Elizabeth Blount came to court as a maid-of-honor to Katherine of Aragon. A maid-of-honor was considered a junior attendant under lady-in-waiting to the queen. She was more commonly known as Bessie. Bessie was the daughter of Sir John Blount and Catherine Pershall. Her father, Sir John, was known to be extremely loyal to the royal family.
Not much is known about Bessie Blount in her early years – other than she was a great beauty. It was at court that the teenager caught the eye of Henry VIII and became his mistress sometime between 1514 and 1516.
On 15 June 1519 Bessie Blount gave birth to a son – the illegitimate son of the king. They called him Henry Fitzroy. Using the name Fitzroy made it apparent that he was an acknowledged son by the king.
“Henry Fitzroy (1519-36) was the illegitimate son of Henry and his mistress Elizabeth Blount, and he was, according to Hall’s Chronicle, ‘well brought up, like a prince’s child’. In 1525, worried about the succession, the king seriously considered making the boy his heir. He was given noble titles and sent to York, with a great household, as titular head of the Council of the North. In 1532 he went to France for a year, and after his return he married the Duke of Norfolk’s only daughter, a union that was unconsummated because of their youth.” – The Tudor Chronicles 1485-1603 – Susan Doran
Bessie and Henry’s affair supposedly lasted until the birth of Henry Fitzroy. Not long after the birth of her son Henry there was a marriage arranged for Bessie with Gilbert Tailboys, 1st Baron Tailboys of Kyme. They married in 1520. This would have signified the end of her affair with the king.
“Elizabeth, or Bessie Blount as she is more famously known, is one of the few mistresses of Henry VIII whose name is remembered today. She was a love of Henry VIII’s youth – before he met Anne Boleyn and decided to end his first marriage to take her as his wife. Bessie would have had no conception that there was any possibility that the king might choose to make her his queen and she was happy to accept the role of royal mistress. It was the birth of her son, Henry Fitzroy, the only acknowledged illegitimate child of the king, that brought her to prominence. As her son aged and the king’s first and second marriages failed to provide him with the male heir he craved, Bessie came to increasing prominence as the mother of the king’s son. At one point her son’s accession as Henry IX looked a virtual certainty and there were even rumours that Henry VIII might take her as his bride in order to increase the standing of their child.” – Bessie Blount, Mistress to Henry VIII – Elizabeth Norton
Some have speculated that first child Bessie had with her husband Gilbert, Elizabeth Tailboys also belonged to Henry VIII. Elizabeth Tailboys was born c. 1520. To help explain – this bit from Elizabeth Norton’s guest post on The Anne Boleyn Files:
“In an Inquisition Post Mortem for Bessie’s youngest son, Robert Tailboys, which was dated 26 June 1542, Elizabeth Tailboys, was described as being then twenty-two years old.2 She must therefore have been born between July 1519 and June 1520. Obviously she cannot have been born within nine months of her mother’s eldest child, meaning that April 1520 must be the earliest possible birth date. Even a birth date of June 1520, the latest possible birth date, would mean a conception in early September 1519, within a few months of Henry Fitzroy’s birth.”
We’ll never know for certain if Elizabeth Tailboys was indeed daughter to Henry VIII, but what are the odds that Henry VIII stopped pursuing Bessie after her marriage to Gilbert?
As far as Henry Fitzroy’s story goes he was one of the lucky illegitimate children of a king. Since the king seemed unable to have a son with the queen it put more significance in the fact that he had a son with his mistress. At the age of six, on 24 Apr 1525, Fitzroy was created Knight of the Garter. Then on 16 Jun of 1525 he was also titled, Earl of Nottingham and Duke of Richmond. Only a month later he was titled Admiral of England, Ireland and Normandy.
Jorge H. Castelli of Tudor Place says, “When Richmond was made Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, there was a plan to crown him King of that country, though the King’s counsellors feared that making a separate Kingdom of Ireland whose ruler was not that of England would create another King of Scotland.”
On 28 November 1533 Fitzroy married Lady Mary Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. It is said that their marriage was never consummated due to their age.
In July 1536 Henry Fitzroy died at the age of 17 from Tuberculosis.
“His death was a huge blow for Henry VIII, not only because he loved his son deeply but because he was left without an heir. Henry had made both his daughters illegitimate and now he couldn’t even legitimize his bastard son. Suzannah Lipscombe1 lists Henry Fitzroy’s death as one of the events of 1536 that sent Henry over the edge and changed the King for ever.”