It is likely that by the end of 1518, Bessie Blount knew that she was pregnant, and since she had only ever slept with the King, she knew her child would be a royal bastard. She made her final appearance at court in October 1518, and took part in a sumptuous masque, and continued to serve Queen Katherine (who was also pregnant) during the early months of her pregnancy before it became extremely obvious to everyone at court that she was carrying the King's child. When Katherine delivered of a stillborn daughter in November 1518, the King was more anxious than ever to see if Bessie would give him a son.
It is likely that Bessie spent the remainder of her pregnancy at the Priory of St. Lawrence at Blackmore in Essex, where Henry FitzRoy would be born. The King and Cardinal Wolsey saw to it that Bessie was treated just like Henry's Queen while she was with child, making sure that she had every comfort and was in the best care. It can also be assumed that the midwife who helped deliver Henry FitzRoy was well-trained and experienced, and sent directly by Wolsey.Rumors suggest that Henry VIII continued to visit Bessie at Blackmore while she awaited the birth of their child, and that his love had not faded for her, but instead grew.
Although not much survives about the details of the birth, Henry FitzRoy was born sometime on the 15th of June 1519 at Blackmore, and was immediately wrapped tightly to keep his limbs straight, as was custom, and he would have been given a wet nurse to feed from. It is very unlikely that Bessie would have nursed or really cared for her son herself, considering she was being given every honor that a Queen would receive - her son would have had his own nursery, nurses, and caretakers and Bessie would just be able to oversee his care.
Henry was ecstatic when he received news of the son, and the fact that he was healthy and strong. He reportedly visited Bessie and the baby several times, though Bessie never returned to court as his mistress. Henry FitzRoy was christened shortly after the birth, with Cardinal Wolsey acting as godfather. King Henry VIII recognized his son as his own, which was a huge deal in those times, and he would shower Henry FItzRoy with titles, lands and wealth for his son's whole life. The fact that he allowed the child to be named "Henry" after himself shows a sense of pride that he had in his son, and he also included FitzRoy, which literally means "son of the King." He was sending out a message to the world that he could in fact father sons! Because of this birth and the excitement surrounding it, a popular saying would be heard throughout England during and after this time - "Bless ye, Bessie Blount!"
Although it has been suggested that the King held great celebrations to announce the birth of his son at court, there is no evidence of this being true. In fact, it seems that the birth was kept a secret at court, considering he was a child begotten out of adultery, which was not a desirable thing to brag about in public, even for a King. Instead, it looks like Henry VIII wanted to make sure his son even lived before he made an announcement of the birth, and the only people who would have known about the child were probably the King's closest friends - although we can imagine there was a lot of gossip and whispering about the reason for the disappearance of the King's mistress. Queen Katherine herself must have been skeptical, and perhaps a bit hurt at the thought of Bessie giving the King a child.
Henry FitzRoy would only live until 1536, but during his life he would receive grand titles, such as the Dukedom of Richmond and Somerset, and he would be granted lands and estates and even make a good marriage to Lady Mary Howard in 1533.
This was a very exciting time for both the King and Bessie, and it was a time for private celebration. This birth, in fact, would be a catalyst for Henry VIII seeking a divorce from his wife because of his belief that it was her fault that no sons were born to them. Clearly, the birth of Henry FitzRoy was a big deal in Tudor times, and he is the reason that Bessie Blount is considered the King's most beloved and important mistress.
Happy Birthday, Henry FitzRoy!!!
- "Bessie Blount: Mistress to Henry VIII" by Elizabeth Norton - chapter 10 "Mother of the King's Son"