Thursday, 25 July 2013

BBC Breakfast

Just to let you know that I appeared on BBC Breakfast this morning to discuss the royal baby's name - George Alexander Louis. The show will be available on the BBC I-Player later on and I will post the link later. I appear at 7.10am.

George was actually the name that I guessed for the baby. It has a huge amount of symbolism and history for the House of Windsor, with George V and George VI dominating the first half of the twentieth century. The name George has, since the eighteenth century, meant stability for the royal family. It is even used to name an era, the Georgian period of 1714 to 1830, when four Georges in turn sat on the English throne. It is also, of course, first and foremost a tribute to the queen's father, George VI, who re-stabilised the monarchy after his brother's abdication and reigned over Britain through the trauma of the Second World War.

I also discussed the prince's middle names, Alexander and Louis. Louis is one of Prince William's middle names and honours Lord Mountbatten. It is also, of course, a very traditional royal name, associated with the French royal family from whom the prince is descended. Alexander is less commonly used in the royal family, although Edward VII's wife was Queen Alexandra. Queen Victoria's first name was actually Alexandrina and the baby's name may well also be a nod to this.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The Second Anne Boleyn

Just another quick post to let you know that my article on the second Anne Boleyn is now available over at the Anne Boleyn Files website:

The article follows on from my piece on Anne Hoo Boleyn (the first Anne Boleyn). The second Anne was her daughter, Anne Boleyn Heydon, who was the great-aunt of Queen Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn Heydon spent much of her life in Norfolk, where the Boleyn family originated. She was a wealthy woman and her Will, which is very detailed, provides a great deal of information about her life and the structure of her family and household.

You can also read more about Anne Boleyn Heydon, and all the other Boleyn women, in my new book - Boleyn Women - which has just been published. I'm expecting my copies of the book from the publisher on Friday!

Queen Vicky - New Statesman

Look out for my article in the New Statesman - 'Remembering Vicky, The Queen Britain Never Had' ( Vicky, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria, was the last princess to be overlooked in favour of a younger brother due to primogeniture. What kind of queen would she have made if the change to the royal succession had been made in time for her birth more than 170 years ago?

A New Prince

Just a quick post to say congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son yesterday afternoon. His birth means that the system of primogeniture has actually been somewhat irrelevant in Britain for several generations. The prince's father and grandfather are, of course, their parents' eldest children (not just their eldest sons). The current queen had no brothers, while her uncle (Edward VIII) and father (George VI) were the eldest two children of George V (the eldest surviving child of Edward VII. In fact, only Edward VII would have lost out, with his elder sister, Victoria, taking the crown instead.

While, in the UK, legislation is now in place (but not in force) to end primogeniture, it is only a matter of time before girls have inheritance rights equal to their brothers. Since there appear to be a few difficulties to iron out before the change can be fully made however it is perhaps no bad thing that the little prince is not a little princess!

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Baby in the Warming Pan

Given the imminent royal birth, I thought I would also post about Mary of Modena, the queen who was at the centre of the most controversial birth in English history.

Mary of Modena (1658-1718) was the second wife of James II. She was the only daughter of Alphonso IV, Duke of Modena and his wife, Laura Martinozzi. Mary’s father died whilst she was still young and her mother was appointed as regent of the Italian duchy for her son. James, Duke of York began to look for a new wife in 1672, a year after his first wife, Anne Hyde, had died. As a convert to Catholicism, he sought a Catholic bride. Mary’s mother first offered her twenty-nine year old sister-in-law, Leonora but, on further enquiries from the English, she was forced to admit that her own fourteen year old daughter was also available. James sent his friend, the Earl of Peterborough, to Modena to discuss a possible match with either Mary or Leonora and the Earl was taken with the younger princess, writing approvingly to his master that:

‘The Princess Mary of Este appear’d to be at this time about fourteen years of age; she was tall, and admirably shaped, her complexion was of the last fairness, her hair black as jet, so were her eyebrows and her eyes; but the latter so full of light and sweetness so they did dazzle and charm too. There seemed given unto them from nature, Sovereign Power; power to kill and power to save; and in the whole turn of her face, which was of the most graceful oval that could be framed, there was all the features, all the beauty, and all that could be great and charming in any humane creature’.

James was smitten and asked for her hand in marriage. As well as beauty, Mary had received an excellent education and was particularly good at languages. As a kinswoman of Cardinal Mazarin, she was pious, something that suited James, although she caused consternation when, on being informed of her marriage, she insisted that she intended to become a nun.

Mary’s decision threw James’s embassy into confusion and her mother, who was herself a pious woman, insisted that she had no intention of forcing her daughter to abandon her scruples. The marriage was looked upon as important in Italy as well as in England and Pope Clement X, who hoped that James would be the man to bring England back to the Catholic church, was anxious that it should go ahead, taking the unprecedented step of writing personally to Mary on 19 September 1673 and declaring that ‘considering, in effect, the influence of your virtues, we easily conceived a firm hope that an end might come to the persecution still smouldering in that kingdom and that the orthodox faith, reinstated by you in a place of honour might recover the splendour and security of former days’. The pope continued, speaking of the anxiety he felt at Mary’s repugnance for marriage and effectively appointing her as a missionary for her faith in England. In the face of papal pressure, Mary had no choice but to capitulate and she and James were married by proxy on 30 September 1673. Whilst Mary had submitted, she was still filled with anxiety at the prospect of travelling to a distant land and meeting a husband who was well over twice her age. She therefore insisted that her mother accompany her to England and she set off on 5 October 1673, her fifteenth birthday, weeping as she left her homeland.


Whilst the marriage to a Catholic princess was personally satisfying to James, in England it caused a great deal of controversy and parliament petitioned the king before Mary arrived, asking him to break off his brother’s marriage and send the bride home. Charles II absolutely refused to countenance this, but he was unable to silence the mutterings and it was to a muted reception at Dover that Mary arrived on 1 December. James waited for Mary as her yacht landed and he was immediately taken with his young bride, conducting her to a house where the couple were formally married. Mary was terrified, but she was glad to find her new husband kind and, gradually, the couple fell in love. In January she wrote to her friend, the mother superior of the Visitation at Modena, that, whilst she would not have chosen marriage if she had been at liberty:


‘May it be a consolation to you, dear mother, to know (and I say it to the glory of God) that the Duke is a very good man and wishes me well and would do anything to prove it to me; he is so firm and steady in our holy religion (which as a good Catholic he professes) that he would not leave it for any thing in the world and in my affliction (which is increased by the departure of my dear Mama) this is my consolation’.


Mary was received favourably at court, with Charles II commenting that his brother had done well in his marriage. She soon became close to her two stepdaughters, Mary and Anne, although, given the tiny age gap between them, she was always more of a sister than a mother to them.


Mary found that she enjoyed many of the pleasures available in England and, in 1675, for example, her friend Lady Bellasyse commented that she had visited a fair incognito. On Christmas Day the following year the same friend recorded that ‘the Dutchesse is much delighted with making and throwing of snow balls and pelted the D[uke] soundly with one the other day and ran away quick into her closet and he after her, but she durst not open the doore. She hath also much pleasure in one of those sledges which they call Trainias, as is pulled up and downe the ponds in them every day’. Mary enjoyed playing cards, although she was less happy when she lost, with the diarist, John Evelyn, commenting one evening that ‘I observed that she was exceedingly concerned for the loss of £80’.

Whilst she was interested in pleasures and other diversions, Mary knew that her primary purpose was to bear a son. She fell pregnant within months of her marriage and, on 20 January 1675, shortly after dining with her two stepdaughters, she went into premature labour, bearing a daughter, Catherine Laura. The baby initially thrived but, in October 1675 she suddenly died, proving to be the first tragedy of many in Mary’s difficult childbearing record. On 7 September 1676 Mary bore a second daughter, Isabel, who was again born so quickly that none of the required witnesses to the birth were able to get there in time. Once again, Mary was pleased with her daughter who lived until the age of four. On 7 November 1677, only three days after her eldest stepdaughter’s wedding, Mary, to the joy of nearly everyone, bore a son, who was given the name of Charles, Duke of Cambridge. Disaster struck in December when Mary’s younger stepdaughter Anne, who had been ill with smallpox, rushed to see her baby brother as soon as she was well enough. The princess was still infectious and passed the illness on to Mary’s son, who died soon afterwards. Mary was grief-stricken at the loss of her child and wrote a despondent letter to her brother:

‘With my eyes full of tears I write to give you the ill news of the loss of my dear son, whom it pleased God to take unto Himself yesterday: at mid-day. You can imagine in what affliction I am, and great as was my joy when he was born, so much the greater is my anguish at his loss, but we must have patience, God knows what He does; may His holy will be done. I should have been too happy if this child had escaped. I am well in health, and should be very well if this affliction had not befallen me. This is the first day I am capable of writing, not having written even to our lady mother before to-day’.

Mary caused consternation in England when, soon afterwards, she declared that she had had a vision where Lady Frances Villiers, the Protestant governess of all James’s children and the person who had passed smallpox on to Anne before dying of the disease, had appeared to her from Hell. Whilst personally popular in England herself, Mary spent much of her time as Duchess of York either in Scotland or on the Continent as her husband was forced to leave the country due to distrust of his religion in England. Mary bore a further two daughters during Charles II’s lifetime, but neither lived longer than a few months.

By the time of her arrival in England, Mary knew that it was a near certainty that James would one day become king and, with the death of Charles II on 6 February 1685, he took the throne as James II. He was the first openly Catholic sovereign since Mary I and he was determined to assist the Catholics in England, hearing mass openly with Mary at St James’s Palace on the Sunday after his accession. James’s accession was popular and, at their coronation in April, the couple were greeted by cheering crowds. He was also victorious later in the year against Charles’s illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth, who claimed the crown in preference to his uncle. James saw this as a sign that he could more openly promote his religion and, against Mary’s own advice, set about promoting Catholics, seeking a Cardinal’s hat for a particularly controversial Jesuit, Father Petre. As James himself recorded, none of his measures in support of his religion were popular in England and:

‘It was impossible for the king to do the least thing in favour of Religion, which did not give disquiet, notwithstanding all his precautions not to break in upon his engagement; and that the liberties he permitted to Catholicks should no ways interfere with the possessions, priviledges, and immunities of the Church of England; however the kingdom was so generall prepossess’d that the king’s intentions were otherwise, that nothing appear’d indifferent to them in that matter’.

In the absence of surviving children by Mary, James’s heir was his eldest daughter by Anne Hyde, who had been raised a Protestant and was married to his Protestant nephew, William of Orange. The people of England were prepared to tolerate a Catholic king for the duration of one lifetime but when, at the end of 1687, it was publicly announced that Mary was pregnant, the prospect that she and James might found a Catholic dynasty filled both William of Orange and the majority of the people in England with dread.

James had never been on friendly terms with his nephew and son-in-law, William of Orange, and he had been deeply opposed to his daughter’s marriage. William had always hoped that his marriage would bring him the crown of England and he was involved in attempts to suggest that Mary of Modena’s pregnancy in 1682, which had resulted in the birth of a daughter, had been faked. As soon as Mary’s next pregnancy was announced at the end of 1687, the rumours once again surfaced, with claims that, at twenty-nine, Mary was past childbearing age and that she was pretending to be pregnant in order to frustrate the Protestant succession of James’s daughters. Mary had always been kind to her two stepdaughters but, whilst she was particularly friendly with her elder stepdaughter in the Netherlands, her relationship with Anne was more difficult, with the younger princess writing to her sister in May 1687 that:

‘The Queen, you must know, is of a very proud and haughty humour; and though she pretends to hate all form and ceremony, yet one sees that those that make their court this way, are very well thought of. She declares always that she loves sincerity and hates flattery, but when the grossest flattery in the world is said to her face, she seems extremely well pleased with it. It really is enough to turn one’s stomach to hear what things are said to her of this kind, and to see how mightily she is satisfied with it’.

Mary’s elder stepdaughter, Mary of Orange, was childless and Anne had always been confident that she would eventually inherit the throne. With the prospect that she might be marginalised by a half-brother she threw in her lot with William of Orange and when James II requested that Anne attend the birth of Mary’s child, she refused, insisting on travelling to Bath for her health.

James and Mary were disappointed in Anne’s failure to attend the birth but they ensured that there would be a large number of witnesses present, as was required at all royal births, and when Mary went into labour, on 10 June 1688, there were forty-two people present in the room, including Charles II’s widow, Mary’s ladies and much of the privy council. As with all her labours, the birth was quick and Mary bore a son who was named James Francis Edward and proclaimed Prince of Wales. Both Mary and James were overjoyed, but they quickly became aware that the rumours surrounding Mary’s pregnancy had intensified. Princess Anne was one of the main rumourmongers and she planted doubts about the birth in her elder sister’s mind. According to one letter:

‘My dear sister can’t imagine the concern and vexation I have been in, that I should be so unfortunate to be out of town when the Queen was brought to bed, for I shall never now be satisfied whether the child be true or false. It may be it is our brother, but God only knows, for she never took care to satisfy the world, or give people any demonstration of it’.

Anne continued, complaining that she had never been permitted to feel the child kick before it was born, something that both James and Mary vehemently denied. Anne finished by commenting that:

‘The thing which to me seems the plainest thing in the world, is her being brought to bed two days after she heard of my coming to town [i.e. about to return to London], and saying that the child was come at the full time, when everybody knows, by her own reckoning, that she should have gone a month longer. After all this, ‘tis possible it may be her child; but where one believes it, a thousand do not. For my part, expect they do give very plain demonstrations, which is almost impossible now, I shall ever be of the number of unbelievers’.

Anne was not the only one to claim that the birth was suspicious and there were rumours that the baby had been smuggled into Mary’s bed in a warming pan. There is no doubt that the prince was the son of James and Mary and his resemblance to his mother was later commented upon. In spite of this, the rumours were extremely damaging and James was obliged to hold an enquiry, taking witness statements from all those who had been present at the birth. The child was a great inconvenience to both Mary’s stepdaughters and to William of Orange and Anne summed up their hopes when, in a letter to her sister in July, she commented that the prince was ill ‘and if he has been as bad as some people say, I believe it will not be long before he is an Angel in Heaven’. Mary of Orange pointedly omitted prayers for her brother in her chapel, claiming forgetfulness when her father challenged her.

William of Orange had no plans to see his wife’s place in the succession taken by her infant half-brother and, by the summer of 1688 there were rumours that he was preparing a fleet with which to invade England. In late June William received an invitation from a number of leading men in England, including the Bishop of London, asking him to liberate the country from its Catholic king. By 17 August Mary was aware of this hostility and she sent a hurt letter to her elder stepdaughter, who she had always viewed as her closest friend, complaining that Mary of Orange was indifferent to her new brother and did not wish him well. By September both James and Mary knew that William would soon arrive and James began to make preparations for the defence of his crown. By October, William was ready with a fleet of 300 ships and he landed at Torbay on 15 November, quickly attracting local support. William carried a flag with English colours and bearing the motto ‘The Protestant Religion and Liberties of England’. To much of the population, he was the savour of the Church of England and, even as James and his army marched to confront him, his soldiers began to desert, with Anne’s husband, George of Denmark, one of the first to flee. Unable to go further, James returned to London on 26 November to find that Anne had also abandoned him, leaving her house in secret one night. According to James’s own report, Anne’s conduct only served to inflame the situation and:

‘Her Nurs and my Lady Clarendon run about like people out of their sences, crying out, the Papists had murther’d her; and when they met any of the queen’s servants, asked them what they had done with the Princess; which, considering the ferment people were in, and how susceptible they were to any ill impression against the queen, might have made her been torn to pieces by the rabble’.

Anne soon turned up safe and sound in Oxford where she had rejoined her husband and thrown her support firmly behind her brother-in-law.

As the son of the executed Charles I, James believed that William’s invasion would end with his death and, in a panic, he made preparations for Mary’s escape to France with their son. According to James in his memoirs, Mary:

‘Had a great reluctance to this journey not so much for the hazards and inconveniences of it as to leave the king in so doubtfull a situation; she haveing never done it hitherto in his greatest difficulties and dangers: and therefore when it was first proposed, her Majesty absolutely refused it in reference to herself; telling the king she was very willing the Prince her son should be sent to France, or where it was thought most proper for his security, that she could bear such a separation with patience, but could never endure it in reference to himself; that she would infinitely rather run his fortune whatever it should prove than abandon him in that distress’.

Mary was finally persuaded when James promised that he would follow her within days and, at 2am on 10 December, she left Whitehall secretly with her son, accompanied by only two attendants and dressed as a servant. A carriage was waiting for them at the garden gate. The party drove through London unnoticed before transferring into a boat on the Thames. The journey must have been an ordeal and, according to Francesco Riva, one of Mary’s attendants, the night was so dark that, as they sat huddled together, they could see nothing. Miraculously the infant prince remained silent throughout the journey and they were able to land, coming to an inn where a coach was waiting for them. They travelled to Gravesend and boarded a yacht, reaching Calais at 9am the next day.

As soon as she arrived, Mary wrote to James’s cousin, Louis XIV, notifying him of her arrival and requesting his aid:

‘Sire, a poor fugitive queen, bathed in tears, has not feared to brave the perils of the sea, to seek consolation and refuge from the greatest king and most generous monarch in the world. Her ill-fortune has procured her a happiness which the most distant nations have ambitioned. Necessity does not lessen it; since she has made the choice and with singular esteem desires to confide to him her most precious possession in the person of her son, the Prince of Wales, who is as yet too young to share her gratitude. It lies entirely in my heart, and it is a pleasure to me, in the midst of all my grief, to come under the shadow of your protection’.

Louis offered Mary sanctuary and when James joined her on 4 January 1689, having abandoned his kingdom, the couple moved to Paris and were granted the palace at St Germains. Mary’s flight to France heralded thirty years of exile for her and, soon after James had joined her, the couple learned that William of Orange and his wife had accepted the English throne jointly as William III and Mary II. This was a major blow to James and he never forgot the treachery of his daughters, going to Ireland in early 1689 in an attempt to reclaim his crown from there. In early 1692 it became clear that Mary was pregnant and, seeking to prove the truth of his son’s birth, James sent messages to his eldest daughter and the English council, inviting them to come and witness the birth themselves. In the event, no-one came, and Mary bore her youngest child, a daughter named Louise Marie, later that year. James always called his youngest child his consolation in exile.

James never gave up his attempts to regain his throne but met with little success and, on 4 March 1701 whilst attending mass at St Germains, he suffered a seizure. He continued in ill health throughout the year and, in July suffered a second stroke which left his right side paralysed. He suffered a further stroke in chapel on 2 September 1701 and was left bedridden, with Mary staying, weeping, by his side. James had become increasingly pious as he aged and was regarded by many as a living saint and, as he lay dying, he forgave his enemies, specifically naming both his elder daughters and William of Orange. He then commended his youngest children to Mary before dying at 3pm on 16 September 1701.

Mary was inconsolable and retired to a convent for a time before emerging to assist her son, who had been proclaimed King James III in France, and was later remembered as the Old Pretender in England. The younger James’s struggle to regain the crown proved as fruitless as his father’s and Mary was never able to return to England. In 1712 she suffered further grief when her daughter died of smallpox and, later that year, her son was expelled from France after the French king made a peace treaty with England. Mary remained living quietly at St Germains in increasingly ill health and she died there on 7 May 1718.

Mary of Modena was queen of England for only a few short, troubled years and, whilst she found personal happiness with her husband and children, her life was blighted by the loss of her husband’s crown. The birth of her son, the Old Pretender, must rank as one of the most famous royal births in English history. I actually visited Hampton Court last week and saw the bed in which Mary gave birth. A warming pan is placed next to it and, I must say, it would have to be a very tiny baby to fit!

This article was adapted from the section on Mary of Modena in my book, England's Queens: The Biography (Amberley, 2011).

Margaret Beaufort's Ordinances for a Royal Birth

Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII, cannot have been an easy mother-in-law for Queen Elizabeth of York to have. The pair were often together, with Margaret occupying a dominant role in her son's life. Margaret was, however, also devoted to her son and his family and genuinely sought the best for her dynasty. Nowhere is this more apparent than in her reaction to the news that Elizabeth was expecting her first child in 1486.

The current royal birth - the first child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - is happening as I write, with the eyes of the world's media focussed on the hospital in Paddington. There has been a considerable amount of speculation in recent weeks about the manner in which the Duchess will give birth. Matters were no different in 1486 when Margaret Beaufort stepped in to cast a critical eye over the arrangements for the royal birth and to, effectively, write her daughter-in-law's birth plan. Margaret produced a set or royal ordinances which survive, and which were followed for some time, ensuring that the birth of her first grandchild - the heir to both the house of Lancaster and the house of York - was carried out with sufficient formality.
She began by setting out the furnishings and decorations to be prepared in the queen’s chamber:

‘Her Highnes Pleasure beinge understoode in what Chamber she will be delivered in, the same must be hanged with riche Clothe of Arras, Sydes, rowffe, Windowes and all, excepte one Windowe, which must be hanged so as she may have light when it pleasethe her. Then must there be set a Royall Bedde, and the Flore layed all over and over with Carpets, and a Cupboard covered with the same Suyte that the Chamber is hanged withall. Also there must be ordayned a faier Pallet, and all Things appertayninge therunto, and a riche Sparner hanginge over the same. And that Daye that the Queene (in good Tyme) will take her Chamber, the Chappell where her Highnes will receave and heare Devine Service, must be well and worshipfully arrayed. Also the greate Chamber must be hanged with riche Arras, with a Clothe and Chaire of Estate, and Quishins [cushions] thereto belonginge, the Place under and aboute the same beinge well encarped. Where the Queene (comminge from the Chappell with her Lords and Ladyes of Estate) may, either standinge or sittinge, at her Pleasure, receave spices and wyne. And the next Chamber betwixt the greate Chamber and the Queenes Chamber to be well and worshipfully hanged; which done, Two of the greatest Estats shall leade her to her Chamber, where they shall take their leave of her. Then all the Ladyes and Gentilwomen to goe in with her, and none to come unto the greate Chamber but Women; and Women to be made all Manner of Officers, as Butlers, Panters, sewers, & c. and all Manner of Officers shall bringe them all neadfull Thinges unto the greate Chamber Dore, and the Women Officers shall receave it there of them’.
Margaret decreed that the queen, a month before the birth, should retire to an entirely female and candlelit world.

Although no account survives of the birth of her first grandchild, it is certain that the ordinances were followed and that both Margaret and the queen’s mother, Elizabeth Woodville, would have been present, in all likelihood, vying for influence. Elizabeth of York herself may have felt somewhat lost in the well-ordered world and Margaret’s specifications extended even so far as the materials to be used in making the bed sheets and their exact sizes. She also specified the stuffing for the mattresses and the colour of the cushions. It is possible that, as she grew older and more experienced, Elizabeth found ways to rebel and her accounts for July 1502, a few months into her last pregnancy, record payments made for twenty-seven cushions ‘vi with blewe cloth of gold with cheverons the oon half of the said quysshons of satyn figure the other six with crymysn velvet and six of crymsyn dammaske and six of satyn figure two of purple velvet and oon quysshon of cloth of gold’. The queen, perhaps, intended to pre-empt her overbearing mother-in-law by at least choosing her own cushions to be used in her confinement. An account of the birth of Elizabeth’s second child in 1489 also shows that the queen, on occasion, was able to rebel against the confines of Margaret’s protocol. According to a contemporary manuscript, after Elizabeth had taken to her chamber:

‘Thier came a great Ambassade oute of Frannce, among the whiche ther was a kynsman of the Quenes called Francois Monsieur de Luxemburg, the Prior of Saint Mattelyns, and Sir William de Zaintes, Bailly of Senlis, and Montjoie, King of Armes of Frenshemen, whiche desired to se the Quene, and so they dide, and in her awne Chambre. Ther was with her hir Moder Quene Elisabeth, and my Lady the Kinges Moder; but ther entred no more then ben affore rehersed, savyng my Lord the Quenes Chamberlayn, and Garter Principal King of Armes’.

Margaret’s thoughts on Elizabeth’s breach of protocol in admitting men to her presence is not recorded but, given that the ambassador was kin to Elizabeth through her mother, Elizabeth Woodville’s own maternal family, it is possible that Margaret blamed the queen dowager.

Margaret undoubtedly meant well in the care that she took over her ordinances and she looked towards her daughter-in-law’s comfort but, to Elizabeth, the attention may well have seemed overbearing. Margaret also laid down specifications for the decoration of the church for the christening of her grandson, Prince Arthur, who was born in September 1486. It cannot have pleased her that the baby’s maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Woodville, who outranked her, was named the prince’s godmother although, as a compliment to his mother, Henry appointed his stepfather, Lord Stanley, as Arthur’s godfather.

Margaret was given a great deal of input into the prince’s upbringing and her ordinances decreed the furnishings for the nursery, what servants should be appointed and the precautions to be taken in the appointment and management of the wet nurse, who was to be observed by a doctor at every meal to ensure that ‘she geveth the Childe seasonable Meate and Drinke’. Margaret was present at the birth of her second grandchild in November 1489, a girl who was named Margaret in her honour, and she was named godmother to the princess, making her a gift at her christening of ‘a chest of silver and gilt, full of gold’. Elizabeth of York would eventually bear eight children and they provided a common interest between the pair as they found themselves almost constantly in each other’s company.

Interest in royal births has always been intense and, perhaps, by the end of today, a new prince or princess will have been born. In the modern world, the Duchess of Cambridge, was not required to go into confinement a month before the birth, but the speculation and interest in the birth is just as great as when her baby's ancestress, Margaret Beaufort, sat down to set out just how a royal birth should be managed.

You can read Margaret's Ordinances online at either Google Books or in John Leland's Johannis Lelandi Antiquarii de Rebus Britannicus Collectanea, volume IV from page 179.

BBC London Radio

Just a quick post to let you know that I will be coming on the Robert Elms Show on BBC London Radio (94.9fm) later today to discuss my Tudor kitchen garden and (possibly!) the royal birth.

I have been watering the garden twice a day during this hot spell to ensure that it is still growing well. I'm still a bit concerned about the second crop of radishes as I can't see any radish bulbs yet. I may have to just get used to having radish leaves! Listen out for further updates on the show.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Early Military Records

Look out for my article on Early Military Records, which is published in Your Family Tree magazine (issue 132, August 2013). The article, which is tied in to the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden Field - the last battle in which a British king fell - looks in depth at the ways in which you can trace your military ancestors back through the early modern and medieval periods.

A surprising number of early military records survive. Before the mid-sixteenth century, there was no standing army and, instead, troops would be raised for a particular campaign. Being prepared for military action was a fact of life in the medieval period, with the feudal system requiring guarantees of knight's service in return for the use of land.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Tudor Kitchen Garden - BBC Update Show

I spent this morning filming with the BBC to prepare an update of progress in the Tudor kitchen garden. This should be shown next Wednesday as part of the BBC London news (6.30pm), but I will let you know.

Now that the sun is out, the garden is doing really well. My second crop of radishes already need thinning and they should be ready to eat in a week or so (hopefully we will get some radishes this time but, if not, the leaves are nice to eat!). I've also been thinning the onions and we have been eating these which, although tiny, have a strong flavour. The beans are also growing particularly well and I'm told by Guy Barter of the Royal Horticultural Society (who kindly came to look at the garden today) that they should begin flowering soon.

Guy tells me that it is probably caterpillars that are eating the cabbages, something that I need to look out for. On a positive note, the fact that all the garden pests seem to like the cabbage best does mean that the other plants are largely left alone! Guy also identified the turnips for me, which was great. Just after I planted the turnip seeds an animal (possibly a cat or a fox) dug in the bed, disturbing the rows. A number of different plants came up - some turnips and some weeds. Every time I pulled what I though was a weed, it seemed to have a suspiciously turnip looking root and it's great that I now know which are actually turnips and which are not. I now have a fair bit of weeding to do!

The strawberries have been the biggest disappointment so far. We had a good crop growing but, overnight, they were all eaten. I need to get some netting for next year. Lettuce is still the main crop and we are cutting and eating this every day.

Anyway, I will post again when I know the date of the update programme on BBC 1. In the meantime, here are some more photographs: