WI: Edward VI dies in 1553, but Henry FitzRoy had survived?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by mandead, Jul 11, 2019.

  1. mandead Resurrected

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    Historically, Henry FitzRoy - Henry VIII's sole acknowledged bastard, and later duke of Richmond and Somerset - died shortly before the birth of Edward VI.

    It has been suggested that the somewhat vague wording of Henry VIII's ability to nominate his own heir with the Second Succession Act was down to the idea that - short of legitimate male heirs - he may at some point choose to nominate Henry FitzRoy. However, FitzRoy's death in July 1536 meant this never had to be put to the test, and all those later designated Henry's heir were born legitimate (even if, as in Elizabeth's case, at times declared illegitimate).

    What if young FitzRoy - allegedly a strapping young lad and much healthier than Edward VI ever was - survived his bout of consumption and was able to consummate his marriage to Mary Howard and start a family? They would likely be known as the Richmonds, and be a bastard cadet branch of the Tudor dynasty. The question is whether Henry would ever consider legitimizing them; given he died as head of his own Church and had no need of papal dispensation, in theory there is nothing stopping him from doing so.

    Let us say that Edward VI dies of consumption in July 1553 as normal; he is survived by his Catholic elder sister Mary, his Protestant younger sister Elizabeth... and his Protestant elder brother, Henry.

    What happens next? How do you feel Henry FitzRoy would have been treated in future Succession Acts? Would the dying Edward have named him in the 'Devise for the Succession' and would Mary or Elizabeth have acknowledged it?

    I realize there are several plausible scenarios here, but let's assume that generally everything else runs the historical course, with FitzRoy being the only major aberration. He was of course a duke and would have had some influence at court, and he was married to one of the Howards, but he was nonetheless a bastard and had three legitimate half-siblings before him in the line of succession, as well as several cousins (the Stewarts, the Brandons).

    With FitzRoy alive, well and with a growing family of his own in 1553, how do you foresee things playing out? Would he have been legitimized at any point, and if so, would it have mattered? Would the Richmonds have meant the Union of the Crowns being pushed back further?
     
  2. isabella Well-Known Member

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    Knowing Henry VIII and his ideas, specially about the validity of his weddings and the consequent legitimacy of his children I think who the most likely ATL version of Henry’s last Act of Succession (in 1544) would establish this line of succession:
    1. The Prince of Wales (Edward) and his heirs
    2. Any eventual child of the King by Queen Katherine (Parr) and heirs
    3. The Duke of Richmond and Somerset (Henry Fitzroy) and his heirs (likely the ones already born named and followed by eventual future sibling)
    4. The Lady Mary Tudor and her heirs
    5. The Lady Elizabeth Tudor and her heirs
    6. The Marchioness of Dorset (Frances Brandon Grey)
    7. Any eventual son of the Marchioness of Dorset and heirs
    8. Lady Jane Grey, elder daughter of the Marchioness of Dorset and her heirs
    9. Lady Catherine Grey, younger daughter of Marchioness of Dorset and her heirs
    10. Any other eventual daughter of the Marchioness of Dorset and her heirs
    11. The Countess of Cumberland (Eleanor Brandon Clifford)
    12. Any eventual son of the Countess of Cumberland and heirs
    13. Lady Margaret Clifford, daughter of the Countess of Cumberland and her heirs
    14. Any eventual daughter of the Countess of Cumberland and heirs

    So Richmond and not Mary will be Edward’s lawful heir presuntive and he would most likely trying to consolidate his position marrying his eldest son to Lady Elizabeth Tudor (or Lady Jane Grey if the age difference with Elizabeth is too big)
     
  3. Tyler96 Well-Known Member

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    In Henry VIII's mind, surely the succession should logically be: legitimate son (Edward VI) > illegitimate son (Henry Fitzroy) > illegitimate daughters (Mary and Liz).

    So, I think he'd probably plop Fitzroy into the succession ahead of his daughters, without necessarily legitimising him or anything. If that happens, then Edward wouldn't have to do any of the dodgy last-minute stuff he attempted regarding Jane Grey IOTL to ensure a Protestant succession.

    As to whether Mary and Elizabeth accept it, I doubt Mary will be onboard- given Fitzroy was born during Henry's marriage to Katherine of Aragon him succeeding would be another insult to her mother's memory and is incontestably illegimate to literally everyone. Elizabeth was generally good at keeping her head down prior to coming to the throne.

    In any case, I imagine a middle-aged guy with a family of his own, who's well-known to the English populace, who has been in the succession conversation for decades and isn't tied to the unpopular manoeuvrings of Northumberland, and has significant ties throughout the nobility via the Howards (even if some of the Howards experience OTL's downfall) would be in a much better position to hold the throne vs Mary than Jane Grey was IOTL- and that's if Mary still makes a play.

    There's still the religious angle to consider, though. Whether that's enough to get Mary any appreciable support against a relatively legal-ish looking Fitzroy succession, I don't know. Things here also depend on the nature of Fitroy's Protestantism- is this Protestantism in the vein of his father, or the more radical form espoused by his half-brother? A more moderate form probably improves his prospects.

    If we remove the butterfly net I imagine Fitzroy would have some role to play in his half-brother's regency, and that could significantly affect the Seymour-Dudley dynamic. He might also change the fates of the Howards somewhat- he was a childhood friend of Surrey and might be able to change his behaviour or otherwise avert his execution. Alternately, his ties to the Howards might get him in trouble with daddy (is Henry megalomaniacal enough to execute his own son?).
     
  4. Mike Louis The Last Boss

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    I can’t see Henry VIII putting a bastard son (Richmond) ahead of two legitimate daughters (Mary and Elizabeth). Unless both Mary and Elizabeth are dead (especially Mary), there will be civil war the minute Edward VI is dead (assuming he doesn’t produce a heir as in OTL). Also putting Richmond as second in line to the throne will provide too much of a temptation for either he or others using his name to attempt to pull a Richard III and seize the throne. Henry VIII being only a generation removed from the Wars of the Roses will therefore put Richmond and any of his descendants behind his daughters as a precaution against the above scenario.
     
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  5. Tyler96 Well-Known Member

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    Hasn't Henry pretty thoroughly convinced himself that his daughters are illegitimate by this point, though?
     
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  6. Mike Louis The Last Boss

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    The difference is that Henry VIII had declared his daughters bastards for political reasons while everyone in England knew that Richmond was a bastard, his name Fitzroy was proof of that. Bastard son or not, putting Richmond in the succession ahead of Mary and Elizabeth is simply begging for a civil war as many political / religious factions would be offended. It’s far safer for Henry VIII to put Richmond after Mary and Elizabeth as an insurance policy in case the legitimate Tudor line go extinct than to risk another succession war over the throne.
     
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  7. mandead Resurrected

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    I agree that putting FitzRoy before Mary and Elizabeth would be a bad idea, and I doubt even Henry would have been convinced it was anything else.

    To answer a previous question - and of course, this is pure speculation - I very much doubt Henry would have executed his own son, illegitimate or not. I mean we can't rule anything out, and Henry did become increasingly unstable and tyrannical in his later years, but I do think it's a big leap to suggest he'd have done something like that. Edward was only nine when Henry died, and he knew by that point that the Tudor male line was down to a trickle, and so executing FitzRoy (whatever the potential charge) would surely have been a dangerous move dynastically speaking.

    The question is whether Henry would have considered FitzRoy a suitable candidate for the succession, and to what extent he felt that a bastard - even an ennobled and probably quite popular one - would have been accepted by the political establishment, Parliament and the Church in the line of succession.

    I think we can agree it unlikely that FitzRoy himself would have attempted anything after Edward's death, as he likely wouldn't have stood a chance against a legitimate half-sister, and Mary was not especially unpopular prior to becoming queen. There's also the fact that even if we hypothesize that FitzRoy viewed Mary as a dangerous reactionary and a religious zealot, Elizabeth - her legal heir - was a protestant anyway, and had a much stronger claim than FitzRoy. However, I think the potential for collusion between the two of them is interesting.

    On the flip side, you could always take the duke of Monmouth as an example of a reasonably popular protestant bastard taking on a legitimate - and ultimately unpopular - Catholic monarch. I'm not suggesting there are valid comparisons, but the example is at least there.

    I do agree with some of the earlier points made, however, such as FitzRoy likely playing a role during Edward's regency. Given his pedigree and rank there's nothing to suggest that the likes of Seymour would have been able to outmaneuver him, and he would surely have been among those designated to Edward's regency council in Henry VIII's will.
     
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  8. isabella Well-Known Member

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    MARY AND ELIZABETH WERE BOTH ILLEGITIMATE FOR THE ENGLISH LAW AND MARY HAD SIGNED DOCUMENTS WHO ACCEPTED THAT (obviously she had never truly accepted that but still legally she was a bastard like Fitzroy)...
    HENRY TRULY BELIEVED WHO FOUR OF HIS WEDDINGS WERE INVALID AND MARY AND ELIZABETH ILLEGITIMATe.

    And explain me for what reason Richmond would go against his father or half-brother? He has everything to lose and almost nothing to gain so...
    Mary likely will die here and Elizabeth married either to Richmond’s eldest son or to a foreign Protestant power who recognized the line of succession wanted by Henry...

    Mary was still officially a bastard, most likely after him in the line of succession and he was an adult male with children (including sons) for securing the succession against a woman unmarried and long past her best childbearing years... I do not think who Mary here would have the OTL advantages as Richmond also would have a pretty big power base (and many Catholics would support Norfolk’s son-in-law against the old maid starting from the Duke himself)
     
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  9. FalconHonour Well-Known Member

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    They're not considered legitimate in Henry's eyes. To him, his only valid marriages were that with Jane Seymour and that with Katherine Parr, IIRC. Which means the others are right. Hal Fitzroy would come before Mary and Elizabeth in the succession, at least as far as 1540s England is concerned. What Catholic Europe has to say about it is a completely different matter....
     
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  10. FalconHonour Well-Known Member

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    Also, if Hal Fitzroy becomes King in 1553, we get a third Howard Queen of England ;) Mary Howard was Anne Boleyn and Kitty Howard's first cousin.
     
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  11. mandead Resurrected

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    Look at what happened when Edward tried to put Jane Grey on the throne, displacing Mary and Elizabeth.

    Why do you not foresee a similar response to FitzRoy being declared king?
     
  12. VVD0D95 Lemmy is God.

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    Falcon, you've just put another idea in my head.
     
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  13. isabella Well-Known Member

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    Henry FitzRoy would be the legitimate heir of Edward under Henry VIII’s will confirmed by the Parliament, plus he was Norfolk’s son-in-law and that imply who many Catholics would support him over Mary. Add to his the fact who Hal Richmond was a big landowner, one of the first peers of the kingdom and was an adult male with many children (including sons) while Mary was an unmarried maid past her best childbearing years
     
  14. James XI Well-Known Member

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    The point of the name Fitzroy was viewed (at the time) as signifying Henry’s asserting his paternity rather than distinguishing him as a bastard. A bastard could be given almost any name...Fitzroy was Henry specifically saying ‘he is mine’. None of his other bastards were given that name.
     
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  15. FalconHonour Well-Known Member

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    Because Fitzroy, for all his faults of birth, is indisputably the King's acknowledged SON. In a patriarchal society, he has one major advantage over either of his half-sisters (and indeed, Jane Grey). He's male. Also, if he's married and has children ITTL, he can do one thing that neither the ageing, unmarried Mary, nor the teenage Elizabeth, can do. He can give England a secure, indisputable Succession right from the Off, especially if one of his children with Mary Howard is a living, healthy boy. Plus, he has a massive age advantage over Elizabeth, at the very least. Jane Grey had none of the above advantages.

    Oooh, that sounds exciting. Happy to have done so! :)
     
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  16. VVD0D95 Lemmy is God.

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    Is a marriage between Henry’s son and Elizabeth feasible or would English law prevent it?
     
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  17. FalconHonour Well-Known Member

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    I don't think there's actually a law preventing aunt-nephew marriages in Tudor England. I doubt it would be popular, but given the Pope reportedly suggested a marriage between Mary and Henry Fitzroy at one point and Richard III had to disavow any plans he was thought to have had to marry his niece Elizabeth of York, it doesn't seem entirely out of the realm of possibility...
     
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  18. VVD0D95 Lemmy is God.

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    Would that be a sensible move then on Henry’s part or would it cause more trouble than its worth
     
  19. FalconHonour Well-Known Member

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    More trouble than it's worth, I suspect. He's probably better off marrying Elizabeth off to someone he can trust to be loyal to him (Perhaps one of his younger half-brothers or their sons - though even that would need a dispensation.) Or else perhaps a Northern nobleman, depending on how much he's endeared himself to his colleagues while being Duke of Richmond and Somerset.
     
  20. VVD0D95 Lemmy is God.

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    Hmm very true, I imagine a Howard would be in play also