Saturday, February 26, 2011

The First Battle of St. Albans: From Whethamstede's Register

Thanks to Hannah Kilpatrick, here's a translation from the Latin of the account of the aftermath of the first battle of St. Albans given in Registrum Monasterii Sancti Albani, otherwise known as Whethamstede's Register.

At the battle, which took place on May 22, 1455, Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and Thomas, Lord Clifford, were killed by the forces of Richard, Duke of York. Historians of the battle tend to believe that the three men were targeted for elimination, rather than simply happening to perish in the fighting. Certainly the subsequent behavior of their heirs, who were eager for vengeance, suggests that they thought so.

The chronicle describes the preliminaries to the battle and the battle itself. For purposes of this post, we'll pick up the narrative with the hapless Henry VI being told by the Duke of York what a great favor his forces have done him by killing Somerset:

The King, seeing that almost all his men had either turned to flight or were slain in the battlefield, and that he stood with no guard under his own banner, with no hope of relief, at the suggestion of the few men who remained that he should flee before the bows and avoid the peril of the darts and arrows that flew dense as snowflakes around his head, removed himself to the meagre hospitality of a certain [grain merchant?]’s cottage, where he remained with his men, until such time as the Duke of York came to him, and with these words he greeted and comforted him:

“Rejoice, illustrious Prince, and may these men rejoice also who stand about you, all you lords. Now that impious slanderer [i.e., Somerset] has been thrown down, he who night and day would accuse me and my brothers - I mean these lords here present with me - in your sight, your Majesty. And therefore by the grace of God, that man who had a just cause against him has been proven victor, and that impious enemy for his impietas has come to great ruin. Rejoice therefore, for his downfall is like another hanging of Aman in the opinion of the common people. All now rejoice together at this downfall, just as formerly the Jews delighted at the hanging of their greatest enemy. Rejoice further, that this downfall will pacify the common people throughout your kingdom. And indeed he was detested of children and youths, of maidens and wives, and also by all others of all sexes and ages, so that wherever he walked or rode by the common roads in the city of London, or anywhere, they would call down curses upon him, and would curse him according to the imprecation of the Psalm, in this way: ‘May his days be few, may his children be orphans, may his wife be a widow, and may his name be remembered no more’. Rejoice therefore, Prince, rejoice, for that curse has trickled like water into his flesh, like oil into his blood. Rejoice further that this downfall will raise you to the heights of honour, higher than you have ever risen yet while he whispered in your ear. I am, and always was, and all my followers are and were your faithful - indeed, your most faithful - liegemen; and we will always remain, as much as any man, while flesh is wedded to spirit and spirit rules flesh, or if you prefer while will is subject to reason, your most ready servants, in advance or retreat, proceeding at the nod and nomination of your royal self."

And having said these things, he led him out with all due reverence from that humble cottage, and led him first to the bier [Somerset’s?] then to his chambers, and there made him remain for all that day. And in the morning he led him to London, where in the Bishop’s Palace lodging was prepared for him, and there he made him remain throughout the ensuing Pentecost, continually, for all of that sacred week, attended in all things by the two aforementioned Earls, impeding his obsequies and everential observances. And this was the beginning, middle and end of that Battle.

The following passage describes the "pillage, plunder and rapine" by York's men that took place after the battle. The fact that Yorkist troops engaged in such excesses tends to be ignored by certain authors, who prefer to give the impression that only the Lancastrians, notably at Ludlow, enjoyed the spoils of victory. Although the chronicle's anti-northern bias is evident, other accounts confirm that the town was pillaged. (C. A. J. Armstrong in his article "Politics and the Battle of St. Albans, 1455" discusses the aftermath of the battle at length.)

Meantime, while the Duke of York was (as has been told) consoling the King, and comforting him, the victors were left idle, and being too eager and avaricious, passed their time with pillage, plunder and rapine, incapable of restraining their hands either at home among their neighbours or outside among enemies. They were all, for the most part, of the northerly parts of the kingdom; and therefore, although stronger in arms and more ready to war, also to the spilling of blood, according to this metre:

He who is born with the Northern hoarfrost in his veins
[Read ‘is’] Indomitable in war, and Death’s lover.

Nevertheless, because that people are more penurious than pecunious, having more an abundance of peas and barley, wheat and grain, than of rich purple dyes, or ebony, or ivory, or Tyrian cloth, or gold, or silver, upon coming to a place so much more opulent and sumptuous, that is the southern regions of the kingdom, they turned their hands to plunder, their fingers to pillaging, sparing not king nor peer nor pleb nor knight., nor any other man at whose house plunder might be found. And thus one man, robbed of his golden vase, thought like Prince Agathocles to eat from clay plates and drink from earthenware vessels, or from cups of mean price and little renown.

Another man, robbed of his horse and arms, was forced to abandon his own home, weaponless, poor and on foot, miserable less from the theft than from the shame and derision that followed him to his own people.

And a third man, relieved of all the gold and silver in his purse or money pouch, was forced to beg borrowed money to convey him to his people, but he was happy in this: that he had escaped so, with no worse damage in that furious uproar.

And so far increased the strength and violence of this despoliation and rapine, that rumour even reached the Monastery that the thieves would reach there and despoil it. And that voice was true and faithful, and so it would have happened save that Sir Alban valourously donned his arms, and set his shield against the enemies of his church. With that Knight and Martyr defending her, his church remained safe, to the extent that it was later found to be free of any despoliation or heavy cost of goods.

The chronicle then moves on to describe the burial of the dead:

The said battle being over, and the victory achieved through the favour of Mars by the Duke of York’s side having been reported, what followed was dolorous indeed and brought tears to the eyes of the beholders: the corpses of the slain lay scattered about in great number at every street corner; nor did any man wish, for fear of raising the anger of the said Duke, to prepare ditches to bury them.

Among them lay the bodies of three illustrious lords; the body, that is, of Lord Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, the body of Lord Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and the body of Lord Thomas Clifford, Earl of Clifford. For fear of the aforementioned duke, no man dared to touch these corpses or to perform pious obsequies over them, because the said lords were so odious to him. The Abbot hearing this, and, remembering well the actions of Tobias, went boldly before the person of the Duke and intrepidly spoke to him in this way:

“Good and illustrious prince. Many and many a quality are laudable in a prince, but it is believed to be no small virtue after victory to spare the vanquished, rather than to wield the sword of vengeance further against them. Trojan Aeneas was certainly praised in these terms, and Achilles the Greek; also the Roman general Julius who, upon seeing the head of Pompei, his enemy, is said to have been moved to compassion, even to tears. Therefore may you too be moved to compassion, good prince, on the vanquished and conquered, or more, the overthrown and the slaughtered. I say not your enemies and adversaries, but indeed, your cousins, your compatriots, your kin; and command their bodies to be gathered away as could not be denied them by the compassion not only of any Christian man, but of the meanest and lowest man of all. To rage further against them after their death is not proper, nor sound, nor the act of a generous mind; rather it is bestial, brutish, or wolfish. We read it written:

Let the wolf and the filthy bear worry the dying,
Just as all the other creatures of the lower orders of beasts.

And also,

The greater a man is, the more his anger may be calmed,
nor is a generous mind easily moved.
For the noble man asks nothing but the palm of victory,
And all his desire is won when his enemy falls

For today, Prince, you have the palm, you have the victory, you have all that your soul desired as regards their persons. For today let your rage be calmed therefore, nor let it vent itself any further against their bodies, when so many men passing by and seeing them lying there in that way are moved to compassion. Indeed they lie now in the most despicable way, despoiled of their arms, denuded of their clothes, with nothing at all to cover them; and to cause them to lie to any longer is not the deed of a pious prince but truly of a tyrant like Creon who, due to a similar deed, was believed by the Duke Theseus to be visiting a similar torture on the dead. Pious victory, Prince, becomes rather impious savagery where it is not followed by compassion. More damnable than laudable is that victor who in triumph persists too far, and knows not afterwards how to return his sword to its sheathe, nor restrain the spirit of vengeance. Therefore, that your victory may be known as pious and your triumph as laudable, in the work of benignity, goodness and clemency, in the work of charity, piety and compassion, in any works that may be pleasing to the angels, welcome to man, and dear to God, in order that it may be worthy of eternal reward may the soul of a prince be touched by that sincere pietas which raises princes above men, that they might aspire to be equal with God, according to this saying,

The great clemency of God raises our lowly clemency.

and, by that same pietas, to the removal of their bodies into their tombs may you graciously give your consent.”

The Duke, moved to pietas by the Abbot’s words, put away the rancour and gall of his disposition, and consented most graciously that their bodies be entombed; and more, he vehemently entreated the Abbot to take special care over the burial. This permission granted, the Abbot quickly sent out monks and servants to bear the bodies back to the church, where they might be received with honour; and later, having performed the funeral obsequies, in the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin there was made the place of their tomb.

And therefore the three lords already mentioned were also entombed there, and placed in lineal order of their dignity, according to state, rank and honour; and all men rejoiced together over this who were accustomed to applaud and sing praises to deeds of charity, clemency and pietas; and truly such a scene would sadden only those who are wicked and impious and desire especially to pursue vengeance beyond the natural term of life.

And of these lords, and of their place of burial, there was written a short verse in this way:

Those whom Mars, whom Mars’ savage fate and sister
Struck down through war and slaughtered in the middle of the city
Death has entombed them here like these men;
And after their death he has given them eternal peace.
He is the one who stands in the centre, without whom no man can aspire to rest.
Here a quarrel, there a fight; Death is takes a man’s arms and lays them down.
Death, fate, and Mars, who scattered these lords.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bad Historical Fiction: 2211

We’ve all seen them: the historical novels where heroines are horrified about entering into an arranged marriage, even though it was the accepted practice among their social class; where the hero despises blood sports; where even mild corporeal punishment is viewed in the way we view child abuse. But sit back now, and think into the future, when our own time becomes the subject of historical fiction. Can we count on seeing glaring anachronisms two hundred years from now? Unless human nature changes drastically, I say, you betcha!

And I’ve even given future historical novelists a bit of help.


Anne Neville banged her fist on the steering wheel of her brand-new Mini-Cooper as she neared Harvard University. How dare her father refuse to demand that Richard marry her? Instead, he had told her, “Get a good education first; that’s the most important thing. Who knows? You’ll be meeting all sorts of young men. You might find that you prefer one of them to Richard.”

“But Father, I want to marry Richard, whom I’ve been love with ever since the age of seven! Why won’t you speak to his father, and have us get married right now?”

“Richard is going to MIT,” her father had said with exasperation, his eyes cold and hard. “You can see him every day if you want. And if you want to get married down the line, that’s fine too. Just get your undergraduate degree first, that’s all I ask, before you settle down and get married. I’ll even pay for the wedding, for God’s sake.”

Anne’s eyes filled with tears as she thought back on that horrid scene. Yet there was no way out; she knew it. She would have to go through the soul-searing agony of attending an Ivy League college just to please her cruel father. I shall not forget you, Richard, she whispered above the purr of the Mini-Cooper. They cannot keep us apart forever.


Little Jane Grey huddled in the corner, her green eyes glistening with tears. Time out, her mother had said—the cruelest words in the English language. And what had she done this time? Called her mother a bitch and said that she wished she were dead. Nothing that merited such a vile punishment as this!

She looked at her Hannah Montana watch. Ten minutes . . . ten minutes in hell. She did not know how much longer she could bear such treatment. Someday, she vowed silently, the whole world would know how badly she had suffered, and would weep with her.


Richard stared down at the ice, fighting back nausea. He knew that it was common among men to enjoy spectacles of this nature, but his inner soul recoiled from them. It was a brutal sport, barbaric—almost medieval, you could say.

But he would have to watch this horror; it was part of becoming a man, his father had told him. He would have to hide his emotions, as men in the twenty-first century always did.

The lights went down, as if presaging the destruction to come, and he clenched his fists. It would take every ounce of self-control he possessed to bear the ordeal to come. The cruel crowd, their primitive instincts fueled by overpriced beer, shouted mindlessly as the men skated onto the ice. They couldn’t possibly enjoy what they were about to do, could they? Richard closed his eyes, unable to bear the sight of what came next.

A crack sounded in the air, and a silent scream tore through Richard’s very soul as the men aimed their sticks at the puck in an animal-like frenzy. The hockey game had begun.

Monday, February 14, 2011

How To Marry a Duchess: A Valentine's Day Post

First, a visit from the Bard:

I do not now fool myself, to let imagination jade me; for every reason excites to this, that my lady loves me. She did commend my yellow stockings of late, she did praise my leg being cross-garter'd; and in this she manifests herself to my love, and with a kind of injunction drives me to these habits of her liking. I thank my stars, I am happy. I will be strange, stout, in yellow stockings, and cross-garter'd, even with the swiftness of putting on. Jove and my stars be praised!

Malvolio, the steward in Twelfth Night who fancies that his noble lady, Olivia, is in love with him, of course, was the victim of a trick. But the idea of a high-born lady marrying one of her servants wasn't an unheard-of one in Tudor England, for here are three Tudor men who managed to land duchesses:

Richard Bertie

Born in 1517, Bertie was the gentleman usher of Katherine Brandon (Willoughby), the dowager Duchess of Suffolk, who was the widow of Henry VIII's great friend Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Katherine, born in 1519, married Bertie around 1552, the year after both of her sons had died of the sweating sickness. Bertie was an Oxford graduate who had previously served Thomas Wriothesley; he was described as "master of the French, Italian, and Latin tongues, bold in discourse and quick at repartee." These were qualities that must have appealed to the duchess, who herself was possessed of a caustic wit.

The fervently Protestant couple and their infant daughter, Susan (an eminently sensible and proper name), found it prudent to leave England during Mary I's reign. While abroad, they had a son, Peregrine, whose name reflected their vagabond status during those years. Susan later married Reginald Grey, who with the duchess's aid eventually became the Earl of Kent when the title was revived. He died as a young man, however, and Susan subsequently married John Wingfield. Peregrine, who became Lord Willoughby, married Mary de Vere, the daughter of the sixteenth Earl of Oxford.

Richard Bertie found his relatively low birth (his wife described him as "meanly born") somewhat of a handicap. Despite his duchess's efforts, he never was able to assume the title of "Lord Willoughby," although his son was allowed to do so. He did, however, serve in Parliament and as a local official in Lincolnshire, and he was granted an M.A. from Cambridge. Bertie composed an answer, which was privately circulated, to John Knox's Monstrous Regiment of Women.

Katherine died on September 19, 1580. Her first husband had been buried at St. George's Chapel, Windsor. She was buried at Spilsby Church in Lincolnshire, where Bertie himself was buried after his death on April 9, 1582. Their monument, containing their busts, can be seen there today.

Adrian Stokes

Stokes (variously described as a master of horse, an equerry, and a steward) was in the service of Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk, who was Charles Brandon's daughter and therefore Katherine Brandon's stepdaughter (Katherine had been Charles's ward). I've posted recently on the myths surrounding the marriage of Frances and Adrian. They were married in 1555, about a year after Frances's first husband, Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, was beheaded for his role in Wyatt's rebellion against Mary I. The couple had one daughter, who died as an infant.

Horace Walpole recounts the story that Elizabeth I greeted the news of the marriage with the remark, "'What! has she married her horse-keeper?' 'Yes, madam,' replied my lord Burleigh, 'and she says your majesty would like to do so too.'" This story is clearly apocryphal; Elizabeth was not queen when Frances and Adrian married, nor was Robert Dudley, the object of Frances's alleged rejoinder, Elizabeth's "horse-keeper" in 1555. Frances's motives in making the match are unknown, but marriage to a man who was entirely unsuitable for a queen's consort would have sent a strong message to Mary I, who had executed Frances's daughter Jane, that Frances herself had no designs on the crown. William Camden, Elizabeth I's biographer, saw this as the motive for Frances's marriage: he wrote that Frances, "forgetting the Nobility of her Lineage, had married Adrian Stokes, a mean Gentleman, to her Dishonour, but yet for her Security."

Frances died on November 21, 1559. As befitted her status as a niece of Henry VIII, she was buried at Westminster Abbey. In her will, Frances placed all of her property in the hands of Adrian, her sole executor:

In the name of God, Amen. I ladye Frances Dcches Of Suffolke, wife to Adryane Stockes esquyer, considering howe uncerteyn the howre of deathe is, and how certeyne ytt ys that every creature shall dye when ytt shall please God, being sicke in bodie but hole in mynde, thankes be to Almightie God; and considering with my self that the said Adrian Stockes my husbande is indebted to dyvers and sundrye persones in greate somes of money, and also that the chardge of my funeralles, if God call me to his mercye, shalbe greate chardgcs to hym, mynding he shall have, possesse, and enjoye all goodes, catalles, as well reall as personall, as all debtes, legacies, and all other thinges whatsoever I may give, dispose, lymytt, or appoynt by my last will and testament for the dischardge of the saide debtes and funeralles, do ordeyne and make this my present last will and testament, and do by the same constitute and make the saide Adryane Stockes my husbande my sole executor to all respectes, ententes, and purposes. In wytnes whereof I have hereunto putt my hande and seale the ixtb daye of November, in the furst yere of the reigne of our soveraigne ladye Elizabeth, by the grace of God quene of Englande, Fraunce, and Irelande, defendour of the faythe, &c. Fraunces Suffolke.

Adrian made a second marriage to Anne Carew, the widow of Nicholas Throckmorton, and went on to serve in Parliament and on local commissions. He died on November 3, 1585. In his will, he left one of his stepdaughters "a bed in the Dutches Chamber" at Beaumanor, where he and Frances had spent part of their marriage. He was buried in the chapel there.

Francis Newdigate

Born in 1519, Francis was employed in the household of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset. Somerset, brother to Jane Seymour and uncle to Edward VI, was executed in January 1552. His wife, Anne (nee Stanhope, born around 1510) herself was confined to the Tower until Mary I came to power in 1553, and Francis had his goods confiscated for a time. The widowed duchess had been left with nine children, and it was likely Newdigate's assistance in helping her piece together her life following her release from the Tower that led her to marry him in 1558.

It was a surprising match for the duchess, whose historical reputation (quite possibly exaggerated) is that of a haughty, grasping, and overbearing woman. Anne, however, appears to have been fiercely devoted to those close to her, and she soon used her influence to get her new husband into Parliament. In 1574, the sixtyish duchess wrote to William Cecil about a slighting remark made about her husband, "By redyng my L. Chamberlaynes leter and my answer you may knowe my grefe. The lyke was never offered to any, nor the lyke threats of contempt, withowt offendyng any law, have ben gyven owt as to Mr. Newdegat. Yf your Lordship canne do any good to stay thys defacement to the world, I wolld be glad of yt."

In 1560, Francis's stepson, the Earl of Hertford, secretly married Adrian Stokes' stepdaughter, Katherine Grey. The bride and groom were clapped into prison by Elizabeth I, and both stepfathers were questioned. Neither, however, suffered for their stepchildren's impetuous match.

Francis died on January 26, 1582. In his will, dated May 31, 1580, he wrote, "Since I have received all my preferment by the Duchess's marriage, so I bequeath her all I am able to give her." He made her his sole executor and asked to be buried at Hanworth, which the duchess had been granted shortly before their marriage. Anne died on April 15, 1587. Like Frances, Duchess of Suffolk, she was buried at Westminster Abbey.

So what did it take to land a duchess? Being a Protestant helped a lot; Richard Bertie's religious beliefs forced him to flee abroad with his wife. While both Stokes and Newdigate toed the line during Mary I's reign, both had strongly Protestant beliefs: Stokes directed that he be buried "without any pomp or solemnity as yt hath bene used in the Papistes tyme," while Newdigate commended his soul to be saved "only by faith in Christ's blood-shedding." Two of the three men married a woman whose first husband had died on the scaffold. Perhaps what all three men had in common, however, was loyalty in hard times and an ability to make themselves useful to their widowed duchesses, which led to the ultimate reward.

And who knows, maybe they put on yellow stockings.


S. T. Bindoff et al. The House of Commons, 1509-1558. London, Her Majesty's Stationery Office,

Bruce Bannerman, ed., Miscellanea Genalogica and Heraldica. Vol. II. London: Mitchell Hughes and Clarke, 1908.

Cecilie Goff, A Woman of the Tudor Age. London, John Murray, 1930.

P.W. Hasler, ed. The House of Commons, 1558-1603. London, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1981.

Historical Manuscripts Commission, Report on the Manuscripts of the Most Honorable the Marquess of Bath, Preserved at Longleat. Vol. IV, Seymour Papers. London, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1968.

John G. Nichols, "Anne, Duchess of Somerset." Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 177, 1845.

John Strype, Brief Annals of the Church and State Under the Reign of Queen Elizabeth (vol. 3). London, 1731.

Susan Wabuda, ‘Bertie , Katherine, duchess of Suffolk (1519–1580)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [, accessed 13 Feb 2011]

Susan Wabuda, ‘Bertie, Richard (1517–1582)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 13 Feb 2011]

Retha M. Warnicke, "Inventing the Wicked Women of Tudor England: Alice More, Anne Boleyn, and Anne Stanhope." Quidditas: Journal of the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association, 1999.

Retha M. Warnicke, ‘Seymour, Anne, duchess of Somerset (c.1510–1587)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004 [, accessed 20 Sept 2010]

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

What the Well-Dressed Couple Brought to the Tower

In October 1551, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, and his wife Anne were committed to the Tower. (The duke would be executed on January 22, 1552, the duchess would remain a prisoner until released by Mary I in August 1553.) Here, from Henry Ellis's Original Letters Illustrative of English History, are the items that the couple asked to be brought to them. (Plainly, the duchess was not the sort of lady to drink her beer while lounging in T-shirt and cutoffs.)

" Things necessarie for the Duke of Somerset, which he praythe to have: Firste one gowne; item, one velvet cappe; item one night cappe; item, two dubletts; item, ij. payre of hose; item, iij. shirtes; item ij night kerchers; item vj. hande kerchers; item iij. dussen pointes; item ij. payre of velvet shoes; item, iij. table clothes; item iiij hande towells; item iij. cupbourde clothes; item one dusson table napkings; item x11 in money to paye for his wasshinge, clensinge, and other necessaries.

" Thinges necessarie for the Duches of Somerset, which she prayeth to have. Firste one waste cote of velvyt wrought; item, ij. payre of knitte hose; item ij. payre of knitte sieves; item, one payre of wollen hose, which was in a plate cheste that mistres Susan kepte; item, vij. plane smockes which was last made; item, vj. highe collerd patletts and ruffes to the same; item vj. wayste smockes, whereof iij. wrought; item, vj. froc kerchers, whereof iij. fyne; item, ij. duble railes; item, vj. hand kerchers; item, the laces that mistres Pursbey had in keapinge; item, the crimisyn satten boxe with the stuffe that is in it; item a gowne of blacke velvyt egged with genetts, or else the gowne of blacke satten egged with black jenetts; item, a kirtle of blacke velvet playne; item a verdingale; item, a peace of skarlet for a stomycher; item, a piece of pointinge ryben; item, some blacke silke and white threde; item iij. little books covered with blacke velvyt which be in the cheste where this linning lyethe; item ij. payre of gloves; item, one payre of lether slippers; item xxli. in money to paye for wassinge, clensinge, and other necessaries; item ij. standing pottes for wyne and bere; item, ij. cuppes for bere, and a nest of boilles for wyne; item, vj. silver disshes, and ij. silver sawcers, and one dusson of pewder dishes; item, iiij. sylver plates; item, iiij. sylver spoones; item, iiij. table clothes; item iiij. hand towells; item, ij. dusson table napkins; item, iiij.cupboarde clothes."

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Three Myths About Frances Grey, Duchess of Suffolk

First, let me make it clear that I take no credit for busting the three myths that I am about to discuss: all three have been previously addressed by other authors. Nonetheless, whenever I do a search on Frances Grey, Duchess of Suffolk (nee Brandon, mother of Jane Grey), I run across all three of them, so I will discuss them here in an effort to counter all of the nonsense that a search brings up.

Myth #1: Frances Grey married her second husband, Adrian Stokes, within three weeks of the executions of her daughter and her first husband in February 1554. (One source I ran across last night has Frances rushing to the altar within 10 days of the executions.) In fact, as Carl T. Berkhout, Leanda de Lisle, and Eric Ives have each pointed out recently, the marriage did not take place until March 1555 or possibly even later. Indeed, as late as April 21, 1555, Simon Renard was reporting to Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, "It has been proposed that [Edward] Courtenay might be married to the widow of the last Duke of Suffolk, who comes next to the daughter of Scotland in line of succession to the crown."

But what of the story that Frances had a child by Stokes born in 1554? Notes and Queries from December 8, 1855, citing Cole's Escheats, notes that Frances and Adrian did indeed have a daughter, Elizabeth, who died in infancy on February 7, 1556--a death date entirely compatible with a 1555 marriage. I have yet to find a source that supports the statement that Frances bore a child in 1554.

Myth #2: Adrian Stokes was half Frances's age. Not only is Frances said incorrectly to have rushed to the altar after the executions of February 1554, she's accused of doing so with a boy-toy. In fact, Carl T. Berkhout has found that Laurence Nowell, a contemporary of Stokes, recorded the exact day and hour of Stokes' birth in a horoscope: 8 p.m. on March 4, 1519. This makes Stokes less than two years younger than Frances, born on July 16, 1517. Both parties, therefore, were in their mid-to-late thirties when they married.

Myth #3: A double portrait of a double-chinned woman and a much younger man is that of Frances and Adrian. As readers of Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time know, a bedridden Inspector Grant spots a portrait of Richard III and decides that he must have been a decent chap after all, and proceeds to assemble evidence to that effect. The portrait below has caused many an author to do some reverse Inspector-Granting with Frances. Richard Davy, for instance, notes the "very sinister expression" in Frances's eyes.

All of these physiognomic efforts, however, have been wasted, for the portrait was re-identified in 1986 by Susan Foister as being that of Mary Neville and her son, Gregory Fiennes--not of Frances and Adrian at all. An actual portrayal of Frances Brandon--the figure on her tomb in Westminster Abbey--could not be more different from the portrait that is still misidentified as her on various sites.


Carl T Berkhout. Notes and Queries. London: Mar 2000. Vol. 47, Issue 1.

Karen Hearn, ed., Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530-1630.

Eric Ives, Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery

Leanda de Lisle, The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: Mary, Katherine, and Lady Jane Grey.