The Bastards

Henry Fitzroy

Henry Fitzroy

We can’t talk about Henry VIII unless we bring up the many illegitimate children he has repudiated to have.

Henry only acknowledged one of his bastards that being Henry Fitzroy born 15 June 1519, he was the son of Bessie Blount. Henry gave him a dukedom. Perhaps Henry felt that his lack of a male heir was a slur upon his manhood and quickly acknowledged Fitzroy.

Fitzroy died at St. James’s Palace on 23 July 1536. Had he outlived his father with no legitimate sons, he could have perhaps been king. Certainly Henry VIII seemed to pay no heed to convention with regard to illegitimate children. His son was raised as a royal child, with his own household, had the care of the best nurses, taken from his half-sister Mary’s nursery and attended court often as her grew older.
“Well was it for them that Henry Fitzroy his natural son … was dead, otherwise (some suspect) had he survived King Edward the Sixth, we might presently have heard of a King Henry the Ninth, so great was his father’s affection and so unlimited his power to prefer him.” —Thomas Fuller

When Henry Fitzroy died suddenly in his teens, King Henry was said to be devastated. His son was buried privately and Henry quickly dissolved and removed his household. Henry never spoke of his eldest son again.
After her affair with the king slowed and ended, Bessie Blount married and went on to have three further children with her husband, although the eldest, a daughter also Elizabeth, was often rumoured to have been Henry’s child. Dates suggest she was also born out of wedlock, prior to her mother’s marriage.

We also can’t forget about Mary Boleyn’s children Catherine Carey and Henry Carey. Mary was a known mistress of Henry VIII and also sister to Anne Boleyn. Catherine was born around 1524 and was given deference by the Court as she aged and came to resemble Henry. She outlived her children and husband and was a favourite at the court of her cousin Queen Elizabeth. Henry Carey was born on 4 March 1526. The exact dates when his mother’s affair started and ended with Henry VIII are unknown, although it is believed to have ended by the time Henry was born.

There are also a few other children that were alleged to have been fathered by Henry VIII:
John Perrot (November 1528 – 3 November 1592), his mother being Mary Berkeley the wife of Sir Thomas Perrot
Thomas Stucley (c. 1520 – 4 August 1578), his mother being Jane Pollard the wife of Sir Hugh Stukeley
Richard Edwardes (1523? – 1566), born to Mrs. Agnes Edwardes
Ethelreda Malte (born c. 1527), born to Joan Dingley, alias Dobson. Paternity was claimed by John Malte

One can’t help but remember the three legitimate sons Henry had with Catherine. Had they lived, would Henry have still claimed his marriage was invalid when Anne Boleyn turned his head? It seems his problem wasn’t one of propagation, more one of vanity combined with a sad tale of bad luck when his many children failed to thrive. But this wasn’t a particularly unheard of event in the days when a Queen was too regal to be examined during childbirth, and her attendants were not guaranteed to be well versed in the trials of bringing a child into the world.
But as for being punished by God for his marriage, by taking away his ability to produce a legitimate child…. I think personally that says more about Henry’s character than his reproductive ability.

Adela