bid for Marguerite himself; in February 1542, at the height of the efforts to get Lady Mary for the Duke of Alencon, she entertained Paget and told him that "She was glad to hear the King was well; saying, 'for I must needs love that Prince, for sundry causes; I should have been once his father's wife, and I should have been his wife, and he and I be both of one opinion in religion, for neither of us loveth the Pope ...'" Letters & Papers.

A number of books allege that Wolsey, before he realized that Anne Boleyn was his master's choice for Queen, hoped to secure the French alliance by marrying Henry to Renee, the French king's sister-in-law. Later married to the Duke of Ferrara, Renee was quite as "contumacious" to her Italian spouse as Catherine of Aragon was to Henry, so he might have found her to be another difficult consort. She was a rabid Protestant, too, so Wolsey might have found her just as inimical to himself as Anne was.

Henry's envoys researched a number of Continental ladies, French, German and Burgundian, after Jane Seymour's death. The French ladies' names are not listed, and the Continentals are discounted for various reasons as serious brides (except for Christina of Milan and the daughters of the Duke of Cleves).

There is a brief note in the 1530s that Mary of Hungary, the Emperor's younger sister, will not be offered to Henry, as she is "unfit" to bear children. Mary certainly had the personality to stand up to Henry, which would have made it an interesting match. She never married after her first husband, which is curious; some sources indicate she made a vow after his early death not to marry again, but there is at least one account of Frederick of the Palatinate courting her enthusiastically (he wound up with Christina's sister Dorothea). Along with her alleged "unfitness" for childbearing, there was the perennial problem of getting the dispensation from the Pope.

Foose said...

Oh, I have to make a correction to the second para - the French were trying to get Lady Mary for the Duke of Angouleme, not Alencon. He was Francois I's youngest son.

Guy said...

'Henry's envoys researched a number of Continental ladies, French, German and Burgundian, after Jane Seymour's death. The French ladies' names are not listed, and the Continentals are discounted for various reasons as serious brides.'

Do we know more about who the Continentals were? Is there a book/article researching his marital negotiations?

By the way, thanks so much for the answer, Foose.

Foose said...

From Hutchinson's Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell (and supported by relevant docs in Letters & Papers):

"John Hutton, the Governor of the Merchant Adventurers in Antwerp and the English agent in Flanders ...reported [in early December 1537] that there was a fourteen-year-old daughter of the Lord of Brederode (in the modern Netherlands) 'waiting upon the queen [Mary of Hungary] ... and of goodly stature, virtuous, sad and womanly. Her beauty is competent ..."

Retha Warnicke in her Marrying of Anne of Cleves, identifies her as Margaretha, whose father was Reinoud III van Brederode. Note that Brederode, along with Egmont and Wassenaer were considered among "the most prominent Holland families" (The Nobility of Holland, by Henk F.K. van Nierop). "The ancestry of the Brederodes added to their prestige. Reinoud van Brederode maintained (incorrectly, as it later appeared) that his family descended from the counts of Holland. When he began to bear the full coat of arms of Holland without indications of descent from a cadet branch [my note: see Henry Howard, earl of Surrey], a law-case was brought against him. He was condemned to death for lese-majeste, but the emperor granted him clemency."

Back to Hutchinson: "Then, mused Hutton, there was the widow of the Count of Egmont, who was often at court. 'She is over forty - but does not look it.'" This is perhaps Francoise de Luxembourg, whose son Egmont was famously executed by the Spanish in 1568.

Then he goes on to describe Christina of Milan and the daughter of the duke of Cleves, "but I hear no great praise of either of her person or beauty."

Actually, it turns out some of the French ladies are listed, so I apologize. In the same book, Hutchinson records that the French took note of Henry's obsession with Mary of Guise and offered her two younger sisters, Louise and Renee (I think Renee ended up a nun, and Louise married the Duke of Aerschot, in the Low Countries). They also suggested Marie de Bourbon (I think this may have been the lady James V was supposed to marry, until he saw that she was boiteuse and in any case preferred Madeleine de France, but Hutchinson observes that she dropped out of the running for Henry in order to become a nun), and Anne of Lorraine, a cousin of Guise girls.

Anne was the sister of the Duke of Lorraine with whom Anne of Cleves was accused of being pre-contracted (he actually married Henry's almost-bride, Christina of Milan), and she later married the Prince of Orange (not the famous one; this was Rene, his cousin).

I recommend looking at Warnicke's book and Hutchinson's. I think most books dealing with Henry's marriage to Anne of Cleves will mention at least some of these women.

Letters & Papers also notes that the Imperials were interested in offering the Emperor's niece, Maria of Portugal, daughter of Eleanor of Austria (formerly a possibility for Henry) after Anne Boleyn's fall, before they fully understood the position with Jane Seymour. Maria, unusually for a princess, never married any of he proposed suitors (Henry, Philip II, the Duke of Angouleme) or became a nun.