HENRY FITZROY

 (D. Richmond)

Born: 15 Jun 1519, Blackmore, Essex, England

Acceded: 18 Jun 1525, Bridewell Palace

Died: 22 Jul 1536, St. James Palace, London, Middlesex, England

Buried: Thetford Abbey

Notes: Knight of the Garter. D. Somerset, E. Nottingham. The Complete Peerage vol.XIIpI,p.59.

Father: HENRY VIII TUDOR (King of England)

Mother: Elizabeth BLOUNT (B. Talboys of Kyme/B. Clinton of Marstoke)

Married: Mary HOWARD (D. Richmond) 28 Nov 1533


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Image of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond

bastard son of King Henry the eight


Natural son of Henry VIII by the Elizabeth Blount, daughter of Sir John Blount of Kinlet, of the family of the Lords Mountjoy. He was the only bastard that Henry VIII acknowledged. When Henry became the father of a royal bastard, he was delighted; his ability to father male progeny was no longer in doubt.

His mother afterwards married Gilbert, son of Sir George Talboys of Goltho, Lincolnshire, and certain manors in that county and Yorkshire were assigned to her for life by Act of Parliament. Thomas Wolsey was named as Godfather to Henry Fitzroy, who was brought up with Henry Howard at Windsor. Howard was to become Fitzroy's closest friend and brother-in-law, as he was to marry his sister Mary Howard. Henry Fitzroy was left with his nanny, Agnes Partridge, a laid back type fond of hunting and gambling who was paid 50 shillings a quarter (10 a year). Her own son Harry was being brought up with Henry Fitzroy who was now given his own household of princely status and housed at Durham Place in the Strand.

Henry VIII had a particular fondness for this child, and created him Knight of the Garter at the age of six, on 24 Apr 1525. He was then advanced to Earl of Nottingham, and the same day, 16 Jun of 1525, made Duke of Richmond (a title associated wtih Henry VII before he came to the throne), then a month later Admiral of England, Ireland and Normandy. He was also made Warden of the Cinque Ports; Lieutenant of Ireland and given other titles and an income which made him the richest person in the kingdom after the King.

When Richmond was made Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, there was a plan to crown him King of that country, though the King's counsellors feared that making a separate Kingdom of Ireland whose ruler was not that of England would create another King of Scotland.

Fitzroy was also made Lieutenant - General north of the Trent and warden of all marches towards Scotland, he was sent to live in the north of England to help control the area, living in the castle at Sheriff Hutton just north of York, on his way there he stayed at the home of Lady Maud Parr whose brother-in-law William was in charge of Fitzroy's household, and her son William was a companion of Fitzroy's. Lady Parr's daughter would accompany them as far as Lincolnshire where the 11 year old Catherine was to marry Lord Borough's son. Fitzroy had been sick during the journey and decided to continue his journey on his pony rather than in the litter that he had been in, Edward Seymour, his horse master and arranged this for him.

When they arrived at Stamford, they stayed at Collyweston which now belonged to Richmond. Here they were joined by five year old William Cecil who was to be educated with Richmond. Later Cecil's father, was to withdraw his son and send him to grammar school instead.

Fitzroy's tutor was Richard Croke was related to the Blount's. Croke wrote to the King and also to Wolsey complaining that Sir William Parr and Richard Cotton were fiddling the books so that they had many perks, and that they changed the times of the boys lessons and arranged for actors and jesters to visit the unruly boys and refused to let Croke see the boys at certain times. Fitzroy tried to get out of learning Latin but enjoyed hunting and Croke complained that the boys were allowed to hunt before lessons and were too tired on their return to attend lessons. He wanted more control over the discipline of the classes and to get rid of bullies like the son of Lord Henry Scrope, who shouted rude names at Croke and beat up other boys. A clerk of the Green Cloth (the board which controlled the King's expenses) was sent to Sheriff Hutton and found Croke's claims to be true.

When ten years old Fitzroy had already read some Caesar, Virgil, and Terence, and knew a little Greek. Croke appears to have been much attached to him, and when in Italy, after leaving his service, writes offering to send him models of a Roman military bridge and of a galley. Singing and playing on the virginals were included in his education.

In 1527, the King sent Richard Croke off to the Vatican to check out the possibilities of making his bastard son his legitimate heir. Croke sent Richmond presents, such as a model boat, but must have been relieved to escape Sheriff Hutton. Being paid to browse through Europe's greatest libraries. Croke soon discovered a catch. His brief changed. Henry VIII was now looking into the alternative possibility of divorcing Catalina and remarrying to provide himself with a son.

On 9 Aug 1529 Fitzroy, always referred to as 'the Prince', was made a temporal Lord in Parliament and was asked by his father to bring charges against Cardinal Wolsey. On his return to court he was joined by his mother, now widowed; her son George Talboys; and  her brother George Blount, who was part of Fitzroy's household. The Earl of Surrey also joined them. At Christmas Fitzroy was given a suite of rooms at Windsor that were usually used by the Prince of Wales, Princess Mary as Princess of Wales was given a less important suite, which shows how much Henry thought of his illegitimate son. 

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Henry Fitzroy (or possibly Edward VI) with a marmoset, by  Holbein c. 1541-42
Pen, ink and watercolor, 40.1x30.9cm

Basle, Offentliche Kunstammlung

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Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond

from a miniature picture in the collection of the Earl of Orford

When Henry VIII began the process of having his marriage to Catalina of Aragon annulled, it was suggested that Fitzroy marry his own half-sister Mary in order to prevent the annulment and strengthen Fitzroy's claim to the throne. Anxious to prevent the annulment and Henry's eventual break with the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope was even prepared to grant a special dispensation for their marriage.

Various matrimonial alliances were proposed for him, some perhaps merely as a move in the game of politics. Within the short space of a year there was some talk of his marrying a niece of Pope Clement VII, a Danish princess, a French princess, and a daughter of Eleanor, queen dowager of Portugal, sister of Carlos V, who afterwards became queen of France. Finally, the Duke of Richmond married Lady Mary Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, on 28 Nov 1533. Although tradition has it that Anne Boleyn was hostile to the match, it now seems that it was she who organised pairing her young cousin Mary with the King's illegitimate son. Therefore, the Howard family could be even closer (in favour and family) to the King. However, the marriage was never consummated.

It was decided that Fitzroy would be sent to Ireland along with his army and be made the King there. They traveled in stages and arrived in Wales to make the crossing. He was then recalled to Parliament by his father but this was then cancelled so he stayed at Collyweston. He is mentioned as being present at the execution of the Carthusians in May 1535. By Nov 1535 he was back in the court at Windsor Castle. Fitzroy saw his father daily and on one occasion after Anne had again miscarried, Henry told Fitzroy that he along with his sister Mary were lucky to have escaped death from poisoning by Anne. Henry now decided to divorce Anne but charges were bought against her for infidelity which in Tudor times was classed as treason. Fitzroy attended Anne's trial and execution.

On 30 Jun the new Act of Succession was put before Parliament. Fitzroy should have attended Parliament but was ill with pains in his chest and a cough. Parliament closed on 18 Jul and Fitzroy was still too ill to attend, the King and the new Queen Jane Seymour, along with the court moved to Sittingbourne in Kent and Fitzroy and his household should have moved to Tongue, but he was too ill to travel.

Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, died of consumption at St. James Palace, soon after Anne Boleyn's execution and just as an act was going through Parliament to enable the King to nominate him as the heir to the throne. Henry entrusted the funeral arrangements to the Duke of Norfolk, Fitzroy's father-in-law, and gave orders that the body be wrapped in lead and taken in a closed cart for secret interment. Through the carelessness of Norfolk's servants, the corpse was borne in a wagon covered in straw, and the only mourners were two attendants who followed at a distance. The Earl of Surrey, on Henry's instruction, received Richmond's favourite horse, a black jennet, complete with the black velvet saddle and harness made for the funeral. 

Later, Henry complained that his son had not been honourably buried and Norfolk heard a rumour that he was destined for the Tower. 

In Lincolnshire, where the Duke of Richmond and his mother had much influence, opposition to the King was becoming organised. The greatest part of the wealth of Lincolnshire was in the hands of the Church, the great abbeys were the chief landowners and employers. Now church possessions and finances once sacrosanct were exposed to the scrutiny of the King's commissioners sent to audit their affairs.

On Saturday 30 Sep, some local people, feeling threatened by the imminent arrival of the commissioners, collected the keys of the church and handed them to a shoemaker, Nicholas Melton to keep safe. He thus became "Captain Cobbler" the leader of a rebellion against the King. By Monday 2 Oct, men from Horncastle and East Rasen arrived in Louth. By then a large crowd, they marched to Caistor where the King's Commissioners were at present taking inventories of church property. Here they were joined by Sir Robert Dymoke and his sons and friends who "just happened to be staying with them at that time". From Goltho, home of Richmond's step-grandmother, Lady Talboys' chaplain arrived with a large group of armed men. More than 500 armed retainers from South Kyme joined the rebels, under the leadership of Sir Thomas Percy, a relative of the Talboys family, (who "just happened to be there for the hunting") and a similar number headed by Edward Dymoke.

The same Monday, 2nd Oct, Edward, Lord Clinton left home on horseback, with just one servant. He headed first for Sleaford, and Lord Hussey. Hussey had been Princess Mary's Chamberlain, and his wife had been imprisoned for continuing to refer to her as "Princess Mary" not "The Lady Mary". Hussey had been assured of the support of the Emperor (Mary's cousin) and seemed a natural leader of the rebellion against the King. But he was not their leader. Clinton galloped on to Nottingham, then on to Lord Huntington at Ashby. By Friday, he reached the Earl of Shrewsbury at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. He carried letters from Cromwell. Meanwhile the rebels were joined by other groups of armed men, alerted by beacons, and had spread across the Humber to Yorkshire. The Member of Parliament for Lincoln, Thomas Moigne met Robert Aske, who led the rebellion in Yorkshire (where it was called the Pilgrimage of Grace).

Henry VIII's answer to the grievances that had been put to them was read out in the Chapter House of Lincoln Cathedral by Moigne. The King had never yet heard that a prince's counsellors and bishops should be appointed by ignorant common people, and least of all by the "rude commons of one of the most brute and beastly shires in the realm". The rebellion was put down with punishing retribution and many executions. 

The rebellion failed because there was no one uniting leadership and cause. Had the Duke of Richmond still been alive, then he might have been there, at his palace of Collyweston, by Stamford, with an army at least as large as the 5,000 men the Duke of Suffolk brought with him. As the King's son and the heir to the throne, he would have provided an alternative to his now very unpopular father. Had this been the original motivation for the rebellion, which started in the part of England in which he had the most influence, in which he had stayed most often in recent years, and in which he had the greatest number of contacts and relatives including his mother.

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Richmond's arms

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Richmond's tomb; St. Michael's Church, Framlingham, Suffolk. 

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Richmond's seal

For more information visit this website:

Tudor Bastard
King Henry VIII's Son: Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset and his mother, Elizabeth Blount
by Heather Hobden
ISBN 1 871443 30 X
price 7 [includes postage and packing]
A4 card and comb covers, illustrated

You can email Heather Hobden at:
post@cosmicelk.net