1519: A Tudor Year in Review

by Heather R. Darsie

The year 1519 was a year of massive changes, important births, and important deaths in Western Europe. Some of these impacted Henry VIII’s reign, whilst others did not come meaningfully into play until the reigns of Henry’s daughters. Henry VIII turned 28 years old in 1519, and was still young-minded.

Births and Deaths

Maximilian I von Habsburg, Holy Roman Emperor, died 12 January 1519. His son Philip the Handsome died years before, leaving Maximilian’s 18-year-old grandson Charles von Habsburg as the obvious candidate for election to the seat of Holy Roman Emperor. Maximilian enjoyed a friendship with Henry VIII and with Anna of Cleves’ grandfathers, particularly her paternal grandfather. Maximilian introduced Henry to the fantastical style of armor created by German smiths. The two fought together against France in 1513 during the Battle of the Spurs.

Katherine Willoughby de Eresby, Duchess of Suffolk was born 22 March. Her mother was Maria de Salas, a Spanish lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon. Katherine may have been considered as a seventh wife for Henry, though this appears to be a more modern hypothesis in need of further research. Catherine was the second wife of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. The couple had two sons, who sadly died of the Sweating Sickness within hours of each other in 1551. Katherine next married Richard Bertie. The couple was forced to flee England in 1555 during the reign of Mary I due to their Protestant beliefs. During their flight, they stayed in the German city of Xanten, under the rule of Anna of Cleves’ brother Wilhelm V.  Katherine was one of the first people Anna met when she came to England, and the two remained friends until Anna’s death in 1557. Katherine died in 1580.

Henri II of France, born 31 March. Henri became king in 1547, and died from a jousting accident in 1559. His son Francis married Mary, Queen of Scots. Henri was also known for his relationship with Diane de Poitiers, despite his marriage to Catherine de Medici.

Catherine de’ Medici, born 13 April. Her father Lorenzo de Medici died on 4 May, when Catherine was only a few weeks old. She was less than two weeks younger than her husband Henri II. The couple was married in 1533, but it was not until 1544 that their first child, Francis, was born. Catherine sent her daughter-in-law, Mary, Queen of Scots, back to Scotland after the death of Francis when it no longer made sense to keep Mary. Catherine served as Regent of France, and saw three of her sons become Kings of France.

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, died 2 May. Famous artist and inventor. Born out of wedlock in area around Florence, the polymath went on to have a colorful career. He was invited to France by King Francis I in 1516, where he is thought to have worked on his painting Mona Lisa. Da Vinci died at Clos Luce. His cause of death is unknown, though it is speculated that he died from a stroke.

Possible copy of a portrait of da Vinci, via Wikimedia Commons.

Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, born 15 June. Fitzroy was the only recognized bastard of Henry VIII. Fitzroy was elevated on 18 June 1525. Thereafter, Henry was known by the Surname of Richmond. For a time, it was bruited about that Richmond would marry his elder half-sister, Mary. Instead, he married Lady Mary Howard. Lady Mary was the daughter of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, making her a cousin of Anne Boleyn. Richmond died in 23 July 1536, possibly from tuberculosis. At the time of his death, Anne Boleyn was dead for over two months and an Act going through Parliament disinheriting Elizabeth and to allow Henry VIII to appoint an heir, whether legitimate or not.

Lucrezia Borgia, Duchess of Ferrara, died 24 June. She was the illegitimate daughter of the scandalous Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI. Her life was mired with sordid tales about her relationship with both her brother and father. Lucrezia had three husbands; first, Giovanni Sforza. Their marriage was annulled after a couple months when it was no longer politically expedient for Lucrezia’s father. Giovanni accused her of having an incestuous relationship with her father. Second, Lucrezia married Alfonso d’Aragon. THe couple was married for two years before Alfonso’s murder, possibly at the hands of Lucrezia’s brother Cesare. Third, Lucrezia married Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara. They wed in 1502, and remained married until Lucrezia’s death. She is thought to have died due to complications from the birth of her tenth child.

Edmund Grindal, Archbishop of Canterbury, was possibly born in 1519. He fled England during the Marian exile, returning in after Elizabeth I’s accession. He served as Archbishop of Canterbury under Elizabeth I from 1575 until his death in 1583, not without a bit of scandal.



When learning about the Tudor period, it is important to remember that the calendar did not flip over until Lady Day, 25 March. Thus, 1 January 1518 was actually 1 January 1519 by modern standards. In the Tudor period, February was the last month of the year. To learn more  about Lady Day, click here.

Henry VIII commissions his tomb. To whit,

“Form of indenture, 5 Jan. 1518, between A.B. and C.D., on behalf of the King, and Peter Torrysany of Florence, graver, now resident in the precinct of St. Peter’s, Westminster, for the making of a tomb of white marble and black touchstone for Henry VIII. and Queen Katharine, one-fourth larger than that which he has already made for Henry VII., in pursuance of his indenture with the late King’s executors, dated 26 Oct. 1512. This tomb is not to cost more than 2,000l., and to be completed in four years, under the direction of Wolsey. A model to be sent in [5?] months. On notifying the completion of the work, Torregiano will be informed where it is to be placed, and shall there set it up. On fulfilling the contract he shall receive back the following obligations, viz., two of John Fraunceis and Reyner de Bard amounting to 600l., three of John Cavalcanti and other merchants of Florence for 400l., and another of the same for 1,000l.”

Henry was later buried with his third wife, Jane Seymour,  at Windsor. The marble for Henry’s original tomb was eventually used for the burial of Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson in St. Peter’s Cathedral.

A few days later, on 13 January, Henry dined with Cardinal Campeggio, Papal Legate. Henry would come to despise Campeggio ten years later, when Campeggio refused to grant an annulment of Henry’s marriage to Katharine of Aragon.

March Revels. Henry VIII held revels and a joust at Greenwich Palace on 7 and 8 March.

Queen Claude of France falls ill. It was reported in March by Sir Thomas Boleyn that Queen Claude and her ladies, which may have included Anne Boleyn, were on their way to St. Germain when she fell quite ill. The Queen was taken by barge for the remainder of the route, and later recovered.

The Treaty of London. In mid-March, Henry VIII ratified the Treaty of London with King Charles von Habsburg, at this point sometimes called “of Castile”, Katharine of Aragon’s nephew. This secured England’s place as a serious European power.

Margaret Tudor, Dowager Queen of Scotland, asks her brother for help. Margaret Tudor’s first husband, James IV of Scotland, was killed by Henry’s forces in 1513. Katharine of Aragon was regent at the time, and sent her proud news to Henry while he was away fighting in France. Margaret took Archibald Douglas as her second husband in 1514. In 1519, a very frustrated Margaret complained of how little of her monies were being paid to her by the Scottish lords. She urged Henry not to trust the lords, and suggested that Henry seize Scottish ships until the lords began paying her properly.

James IV and Margaret Tudor. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Henry dismisses several members of his court. In May, Henry dismissed multiple members of his court. The exact reasons are unknown, with some at the time speculating that Henry lost too much money to these individuals when gambling, or that they were too entrenched withe French, or that Wolsey replaced them with his own men.

The 28-year-old Henry is reprimanded for childish behavior. According to the chronicler Edward Hall, Henry VIII created a special position for his favorites in late 1518, that of Gentleman of the Privy Chamber. The lads went about and made fools of themselves, and Henry with them, effectively. They were also far too familiar with the king, and known for their “light touches” of his royal, presumably divine, person. In June 1519, Henry’s counselors scolded him for the behavior, and several of the young men were banned from court for a time.

Election of the Holy Roman Emperor. After Maximilian I’s death in January, Francis I of France, Elector Frederick of Saxony,  and 19-year-old Charles von Habsburg, at the time King of Spain due to his father Philip the Handsome von Habsburg’s death and mother Juana of Castile’s rumored mental illness, were candidates for Holy Roman Emperor. Henry VIII was considered as a possible candidate, but Charles eventually won. As Maximilian’s grandson, having Charles V as the Holy Roman Emperor further secured the seat as being hereditary. On 28 June, Charles was officially elected.

Efforts against Martin Luther. Also in early 1519, Henry VIII began writing his, Assertio Septem Sacramentorum, or Defence of the Seven Sacraments, in response to Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, which included heavy criticism of indulgences. It is disputed whether Henry or Sir Thomas More wrote the bulk of the document. The manuscript written during 1519 later formed the first two-thirds of the overall Assertio work, which was not released until 1521. The treatise was dedicated to Pope Leo X, who awarded Henry the title of Fidei Defensor, or Defender of the Faith.

Henry denies help to his sister Margaret. In July, Henry responded to Margaret’s request for help by saying that he previously supported her in her bid to have the Duke of Albany sent to France. Henry accused Margaret of then sending a letter to Francis I, in her own hand, asking that Albany be sent back. Henry wanted to know why she would do such a thing before promising to help Margaret.

Henry praises Cardinal Campeggio. On 18 August, Henry wrote to Leo X,

“Could not but regret that the Pope recalled cardinal Campeggio. Doubts if any other man could have performed his office with such splendor, skill and assiduity, and served the cause of Christendom with equal honor to his Holiness. Has given him his ratification of the five years’ truce, and entrusted him with a message to the Pope.” 

Thomas Boleyn wishes to be Henry’s Treasurer. In a letter to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey on 6 September, Boleyn expressed his desire to become Treasurer. Boleyn was granted this position in 1521.

Henry pays for improvements to Greenwich Palace. Around 22 October, Henry paid,

“…for the gilding and painting of the Chapel Royal at Greenwich, the new making of two lodgings there over the gallery into the Thames, and the conveying of a conduit out of the King’s great garden into the kitchens; also for repairs at Eltham.”

Old Greenwich Palace as it appeared in the Reign of Henry VIII, from Cassell’s Illustrated History of England, Volume 2, 1865. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Campeggio praises Henry in Rome; Henry is considered an excellent trumpet player. The Bishop of Worcester wrote to Henry VIII on 9 November from Rome, saying,

“Has not sent any letters, not wishing to interrupt the King, as he has communicated everything to Wolsey. The return of the legate Campeggio, who has sounded the King’s praises everywhere, has greatly augmented the King’s reputation at Rome. He extols the balls, music, and tournaments, and the wonderful splendour of the English court, and is an excellent trumpeter.” 

Henry remits payment for his ship, the Kateryn or Katharine Pleasaunce. Henry VIII ordered the ship built in 1518, and released payment 20 December. The barque was used in Spring 1519 to take Henry to Calais, and again in May 1520 to transport Henry VIII and Katharine of Aragon from Dover to Calais for the Field of Cloth of Gold.

The Embarkation of Henry VIII at Dover May 1520, c. 1520-1540. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The Wives

Katharine of Aragon was past her childbearing days. Her last baby, a little girl, was born in November 1518 and died after a few hours. It was Katharine’s seventh pregnancy at least, and only one child survived past infancy. Katharine turned 33 years old in December 1518. In 1519, she was described by the Venetian Sebastian Giustinian as,

“35 years old, and not handsome, though she ha[s] a very beautiful complexion. She [is] religious, and as virtuous as words could express.”

Anne Boleyn was still in France, but her sister married returned to England so she could marry Sir William Carey in 1520. Mary joined Katharine of Aragon’s household in 1519, too. Anne herself was born in 1501 or 1507, making her anywhere between 12 to 18 years old. Evidence of Anne’s letters to her father seem to show that Anne was likely the elder Boleyn daughter.

Jane Seymour was roughly 11 years old in 1519. Her youngest sister, Dorothy Seymour, was possibly born in 1519. Dorothy was the last child Jane’s parents would have.

Anna von der Mark, Born Duchess of Cleves, turned 4 years old on the same day Henry turned 28. She was already part of the Frauenzimmer. To learn more about the Frauenzimmer, click here. It was possible that 1519 was the year when her 7-year-old sister Sybylla threw pinking shears at Anna, striking Anna in the forehead. Sybylla recalled the tale to her husband, Elector Johann Friedrich of Saxony in the 1550s. 

Katheryn Howard, Fifth Wife of Henry VIII, might have been born in 1519. She could have been born at any point during 1518 through 1524, making her between the ages of 15 years and 22 years when she married the 49-year-old Henry. Her swift marriage to Henry was a political maneuver to prevent Anna of Cleves’ family from forcing the reinstatement of Anna’s marriage. Katheryn herself was killed in February 1542 by Act of Attainder after allegations of pre- and post-marital relationships with other men than Henry arose.

Catherine Parr was roughly 7 years old in 1519, and presumably had started her education. Catherine learned several languages, including Latin and French.

Love learning about the Early Modern period? Are you interested in Tudor history or Women’s history? Then check out my book, Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’, a new biography about Anna of Cleves told from the German perspective!

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Select Bibliography

  1. Hall, Edward. Hall’s Chronicle.
  2. Letters & Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Vol. 3.
  3. Darsie, Heather R. Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’. Stroud: Amberley Publishing (2019).




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