Love and Loyalty – Ancestral blessings for Royal Christening

Love and Loyalty – Ancestral blessings for Royal Christening

As an historical novelist it often strikes me that one sees current events through the lens of the past. So, looking ahead to the christening of little Prince George on October 23rd called into my mind a couple of his family values dating back nearly 500 years – Love and Loyalty – may he be blessed with them too.

One of the real-life characters who features, large as life, in my new novel Captain Cobbler*, is Maria de Salinas, chief lady-in-waiting and best friend of Katherine of Aragon who had the courage to demonstrate her Love and Loyalty to Katherine in the face of dread opposition of the tyrant king, Henry VIII of England – more details follow below.

It turns out that Maria de Salinas, through her marriage to a Lincolnshire gentleman is the 19X great grandmother of little Prince George – or to give him his full title (… no let someone else deal with his FULL title, let us just concentrate on Love and Loyalty!)

After the untimely death of Arthur Prince of Wales, in 1502, teenage first husband of Katherine of Aragon, Maria de Salinas spent some years, alongside her mistress, in relatively straitened circumstances whilst Katherine’s miserly father-in-law, Henry VII, was still alive. And Maria was denied the chance to marry during that time because there was no money for a dowry for her. But when Henry VIII ascended to the throne and married Katherine of Aragon, Maria de Salinas was then also able to marry. It appears she married for love and she married William Willoughby, 11th Baron d’Eresby from Lincolnshire. They had just one child, who was named after Queen Katherine, who was also godmother to the child.

Katherine Willoughby

Katherine Willoughby was only 7 years old when her father died in 1526 and in 1529 she became a ward of the Duke of Suffolk, Charles Brandon, Henry VIII’s best friend and brother-in-law. [Brandon had married Mary Tudor, to save her being married off to yet another fusty old Royal after her first husband, the old King of France had died.]

Suffolk was intending that Katherine Willoughby would marry his son, but when his wife Mary Tudor died in 1533, he decided he would marry the girl himself, otherwise he might lose control of her Lincolnshire lands, which were bringing him a nice income, thank you. So, at the tender age of 14, Katherine Willoughby found herself married to the 50-year-old Duke of Suffolk. She bore him two sons, both of whom died as teenagers (16 and 14) of the dreaded “sweating sickness”.

Suffolk, himself had died in August 1545 so both boys became Duke of Suffolk in their turn, Henry for only six years and his younger brother Charles for just half an hour because the older boy Henry died first.

Katherine Willoughby, widowed mother of two at the age of twenty-six, who was now the Dowager Duchess of Suffolk, and undoubtedly one of the richest women in the land, invested her life in her young sons and must have been devastated by their sudden deaths a few short years later in 1551.

Meanwhile, Richard Bertie, son of a stonemason, Thomas Bertie, was a clever young man who had been to university at Oxford and had become a gentleman’s usher in the household of the Duke of Suffolk sometime in the 1530’s. He had risen to be Master of Horse for the Dowager Duchess but he had also been a rock of support for her in difficult times. After the boys died Katherine clearly decided she did not have to maintain appearances of grandeur for their sakes and she and Richard married for love in 1552. Love and Loyalty.

Mr and Mrs Bertie went on to have two children, a son Peregrine, and a daughter Susan. It is through the line of descendants of Peregrine Bertie, 13th Baron Willoughby d’Eresby, that Katherine (and also, therefore, Maria de Salinas) were ancestors of Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales and thus of little Prince George who is to be christened on 23rd October 2013 by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Love and Loyalty to her best friend

It was also in the 1530’s that Maria de Salinas, Baroness d’Eresby, had amply demonstrated her Love and Loyalty to her best friend, Katherine of Aragon. We all know that Henry VIII had divorced his first wife Katherine and banished her from Court. She was exiled to a number of cold castles and manor houses and ended up in Kimbolton Castle in Cambridgeshire in 1535, attended only by a very small household and allowed no visitors on the strict orders of King Henry VIII.

Katherine became increasingly ill during the latter part of 1535 and her daughter Mary and her best friend Maria de Salinas pleaded with Henry to let them visit the dying Queen. But he would not hear of it – he seemed to be afraid that Mary might act as a focus for enemies who would like to see a rebellion to oust him in favour of his daughter. In fact Henry also denied Katherine the title of Queen and insisted she be called the Dowager Princess of Wales to demonstrate she was the widow of his brother Arthur. As such, Henry now claimed, she had not been legally allowed to marry him, and he was therefore within his rights to annul the marriage.

But Maria’s Love and Loyalty for her best friend Katherine (Catalina) of Aragon knew no bounds and when she heard Katherine was dying in January 1536, she braved the wrath of King Henry VIII by tricking her way into Kimbolton Castle*. She somehow got past the guards who had been given the strictest instructions to let absolutely no-one in.

Katherine was so pleased to see her friend Maria that she said she could now “..die happy” knowing she was no longer alone. And, indeed she died only a day or so later, in Maria’s arms. Now THAT is Love and Loyalty. Let us hope that Prince George is brought up to know the true value of such family traits.

(*For my interpretation of how she might have achieved this feat, you will just have to buy the book Captain Cobbler: the Lincolnshire Uprising 1536, the e-book version a snip at only $2.99 at Amazon.com or £1.85 at Amazon.co.uk – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Captain-Cobbler-Lincolnshire-Uprising-ebook/dp/B00EVQH6FQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1381316545&sr=8-1&keywords=captain+cobbler+1536 enjoy!)

PS I shall be launching my novel in New York from 22nd October, so will be available for US media interviews on and after 23rd October through to 3rd November 2013

About Keith Melton - Green Lib Dem

Retired English liberal environmentalist living in Nottinghamshire; spent six years in Brazil. Author of Historical Novel - Captain Cobbler: the Lincolnshire Uprising 1536. Active member of the Green Liberal Democrats - (pressure group in Liberal Democrats) - was Founding Chair of GLD in 1988
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