Thursday, October 11, 2018

"Divided Loyalties in Tudor England"

Also from behind the History Today paywall, this essay on divided loyalties in families during the Tudor Era, which looks particularly at the Catherine of Aragon faction against the Anne Boleyn faction:

The role played by many noblewomen at the royal court, however, including many of the Howard and Boleyn women, made this more complicated than it might otherwise have been. They did not always follow the dynastic ‘party line’. Women who entered the queen’s household were required to take an oath of service, just as men were. This was in essence an oath of loyalty to one’s new mistress. Women took no comparable oath to the head of their family, but there is considerable evidence to show that their families expected them to fly their flag, promote their interests and seek patronage for their relatives. The dilemma faced by women when family interests and those of their mistress clashed is one that is rarely considered by historians, but it did sometimes occur and could cause anguish on all sides. Elizabeth Stafford/Howard, Duchess of Norfolk (c.1497-1558), is a prime example. The eldest daughter of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, and Eleanor Percy, her first betrothal was broken in 1512 in favour of Thomas Howard, then Lord Howard, later 3rd Duke of Norfolk, whose first wife had recently died without giving him a son and heir. Though he was 20 years older than her at the time, Elizabeth’s own status was greater than his; the Howards had not yet regained the dukedom of Norfolk, so the highest title that her new husband could aspire to was the earldom of Surrey, whereas Elizabeth’s own father was a duke and her natal family, the Staffords, had royal blood. Howard was, though, a rising star at the royal court, as Elizabeth was herself. . . . 

It would be wrong to suggest that Elizabeth was alone in her support of Catherine at this point. Gertrude, Marchioness of Exeter, was described by Chapuys in 1531 as ‘the only true comforter and friend the Queen and the Princess have’ and she passed on information about Privy Council discussions. Maria, Lady Willoughby, rode through the night and then talked her way into Kimbolton Castle in order to be with Catherine as she lay dying in January 1536. Many noblewomen were among those who had listened to and encouraged the pro-Catherine, anti-Anne prophecies of Elizabeth Barton, the ‘nun of Kent’, in 1534, including the aforementioned Marchioness of Exeter, alongside Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, Anne, Lady Hussey, and Mary, Lady Kingston. All of these women were seasoned courtiers, like Elizabeth, and would no doubt have known one another well.

Read the rest of "Divided Loyalties in Tudor England" by Nicola Clark, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Chichester and the author of Gender, Family and Politics: The Howard Women, 1485-1558 (Oxford, 2018) while you can!

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