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The earliest known and longest lasting mistress of Henry VIII, Bessie Blount was the kings first love. More beautiful that Anne Boleyn or any of Henrys other wives or concubines, Bessies beauty and other charms ensured that she turned heads, winning a place at court as one of Catherine of Aragons ladies. Within months she was partnering the king in dancing and she rose to be the woman with the most influence over Henry, much to Catherine of Aragons despair. The affair lasted five years (longer than most of Henrys marriages) and in 1519 she bore Henry VIII a son, Henry Fitzroy. As a mark of his importance Cardinal Wolsey was appointed his guardian and godfather.

Supplanted soon after by Mary Boleyn, Bessies importance rests on the vital proof it gave Henry VIII that he could father a healthy son and through Henry Fitzroy, Bessie remained a prominent figure at court. In the country at large, for proving that the king was capable of fathering a son Bessie prompted the saying Blessee, Bessie Blount and her position of mother of such an important child made her an object of interest to many of her contemporaries.

Sidelined by historians until now, Bessie and the son she had by the king are one of the great what ifs of English history. If Jane Seymour had not produced a male heir and Bessies son had not died young aged 17, in all likelihood Henry Fitzroy could have followed his father as King Henry IX and Bessie propelled to the status of mother of the king.

Includes 20 black and white and 20 colour illustrations

About the Author

Elizabeth Norton gained her first degree from the University of Cambridge, and her Masters from the University of Oxford. She is the author of seven books on the Tudors and is currently writing The Boleyn Girls also for Amberley.

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