Today in 1536 Henry VIII’s illegitimate son by Bessie Blount, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, died at St James’s Palace, probably of tuberculosis. He was 17. Coming just two months after the execution of Anne Boleyn, this was another blow for Henry. By all accounts, he loved his son, and was proud of him, so it was a personal loss. But he had also just made both of his daughters illegitimate, and now he didn’t even have the option of making his son his legitimate heir.
According to the chronicler Charles Wriothesley, Richmond became sickly some time before he died, although Richmond's biographer Beverley A. Murphy cites his documented public appearances and activities in April and May of that year, without exciting comment on his health, as evidence to the contrary. For example, he had attended Anne Boleyn’s execution. He was reported ill with "consumption" in early July, and then died a few weeks later.
Norfolk gave orders that the body be wrapped in lead then taken in a closed cart for secret interment. However, his servants put the body in a straw-filled wagon. The only mourners were two attendants who followed at a distance. The Duke's ornate tomb is in Framlingham Church, Suffolk.
His father outlived him by just over a decade, and was succeeded by his legitimate son Edward, born to Jane Seymour just over a year after FitzRoy's death. It is said that Henry FitzRoy might have been made king had Henry VIII died without a legitimate son:
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
That’s your Tudor Minute for today. Remember you can dive deeper into life in 16th century England through the Renaissance English History Podcast at englandcast.com
Episode 56: James Boulton on Bessie Blount