So, Just Who Was Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke Of Richmond And Somerset

We take a closer look at just who was Henry Fitzroy 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset, and what makes his short-lived life story so remarkable.

Great Britain has seen some truly remarkable monarchs over the centuries, with each one having its own unique stories to tell and leaving a stamp on history in its own unique way.

When talking about the British monarchy, however, there’s a name that comes up again, and again, and again, and that name is Henry VIII. Henry VIII was a remarkable king and left his mark on history, yet many of his children are often overlooked.

Henry Fitzroy, Duke Of Richmond And Somerset
Portrait miniature, at age 15 | Image: Lucas Horenbout, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Henry Fitzroy was one of these children, and considering he was born out of wedlock, his story is even more remarkable.

Early life

Henry Fitzroy was born June 1519. His official birthdate is listed as the 15th of June, though historians do not believe this to be accurate.

His mother was Elizabeth Blount, who was Catherine of Aragon’s lady-in-waiting. His father was of course King Henry VIII.

Henry Fitzroy, Duke Of Richmond And Somerset
Henry VIII | Image: After Hans Holbein the Younger, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Fitzroy was conceived out of wedlock when Catherine of Aragon was in confinement after stillbirth to another of Henry’s children, this time a daughter. So as to avoid a royal scandal, Elizabeth Blount was removed from Henry’s court.

Being acknowledged by King Henry VIII

Interestingly, despite Fitzroy being born out of wedlock, he was acknowledged by the king himself as his son, and was given the surname of ‘Fitzroy’ which means ‘son of the king’.

Historians believe that, as Henry was still yet to conceive a male heir, that a lack of a son would be a slur upon his manhood and could perhaps be seen as a sign of weakness, which is perhaps why he acknowledged Fitzroy as his son.

He proudly displayed his son for all and sundry to see.

It is believed that Henry Fitzroy was indeed a part of his father’s life, despite the controversial circumstances in which he was born. He even attended the royal nursey as an infant.

As the years progressed, the pair grew closer and Fitzroy was even named as the Duke of Richmond and Somerset. This was a huge honour as it was the highest rank of peerage.

Arms of Sir Henry Fitzroy, KG, at the time of his installation as a knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter

From this point onwards, Henry Fitzroy was referred to as ‘the right high and noble Prince Henry, Duke of Richmond and Somerset.

Despite being so young, Fitzroy was given a number of prestigious royal responsibilities and was even named lieutenant of the Order of the Garter on the 17th of May, 1534.


Sadly, Fitzroy did not lead a long and prosperous life as, aged just 17, he passed away on the 23rd of July, 1536.

How he died is not known for certain, as some believe he died of TB, whereas others believe pneumonic plague may have finished him off.

Despite being so close to his father and all of the prestigious titles he held, Henry Fitzroy 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset did not receive a lavish royal funeral or send-off.

Henry Fitzroy, Duke Of Richmond And Somerset
Chest tomb of Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond, Framlingham Church, Suffolk. Image: Evelyn Simak / St Michael’s church in Framlingham – Henry Fitzroy tomb.

While we will never know for certain, it is believed that one of the main reasons why he was given such titles was to help bring up his standing as a way of smoothing his path to being named as a male heir to the throne, despite being born out of wedlock.

Feature Image: The Royal Collection Trust