Monday, November 25, 2013

Question from Sasha - Punishment for adultery in 16th century

Was adultery punishable by death in the 16th century, particularly in the time of King Henry VIII? Was it different for men and woman? Specifically, for a queen?

[See previous related threads linked below. - Lara]

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Question from Marilu - Modern use of the Boleyn name

Is the last name Boleyn still in use? On my island Curacao there different people with that last name. Over the years it evolved to Boelyn Bolyn, but they are the same family. Curacao was in the past a British colony. Maybe they are related to Anne Boleyn and her sister.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Question from Bron - Amy Robsart's death and Catherine Grey

Amy Robsart's death and the Catherine Grey Conspiracy: Amy Robsarts death and an Entertainment @ Bisham: Sunday 8 September 1560. Some questions.

Was Amys death in any way connected with the Hobys entertainment at Bisham Sunday 8 September 1560, where a marriage between Lady Catherine Grey and Edward Seymour was arranged that very same day?

The Hobys entertained some rather important guests at Bisham Abbey on 8 September 1560, which was the day after the Queens birthday and also the day Amy Robsart died. The guests included the Lord Marquess of Northampton, the Earls of Arundell and Hertford (Edward Seymour (22 May 1539 1621: the second surviving son of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and Anne Stanhope), the Lord Cobham, the Lord Henry Seimer (Seymour: a younger son of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and Anne Stanhope), Sir Roger North, Lady Katherine Grey (the younger sister of Lady Jane Grey), Lady Jane Seymour (15411561), daughter of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and Anne Stanhope), the Lady Cecil (Mildred Cooke); Mrs Blanche Parry and Mrs Mansfield. A most interesting melange, congregated together the day after Queen Elizabeths birthday, when one would have perhaps expected Blanche Parry to be in attendance at Court.

It is said that, during the entertainment at Bisham in September 1560, Lady Jane negotiated the ill-fated wedding of Katherine Grey to her brother, Henry Seymour, Earl of Hertford.

It is a little difficult to imagine that these negotiations were wholly unknown to those present, including Cecils wife, Mildred, or to Elizabeths long-term companion, Blanche Parry. Both escaped unscathed from the fall-out.

And on the same day, Amy Robsart was found dead @ Cumnor. Her death ensured that Robert Dudley would never become Elizabeths consort.

Question from April - Evidence for Elizabeth's lodging in the Tower as prisoner

I'm trying to find solid, factual evidence to support whether the Princess Elizabeth Tudor was imprisoned in the Bell Tower (either the first or second floor) or in the later demolished Royal Apartments during her incarceration in the Tower of London in 1554. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

(See related previous thread linked below. - Lara)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Question from TudorGirl - Menstruation and maternity clothes

I'm interested in women's health during the Tudor period. I was looking everywhere to find information on menstruation and way of dealing with it. In 'Perkin' Ann Wroe wrote that Henry VII supplied Katherine Gordon (Perkin Warbeck's wife) with "night kerchers for her periods". I can't find more information on menstruation during the Tudor period though. Can anyone help?

I'm also interested in pregnancy. Did Tudor women have maternity clothes prepared for them during pregnancy or did they wear regular garments with some adjustments? I'm very interested.

Thank you in advance.

(See related previous thread linked below. - Lara)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Question from Sasha - Anne Boleyn's room and attendants in the Tower

What was Anne Boleyn's time in the Tower of London like? What did the room look like? (Was there a desk and a bed etc). In specific, was there a window. Who was she with? Were there any attendants waiting in the tower with her and who was she in contact with outside of the tower? (Sending letters).

Any response appreciated.

Question from Sasha - Clothing of Anne Boleyn's attendants at her execution

What did Anne Boleyn's attendants wear (what colours and styles etc) and did they stand with her on the scaffold upon her execution. (I know there were two).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Question from C. Codner - Source for Henry VIII's divorce request and the original papal bull for marriage

I am studying/ working to be a religious scholar at The New School, and at the moment I am researching for primary sources dealing with sex, marriage, and religion. I am specifically looking for the letter sent by Henry VIII with all the reasons why he should be able to divorce Catherine of Aragon.

Another primary source I am looking for is the papal bull that allowed Henry to marry Catherine in the first place. I have looked through source books, and tried to track down specific documents on the internet/sifted through bibliographies that may piece together the trail to finding these, and similar texts.

If you have a name of a source book, a scholar, or anything, I'd love to hear from you.

Thank you.
C. Codner

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Question from Ben - Origin of Elizabeth's child by Thomas Seymour story

Where did the story that Elizabeth gave birth to a child of Thomas Seymour and that the child was burned in the fireplaice.Thank for you any answers.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Question from Anna - Mary's position in the succession if Katherine had agreed to an annulment

What if Katherine of Aragon had let Henry 8th marry Anne Boleyn- would that have jeopardized Mary's position in the line to the throne and not let her see her mother?

If Katherine had gone in to a nunnery and let him marry Anne,I do believe that Mary would have been able to see her mother and still be in line to the throne after Anne's son.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A couple of recent milestones

Time for one of those occasional markings of arbitrary milestones. :) First off, yesterday was the 8th anniversary of this blog! Hard to believe it's been that long. And, I just happened to notice on the blog stats that sometime in the last month, it reached 1 million page views! And that's just since July 2007 since the stats got reset during one of the blog shuffles. I know I don't say it nearly often enough but THANK YOU to everyone who reads and submits questions to the blog and the *BIGGEST* thank you to the wonderful and knowledgeable commenters who share their time and research here. You guys are what make the blog a success!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Question from Bron - Death of Mary I

I wondered why I never found a reference of any sort to the possibility that Mary Tudor I was poisoned, although her death was extraordinarily convenient for proponents of the reformed religion at the time. It is generally agreed today that she died of stomach cancer/ovarian cysts or uterine cancer, at the age of 41.

Many people are reluctant to speculate on health matters in the dim and distant past. However, I find the topic fascinating. The aspects I find most interesting include motive; ability; technique and results.

Generally, we are led to believe that royalty was very well protected indeed from poisoning. They had food tasters, and were not supposed to accept gifts such as food, fruit, flowers, gloves, clothing, linen, or indeed anything which might contain poison.

The idea of poison which might have been dusted on, or fabrics drenched in it, is impractical: in the first case too many bystanders would be affected and in the second (gloves, for example) the donor (and their associates) could be tracked down.

Now, if you want to poison someone, it is a good idea not to poison yourself in the process. So the poison needs to be containable: it needs to be something that will affect the target rather more than the poisoner. (That means wholesale contamination of tapestries, rugs and bed-linen can be ruled out.) It is also a good idea not to kill your target immediately, because that gives the game away: a subtle long-term process is best. So you need a substance that will not kill you if you are careful when handling it; a substance which is easily available and untraceable and undetectable and is found in every ladys chamber. And a method which no-one would suspect or investigate.

How do you administer such a substance if it cannot be sprinkled around, or given by mouth? This was the question I asked myself when I and the dog went shopping this morning.

And it is obvious. This was a technique which was truly indetectable at the time. The insertion of arsenic in menstrual tampons. Bear with me. Arsenic is a colorless, odorless and tasteless potent poison. It was easily available everywhere in Tudor England. Known as rats-bane, it was also used for makeup, popular with alchemists, and a pea-sized amount of arsenic trioxide was fatal. Usually beggars used it to make large and elaborate wounds on their bodies after scarifying their flesh. I suspect that the insertion of arsenic in the vaginal tract during menstruation, when the tract is more alkaline, would have made it even more effective at that time.

At the moment this is just a theory I have. My husband, of course, has said it is nonsense. And that is exactly what men did, and do. I very much doubt that the royal Councillors would have inspected (or suspected) tampons as an avenue of poison. And used tampons would have naturally been destroyed quickly and privately, for all sorts of reasons.

It would have been quite simple to dowse any tampon-like material with arsenic.

My husband (as the men ruling the Court at that time would have done), has dismissed my idea as nonsense. His immediate reaction was to ask, what proof do I have of any woman being poisoned by arsenic inserted in her vagina? Well, I do have one: the murder of someone called BRIDGET ROBINSON (d. June 12, 1594), whose husband purchased a pennyworth of ratsbane (arsenic) and was told to mix the ratsbane with "glass small beaten and wrapt in the skinne of a shoulder of mutton to the quantity of a haslenut or lesse" and then, when his wife came "to lie with him he should convey it into her privy parts." More details from the pamphlet can be found in Strange Inhuman Deaths by John Bellamy. The actual account from the inquest and indictment are in R. F. Hunnisett, ed., Sussex Coroner' Inquests 1558-1603. See

How much easier to sprinkle or drench menstrual cloths in arsenic?

Monday, November 04, 2013

Question from Bron - 'Godmother at the bishop'

What does 'godmother at the Bishop' mean, please?

'In 1516, Princess Mary was baptised at the Church of the Observant Friars at Greenwich. Cardinal Wolsey was her Godfather, Katherine of Devon and the Duchess of Norfolk were her Godmothers at the font, and the Countess of Salisbury was her Godmother at the bishop'.

Thank you!