Those of you who have seen the first season of “The Tudors” will recall William Compton as the handsome young courtier who has an affair with the even more handsome young composer Thomas Tallis. As nice as the two young men look together, this affair appears to be entirely the producers’ invention: Compton was much older than Tallis, who did not come to Henry VIII’s court until 1543, well after Compton’s death in 1528. (Compton died of sweating sickness; the series did get his illness right.)
In fact, if William Compton had an extramarital liaison, it appears to have been with a lady: Anne, daughter to the second Duke of Buckingham. Anne and her siblings are on my mind these days, for their father, the hero of my novel in progress (that’s right, the hero!), having been married since the age of nine, is finally getting around to fathering his children.
Both Anne and her older sister, Elizabeth, were married and serving as ladies in waiting to Catherine of Aragon in 1510, when, according to a foreign observer, William Compton began making advances to Anne. Gossip had it that he was acting on the behalf of Henry VIII himself, whose eye might have been roving, given that Catherine was pregnant with the couple’s short-lived son. Elizabeth informed her brother Edward, the third Duke of Buckingham, who caught the couple in Anne’s chamber. (Precisely what the couple was doing is unrecorded.) After bellowing, “Women of the Stafford family are no game for Comptons, no, nor for Tudors either,” Edward notified Anne’s husband, George, Lord Hastings, who hauled her off to a convent. Compton, meanwhile, went to his friend the king, who berated Buckingham. The furious duke left court, and Elizabeth, who by now may have wished she had kept her mouth shut, was herself sent from court.
All of this seems to have blown over pretty quickly, and it’s unclear just what was going on between Anne and William Compton at the time. As Barbara J. Harris points out in English Aristocratic Women: 1450-1550 (an excellent book, by the way), there clearly was some sort of relationship between the pair. Cardinal Wolsey, as legate, noted that Compton had taken the sacrament as proof that he had not committed adultery with Anne. Despite this, Compton left Anne land in his will dated 1523, which, as Harris notes, was highly unusual for a man to do for a woman who was not a close relation, and ordered that masses be said for her soul. Whatever explanation Anne gave to her husband for this relationship, it must have been a good one, for Hastings (the grandson of the William Hastings executed by the future Richard III) appears to have born a great deal of affection toward Anne. In a letter quoted by Harris, he wrote, “with all my whole heart, I recommend me unto you as he that is most glad to hear that you be merry and in good health,” and in his will he treated her most generously and named her as one of his executors. The couple, who were married in 1509, had a large family, and whatever happened in 1510, it did not harm Hastings’ career at court, since he was made an earl in 1529 and continued to serve Henry VIII until Hastings died in 1544.
P.S. When I changed computers and entered Vista land, I lost the ability to use my old website software, so I’ve been reworking my website using some new software. I took the opportunity to freshen up my home page–what do you think?