Friday, October 25, 2013

October 25, 1519 The marriage of Henry Courtenay and Gertrude Blount

On October 25, 1519 at the Palace of Greenwich, the King's first cousin, Henry Courtenay, Earl of Devonshire married his second wife, Gertrude Blount.

Henry had been married first to Elizabeth Grey, the daughter and heiress of John Grey, Viscount Lisle and Muriel Howard. Elizabeth short life, (c1505 to no later than early 1519) is the key to the complication of the Lisle title.  The Viscount Lisle title was able to be passed on through the female line. Elizabeth's wardship was granted to Sir Charles Brandon and he tried to claim the right to the Lisle title. After he married the King's sister, Mary, Dowager Queen of France in 1515 Elizabeth's wardship passed to the King's Aunt Katherine, Dowager Countess of Devonshire. At some point thereafter, Elizabeth was married to Katherine's son, Henry Courtenay. It is not known why Elizabeth Grey died, but it is presumed to have happened before she reached the age the marriage could be consummated. ( entry on Elizabeth Grey in A Who's Who of Tudor Women)

Henry Courtenay's second marriage was almost to another woman, the niece of William of Croy, Sieur de Chievres and former tutor to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Horatia Durant writes in her book on the Earls of Devons that "the suggested bride was not good looking but her 'dot' (dowry) was unexceptional, no less than 50,000 crowns and a douceur (grant or bribe) from the newly elected Emperor." (Durant 36)

"On the 11th (June) Spinelly (Spinelli was a Venetian ambassador) communed with the Catholico (primate of an Eastern Orthodox church) on the premises "though he was a little crazed and of a flux: and the evening the lord Chievres sent to me, and desired me to go the next day to the King's mass at court, notwithstanding none other ambassadors, for the said indisposition, should be there. And after the mass done he brought me to the King,"(Charles I of Spain about to be elected Holy Roman Emperor) and told him he had heard that the king of England had sent money to Antwerp to raise a loan for the French; and on the refusal of the merchants to ensure the conveyance of it to Frankfort, it was sent to Lyons to the amount of 50,000l. English gold. He could not believe it was for any other purpose, than to perform the secret intelligence which England had showed to Bouton existed between the Pope and himself. On his retirement from the audience he dined with Chievres, who warned him against the lies of the French, and that the report of his going into France had been taken entirely contrary to the truth; that he had never entertained any overture against England; but he acknowledged that he had consented to many things for peace' sake before he left Flanders, which now he would refuse, but none to the prejudice of England. He said also, that an English gentleman was at Montpellier with the Grand Master, who had given currency to the report;. That same night, demanding the news of Chievres, he had learned that Messire Jeronimo Pruner, carrying the ratification of the lady Katelyna the King's sister, and other dispatches, had arrived safely in Savoy. Whilst talking together it came into Spinelly's mind, that the heir of Devonshire, by the decease of the viscountess of Lisle, was a widower, whereupon he sounded Chievres as to the state of the treaty with that lord's son, and proposed to him to make overtures for the King of England to contract her to my lord of Devonshire. He allowed Spinelly to ask for a commission to treat and conclude this matter. She is not handsome, but is not to be refused; and as he has given to the Lord Fynes with her second sister 50,000 crowns of gold, she that is the eldest must rather have more. On the 13th the governor of Bresse persuaded him to write and urge this matter, saying that besides her uncle's dowry the Catholico will not stick to contribute a good sum, and that for 'the dote, which in marriage is the principal point commonly,' there be no variance. On the 14th Chievres asked him how soon he looked for an answer, he told him, within 25 days. Chievres said he had heard 'in England the youth is of evil rule, and that, being God's pleasure his niece and daughter cometh thither, he wol beseech your grace to put her to her husband and her such persons as unto the same shall be thought good." (Letters and Papers online volume 3 16 June Vesp. C.I. 274 B.M.)

On the 9th of July Sir Thomas More wrote to Thomas, Cardinal Wolsey
"The King is satisfied with the order taken about Hesdin, and is glad of the proposal of Chievres for marriage of his niece with the earl of Devonshire.  He had distrusted the cardinal of Sion before. Oking Saturday, July 9. (Letters and Papers volume 3 9 July. Galba, B.v.269 St. P.I.7)

Wolsey wrote to Spinelli on the 15th of July and here we get a clue as to the reason the foreign marriage proposal did not come to fruition.
"And whereas ye further write of an overture to you made" by Chievres for the marriage of his niece with the earl of Devonshire, a near kinsman of the King's. Wolsey has communicated it to Henry, who heartily thanks Chievres and the King Catholic, considering it a manifest token of their desire to maintain the amity. Nevertheless, before coming to any conclusion (Spinelly) is to find out secretly for what reason Chievres makes the proposal; whether he looks to any chance of the Earl's succession to the crown of England; what dote he means to give his niece, and what jointure or dower of lands he (expects) for her, "which cannot be great, remembering the Earl's mother...knowledge whereof a commission." (Letters and Papers volume 3 Vit. B. XX. 181, B.M.)

Since King Henry VIII did not have a male heir his nearest kinsman who was purely English was his cousin, Henry Courtenay, son of Queen Elizabeth of York's sister, Princess Katherine. King Henry and Queen Katherine of Aragon's daughter Princess Mary is three years old in 1519 and the King's bastard son, Henry Fitzroy has just been born. By strict primogeniture, Henry Courtenay is a bit down the list of potential heirs to the throne. Princess Mary is the heiress followed by Queen Margaret of Scotland's  son, King James V, Queen Margaret herself and her daughter Lady Margaret Douglas, but it is unlikely that King Henry VIII was going to allow his throne to pass to a foreign-born bloodline and in fact, he would exclude Queen Margaret's heirs when he wrote his will.  His younger sister, Mary, Dowager Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk would be next in line after James and Margaret. In 1519 she has a surviving daughter, Frances and will give birth to her daughter Eleanor. She had a son, Henry in 1516, but he died young no later than 1522. Mary would have a second son, also named Henry who was young enough to be carried at his investiture as Earl of Lincoln in 1525.  That leads to the Yorkist heirs led by Princess Katherine, Dowager Countess of Devonshire's son, Henry Courtenay who had the advantage in 1519 of being an adult male.

The reference to the Earl's mother being the reason that the potential jointure would not be very large has do to with the fact that King Henry VIII had granted Princess Katherine, Dowager Countess of Devonshire the rights to the lands held by her husband until her death.

So, there would be no prestigious foreign match with the niece of Charles V's former tutor. In fact, according to Sir Thomas More the negotiations for Henry Courtenay to marry Gertrude Blount, the daughter of WIlliam Blount, 4th Baron Mountjoy and Queen Katherine of Aragon's Lord Chamberlain were clearly in full swing in July 1519 as More wrote to Wolsey suggesting that the negotiations be put off in favor of the Chievres match.

"...As touching the overture made by my Lord of Shevers for the marriage of my Lord of Devonshire, the King is well content, and as me seemeth, very glad of the motion, wherein he requireth Your Grace that it may like you to call my Lord of Devonshire to your Grace, and to advice him secretly to forbear any further treaty of marriage with my Lord Mountjoy for a while; staying the matter, not casting it off; shewing him that there is a far better offer made him, of which the King would that he should not know the speciality before he speak with his Grace." (Durant 36)

The marriage of Henry and Gertrude took place at Greenwich on the 25th of October and the King paid 200l, 4s 9 p for jousts as part of the wedding festivities. (Emerson entry on Gertrude Blount) So it was a grand court wedding and from that point on Gertrude as the wife of the King's first cousin would begin to take part in many of the grand events of the reign of King Henry VIII starting with attending Queen Katherine at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in June 1520.

Source Material: and 91034
Sorrowful Captives: The Tudor Earls of Devon by Horatia Durant.