A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir


  Katherine’s prison in the upper chamber of the Bell Tower still exists. During the Second World War, Rudolf Hess was briefly imprisoned there, and a lavatory was installed for the convenience of another expected Nazi guest: Adolf Hitler. Katherine was later moved to rooms in the Lieutenant’s Lodging, where her infant and her eight servants could be accommodated. The list of decayed furnishings sent by Queen Elizabeth still survives.

  Sir Edward Warner did prove a sympathetic jailer. It was he who allowed Katherine and Edward Seymour to meet on two occasions, and when the Queen found out that Katherine’s second pregnancy had been the result, she had Warner dismissed from his post and imprisoned.

  In Tudor times, many people referred to the White Tower, the keep of the Tower of London, as Caesar’s Tower, in the mistaken belief that Julius Caesar had built it.

  It has long been thought that Katherine died of tuberculosis. The references to her suffering from heavy phlegm and being unable to eat may account for that. Recently, it has been suggested that her poor eating was symptomatic of anorexia, and that she literally starved herself to death. Certainly she was under immense stress for much of her life. The only telling symptom we have to go on is her nails turning purple just before she died. Commonly that indicates a lack of oxygen in the extremities, poor circulation, a respiratory or lung disorder, a cardiovascular problem and/or congestive heart failure. That might indicate tuberculosis, toward which malnutrition can be a major contributory factor. It is possible that Katherine caught it from Jane Seymour; she had been closely exposed to Jane for some time, as she would have needed to be to catch the disease, which is passed by droplet infection through sneezing or coughing. Sometimes the body’s immune system fails to destroy those bacteria, and latent tuberculosis becomes active years later. This is more likely to happen if the immune system becomes weakened by other problems, such as being undernourished and underweight, as Katherine was, and influenza and other infections can play their part; her phlegm may have been a symptom of that kind of illness. Therefore I have adhered to the traditional theory in this book. The account of Katherine’s death is closely based on fact.

  Over the years, I have consulted numerous sources for the Tudor period, which inform my fiction, and the reader is referred to the bibliographies in my nonfiction books, Children of England: The Heirs of Henry VIII and Elizabeth the Queen, for those. For this novel, however, I am indebted particularly to the following works:

  Ashdown, Dulcie M.: Tudor Cousins: Rivals for the Throne (Stroud, 2000)

  Borman, Tracy: Elizabeth’s Women (London, 2009)

  Chapman, Hester W.: Two Tudor Portraits (Oxford, 1960)

  Lisle, Leanda de: The Sisters Who Would Be Queen (London, 2008)

  Lovell, Mary S.: Bess of Hardwick (London, 2005)

  Plowden, Alison: Lady Jane Grey: Nine Days Queen (Stroud, 2003)

  Somerset, Anne: Ladies in Waiting (London, 1984)

  Stevenson, Joan: The Greys of Bradgate (Leicester, 1974)

  While there are numerous sources for the life of Katherine Grey—although she never kept the journal mentioned in the story—we know very little about Katherine Plantagenet, who is mentioned in just four contemporary documents. The earliest reference to her is in her marriage covenant, dated February 29, 1484. In this, William Herbert covenanted with Richard III to take Dame Katherine Plantagenet to wife before Michaelmas (September 29), and to make her a jointure in lands of £200 per annum. The King undertook to bear the whole cost of the marriage and to settle lands and lordships valued at 1,000 marks (£666) yearly on them and the male heirs of their two bodies.

  The couple was married by May 1484, when, at York, Richard III granted “William, Earl of Huntingdon and Katherine his wife” the proceeds of various manors in Devon, Cornwall, and Somerset.

  In this period, couples could be married in childhood, and the Church permitted a girl to cohabit with her husband at the age of twelve. We do not know Katherine’s date of birth, but I have placed it in 1470, on the premise that she married at fourteen, an age at which many girls were married in those days. She cannot have been much older, as Richard III was only eighteen in 1470.

  The last reference to Katherine in contemporary sources occurs on March 8, 1485, when a cash annuity of £152.10s.10d was granted by Richard III to his kinsman, “William, Earl of Huntingdon and Katherine his wife, until they should have grants to themselves and the heirs of their bodies of lordships etc. to the same value.”

  Aside from these sources, I have reconstructed Katherine’s life largely through external evidence, inference, and probability. Her mother was possibly Katherine Haute, wife of James Haute, who was the son of William Haute by Joan Wydeville, a cousin to the Queen. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, made a grant of an annual payment of 100s. from his East Anglian estates to one Katherine Haute before, or in, 1475. It is not known why he did so—unless it was for the support of his child. It may be significant that his daughter shared the same name as Katherine Haute, and that possibly she was named after St. Catherine of Siena, one of Richard’s favorite saints, and the patron saint of young girls.

  Some genealogies describe James Haute as being of Waltham, Kent, but documents in the National Archives show that he held lands in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, his chief seat being the manor of Kinsbourne Hall (or Annable’s) at Harpenden, which he bought from William Annable soon after 1467. The site of his house lies to the east of the surviving Tudor (with later additions) manor house, Annables House, at Kinsbourne Green.

  James Haute died before July 20, 1508, when his will was proved. A court roll dating from the early sixteenth century refers to “silver and stuffs, etc. at my house in my wife’s custody,” so Katherine Haute was still alive then. Although Kinsbourne Hall remained in his family until 1555, James leased it to a Thomas Bray in 1506. There were two sons of the marriage, his heir Edward Haute of London, who was his father’s executor in 1512 and died in 1528, and Alan.

  Richard Haute, James’s brother, was an associate of Richard of Gloucester. It seems that Richard’s attitude toward the Wydeville affinity was complex!

  John of Gloucester, or “of Pontefract,” was Katherine’s brother or half brother. He was possibly conceived at Pontefract when Richard was there in 1471, or during his visits in April or October 1473 or March 1474 (John was still underage in 1485). Richard made a grant in March 1474 to “my beloved gentlewoman” Alice Burgh of an annuity of £20 for life from issues from Middleham, “for certain special causes and considerations.” Possibly she was John’s mother. Later, Alice Burgh was granted another annuity of twenty marks from the revenues of Warwick, for acting as nurse to Edward, Earl of Warwick, Clarence’s son. Richard continued the annuity when he became king. He clearly had a long association with Alice, who came from a Knaresborough family and had perhaps been in the service of his wife Anne. Her sister Isabel was wet nurse to Edward of Middleham.

  There is no surviving great hall at Lincoln Castle. I have based my description of it partly on the one at Gainsborough Old Hall.

  There is an unsubstantiated assertion on Wikipedia that Katherine was “almost certainly arrested” at Raglan Castle in June 1487 after Stoke Field. Although I have discovered no corroborative contemporary evidence, it was this that gave me my plotline involving her with John de la Pole. The love poems quoted are from the fifteenth century; the letters were composed by me, with a little help from the contemporary Paston Letters.

  Shock can cause a woman to miscarry, according to German research published in New Scientist magazine in 2004. We do not know for certain that Katherine Plantagenet was ever pregnant, but we do know that she died young, for a list of peers present at the coronation of Elizabeth of York in November 1487 describes William Herbert as a widower. If Katherine lived to 1487, she would perhaps have been seventeen at the time of her death. The chances are that a young married woman dying at that age perished in childbirth; and as there were no recorded children of the marriage, I have assumed that she suffere
d miscarriages and a stillbirth. Maybe she was buried in St. Cadoc’s Church at Raglan, which was endowed by her husband and father-in-law, and which dates from the fourteenth century. There is no record of her being buried at Tintern Abbey with her husband.

  My theory as to the fate of the Princes in the Tower is set out in my book The Princes in the Tower, published in 1992. I have not read anything since that has moved me to revise my conclusions, although I like to keep an open mind on the matter. This, however, is a work of fiction, based on some of my research for that book, and not intended to be an authoritative source! Even so, I wanted to try to approach the mystery of the princes’ disappearance from a different viewpoint, weighing the evidence accordingly and, I hope, with integrity.

  There is no evidence whatsoever that either Katherine Grey or Katherine Plantagenet tried to find out the truth about the princes, although I imagine that the rumors implicating her father gave Katherine Plantagenet much pause for thought. In constructing the fictional investigations made by my two heroines, I had to give consideration to which sources of information would have been available to each of them. Therefore this novel does not contain a complete overview of the evidence, although even without that, I feel that the conclusion it reaches still carries some historical weight. This is how it might have happened …

  The Minoresses’ convent in Aldgate was surrendered to Henry VIII in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It was granted to the Bishop of Bath and Wells, who used part of it—Bath Place—as a town house and leased the rest.

  Elizabeth Talbot, Duchess of Norfolk and mother-in-law of Richard, Duke of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower, lived in a great house in the convent precincts and was buried in the church in 1506. With her lived Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Robert Brackenbury, Constable of the Tower (whose will of 1514 provided for her burial there), Mary Tyrell, Anne Montgomery, and Joyce Lee, a widow who took the veil and who was interred there in 1507. Sir Thomas More had dedicated a book to her in 1505; she was a family friend, and he must have visited her at the Minories. Several historians believe that he got much of his information from the ladies living with Joyce Lee.

  Dame Elizabeth Savage was the last abbess of the Minories. At the Dissolution, she was granted a pension of £40 (£12,300 now); her nuns received just over £3. Elizabeth Savage would probably have known Alice FitzLewes, abbess from 1501 to 1524, or Dorothy Cumberford, abbess from 1526 to 1529. Alice FitzLewes must have known Joyce Lee; Dorothy Cumberford may well have met her.

  My research uncovered some unexpected connections between the Grey family and the Minoresses’ convent. Katherine’s great-aunt, Mary Reading, was buried in the church. Her father’s sister, Elizabeth, Countess of Kildare, rented a house on the site after the Dissolution.

  In 1548, Edward VI acquired Bath Place, or “the Minories,” by exchange, and in 1553 he granted it to Katherine’s father, Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, but it seems that Grey had been using it as a residence since 1548. Katherine Grey would therefore have known it well.

  Soon after being formally granted the Minories in 1553, Suffolk received a further grant of the Carthusian priory (the Charterhouse) of Sheen, once the property of Protector Somerset. Suffolk preferred Sheen as a residence, so he conveyed the Minories to his younger brothers and half brother. They were involved in Wyatt’s rebellion, but Lord John Grey was pardoned and retained Bath Place into Elizabeth’s reign. The old convent buildings were destroyed by fire in 1797.

  The Act of 1485 repealing Titulus Regius does not survive in the records of Parliament; a Year Book of Henry VII confirms that Richard III’s Act of 1484 was “annulled and utterly destroyed, cancelled, and burnt, and put in perpetual oblivion.”

  Many may recognize that Kate’s pendant is modeled on the famous Middleham Jewel. The bundle of papers tied up in a ribbon is, sadly, an invention.

  To Kezia Jane Marston and

  Persephone Gipps-Williams,

  with lots of love

  BY ALISON WEIR

  FICTION

  A Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals

  and the Secret of the Tower

  Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine

  The Lady Elizabeth: A Novel

  Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey

  NONFICTION

  Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings

  The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn

  Mistress of the Monarchy:

  The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster

  Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and

  Murder in Medieval England

  Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Murder of Lord Darnley

  Henry VIII: The King and His Court

  Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life

  The Life of Elizabeth I

  The Children of Henry VIII

  The Wars of the Roses

  The Princes in the Tower

  The Six Wives of Henry VIII

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  ALISON WEIR is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels A Dangerous Inheritance, Captive Queen, Innocent Traitor and The Lady Elizabeth, and several historical biographies including Mary Boleyn, The Lady in the Tower, Mistress of the Monarchy, Queen Isabella, Henry VIII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Life of Elizabeth I, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. She lives in Surrey, England, with her husband and two children.

  www.alisonweir.org.uk

  www.alisonweirtours.com

 


 

  Alison Weir, A Dangerous Inheritance

 


 

 
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