My Favourite Historical Figures

For my first blog post, I thought it might be interesting to write about some of my favourite historical figures.

I will be writing more detailed posts on these historical figures in time to come, so keep an eye out for them!

Mary Tudor, Queen of France

The wedding portrait of Mary Tudor and her second husband Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk

Mary Tudor is my favourite historical character. Born in 1496 as the youngest surviving child of King Henry VII, Mary was described by numerous reports as a beautiful, virtuous and intelligent woman. In 1514, eighteen-year old Mary married Louis XII of France, who was thirty-six years older than his bride. Louis died only a few months after their wedding, and Mary took fate into her own hands by choosing her second husband. In 1515, Mary married Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, who was the favourite courtier of her elder brother Henry VIII. Although the union was scandalous, both Mary and Charles by all accounts had a loving marriage, which produced four children. Through her eldest daughter Frances, Mary was the grandmother of the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey. Mary died in 1533 aged only 37, and is buried at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

Mary is my favourite historical figure for so many reasons. I have many posts about Mary planned for this blog, so keep an eye out!

Elizabeth of York, Queen of England

A 15th-century portrait of Elizabeth of York

Elizabeth of York was the mother of Mary, Queen of France, and was the wife of the first Tudor king Henry VII. Born in 1466 as the eldest child of the Yorkist king Edward IV, Elizabeth was a significant figure in the Wars of the Roses. Following the defeat of her uncle Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, Elizabeth married the victor, Henry Tudor, and thus united the houses of York and Lancaster, bringing the Wars of the Roses to an end. Elizabeth and Henry seemed to have had a loving relationship, and their union produced seven children, yet only four survived to adulthood. Elizabeth died on her birthday in 1503 following complications with the birth of her final child Katherine. Elizabeth is buried alongside her husband at Westminster Abbey, who was heartbroken at the death of his queen.

Anne Boleyn, Queen of England

A portrait of Anne Boleyn by an unknown artist, 1570

Anne Boleyn in my opinion, is one of history’s most tragic characters. Born in c. 1500 as the daughter of an English diplomat, Anne Boleyn was raised at the foreign courts of Margaret of Austria and Mary Tudor, Queen of France. Back in England, Anne attracted the attention of King Henry VIII, perhaps for the first time at the Chateau Vert pageant in 1522. Henry’s love for Anne was so intense that he sought the annulment of his marriage to his wife, Katherine of Aragon. By 1533 the marriage had been annulled, and Henry was free to take Anne as his second wife. In September of that year, Anne Boleyn gave birth to her only surviving child, a daughter named Elizabeth.

Anne Boleyn was queen for just three years. Many things brought about her downfall, from alleged affairs with courtiers (including her own brother), her failure to produce a son, to Henry’s romance with Lady Jane Seymour. In 1536, Anne Boleyn was trialled for adultery, incest and witchcraft, and was sentenced to death. Anne remained cool and dignified throughout the proceedings, and continued to maintain her innocence. Even at the scaffold Anne remained calm, with some historians suggesting that she believed that Henry would intervene at the last moment. However, Anne Boleyn was beheaded on the 19th May 1536, and her remains were hastily buried in an unmarked grave at the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London.

Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Prince Consort

A portrait of Prince Albert by Winterhalther, 1842

Born in 1819, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha received a fine education and excelled in many subjects as a child. As a teenager, Albert was betrothed to his cousin, Princess Alexandrina Victoria of England, who he met in 1836. At this meeting, the young princess was so impressed that she repeatedly made reference to Albert’s handsome appearance and charming countenance in her diaries. It was not until 1839, two years after Alexandrina had ascended the throne as Queen Victoria, that the couple married at St James’s Palace, London. Initially, Albert was disliked by the British public. He was denied the title of ‘King Consort’, as well as any involvement in British politics. It took seventeen years for Albert to finally be styled as ‘Prince Consort’. Albert was unhappy with his limited role and began to independently undertake new projects, including the establishment of the Great Exhibition in 1851, as well as encouraging many social reforms. Under Albert’s control, many institutions leading to the advancement of education and culture were established.

Albert’s relationship with Victoria is one of my favourite historical romances. Their marriage produced nine children, who by all accounts Albert doted on. He was known to play with his children, as well as be a kindly and affectionate father. However, in 1859 Albert grew gravely ill and died in 1861, at the age of 42. Victoria was devastated by his death, and immortalised Albert across Britain. He is buried at Frogmore, on the Windsor Estate.

Geoffrey Chaucer

An illumination of Geoffrey Chaucer in the Prologue of the Canterbury Tales

Geoffrey Chaucer was the author of The Canterbury Tales, as well as numerous other medieval poems. Born c. 1340 to wine merchants, Chaucer initially began his career as an English diplomat to Edward III, bringing him into contact with influential medieval scholars such as Boccaccio and Dante. In 1386, Chaucer married Philippa Roet, a lady-in-waiting to Philippa of Hainault, Queen of England, as well as being the sister of Katherine Swynford, the wife of John of Gaunt. Chaucer gained popularity with the English nobility and his works became famous across medieval England. He died c. 1400 and is buried in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey.

 

 

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