The Passing of Henry Fitzroy
Today marks the anniversary of the death, in 1536, of Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII and Elizabeth Blount. Notwithstanding his illegitimacy, Henry may have considered Fitzroy a possible heir. As a child he had been raised to the nobility, being both an Earl and a double Duke (Richmond and Somerset); all taking place when Fitzroy was six years old. While passing on the throne to an illegitimate heir would have been extraordinary (it had never been done since the Conquest), Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk and an astute (although not always effective) student of Tudor politics, must have thought it possible in that he arranged for the marriage of his daughter Mary to Fitzroy. This is the same Thomas Howard who promoted Henry’s marriages to Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, both his nieces. Henry VIII would later assert that the marriage was never consummated, and on that basis he sought to take back what was otherwise her dowry.
Henry would remain king until 1547, then to be succeeded by Edward VI, his son with Jane Seymour (only nine years old at the time).
Likely Fitzroy died of tuberculosis (and not the sweating sickness that was suggested in the HBO show “The Tudors”), the same malady that would likely claim his half-brother, the future Edward VI.
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