MISTRESSES of the King

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Who were the Mistresses
of King Henry VIII?

" All it took to please him was an apple
and a fair wench to dally withal"

See also :Loves of the King
and Timeline of the King's Wives page

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Here we sort fact from fiction:
The Tudors creators have invented a few fictional characters who
have no historical backing.
There were only two acknowledged* mistresses
of King Henry but many rumours of other mistresses, many of whom
are disputed by Tudor historians.

So-called illegitimate children shown in red.

Alison Weir believes that apart from the "known" affairs, there were also numerous other short-term and secret liaisons,
most of them conducted in the king's river-side mansion of Jordan House.

Kelly Hart says "Henry was a private man and many of his affairs would have gone unrecorded. Of the many rumours of his dalliances a large proportion are no doubt false; however even these, by their very number are suggestive of a womaniser"

"It has often been asserted that Henry was faithful to Katherine until he was first linked to Bessie Blount, five years into his reign. In reality, Henry was involved with other women from the very beginning of his first marriage [1509]. He seems to have been attracted to Katherine at first -- a bonus for an arranged marriage -- but there were many other tempting offers for the teenage king. And within a year of marriage, the whole court was aware of who the king's lover was. And his wife was devastated by his betrayal...

Extra-marital relationships could be a way to escape the responsibilities of always acting as a king was expected to; with his mistress he had a chance to lead a somewhat normal family life, and with a woman he had chosen himself. These early days with baby Henry Fitzroy, in an informal household where mother, father and baby could spend time together, was a luxury not afforded to legitimate royal children, who were whisked away from their parents soon after the birth. Henry had an opportunity, in Jericho and his other hideaways, to spend time with women without the extensive etiquette that was expected of him at court. Here he could relax. Here, he could enjoy spending time with his newborn son. He was probably closer to Henry Fitzroy than to his three legitimate children, and the two spent a large amount of time together".
~ Kelly Hart The Mistresses of Henry VIII (2009)

Anne Stafford
Anna Buckingham played by Anna Brewster

Anne Stafford (Anna Buckingham)
portrayed by Anna Brewster

1510 - Rumour

-Anne Stafford, Lady Hastings (sister of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham & wife of Lord Hastings)

Anne entered into an affair with King Henry VIII around 1510, only one year after Henry wed Queen Katherine of Aragon, and one year after Anne married Lord Hastings. Their adultery became a scandal when made public. Her brother, the Duke of Buckingham, was enraged. Her husband, Lord George Hastings, sent her to a convent. There are suggestions that her relationship with the King continued until 1513, however.

It is thought Sir William Compton, Henry's Groom of the Stool acted as a go-between because Queen Katherine of Aragon reacted so angrily and upset. She and Henry fell out so badly over his affair that the Spanish Ambassador feared that the large amount of influence Henry gave to Katherine over politics might disappear, there were also fears that her becoming distressed might cause a miscarriage but fortunately it didn't and they made up a week later.

At the same time, Anne's sister and one of Katherine's ladies-in-waiting, Elizabeth Stafford, Lady Fitzwalter was sent away and some historians have surmised was the one who had the affair with Henry, but this was thought to be in retaliation by Henry for her reporting the incident to her brother. The scandal was also considered part of the reason that Buckingham fell out with the King.

Anne Stafford died of unknown causes in 1544.

*Anna Buckingham in the series is portrayed as Edward's daughter instead of his sister & as having an affair with Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk instead of Henry.

Also a different actress plays "Anne Hastings" and shown as dying of the same sweating sickness of 1528 that killed William Compton, portrayed as her fictional common-law husband.

1513 - Rumour

Etiennette de la Baume
- a flemish maid of honour in the entourage of Emperor Maximillian's sister Margaret.

"In 1513 [Henry] was consumed by the idea of war and decided it was time to conquer France... Henry's army swiftly conquered their first target, the city of Therouanne. For a month after this, the weather was too bad for an assault on the next city, Tournai. Henry spent his time building relations with the premier family of Europe and ensuring he mixed business with pleasure. He spent his time with Maximilian, the Holy Roman Emperor, the Emperor's sister Margaret, regent of the Netherlands, and Margaret's court, impressing them with his jousting, archery, dancing and mastery of several musical instruments. Among Margaret's maids of honour were a Flemish woman called Etiennette de la Baume and a twelve-year-old English girl called Anne Boleyn.

...The following year, Henry received a letter from Etiennette and it is from this that we know of Henry's brief relationship with her. She was a noblewoman, the daughter of Marc de la Baume, Lord of Chateauvillan, and she was not the only de la Baume in history to attract the attention of a king; in the next century, her kinswoman Louise-Francoise de la Baume became maitresse-en-titre of King Louis XIV of France. Etiennette seems to have attracted Henry soon after his arrival in Lille. She wrote to Henry because she was about to get married, and he apparently promised her ten thousand crowns as a wedding present - perhaps as compensation for her lost virtue. In August 1514, Etiennette became the third wife of the elderly Jean Neufchatel, seigneur de Marnay. We have no indication of her age, but her husband was sixty-two, which is perhaps why the marriage was childless.
She sent the letter to Henry with 'a bird and some roots of great value belonging to this country'. She first reminded him who she was :

When Madame [Margaret of Austria] went to see the Emperor, her father and you at Lille, you named me your page "et n'avoie autrement nom de par et dautre chouses" and when we parted at Tournai you told me, when I married, to let you know and it should be worth to me 10,000 crowns or rather angels. As it has now pleased my father 'me marrier'. I send bearer, an old servant of my grandfather to remind you... la plus que your very humble servant. E. la Baume.

We do not know if he kept his promise. She also wrote to Henry of how 'you spoke many pretty things to me'. Henry was by now being regularly linked to other women.

By 1514, cracks were beginning to show in the royal marriage. In this year Henry 'for love of a lady, clad himself and the court in mourning', possibly on hearing that Etiennette was getting married, but probably in connection to a woman at the English court." ~ Kelly Hart's The Mistresses of Henry VIII

1514 - Rumour

Elizabeth Bryan, Lady Carewe and sister of Sir Francis Bryan
was given "many beautiful diamonds and pearls and innumerable jewels" by the King that were strictly speaking, the property of Queen Katherine of Aragon. Also a mink coat and a husband, Sir Nicholas Carewe when she gave birth to a son at the age of twelve, she was called "the young wife". And Henry gave her mother £500.

Lady Jane Howard
Lady Jane Howard
portrayed by Slaine Kelly

1514 to 1516 - Rumour

- Jane Popyngcort/Popincourt was a friend of Henry's sister, Mary Tudor (Princess Margaret Tudor in the series) from her days in France & briefly Maid of honour to Queen Katherine of Aragon.

She was a french woman and some say Henry's first mistress. She was a tutor in languages to both of Henry’s sisters, Princesses Margaret & Mary . Though very little is known of her, her promiscuity was so prominent that even the French king, Francis I wouldn't allow her back to his court, known for its promiscuity.

Jane remained in England until 1516, when she returned to France. She is said to have reignited a previous affair with Louis d'Orleans, Duke of Longueville and received a parting gift of £100 from Henry.

*possibly the basis for the fictional character "Lady Jane Howard" played by Slaine Kelly

Rachel Montague
Rachel Montague
portrays a "young woman"
in Season 1 episode 3
c. 1516 - Rumour

-"Mistress Parker" who could have been either Arabella Parker, the wife of a city merchant, or Margery Parker, who had been part of Princess Mary´s household since 1516

*the series shows the King with an unknown fictional young woman on the right who was a lady at court.

Bessie Blount
*1517 -1522 - Officially Acknowledged Fact

-Elizabeth "Bessie" Blount One of only two acknowledged mistresses.

Bessie was approximately 17 when she reached the height of her power in 1518. However in 1514 when she was probably only 13, Henry danced with her so much that even the docile and accepting Queen Katherine of Aragon was so jealous that she persuaded Henry to exclude her from the Twelfth Night festivities.

By 1517 the king was reputed to be in the chains of love with her,” and in the spring of 1519, Bessie gave birth to a son who was Henry Fitzroy (son of the king). Once she had fulfilled her main purpose, she was married off in 1522 to Gilbert Tailboys, 1st Baron Tailboys of Kyme , one of his courtiers whose family was said to have a history of insanity, and was remembered fondly by Henry with the occasional New Years gift

"It had been 400 years since a king of England had given his illegitimate son a title. Even then, when Henry's ancestor and namesake, Henry II, had honoured his son, it had only been an earldom; a double dukedom for a young boy [[[Henry Fitzroy]]] was unprecedented. When the duke of Richmond was given an income of 4,000 pounds per year, Queen Katherine complained that his household had more spent on it than his legitimate half-sister's [[[Princess Mary Tudor]]]. Henry was outraged by this criticism and dismissed three of her Spanish ladies. Katherine may have been worried that Richmond's elevation threatened Mary's position as unofficial Princess of Wales. This is the first record of his wife making any complaint about his infidelity since the scandal surrounding his affair with Anne Stafford". ~ Kelly Hart's Mistresses of Henry VIII (2009)

Bessie had another child in 1520 called Elizabeth Tailboys. Is it possible she too was Henry's child?

"The king first began to show generosity to Gilbert [Tailboys] in April 1522 and in June 1522 Bessie was recorded as Gilbert’s wife for the first time. This argues for a marriage in spring 1522...There is also evidence that Henry VIII took an interest in Elizabeth Tailboys, above and beyond that which would be expected of the child of a former mistress....In addition to safeguarding Elizabeth’s title and inheritance, Henry VIII made sure that she was financially secure....There is further evidence that Henry VIII took an unusual interest in Elizabeth Tailboys...If Elizabeth is to be accepted as the king’s daughter, the question must be asked how Gilbert Tailboys came to adopt her as his own child. It can perhaps be reasoned that Gilbert, who benefitted both financially and in gaining his independence through his marriage to Bessie, was unconcerned about taking on a step-daughter when his wife had already proved herself capable of bearing a healthy son – he had good reason to believe that his own male heirs would soon follow. It is likely that he considered that Elizabeth’s chances of inheriting his estates to be remote...There is some evidence that Elizabeth Tailboys was not entirely accepted by the Tailboys family and, again, this can be taken as evidence of her paternity...

In order for Elizabeth Tailboys to have been the daughter of Henry VIII, it would have been necessary for him to have visited Bessie Blount at Blackmore over the summer of 1519. Henry VIII did indeed spend time in Essex that summer...
Based on the evidence of Henry’s interest in Elizabeth Tailboys, the likely time that she was conceived and Henry’s presence in the area at that time, it seems highly probable that she was the king’s child. Her gender simply meant that she was of little significance to the king and he had no reason to acknowledge her as he did her elder brother, particularly following the bastardising of the daughters from his first and second marriages.

One further piece of evidence survives. In the seventeenth century Lord Herbert of Cherbury wrote an early biography of Henry VIII, having the benefit of sources that are now no longer extant. In his work he mentioned the love affair between Bessie and Henry, commenting of their son that ‘the child, proving so equally like to both his parents, that he became the first emblem of their mutual affection’.The word ‘first’ in this context could be taken to mean ‘foremost’, suggesting that Henry Fitzroy was the principal emblem of Henry and Bessie’s love. However, it is possible that ‘first’ should be given its more literal meaning and that Lord Herbert was aware of evidence that Henry Fitzroy was only the first child of his parents, implying that there were at least rumours of another.
" ~ Elizabeth Norton
[for more read : <a class="external" href="http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/18102/was-elizabeth-tailboys-the-daughter-of-henry-viii-guest-post-by-elizabeth-norton/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="The Anne Boleyn Files - guest post by Elizabeth Norton">The Anne Boleyn Files - guest post by Elizabeth Norton</a>]

c. early 1520's - Rumour

- Agnes Blewitt early 1520s her son, Richard Edwardes was born sometime between October 1523 to 1525 was claimed to be Henry's, it was said that Agnes was allowed to display the Tudor rose on her coat of arms

The idea that Henry VIII was the father of Richard Edwardes has recently been discredited in Kelly Hart’s, The Mistresses of Henry VIII (2009):

“There are also suggestions that Richards Edwardes was Henry’s son. The evidence rests on him receiving an Oxford education that his family could not have afforded. There are many possible explanations for this: he could have had a benefactor, a scholarship, or perhaps his mother was the mistress of a rich man. Richard or his family may have impressed someone influential. Perhaps it was his father who paid – but there were many men who could have afforded to pay this and there is no reason to assume that it was Henry VIII. Richard Edwardes has many descendants who believe he was Henry’s son. This rumour seems to have originated from the Edwardes family themselves and not from contemporary source. Much of our (more dubious) information comes from family histories.

Edwardes’ mother, Agnes Blewitt, was not a courtier. She was from Somerset and is unlikely to have met Henry; he may have had affairs with low-born women, but they were unlikely to have lasted long. Mistresses needed to be able to dazzle at courtly accomplishments and this usually meant having had an aristocratic upbringing. It could cause offence to target wives and daughters of the highest in the land, but the king was also not expected to keep the company of women who were too far his social inferiors. A commoner may have held Henry’s attentions long enough for a casual fling and perhaps to conceive a child. Yet Henry may have considered his social inferiors for long-term mistresses, as he happily picked low-born ministers.

Edwardes was a poet, musician and composer who spent some time at Elizabeth’s court. He married Helene Griffith, which does not seem to have been an advantageous marriage. They had one son, William, who continued the Edwardes line by having sixteen children. Richard Edwardes died in 1566, three years after his marriage, and there is no evidence that links him to Henry VIII during their lifetime. Nevertheless the rumours persist.” (pp. 77-78).

c. late 1520's - Rumour

Joan Dingley (Dobson) - who had a daughter Ethelreda (Audrey) Tudor.
[note: Henry's tailor, John Malte, was persuaded to recognise Ethelreda as his illegitimate daughter, born in the late 1520's. Her mother, Joan Dyngley, a royal laundress, was married off to a man named Dobson. Ethelreda (or Audrey) took the surname Malte and married John Harrington in 1547. Henry granted lands to Ethelreda. She was still living in 1555, but died before 1559 as her husband remarried in that year. He inherited all the lands Henry VIII had granted her

"There are also rumours that Henry had an illegitimate daughter, Ethelreda, sometimes called Esther or Audrey. It is perhaps less likely that Henry would have acknowledged an illegitimate daughter than and illegitimate son, as she would have been of less worth. Nevertheless she could have been a useful marriage pawn. Ethelreda was the child of Joan Dingley, who was said to have been a royal laundress. Joan subsequently married a man named Dobson. John Malte, the king's tailor, acknowledged the young girl as his own child. The lands Henry granted to Ethelreda may have been only a thank you to her parents -- his servants -- so that the girl could make a good marriage.

During Queen Mary's reign, Ethelreda and her husband served Elizabeth Tudor while she was in the Tower. They also benefited from a grant after the Dissolution of the monasteries. John Malte left part of his estate to Ethelreda in his will which indicates she probably was his child." ~ Kelly Hart The Mistresses of Henry VIII (2009)

'Princess Marguerite of Navarre by Clouet
Princess Marguerite of Navarre played by Sara James
Princess Marguerite of Navarre as portrayed by Sara James
Total Fiction

This portrayal is a fictional character and VERY loosely based on an historical one. The series shows Marguerite & Henry VIII having a dalliance which is totally fictitious.

The real Princess Marguerite of Navarre (sister of the French King Francis I) was considered one of the most brilliant female minds in France. Known as the "first modern woman", she was an outstanding figure of the french renaissance. It was said of her that "she was very kind, gentle, gracious, charitable, a great dispenser of alms and friendly to all" but that did not extend to dalliances with foreign kings.

Even the Dutch humanist, Erasmus, wrote of her: "For a long time I have cherished all the many excellent gifts that God bestowed upon you; prudence worthy of a philosopher; chastity; moderation; piety; an invincible strength of soul, and a marvelous contempt for all the vanities of this world. Who could keep from admiring, in a great King's sister, such qualities as these, so rare even among the priests and monks?"

"A Character more beautiful and affecting than that of Marguerite presents itself not in history. Thrown, when almost a child, in the midst of a corrupt court; surrounded by every incentive to evil, and none to the good -- the purity of her conduct was not less conspicuous than the grace of her deportment. Marguerite even at the early age of thirteen loved to devote herself to the study of theology."
[from the Life of Marguerite d'Angoulême, Queen of Navarre by Martha Walker Freer]
c. 1520's - Rumour

-Elizabeth Amadas, 1520's, daughter of Hugh Brice, courtier & wife of Robert Amadas, the richest goldsmith in England.
She, herself said thatt Henry VIII had asked her many times to join her at the house ofWilliam Compton in Thames Street. She alleged that Compton and Dauncy had brought messages from the King to her. She does not state when this was, although Compton died in 1528 so it must have been before this. She also does not state if she gave in to the King's advances.

Mary BoleynMary Boleyn as portrayed by Perdita Weeks
Mary Boleyn
as portrayed by Perdita Weeks
*c. 1522 - 1525 - Officially Acknowledged Fact

- Mary Boleyn older sister of Anne Boleyn had been living in France. At the French court she was, like Jane Popincourt, known for her promiscuity:Francis I reputed to have been “clothed in women,” boasted that he, like most of his friends, had slept with Mary Boleyn, describing her as “a great prostitute, infamous above all.

Although she was married to Sir William Carey when her affair with Henry began in the early 1520s, Carey is thought to have been compliant. Some believe that both her children by her first marriage, Catherine Carey and Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon were illegitimates of Henry.
Although both children were claimed by her husband who later died during the sweating sickness.

She then married William Stafford, a man of little means. Mary was banished from court and retired to the countryside with her new husband where she had several more children. Her eldest daughter returned to court and served Katherine Howard, a distant cousin. Several fervent enemies of the Boleyns refused to support the marriage of Anne to the king on the basis of his former carnal relations with Mary Boleyn.
c.1524 - Fact

Henry ceased to co-habit with Katherine of Aragon

1525 - 1527 - Rumour

- Mary Berkeley 1525-1527 - was reported to have had two sons <a class="external" href="http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/Bios/ThomasStukely.htm" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="Thomas Stucley">Thomas Stucley</a> and <a class="external" href="http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/Bios/JohnPerrot.htm" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">John Perrot</a> both of whom were rumoured to be illegitimate children of Henry. While pregnant with her second son, Henry began his serious pursuit of Anne Boleyn.
Just after John's birth Mary was quickly married off to her first husband, Sir Thomas Perrot.

Thomas Stucley"Another alleged lover of Henry VIII's was Mary Berkeley. We know very little about her, except that she was the daughter of James Berkeley, a courtier. Estimates of her date of birth range from 1495 to 1500 making her a little younger than Henry. She married for the second time after her husband's death in 1531 to Sir Thomas Jones. Her third child, Sir John Perrot was born around 1527. She is alleged to have borne two bastards to Henry; Perrot and Sir Thomas Stucley.

This shows how confused these stories are -- Thomas Stucley's (pictured left) mother wasn't Mary Berkeley, it was Jane Pollard, the daughter of Sir Lewis Pollard, and his father was Sir Hugh Stucley of Affeton. There is certainly nothing to prove a connection to King Henry VIII. Stucley lived from around 1525-- towards the end of Henry's affair with Mary Boleyn -- until 1578. His portrait (left) shows a tall man posing in a Henrician style, but there is no obvious resemblance to the Monarch, and it is this alleged resemblance that is the basis for the claim.

Stucley did not manage to impress Henry's legitimate children. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London by Edward VI. Stucley claimed to the council that the French were planning to invade Calais; they did not believe him. He was released by Queen Mary but began counterfeiting coins, ran up huge debts and became involved in piracy....

Elizabeth I pretending to be outraged by Stucley's piracy, which was being criticised by the European powers he was robbing, arrested him in 1565 but soon gave him a full pardon...In 1577 Pope Gregory III gave him money to invade Ireland, a catholic country being dominated by its Protestant neighbour. Instead he decided to fight for Portugal against Morocco and was killed in Battle"." ~ Kelly Hart's Mistresses of Henry VIII (2009)

'Contrary to the popular and oft-quoted myth (the origin of which may be attributed to the work of Sir Robert Naunton*), Perrot's mother was never a mistress of Henry VIII and he, consequently, was not the king's bastard son. His parents' marriage was arranged at great cost by Maurice, Lord Berkeley, who had purchased the wardship and marriage of both Mary, his niece, and Thomas Perrot two years after the death of Thomas's father, Sir Owen, in December 1521. Upon their marriage, some time after Thomas came of age in August 1526, and contingent on the will of Maurice, Lord Berkeley, the considerable sum of 500 marks was settled on the young couple. Like his father (Sir Owen died aged forty-one) and elder brother (Robert died aged eighteen in 1522), Thomas died tragically young, aged twenty-six years, on 19 September 1531'. ~Oxford DNB entry on John Perrot
*[Robert Nauton - Perrot&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=45HNsOUg11&sig=bvse7-y2C-ELjQ7urIErDVMbN3Q&hl=en&ei=7HNOS-__PMHS8QahiqWIDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CA4Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=&f=false|Sir Robert Naunton : "Fragmenta Regalia" later titled "The Court of Queen Elizabeth"]

1527 - 1533

No rumours or hints of any mistresses during the 6 years Henry was "betrothed" to Anne Boleyn

George & Lady Eleanor
In the Tudors, it is George Boleyn
who tells Lady Eleanor Luke
played by Andrea Lowe
to leave court or suffer the consequences
c.1534 - Rumour

There were rumours that Jane Boleyn was supposedly aiding Anne Boleyn in removing a 'very handsome' lady the king was quite interested in. There may have been no actual affair per se but the rumour of a lady who had caught the king's eye while his wife was pregnant. Both the French and Spanish Ambassadors reported that she was the King's mistress, and she was said to be popular with the conservative faction and corresponding with Princess Mary Tudor.

Chapuys called her "the Imperial Lady" and wrote:

"[Her] Influence increases daily, while that of concubine diminishes, which has already abated a good deal of her insolence. The said young lady has of late sent to the Princess [Mary] to tell her to be of good cheer, and that her troubles would sooner come to an end than she supposed, and that when the opportunity occurred she would show herself her true devoted servant."

* In the series there is a fictional character called Lady Eleanor Luke who the king has an affair with.

" Elizabeth Hervey, known as Bess, is my candidate for the "very handsome young lady of the court" in whom Henry VIII took an interest in during Anne Boleyn's 1534 pregnancy. This woman's name has not survived, only that Anne attempted to dismiss her and failed to do so and that she was a friend to Princess Mary. In October 1534, Lady Rochford was dismissed from court instead, for conspiring against this mystery woman. David Starkey's Six Wives recounts that Bess Hervey was in service to Anne Boleyn and on friendly terms with Sir Francis Bryan. She was sent away from court in 1536, although she claimed she did not know why. If she was the "handsome young lady," she had lost the king's interest by then. According to Carolly Erickson in Bloody Mary, an Elizabeth Harvey was one of Katherine of Aragon's women in 1536. After Catherine died she asked to be placed in Mary's service and was refused. In 1539, however, she was part of a group of court ladies who visited Portsmouth to tour the king's ships, at Henry VIII's special invitation. She was also among the ladies in Anne of Cleves' household, as Elsabeth Harvy. She was not appointed to Catherine Howard's household, but during Catherine's tenure as queen, Catherine gave Bess the gift of a gown. Starkey suggests Bess was Thomas Culpepper's paramour. In March 1541, Bess was granted an annuity of 10/year."
Source : Kathy Lynn Emerson <a class="external" href="http://www.kateemersonhistoricals.com/TudorWomenH-He.htm" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="Who is Who of Tudor Women">Who is Who of Tudor Women</a>

<a class="external" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Maryshelton.jpg" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="Drawing of Mary Shelton by Hans Holbein from the mid-1530s">Lady Mary Shelton by HolbeinMadge Sheldon portrayed by Laura Jane Laughlin</a>
Lady Mary Sheldon
(Madge Sheldon)
as portrayed by
Laura Jane Laughlin

February - August 1535 - Rumour

- Lady Mary Shelton (Anne Boleyn's 1st cousin) - She is often confused with her sister Margaret "Madge" Shelton, but it is now clear that it was Mary who was Henry's mistress and who was even rumoured to become his fourth wife. The confusion arose from the label "Marg Shelton", where the 'y' looked like a 'g' - a common confusion in sixteenth-century writing. There is some speculation that Anne Boleyn herself pushed her cousin forward to gain the king's favour while she was pregnant.

* Madge Sheldon in the series

Lady Ursula Misseldon as played by Charlotte Salt
Lady Ursula Misseldon
as played by Charlotte Salt

Total Fiction

The character of Ursula Misseldon has no basis in history.

1536 - 1538

A week after the publication of Henry's marriage to Jane Seymour, Henry met two beautiful ladies and it was reported that he sighed and said '[he was] sorry that he had not seen them before he was married'
[Wriothesly's chronicle]

In mid-July, Jane was pregnant and considered Lady Lisle's daughters by a previous marriage, Anne and Catherine Basset as ladies in her service. However, she rejected Catherine and Henry remarked that Anne Basset was 'far fairer' than her sister. (Lady Lisle had attempted to secure a place for her two daughters in the service of Queen Anne Boleyn several times, but to no avail.)

"After Jane Seymour's death, her ladies were kept together. Henry provided for the young unmarried women including Anne Basset by boarding them out with the senior married ladies. He entertained the ladies, young and old, with splended banquets at court. ....He loved the company of women and, whether he had a wife or not, he could not live without it. And who knows one of the young ladies, like Anne Basset might kindle his sleeping fires."[Lisle letters - as quoted by David Starkey in his Six Wives]

In 1538, Henry began looking for a fourth wife, Mary Skipwith and Mary Shelton were considered to be contenders as well as several princesses.

Katie McGrath - The Tudors Wiki
William Webbe and his wife Bess

played by
Katie McGrath
meet the King on the road in Season 2 episode 5
c. Late 1530's - Rumour

- In the late 1530's a man named William Webbe reported the king abducting his "mistress" (wife)

"A man called William Webbe was out on his horse near Eltham Palace one day, with his pretty sweetheart riding pillion, when he chanced to encounter his sovereign on the road. The King pulled the girl from the horse and kissed her in front of the aghast Webbe, then took her straight back to the palace with him"....where he is said to have kept her for a while. Webbe was a courtier, but there was nothing he could do about this, except complain to others." (Alison Weir)

*in the series this is shown as happening while Henry is married to Anne Boleyn but if it happened at all, it more than likely happened either while Jane Seymour was pregnant or after her death.

1542 - Rumour

In 1542, the night after Katherine Howard had been condemned to death for adultery, Henry VIII held a dinner for many men and women. He was said to pay great attention to Elizabeth Brooke, Lady Wyatt (estranged wife of Sir Thomas Wyatt) and to Anne Bassett. Both were thought to be possible choices for wife number six.

"By the end of January, the King was said to have cheered up a little, although his health remained poor and his weight in consequence increased. But he did at least enjoy 'a great supper' with twenty-six ladies at his table and another thirty-five at a table nearby. Among those singled out by his attentions were Sir Anthony Browne's niece, Lord Cobham's sister and Mistress Anne Bassett. Of the Latter Marillac commented sourly that she was 'a pretty young creature with wit enough to do as badly as the other if she were to try'."
~ Antonia Fraser The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Anne Bassett eventually married Sir Edward Hungerford, a son of Sir Walter Hungerford, a teacher, who was charged with "unnatural vice", becoming the first person executed under the Buggery Act of 1533. Both Sir Walter and Thomas Cromwell were beheaded on Tower Hill, next to each other, on 28 July 1540. His lands were forfeited to the Crown.

1547 (the year of Henry's death)

There was an attempt to make Lady Mary Howard (daughter of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, sister of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey & widow of Henry Fitzroy) the King's Mistress, so she could control Henry and Prince Edward.


  • Carlton, Charles. Royal Mistresses. New York: Routledge(1990)
  • Hart, Kelly.The Mistresses of Henry VIII
  • Weir,Alison. Henry VIII: King and Court (2002).
  • Starkey, David. Six Wives (2003)