Elizabeth "Bessie" Blount
(Abt 1502-1539/1540)


Family Links

1. King Henry VIII Tudor

2. Baron Gilbert Tailboys
3. Lord Clinton

Elizabeth "Bessie" Blount

  • Born: Abt 1502
  • Partnership (1): King Henry VIII Tudor
  • Marriage (2): Baron Gilbert Tailboys about 1518
  • Marriage (3): Lord Clinton about 1535
  • Died: 1539-1540 about age 37

  General Notes:

Elizabeth Blount (c. 1502 - 1539/1540), who was better known by her nickname of "Bessie", was a mistress of Henry VIII of England.

Early Life

She was the daughter of Sir John Blount and Catherine Pershall, of Kinlet, Shropshire. Sir John Blount was a loyal, if unremarkable, servant to the Royal Family, who accompanied King Henry to France in 1513 when he waged war against Louis XII of France.

Little is known of Elizabeth Blount's early years, except for her reputation as a beauty, and for her famous affair with King Henry VIII. There is no known portrait of her in existence. As a young girl, she came to the King's Court as a maid-of-honour to the King's wife, Catherine of Aragón. It was there that she caught the eye of the King and became his mistress, sometime around 1514.

King's Mistress

Her relationship with the King lasted for some length of time, compared to his other affairs, which were generally short-lived and unacknowledged. On 15 June, 1519, Blount bore the King an illegitimate son who was named Henry FitzRoy, and who was later created Duke of Richmond and Somerset. He was the only illegitimate son of Henry VIII that the King recognized as his own. After the child's birth, the affair ended for unknown reasons. For proving that King Henry was capable of fathering healthy sons, Elizabeth Blount prompted a popular saying \emdash "Bless 'ee, Bessie Blount" \emdash often heard during and after this period.

Soon after the birth of his son, the King began an affair with Mary Boleyn, who may have been partly the reason for Blount's dismissal. Like Blount, Boleyn was never officially recognised as the King's official mistress and the position of public maîtresse en titre was only ever offered by Henry to Anne Boleyn, who rejected it.

Later life

Bessie was conveniently married-off through an arranged marriage in 1522 to Gilbert Tailboys, 1st Baron Tailboys of Kyme, whose family was said by some to have a history of insanity. (The family name is sometimes spelt "Talboys.") After her marriage, Blount does not figure much into the day-to-day affairs of the Tudor monarchy or in the official records. A fleeting comment was made about her in 1529, when a palace chaplain remarked that she was (or had been) better-looking than Henry's then-fiancée, Anne Boleyn, who he concluded was competent belle ("quite beautiful") in her own right.

On 18 June, 1536, her son Henry FitzRoy died, probably of tuberculosis ("consumption"). Her husband, Gilbert, Lord Tailboys, also preceded her by dying in 1530, leaving her a widow of comfortable means. Through her marriage to Gilbert Tailboys, she had three children - two sons, George and Robert and one daughter, Elizabeth. After the death of Tailboys, Elizabeth Blount married a younger man whose Lincolnshire lands adjoined hers, Edward Clinton, 1st Earl of Lincoln. They were married sometime between 1533 and 1535. This union produced three daughters. For a short while, she was a lady-in-waiting to Henry's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, but owing to her own health problems she left the Queen's service at around the time the royal marriage was dissolved and did not serve Anne's successor, Catherine Howard. Blount returned to her husband's estates, where she died very shortly afterwards. It has traditionally been asserted that the cause of her death was consumption.

Reputation and importance

In comparison to Henry's first two wives, Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, Blount's importance to history was negligible. However, she was certainly more important than any other extra-marital relationship the king had during his first marriage, Blount was the mother of Henry's only acknowledged illegitimate child and, at one point in the 1520s, it was suggested that her son should be named the King's legal heir. Although nothing came of these plans, and Blount had little to do with her son's upbringing, the fact that she was the mother of such an important child made her an object of interest to many of her contemporaries.

Blount's children

From her relationship with King Henry VIII:

1. Henry Fitzroy, duke of Richmond and Somerset, Earl of Nottingham, born 1519, died 1536.

From her first marriage to Gilbert, Baron Tailboys:

1. Elizabeth Tailboys, 4º Baroness Tailboys, b. c. 1520-1563. Married Thomas Wymbish, of Nocton (died 1553) and Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick (1529-1589)
2. George Tailboys, 2º Lord Tailboys, b. c. 1522-1540. Married Margaret Skipwith 1539
3. Robert Tailboys, 3º Lord Tailboys, de Jure Lord Kyme, b. c. 1523-1541

From her second marriage to Lord Clinton:

1. Bridget Clinton (born c. 1536). She married Robert Dymoke of Scrivelsby, Lincolnshire, sometime around 1556 and had ten (10) children. Dymoke (sometimes spelt Dymock) was a devout Catholic and named a martyr after his death.
2. Katherine Clinton (b. c. 1538 - d. August 1621) She married William Burgh, 2nd Lord Burgh (c. 1522 - September 10, 1584) and had two children by him.
3. Margaret Clinton (b. c. 1539.) She married Charles Willoughby (2nd. Baron Willoughby of Parham) and had five children.

Elizabeth had a relationship with King Henry VIII Tudor, son of Henry VII Tudor and Elizabeth of York. (King Henry VIII Tudor was born on 28 Jun 1491 in Palace of Placentia, Greenwich, London, Middlesex, England and died on 28 Jan 1547 in Palace of Whitehall, London, Middlesex, England.)

Elizabeth next married Baron Gilbert Tailboys about 1518. (Baron Gilbert Tailboys was born about 1500.)

Elizabeth married someone Lord Clinton about 1535. (Lord Clinton was born about 1500.)

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