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Elizabeth Blount

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Elizabeth Blount
Baroness Tailboys of Kyme
Baroness Clinton
Stylized brass with the likeness of Blount[1]
Bornc. 1498–1502
Kinlet, Shropshire
Diedc. 1540 (aged between 37 and 42)
Probably England
Spouse(s)Gilbert Tailboys, 1st Baron Tailboys of Kyme
Edward Clinton, 1st Earl of Lincoln
IssueHenry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset (ill.)
Elizabeth Tailboys, 4th Baroness Tailboys of Kyme
George Tailboys, 2nd Baron Tailboys of Kyme
Robert Tailboys, 3rd Baron Tailboys of Kyme
Lady Bridget Dymoke
Catherine Clinton, Baroness Burgh
Margaret Clinton, Baroness Willoughby of Parham
FatherSir John Blount of Kinlet
MotherCatherine Peshall

Elizabeth Blount (c. 1498[2]/c. 1500[3]/c. 1502[4] – 1540),[4] commonly known during her lifetime as Bessie Blount, was a mistress of Henry VIII of England.

Early life

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Blount was the daughter of Sir John Blount and Catherine Peshall, of Kinlet, Bridgnorth, Shropshire.[5] Sir John Blount was a loyal, if unremarkable, servant to the English Royal family, who accompanied King Henry to France in 1513 when he waged war against Louis XII of France. The Blount family was of gentry status but had no real national input until Blount gave birth to Henry Fitzroy, the only acknowledged illegitimate child of Henry VIII.[6]

Little is known of Elizabeth Blount's early years, except for her reputation as a beauty,[7] and for her famous affair with King Henry VIII (born 1491; he was about seven years older than Bessie). There is no known portrait of her in existence but there is a stylised brass with her likeness.[8] As a young girl, she came to the King's Court as a maid-of-honour to the King's wife, Catherine of Aragon.[5] Bessie was a talented dancer and singer, excelling everybody 'in all goodly pastimes', high spirits and energy. In her twenties and thirties, she is described as having had 'very good cheer' and became the King's preferred dancing partner.[9]

It was there at court that the young woman caught the eye of the King and became his mistress during 1514 or 1515, a relationship which continued for about eight years, after the suggestion of an affair was brought to light.[10][11][12]

Sculpture of Elizabeth Blount on the tomb monument of her parents at Kinlet church.

Royal mistress

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Blount's relationship with Henry VIII lasted for some time, compared to his other affairs, which were generally short-lived and unacknowledged. While Henry and his first wife were unsuccessful at producing a male heir to the throne, Henry had a healthy son by Blount, her first pregnancy and her only child by the king.[13] On 15 June 1519, Blount bore the King an illegitimate son who was named Henry FitzRoy, later created Duke of Richmond and Somerset and Earl of Nottingham. He was the only illegitimate son of Henry VIII whom the King acknowledged as his own.[14] After the child's birth, the affair ended for unknown reasons although it is thought that the resulting child was more of a happy accident than an attempted career move.[9] For proving that King Henry was capable of fathering healthy sons, Elizabeth Blount prompted a popular saying, "Bless 'ee, Bessie Blount", often heard during and after this period.

Soon after the birth of his son, the King began an affair with Mary Boleyn, who may have been partly the reason for Blount's dismissal. Like Blount, Boleyn was never formally recognised as the King's mistress and the position of public maîtresse-en-titre was never offered by Henry to anyone but Anne Boleyn, who rejected it.[15]

Later life

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In 1522, Blount entered an arranged marriage with Gilbert Tailboys, 1st Baron Tailboys of Kyme (sometimes spelled "Talboys"), whose family was said by some to have a history of insanity. The couple settled in Lincolnshire and later had three children.[16] After her marriage, Blount does not figure much in the day-to-day affairs of the Tudor monarchy or in the official records. Her role in the life of her royal son is less documented, although a letter of 1529 to her from John Palsgrave, Henry FitzRoy's tutor, suggests that her involvement in the duke's upbringing was greater than previously believed.[16] The King's involvement with his son's upbringing was also noted as "doting".[9]

On 23 July 1536, Blount's son Henry FitzRoy died, probably of tuberculosis ("consumption"). Her husband, Gilbert, Lord Tailboys, also predeceased her, dying in 1530 but leaving her a widow of comfortable means. By her marriage to Tailboys, she had three further children, two sons, George and Robert, and one daughter, Elizabeth.[5]

After the death of Tailboys, Blount was wooed unsuccessfully by Leonard Gray.[17] She subsequently married a younger man whose Lincolnshire lands adjoined hers, Edward Clinton or Fiennes, 9th Baron Clinton, thus becoming Elizabeth Fiennes. They were married some time between 1533 and 1535, and this union produced three daughters.

For a short while, she was a lady-in-waiting to Henry's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves,[citation needed] but due to her own health problems she left the Queen's service around the time the royal marriage was dissolved and did not serve Anne's successor, Catherine Howard. Blount returned to her husband's estates, where she died shortly after July 1540. It has traditionally been asserted that the cause of her death was consumption.[citation needed] She was not buried with either husband.[16]

Importance

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Compared with Henry's first two wives, Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, Blount's importance to history was negligible.[18] However, she was certainly more important than any other mistress the king had during his first marriage. Blount was the mother of Henry's only acknowledged illegitimate child, and at one point in the 1520s it was suggested that her son should be named the King's legal heir.[19] Although nothing came of these plans, the fact that she was the mother of such an important child made her an object of interest to many of her contemporaries.

Henry was convinced that because he fathered a healthy son with Elizabeth that his wife's inability to bear him a son was Catherine's fault.[citation needed] The queen gave birth to at least three boys, yet only the first lived as long as seven weeks. This led Henry to believe there was something wrong with his marriage to Catherine, and that he needed to annul his marriage.[citation needed]

Children

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From King Henry VIII:

  1. Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset, 1st Earl of Nottingham, born 1519, died 1536. Married Lady Mary Howard. No children.[20]

From a first marriage to Gilbert Talboys, 1st Baron Tailboys of Kyme:[17]

  1. Elizabeth Tailboys, 4th Baroness Tailboys of Kyme, born c. 1520, died 1563, who at the death of her brother, the 3rd baron, became the 4th Baroness Tailboys of Kyme. Married firstly Thomas Wymbish, of Nocton (died 1553), who claimed the title in his wife's right. It was, however, ruled that a husband could not so bear his wife's title unless he had a child by her; this ruling was the final decision on the point. Married secondly, c.1552, as his second wife, Ambrose Dudley, 3rd Earl of Warwick (c. 1530–1590). She died in 1563, and, as she had no children, the barony became extinct.
  2. George Tailboys, 2nd Baron Tailboys of Kyme, born c. 1523, who succeeded as 2nd Baron Tailboys of Kyme, and died on 6 September 1540. Married Margaret Skipwith in 1539. No children.
  3. Robert Tailboys, 3rd Baron Tailboys of Kyme, de jure Lord Kyme, born c. 1523, died 1541.

From a second marriage to Edward Clinton, 1st Earl of Lincoln:

  1. Lady Bridget Clinton (born c. 1536). She married Robert Dymoke (1531-1580), of Scrivelsby, Lincolnshire, some time around 1556 and had ten children. Dymoke (sometimes spelt Dymock or Dymocke) was a devout Catholic and named a martyr after his death.
  2. Lady Katherine Clinton (b. c. 1538 – d. 14 August 1621). She married William Burgh, 2nd Baron Burgh of Gainsborough (c. 1522 – 10 October 1584), son of Thomas Burgh, 1st Baron Burgh.[21][22] Had three sons and three daughters, one of them being Thomas Burgh, 3rd Baron Burgh.[22][23]
  3. Lady Margaret Clinton (b. c. 1539). She married Charles Willoughby, 2nd Baron Willoughby of Parham (died 1603), and had five children.

Notes

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  1. ^ "Palimpsest; Monumental Brass." The British Museum, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/H_1990-0105-1.
  2. ^ Norton, Elizabeth., Bessie Blount: Mistress to Henry VIII (Stroud, 2011) p. 47
  3. ^ Karen Lindsey, xv, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived, Perseus Books, 1995
  4. ^ a b Weir, Alison (1 June 2001). Henry VIII: King and Court. Jonathan Cape Ltd. ISBN 978-0-224-06022-6.
  5. ^ a b c Murphy, Beverley (23 September 2004). "Blount [married names Tailboys, Fiennes de Clinton], Elizabeth". In Matthew, H. C. G.; Harrison, B. (eds.). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. ref:odnb/73234. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/73234. Retrieved 15 February 2023. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. ^ Norton, Elizabeth. “Elizabeth Blount of Kinlet : An Image of Henry VIII's Mistress Identified.” Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society, vol. 84, 2011, pp. 21-26.
  7. ^ Hall's Chronicle
  8. ^ "palimpsest; monumental brass | British Museum". The British Museum. Retrieved 25 April 2023.
  9. ^ a b c Fraser, Antonia (1993). The Wives of Henry VIII. New York: Knopf.
  10. ^ Hart, Kelly (6 March 2009). The Mistresses of Henry VIII. The History Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-7524-4835-0.
  11. ^ Childe-Pemberton, William Shakespere. Elizabeth Blount and Henry VIII with some account of her surroundings. 1913.
  12. ^ Hart, Kelly. The Mistresses of Henry VIII. History Press, 2009.
  13. ^ Whitley, Catrina Banks, and Kyra Kramer. “A New Explanation for the Reproductive Woes and Midlife Decline of Henry VIII.” The Historical Journal, vol. 53, no. 4, 2010, pp. 827–848., https://doi.org/10.1017/s0018246x10000452.
  14. ^ Weir, Alison (10 January 1991). The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-3683-1.
  15. ^ Ives, Eric (30 June 2004). The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn. WileyBlackwell. ISBN 978-0-631-23479-1.
  16. ^ a b c Murphy, Beverley A. "Blount [married names Tailboys, Fiennes de Clinton], Elizabeth (c. 1500–1539x41), royal mistress." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 03. Oxford University Press. Date of access 29 Mar. 2023. https://www-oxforddnb-com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-73234[permanent dead link].
  17. ^ a b "Talboys, William" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  18. ^ Lindsey, Karen (12 April 1996). Divorced Beheaded Survived; A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII. Da Capo Press Inc. ISBN 978-0-201-40823-2.
  19. ^ Scarisbrick, J. J. (May 1968). Henry VIII (English Monarchs Series). Methuen Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-0-413-25600-3. J. J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (1968)
  20. ^ Hobden, Heather. Tudor bastard : Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset and his mother Elizabeth Blount. Lincoln: Cosmic Elk, 2001.
  21. ^ Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 1, page 587.
  22. ^ a b George Edward Cokayne. Complete peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, extant, extinct, or dormant, Volume 2, G. Bell & sons, 1889. pp. 76–77. Google eBook
  23. ^ John Burke. A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerages of England, Ireland, and Scotland, Extinct, Dormant, and in Abeyance, Google eBook

Further reading

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  • Haeger, Diane. The Queen's Rival
  • Hart, Kelly. The Mistresses of Henry VIII
  • Murphy, Beverley A. Bastard Prince: Henry VIII's Lost Son
  • Norton, Elizabeth. Bessie Blount: Mistress to Henry VIII


Fictional portrayals

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