I hadn’t meant that my posts this week would be overtaken by Bastardy. Interestingly as yesterday’s Bastard children were the forebears of some of the most notorious royal families in English history it is only proper to discuss perhaps England’s most conspicuous royal bastard.
Henry Fitzroy was the son of Henry VIII and Elizabeth Blount, a lady in waiting to the Queen, Catherine of Arragon. Henry’s joy in his new born son was obvious, as it demonstrated that he could produce a boy. Fitzroy was the first son of Henry’s who lived beyond infancy, and the only illegitimate child that the King officially recognised as his own. The name Fitzroy is a Norman-French surname meaning “son of the King”, and it was common for illegitimate children of the King to receive this name.
At the age of six Fitzroy was made knight of the Garter, several years later he was named the Earl of Nottingham and Duke of Richmond and Somerset, intensifying rumours that the King would legitimise Henry and make him his heir. Fitzroy was raised in Yorkshire and bestowed with various other titles over the years (including Admiral of England, Ireland and Normandy; Warden of the Cinque Ports; Lieutenant of Ireland). Perhaps with a view to prepare him for the role of King. He was given his own household of 245 servants, dressed in lavish clothing and given a classical education; he regularly attended parliament from the age of ten.
Henry VIII and the Francis I of France arranged for Fitzroy to stay at the French court where he was accepted as a member of the King’s Privy Chamber. A little under a year later Fitzroy was recalled to England for his marriage to Mary Howard, the Duke of Norfolk’s daughter, in November 1533; as they were both 14 the marriage was never consummated.
Henry VIII referred to his son as ‘my worldly jewel’; however Fitzroy died quite suddenly in July 1536 aged 17 from what is believed to be tuberculosis, or pneumonic plague. Fitzroy had appeared healthy when he attended the opening of Parliament on 8 June with the first signs of any illness recorded just two weeks before his death. He was buried in the Cluniac priory of Thetford, but at the dissolution his body and tomb, together with that of his father-in-law, the Duke of Norfolk, were removed to St. Michael’s Church, Framingham, Suffolk.
Had Fitzroy lived there were those who expected him to become Henry’s legitimate heir. Importantly Bastardy wouldn’t necessarily rule him out as both of Henry’s legitimate daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, experienced periods in their lives when their father’s marital problems rendered them illegitimate: Mary when Henry’s marriage to Katherine was nullified, and Elizabeth following the execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn.