Who Was Henry Fitzroy?

by WiseFool

Henry VIII is famous for his insatiable appetite for women, so probably had love children all over England, but he chose to acknowledge only one illegitimate son: Henry Fitzroy.

In Tudor England, the odd extramarital affair was common among the aristocracy.

Where Henry VIII was concerned, the affairs seemed to be much more than just ‘odd’.

Consequently, there’s a strong likelihood that Henry VIII had numerous illegitimate children. Only one, however, was ever acknowledged by the king: Henry Fitzroy, who became the 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset.

The Birth of Henry Fitzroy

Henry Fitzroy's Coat of ArmsFitzroy was born sometime in June, 1519 - the exact date is unknown (but it is presumed to be between the 9th and 18th).

His mother, Elizabeth, was taken from the court and kept hidden until the child was born. Lady Elizabeth Blount, was one of Queen Catharine’s maids.

And, when the queen was in the later stages of her pregnancy, Blount also became one of Henry VIII’s many mistresses (he was a real catch, wasn't he?).

Although Fitzroy’s birth and christening were conducted privately, Henry VIII did not shy from claiming the infant child as his own, giving him the name Fitzroy, which is Anglo-Norman for ‘son of a king’, and, of course, the Christian name Henry.

In fact, Henry even proudly showed off his newborn son at the Havering-atte-Bower or Newhall manor, introducing the entire court, including his wife, who had only recently given birth to a still-born daughter (sensitivity wasn't Henry VIII's middle name), to the infant Henry Fitzroy.

Henry Fitzroy's Early Years

The first six years of Fitzroy’s life are surrounded in mystery, but Henry’s lack of blushes concerning his illegitimate son, suggests that the boy was not sent away to live a reclusive existence far from his royal father.

There is a suggestion that he might have been raised in close proximity to his sibling, Mary. And he almost certainly received some form of education.

In 1525, before he turned six, Henry Fitzroy was granted a residence: Durham House, and he spent the rest of his childhood enjoying the luxuries that a legitimate prince would have been subject to.

In this respect, Fitzroy was lucky. Had Henry VIII had any legitimate male heirs, or even a younger brother, he would not have perhaps been so keen to recognize Fitzroy as his own.

In the June of 1525, at Durham House, young Fitzroy was elevated to the title of Duke of Richmond and Sussex.

That same year, bear in mind he is still only a six-year-old boy, Fitzroy was appointed numerous other titles, including Lord High Admiral of England and Warden of the Marches towards Scotland.

Henry VIII's Plan to Give Henry Fitzroy The Throne

Henry VIII wanted Henry Fitzroy married to half-sister Mary, who became Mary IAs Henry VIII started proceedings to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, who still had not ‘produced’ a male heir, it was proposed that Fitzroy, by then known as Richmond, should marry young Mary, his half sister.

Still with no legitimate male successor, the king felt this would be the best way to assure that his progeny attained the throne

And, he didn't seem to meet too much opposition to the idea of marital union between his two children.

In fact, the pope was so keen to avoid Henry VIII annulling his own marriage, and breaking from the Catholic Church, that he was willing to permit the marriage between the half siblings.

Henry Fitzroy and Mary Howard

However, that dodgy plan never get off the ground, and, at the age of fourteen, Richmond was married to another Mary: Lady Mary Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard 3rd Earl of Norfolk.

Their marriage, which took place in November, 1533, was never consummated. And, less than three years later, at the age of seventeen, Richmond succumbed to suspected consumption (tuberculosis) and died. He was interred in St. Michael's church, in Framlingham, Suffolk. 

After Henry Fitzroy's Death

Henry Fitzroy's monument in Framlingham, SuffolkIt was not until shortly after Fitzroy's death that Henry VIII got his much longed for son, Edward. The king himself survived his illegitimate child by more than a decade.

However, if he had lived, there is almost no question that Fitzroy would have been in a position to make a play for the throne after Edward’s death (also from consumption).

Certainly, if young Edward had not been born, there’s a strong chance that Fitzroy would have replaced his father.

Updated: 07/03/2014, WiseFool
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WiseFool on 07/03/2014

Absolutely, Alexandria, many 'what ifs?'! We would have almost certainly had a very different line of succession, and it makes you wonder what knock-on effects that would have had on the world we now live in. As you say, it's fascinating to muse on.


AlexandriaIngham on 07/03/2014

So many what ifs in history. What if Henry and Mary did consummate their marriage and had a child? What could have happened to that child, since Henry VIII would acknowledge that child as his grandchild.

Interesting piece. Thanks for sharing.

WiseFool on 07/02/2014

They were certainly well-connected!

WordChazer on 07/02/2014

The Norfolks always have been a powerful family. This article just serves to illustrate how powerful.

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