I am very honoured today to be able to host Day Five of Claire Ridgway’s book tour for her new book “Illustrated King’s and Queens of England“. Claire has stopped by today to discuss several scandalous monarchs that have caused quite a few stirs throughout the years!
Claire has also kindly offered a copy of her book to give away to one lucky person! To win all you need to do is leave a comment below and a winner will be chosen at random on the 2nd of December 2016…. it’s as simple as that! And now let’s find out a little bit more about some scandalous monarchs…
A big thank you to Sarah Bryson for inviting me to share a guest article with you today as the final stop on my virtual book tour for Illustrated Kings and Queens of England. It’s wonderful to be here!
English history wouldn’t be quite so interesting if it weren’t for royal scandals, would it? Some monarch’s personal lives are like something out of a soap opera, aren’t they? Whereas others appear to be squeaky clean, and perhaps a little boring!
Let’s look at some of the English monarchs whose reigns were tinged by scandal.
Henry VIII (1491-1547)
“Divorced, beheaded, died,
Divorced, beheaded, survived.”
That’s the rhyme we tend to learn in childhood about King Henry VIII and his six wives. This larger than life character of a king had married six times but claimed that only two of his marriages were valid. His marriage to Catherine of Aragon had been annulled because convocation had ruled that the Pope had no power to dispense of a marriage between a man and his brother’s widow. His marriage to Anne Boleyn had been annulled following her condemnation for high treason. His fourth marriage, to Anne of Cleves, had been annulled after just six months due to non-consummation and her alleged pre-contract with the Duke of Lorraine, and his fifth marriage to Catherine Howard was deemed invalid due to her past sexual relationships and her condemnation for treason. Only his marriages to Jane Seymour and Catherine Parr were seen as valid.
Henry VIII also had at least one illegitimate child, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset.
George I (1660-1727)
King George I came to the throne following the death of his second cousin, the childless Queen Anne. Although Anne had many closer blood relatives, George was her closest Protestant relative and the 1701 Act of Settlement prevented Catholics from inheriting the throne. One scandal concerning George was his unhappy marriage to his cousin Sophia Dorothea. George took a mistress, Melusine von der Schulenburg, and Sophia took a lover, a Swedish count. This count disappeared mysteriously in 1694 and Sophia, after her marriage to George was dissolved by the king, was thrown into prison at Ahlden Castle in Germany for the rest of her days. But that’s not the only scandal linked to George I, his reign was also rocked by the South Sea Bubble scandal in 1720. The South Sea Company, a British joint-stock company, had been founded in 1711 and had been granted a monopoly to trade with South America in exchange for underwriting the national debt. Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan, and the company collapsed in 1720, with people becoming destitute overnight and some committing suicide. The King, two of his mistresses and members of his government, had been involved in the company and so were blamed for what happened.
George IV (1762-1830)
King George IV was the eldest son of King George III and his wife Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. He became king in 1820, following the death of his father, but had ruled as prince regent from 1811, due to his father’s mental collapses. He is not only known for his extravagant lifestyle, his love of food and alcohol, he is also known for his love of women. He is said to have collected 7,000 lockets of hair from women he’d had sexual relations with and his mistresses included actress Mary Robinson, the Countess of Jersey, Marchioness of Hertford and Marchioness Conyngham. His marriage to Caroline of Brunswick was unhappy, with the couple separating after the birth of their daughter, Charlotte.
Queen Victoria (1819-1901)
The BBC website describes Queen Victoria as being a queen who “restored the reputation of a monarchy tarnished by the extravagance of her royal uncles”, but her reputation was affected by her relationship with her personal servant, John Brown, following the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert. So close was she to Brown, that she became known as “Mrs Brown”. In 2004, art historian Bendor Grosvenor discovered a letter which gave credence to the idea that the Queen had been in love with Brown. Written in 1883, not long after Brown’s death, it described Victoria’s “present unbounded grief”, Brown as being “one of the most remarkable men who could be known”, and compared his loss to that of Albert’s: “And the Queen feels that life for the second time is become most trying and sad to bear deprived of all she so needs.” It is not firm evidence of a proper relationship but shows just how close queen and servant were.
Edward VIII (1894-1972)
Edward VIII, eldest son of King George V and Mary of Teck, ruled for under a year. He became king on the death of his father on 20th January 1936 but abdicated on 11th December 1936 in favour of his brother, who became King George VI. His reign was cut short by his relationship with the twice-married American socialite Wallis Simpson, who he met in 1930. She was still married when the couple began their romance, just before Edward became king. When he made it plain that he planned to marry Wallis after her divorce, he faced opposition from the Prime Minister of the UK and those of the British dominions. The Church of England opposed the remarriage of divorced people if their ex-spouse was still alive and the monarch was head of the Church – how could Edward fulfil this role and marry a divorcee with two living ex-husbands? It was also felt that the British people would not accept the marriage. Stanley Baldwin, the British Prime Minister, outlined Edward’s choices: he could give up the idea of marrying Wallis, he could go ahead with the marriage against the wishes of all of the prime ministers, or he could abdicate and then do as he wished. Edward chose to abdicate and married Wallis on 3rd June 1937. During the Second World War, it was claimed that Edward and Wallis held Nazi sympathies.
Which scandalous monarchs would you add to this list?
I would like to say a very big THANK YOU to Claire Ridgway for stopping by today and shedding some light on several scandalous monarchs! If you would like to purchase Claire’s new book “Illustrated King’s and Queens of England” or any of her other brilliant books please follow the link to her Amazon Page.
And don’t forget, for your chance to win a copy of Claire’s new book all you need to do is leave a comment below by the 2nd of December 2016!
Claire Ridgway is the author of best-selling books including:
- ON THIS DAY IN TUDOR HISTORY
- THE FALL OF ANNE BOLEYN: A COUNTDOWN
- THE ANNE BOLEYN COLLECTION
- INTERVIEWS WITH INDIE AUTHORS: TOP TIPS FROM SUCCESSFUL SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS
- THE ANNE BOLEYN COLLECTION II
- GEORGE BOLEYN: TUDOR POET, COURTIER & DIPLOMAT
- TUDOR PLACES OF GREAT BRITAIN
- ILLUSTRATED KINGS AND QUEENS OF ENGLAND
Claire was also involved in the English translation and editing of Edmond Bapst’s 19th century French biography of George Boleyn and Henry Howard, now available as TWO GENTLEMAN POETS AT THE COURT OF HENRY VIII.
Claire worked in education and freelance writing before creating The Anne Boleyn Files history website and becoming a full-time history researcher, blogger and author. The Anne Boleyn Files is known for its historical accuracy and Claire’s mission to get to the truth behind Anne Boleyn’s story. Her writing is easy-to-read and conversational, and readers often comment on how reading Claire’s books is like having a coffee with her and chatting about history.
Claire loves connecting with Tudor history fans and helping authors and aspiring authors.