Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond

Henry’s mother was the teenage Elizabeth Blount, one of three names known as mistresses to Henry VIII, who, as recorded, had fewer mistresses than wives. Bessie Blount was said to have, “excelled all other damsels in singing, dancing, and goodly practices.” Her family were landed gentry, her father had fought in France when Henry was at war with King Louis, and she had come to court as maid-of-honour to Queen Catherine of Aragon. Her affair with Henry started in 1514 and lasted about eight years; from this was born the young Henry, in mid-June 1519, and this son was recognized as his by the King, hence the title “Fitzroy.”

Bessie served the useful purpose of proving Henry could father a son, but that did not stop him from transferring his attentions to Mary Boleyn, Anne’s sister. In later life, Bessie was married to Baron Tallboys, had three children; when this Baron died she was left a wealthy widow, and she married the Earl of Lincoln producing three more children.

Clearly the birth of the young Henry was important, for Wolsey was his godfather. There was some suggestion he might be legitimized as heir to the throne, probably not a real question, but his birth proved to the satisfaction of Henry that Catherine’s failure to produce a live son was her fault and not his. Young Henry Fitzroy was loaded with titles including Earl of Nottingham, Duke of Richmond, Duke of Somerset, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, President of the Council of the North, the last one effectively making him governor of the disturbed North of England before he reached his teens.

In 1533, at the age of 14, he was married to Anne Boleyn’s cousin Mary, a decidedly more proper marriage than the one proposed to his half-sister, Mary daughter of Catherine of Aragon, even though the pope was said to be willing to support that marriage by issuing a dispensation.

Henry Fitzroy died in London, July 1536, probably of tuberculosis of the lungs.

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