01 February 2011

Birth of Henry Fitzroy

Elizabeth "Bessie" Blount was mistress to King Henry for an unknown period of time, and eventually bore his son, Henry Fitzroy.  Though a stunning beauty, she  didn't appear to expect very much out of the relationship, and when it was over, she made a quiet exit. That is not to say that Henry did not reward her for having had his son, because he certainly did.

Though Bessie is often thought to have been just another beautiful face, without much behind it, she was actually an intelligent woman, who loved poetry, dancing and music.  Bessie was also one of Catherine's own ladies, no doubt making her dalliance with the king even more personal to the queen.

When Bessie gave birth to Henry's son, and Henry reacted by publicly recognizing his son, and giving special favors to his mistress, Catherine was furious.  Catherine had closed her eyes to other dalliances of Henry's, and she had been admired by some male courtiers for that, but this was time was different. Henry had bestowed his son with honors and titles, as Knight of the Garter, Earl of Nottingham, Duke of both Richmond and Somerset, and even Lord Admiral of England.  Catherine took this as a personal insult, a direct blow to herself as Henry's wife, and to their daughter, Mary.

The high honors that the king had given his son would send Catherine into an absolute fury; such anger was not typical for Catherine who was known for keeping her emotions in check. Henry was shocked at his normally meek wife's response.  Clearly, he had not expected such a reaction from Catherine, and as a result, he also responded with rage. He would punish Catherine by dismissing three of her Spanish ladies, whom he believed had stirred up strife with gossip. (That he blamed Catherine's ladies for resenting his public insult of their mistress was a bit over the top).  The banishing of her ladies was an additional embarrassment for Catherine, and foreign ambassadors did not fail to notice.

It is easy to understand Catherine's anger and pain.  It was not enough that Henry had the much wanted male son with his mistress, he made several choices which only intensified Catherine's pain, even choosing Cardinal Wolsey as godfather. Catherine would begin to resent Wolsey, who it seemed was pushing for the advancement of Henry Fitzroy.

For Catherine, Henry Fitzroy's birth marked a time of painful disappointments, and her relationship with Henry would begin to change.

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