Duke of Richmond, Duke of Somerset and Earl of Nottingham (1525-1536)
Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland (1529-1536)
Born 1519 Died 1536

Born on the 15th June 1519 at Blackmore in Essex, Henry was the son of king Henry VIII and Elizabeth Blount, daughter of John Blount. Although king Henry became famous for his multiple wives, Elizabeth Blount was not one of them; she was merely a maid of honour in Catherine of Aragon's household and thus Henry Fitzroy as he was called, was illegitimate. But despite his illegitimacy the young Henry was after all, a boy, and his birth therefore demonstrated that the king was at least capable of fathering sons, and indeed Henry remained the king's only son until Jane Seymour gave birth to Edward in 1537. Henry Fitzroy therefore became the only bastard child that Henry VIII ever formally acknowledged and from birth was treated with conspicous generosity by his father; treated like a prince in fact.

He was initially raised at Windsor, where his childhood companion and later close friend was Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, but from a very early age it was clear that his father envisaged a significant role for his son On the 24th April 1525 the six year old Henry was created a Knight of the Garter, on the 16th June that same year awarded the titles of Duke of Richmond, Duke of Somerset and Earl of Nottingham and in the following month appointed Admiral of England, Ireland and Normandy. He was also granted estates in Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Yorkshire (which gave him an income greater than any man in the kingdom other than the king himself) and given his own palace at Sheriff Hutton in Yorkshire. There under the supervision of the Cardinal Wolsey he was educated in Latin and French and introduced to the gentlemanly pursuits of archery, hunting, dancing and music.

In June 1529, the young duke was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland -although he never actually went to Ireland (the actual work would have been carried out by a Lord Deputy acting in his name). It was a similar situation with Henry's other appointment as President of the reconstituted Council of the North, all of which was simply part and parcel of the education of the young prince and indicated that Henry VIII envisaged a prominent role in government for his illegitimate son.

In 1531 the young Henry was betrothed to Mary Howard daughter of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, whom he married two years later in 1533, and thus the king may well have anticipated a dynastic offshoot developing in due course. Of course, the Succession Act of 1534 made it clear that only the king's legitimate issue could succeed to the throne, but in 1536 a bill was placed before Parliament to enable the King to nominate him as the heir to the throne. But this proposal turned out to be somewhat academic as in the early summer of 1536 Henry fell ill and died of consumption at St. James Palace on the 22nd July 1536 at the age of only seventeen.

King Henry VIII entrusted the funeral arrangements to his son's father-in-law the Duke of Norfolk, giving specific instructions regarding the disposal of his son's remains. As it happens, due to a failure in communication, these were largely disregarded and Henry Fitzroy's corpse was chucked in straw covered wagon with only two attendants present at his funeral, and was buried in the Howard family vault at Thetford Priory in Norfolk, in a comparatively modest tomb (at least in comparison with some of his Howard neighbours). Henry VIII is said to have complained that his son had not buried with due regard to station and blamed the Howard family, a belief which may later have been a factor in the fall of the Howards.

Henry Fitzroy's remains did not remain long at Thetford as within a few years the priory was itself subject to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and so in 1540 the Howard tombs were relocated to to St Michael's Parish Church at Framlingham in Suffolk, where his tomb may be viewed to this day.


SOURCES

  • Henry Fitzroy at http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/aboutHenryFitzroy.htm
  • The Tombs Of St Michael's at http://www.framlingham.com/visit/whattodo/stmichaels/tombs/tombs.html
  • Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)
  • Beverley Murphy Bastard Prince: Henry VIII's Lost Son (Sutton Publishing, 2001)

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