The Queens of a Kingdom
*UPDATED WITH RECENTLY UNCOVERED EVIDENCE OF HENRY'S PERSONAL LETTERS*
The Rise of the Tudor Dynasty and Inside the Bedroom of Henry VIII
When one travels to England, the sense of majestic structures bring a feeling of awe. The impulses, ideas, discoveries and beliefs which have nurtured Western Civilization, are powerfully revealed. The 1500's in England is as much a Renaissance as Michelangelo and Leonardo were leading in Italy. The evidence of their restless energy, confidence and strength of will is still visible to us today. It was a period of time that far exceeded just the one hundred years prior. The castles, palatial estates, and enormous monuments make Tudor England an imaginary feast come real.
The story that we tell ourselves about our history matters. These are the stories of Henry VIII's time and lives of his six wives. We don't often consider this monarch as a good representation of the British past. But the myths far exceed reality. In this way - I hope to tell the very human story of Henry and his six wives in a manner that is easy to relate to and even easier to remember. But instead of hearing this story from one of Henry's closest courtiers - we will look at it from the writings of those who knew the queens and in some cases, the kings themselves.
This story begins with Henry VII, the father of Henry VIII. Here it is, largely told by the people who lived it.
Henry Tudor Claims a Kingdom
Any understanding of Henry VIII and his Queens has to be rooted in understanding this one very peculiar family, the Tudors. Henry VIII's father was Henry Tudor, and he of course is known in history as Henry VII. Henry’s Lancastrian claim to the throne of England was weak at best.
A Psychological View of Henry VIII's Upbringing
In August of 1485, a frail Welsh fugitive named Harri Tuder was on the move. He had spent over half of his 28-years on the run, and now he was setting sail from France with an invasion force. He was destined for his birthplace, Wales.
Pembroke Wales, Birthplace of Henry VII
It was Henry VII's arrival that would lead to one of the most decisive battles in the long history of Britain.
Henry gathered as many of the nobles as he could from Wales and amassed a large enough army to battle a King he often called ''The Pretender.''
The Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485 was the last armed confrontation between Lancastrians and Yorkists, those two factions that had fought for decades in The Wars of the Roses. It was the last battle to actually be fought by a king, resulting in the death of Richard III, the former Duke Richard.
King Richard III was the last of the Plantagenet dynasty but while he shared the bloodline, he shared little else. Ill-tempered, irreverent, and combative, Richard had infuriated many of the land owners by simply taking their lands taxing them harshly.
The Lancastrians triumphed under the leadership of a 28-year-old exile named Henry Tudor. After winning the throne of England, he wed Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter of the dead Yorkist king Edward IV. Thus, the two warring houses were joined in marriage.
The landscape is beautiful and even then it was archaic in appearance. Wales was the land of forever, so bizarre and otherworldly that Shakespeare wrote about it repetitiously. The ghosts of the structures past inhabited the entire country, and Henry Tudor looked to conquer it.
Henry married the daughter of Edward IV, whose two sons disappeared and were never to be seen again. Richard III, Edward's brother, claimed the throne. Henry was aware that his best chance to seize the throne was to engage Richard quickly and defeat him immediately, as Richard had reinforcements in Nottingham and Leicester. Richard only needed to avoid being killed to keep his throne.
Even with this scant claim to the throne, he left France and with an iron determination to maintain the crown and set out to change the course of history. England's fragile peace was about to be shattered.
His men came ashore at Mill Bay in Wales. The inlet is small and rocky, and when you see it today, you wonder just how large Henry's army could have been. The ships had to disembark one-by-one.
''Judge me Oh Lord, and favor my cause...'
Henry VII, Upon landing at Pembroke
Henry was reported to have said when he landed. He had deliberately chosen this part of Wales because it was so close to nobles that knew him well. Henry's plan was to unite with a close ally, Lord Stanley, and to his numerous familial relations. He thought he would gain support from them and others who had fallen discontent with the arbitrary rule of Richard III. But he had to have known the odds were stacked against him.
The plan was for Henry to make his way through the far south of England until he hit London. Exactly what his plans were when he arrived is still to this day, anybody's guess.
But Richard was well on Henry's heels, having correctly anticipated such an event. He wasn't overly worried about Henry VII's invasion since The Duke of York's army had massively outnumbered his own. He had no choice but to meet Richard head-long. For Henry, It had come to this - either he claimed the throne or he would die trying.
On early August 22nd, 1485, the two sides stood visible but silently across the ridge from one another. Quiet whispers and the cough of horses were in the heavy and misty air. Richard fought nose-to- nose and Richard's standard bearer was struck down. Lord Stanley held his troops back, waiting for the right time. As Richard's flag fell to the ground, Stanley charged. The carnage was bloody and violent. At one point Richard's army fought in response to their king's courage. ''I will die like a king today, or win...' Richard was to have said. But my mid-morning it had turned toward Henry's favor. Sir William's army crashed in on King Henry's side and Richard III, the last king to die on a battlefield lay battered to death. The armies of Henry's cheered the victory. The Battle of Bosworth Field had ended with blood but it gave birth to dynasty that would last for multiple generations.
Henry Tudor would create the dynasty that bore his name. He was far less controversial than the King he would oppose. He was far less known than anyone before him. He had not the charisma or flamboyance of his own namesake son. He never quite enveloped the loyal fervor of his granddaughter, Elizabeth the I. And yet Henry Tudor was a remarkable figure who is often overlooked and unknown to historians.
He would become paranoid and delusional figure. Known even in his day as the''Dark Prince'', he was said to be manipulative, aloof, and strange. He could be both talkative and oppressive of others in one conversation. He was suspicious, compulsive, deceiving and he kept few friends. His reign is seen by historians as a bleak and wintry landscape of the era.
But this doesn't begin to tell the whole story. Henry VII did indeed have supporters. He was coronated at the same spot in Westminster Abbey that every monarch since 1308 had been crowned. For Henry, it was the affirmation of all he had worked for and justified, in his mind, the amount of blood that was shed for precisely this moment in time.
“Having had no power for twenty-eight years, he would share authority with no one. He was his own master, and no minister was ever allowed to overshadow him.'' - Glanmor Williams
But the complexities of character show another side to the Tudor monarch as well. In a letter to Ludvico Maria Sforza, the Milanese Ambassador to England wrote of Henry VII, ''....His Majesty, in addition to his wonderful presence, was adorned with a most rich collar, full of great pearls and many other jewels, in four rows, and in his bonnet he had a pear-shaped pearl, which seems to me something most rich. Your lordship has heard from many of this king’s wisdom and ways. I can testify to this, and need add no more” - Raimondo de Raimondi de Soncino
And if this doesn't reveal the many faces of Henry VII, perhaps this will; "....His majesty Henry is often cold and possessing of great calculation. Loyalty to his family however was without question. In his family relations they were close and affectionate, particularly with his wife and his mother. --- Polydore Vergil
By the time he died, he was already sickly and prone to bouts of ''Maladia.'' Sweating sickness had become a documented cause of death in Britain. By it's nature, it seems like a form of Typhoid Fever, where sudden rises and falls in temperature would cause the body to break into a sweat when the fever finally broke.
It was fatal in roughly one--of-three people. It was described by doctors in grave detail: ''A newe Kynde of sickness came through the whole region, which was so sore, so peynfull, and sharp, that the lyke was never harde of to any mannes rememberance before that tyme.''
Sweating sickness was a form of manic-depression, a feeling that not only was everything a bit off-kilter, but the worst of all scenarios and premonitions took over the mind. It caused anxiety and schizophrenia - made worse by the consumption of alcohol which further blurred reality from fantasy.
The affliction is called ''Sudor Anglicus'' and like a plague it overtook England on several occasions. It didn't seem to appear anywhere else in Europe.
By the time of his death, Henry VII was emaciated and beset by stress his entire life. He had worn a lifetime of knowing that his claim to the throne had been precarious. He lived each and every day knowing that he could meet the same fate as his predecessor.
His mother, Lady Margaret of Beaufort, provided the only royal blood in Henry's family. And her bloodline was very obscure to say the least. She was a distant cousin to King Henry II and her family maintained great importance throughout Feudal England. They were a wealthy but illegitimate Lancastrian family, barred from ever being a part of the throne.
On his other side of the family was Henry's grandfather, Owen Tudor, a Welsh servant who had secretly married Henry V's widow Catherine. This was not exactly keeping in proud tradition, but for Henry, it was just enough.
His noble upbringing as the Earl of Richmond in exile didn't give him a great deal of stability but he was as educated as one could be for his time. It was in his exile that he developed the personality traits which would be of such influence to his heirs, Arthur, Henry, Margaret and Mary. Each would have a rubber-stamp of Henry Tudor's bizarre and paradoxical personality traits.
Henry manipulated historical records. When Parliament for the first time in Henry's reign, he sought to burn Richard III and his rule to the ashes of history.
It was recently discovered that he changed a very subtle thing in the Parliamentary Records. These records are kept as scrolls in the archives at Westminster Abbey.
In this document, we learn of Henry's feelings toward Richard, calling the king ''the usurper.'' The records go on. ''He (Richard) not of the right King of England who was guilty of false and malicious imaginations.''
HISTORY RE-WRITTEN; HOW A MYTH BECOMES TRUTH
*Note* If you are reading this far, you might find yourself wondering just what on earth Henry VII was going to say when asked his justification for invading England. The Laws that we see today originated from somewhere, and the laws in England regarding the Kingdom were already well-established. Henry would have to explain himself before Parliament or face being convicted of treason. But- he had a plan.
Henry's goals were to legitimize himself as the rightful ruler of the Kingdom. Over the course of time, he did things which made Parliament very uneasy. But this method of ruling began on his very first address to Parliament.
When I was living in Britain, I took a tour of Westminster Abbey. I discovered that in their archives is open to the public. I specifically asked to see Henry VIIs first address to the peoples of England. In the document recorded by Parliamentary Historians - Henry does something unforeseen and unprecedented.
The Battle of Bosworth occurred on August 22nd. Everyone knew this, but the truth wasn't negotiable - at least where Henry defined it. He backdated the day of the Battle of Bosworth to August 21st. In the day in which they lived, taking copious notes and recording them correctly was mandatory. So when we see this glaring mistake - we are often wondering. ''...is this an error?''
The answer is no. In fact, it is a very deliberate move by Henry. By back-dating it one day, he was saying in effect that HE was the rightful king one day BEFORE Bosworth. He dates his reign as the 21st day of May, 1485.' He was accusing everyone who turned out that day on behalf of Richard of treason.
With Parliament sewn up, he moved onto the next goal. He needed a marriage and a pact on which his invasion would be founded. The ''War of the Roses'' had been fought for the previous thirty years. It was a dynastic struggle between the House of York and the House of Lancaster.
Henry was a Lancasterian and he had arranged to marry Elizabeth of York. It was a pact on which his invasion was founded. Richards coming to the throne in 1483 caused a deep rift in the house of York.
When Edward IV was the brother of Richard and the father of Elizabeth of York. But when he died unexpectedly in 1483, he left the throne to his son, aged twelve, Edward V. Being the uncle to the world's most famous brothers, Richard seethed with jealousy.
The younger brother of the child-king Edward was William, aged nine. Together they did everything. ''As close as close can be'' said a maidservant when asked to describe the two boys.
Richard saw a path to the throne. All that needed to happen was for the two princes to disappear. And that's exactly what happened. Taken to the Tower of London in the cold chill of a fall afternoon, they were never seen again. It is a mystery unsolved even today.
Throngs of refugees fled to Brittany on the French coast. Here, the nobles promised Henry a way back to England, but he had to marry their own - and that is how Elizabeth of York came into the picture. It would be a union that promised to reconcile a divided England.
But Henry needed something else to put his stamp on England. So he brought in the architects and the designers. He built one of the most stunning chapels and additions to Westminster Abbey. ''King Henry Vii chapel'' is a masterful work of art. It has the use of fan-vaulting and barrel vaults used to support high panes of stained glass, each panel telling another story out of the Old Testament and the ultimate Redemption of Christ.
One of the things that you might miss when you are underneath the awe-inspiring ceiling is the obscure Lancastrian symbol of the Red Rose. Bu including these things on the wall, he brought a sense of history to the present day. And by marrying a member of the House of York, he brought the two roses, the red and the white one, merged as one.
BUILDING A DYNASTY
To cement his claim he married the eldest daughter of King Edward IV, Elizabeth of York.
They were to have four children who survived infancy. Arthur Tudor was born shortly after midnight on September 20, 1486, just eight months after his parent’s marriage.
King Henry did everything he could to legitimize the Tudor name in English history. He was consumed with leaving England in the capable hands of a King named as one of the iconic heroes of British oral and written tradition.
In fact, he was so optimistic and insisted his son be born at Winchester, the legendary capital of King Arthur’s Camelot. Henry also required the child be named Arthur anticipating his reign and dynasty would bring back the golden age of the legendary king. Arthur’s christening took place at Winchester Cathedral. The baptism rites followed the etiquette observed for all of King Edward IV’s ten children. He was christened in front of the entire congregation, including the remaining members of the Yorkist nobility and their wives. His principal godmother was his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Woodville.
Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII, was Prince of Wales, Earl of Chester and Duke of Cornwall. As the eldest son and heir apparent of Henry VII of England, Arthur was viewed by contemporaries as the great hope of the newly established House of Tudor. The legend of Arthur was so sacred that Monarchs were reluctant to give his name as heirs to the throne. The possibility of Arthur's return is first mentioned by William of Malmesbury in 1125. He was the foremost English historian of the 12th century and has been ranked among the most talented English historians since Bede. He writes, "But Arthur’s grave is nowhere seen, whence antiquity of fables still claims that he will return."
His mother, Elizabeth of York, was the daughter of Edward IV, and his birth cemented the union between the House of Tudor and the House of York. When Henry VII died in 1509, this popular eighteen-year-old prince, known for his love of hunting and dancing, became King Henry VIII. Soon after he obtained the papal dispensation required to allow him to marry his brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon.
In the first years of his reign Henry VIII effectively relied on Thomas Wolsey to rule for him, and by 1515 Henry had elevated him to the highest role in government: Lord Chancellor.
In 1521 Pope Leo X conferred the title of Defender of the Faith on Henry for his book 'Assertio Septem Sacramentorum', which affirmed the supremacy of the Pope in the face of the reforming ideals of the German theologian, Martin Luther.
Henry VIII is pictured below in his finest grandeur. The painting is designed to create an impression, and that is exactly what it did. Notice the ''V'' shapes in his shoulders and in his lower limbs. You are led to notice Henry's ''manhood'' in an effort to promote his masculinity.
This painting was done shortly after his fall from a horse and thus the obvious weight-gain from his early years. But Henry did not know how sick he was when this painting was commissioned and we can learn a great deal about his health even from a painting like this. The detective historian never misses a chance to check out the details and to rely on primary source information when making assessments.
Students outside of Europe often confuse Mary, Queen of Scots, with Mary Tudor. (Bloody Mary)
Bloody Mary Tudor (1496–1533) was the first daughter of King Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon. Katherine had been married to Arthur, Henry's older brother for five months before he died due to illness.
Catherine of Aragon
11 June 1509 – 23 May 1533
Catherine of Aragon's family was rich and powerful and above all else, Catholic. She was directly related to Isabella of Spain, who would finance Columbus's voyages to the ''new'' world. The marriage ceremony itself was performed by proxy, with Catherine being away at the time. In a continent where the inter-relationships often changed borders, this marriage was particularly important.
The English countryside were not so happy about it. They did not want a foreign ruler and many pushed for the queen to rule on her own. With France at Spain's northern border, this wedding had Marrying Arthur was a great political move for Spain. King Charles V, Catherine's new father-in -law, had become an advisor and close friend to Catherine and he would remain a close friend ro Wu who was paid 200,000 Crowns for her dowry. It would remain just half-paid. As it would turn out, Arthur and Catherine both had come down with ''sleeping-sickness' but Catherine lived. Prince Arthur however, would not. This would have a huge role in what was to come.
Ferdinand and Isabella were anxious not to lose the English alliance and instructed the Spanish ambassador to negotiate for a subsequent marriage to Prince Henry.
The Spanish Empire during in the 1550s
This - in accordance to English law, allowed her to marry again without being a harlot. Henry VIII had a very powerful woman in Catherine and he was willing to do whatever he could to strengthen his position as a young king. But things would quickly how change.
ANNE BOLEYN FIRST APPEARS, HENRY BECOMES DISENCHANTED WITH CATHERINE ARAGON
Tenure28 May 1533 – 17 May 1536
The year was 1525 and Henry had become infatuated and consumed by Anne Boleyn. And as the intensity of his feelings grew, he realized that the heir apparent was his only daughter. Mary, was a regent-to-be at a time when there was no established precedent for a woman on the throne. He sought to have their marriage annulled, setting in motion a chain of events that led to England's schism with the Catholic Church.
Henry and Catherine stayed married twenty years but she never gave him the son he wanted, so he used an argument out of the bible (of all the irony) for why he shouldn't be married to Catherine. The scripture is an obscure one out of Leviticus and it says that ''no man shall take the wife of his brother for his own.'' Henry would leave out the NEXT verse, which says, ''Unless she be made a widow.'' It was an oversight of deliberate proportions.
Henry may have used regicide in the future, but he hadn't even considered murdering Catherine. In fact, he was still deeply in love with her despite of having grown ''smelly and unpleasant to my eyes, with the voice of the black crow.''
There was to be a trial where Henry would make his case before a tribunal of judges he selected himself. But Catherine had her trump cards to play as well. She insisted that their divorce hearings be public. By doing this, Catherine knew the court of opinion would be against Henry. After he lashed at her in front of a fascinated public crowd, she made a brilliant move.
She left her chair, and walked directly to Henry - then kneeled before him. The crowd was not expecting this. She asked his forgiveness, knowing full well he wouldn't give it to her. After all - Anne Boleyn had been tempting Henry for the past seven years and there was too much at stake for Henry to change his mind. But Catherine played the crowd perfectly, coming off as the poor damsel - having ''suffered unfair inequity.'' Instead, he sent her away. The queen killing would come later.
Henry sent Catherine to the Tower of London and also declared Mary to be a ''Bastard'' child and stripped her of her title and heir to the throne.
But what to do now? Henry had courted the number-one of Catherine's Ladies in Waiting, Anne Boleyn. With Anne making Henry wait until Catherine was long-gone, Henry became more and more determined to have some sense of normalcy at Hampton Court.
Shortly afterward, Anne Boleyn reported to all of Britain that she was pregnant. The word got around Britain quickly. People rejoiced at the news. All of the horoscopes and all of the soothsayers predicted it would be a boy. It was not to be. In the first week of September 1533, Elizabeth was born.
Contrary to what you might read or even know, Henry wasn't all that dispirited by Elizabeth's birth. He called her 'his little pigeon' and for two and a half years, he and Anne Boleyn had a ''MERRY'' Marriage. But then a chain of events happened that was to change all of this and ruin the tranquility that Henry wanted so much and fought so hard to sustain.
1) Anne Boleyn reported she was pregnant again. For four and half-months, the couple danced their way around Henry's England. Behind the scenes however, England's economy was stagnating. Coins were becoming more and more compromised by 'mixing' metals. Silver coins were being mixed with less precious metals, cheapening their value, causing inflation, creating a marketplace panic, and forcing a return of the barter systems that pervaded through the feudal era of Norman Europe. The
English treasury under Henry began to take a beating when Catherine accompanied Henry's troops into Scotland at the beginning of his reign. But Catherine had actually accompanied Henry's troops into Scotland sixteen years earlier and the treasury was STILL wiped out from it. People were poor and the economy was slow to recover.
2) In the Spring of 1536, the Festivals of Holly's began and all over England, the upcoming summer was greeted with huge festivals and parades. It was also a time for intense sportsmanship, and Henry was with no peer when it came to sword fighting and jousting. In fact, Lord Bollingbroke -- the largest horse-breeder on the island - said of Henry, ''Not a finer horseman on a horse. Henry the King betters them all.''
3) But during one of these jousting events, Henry takes a hard fall and is kicked in the head and stepped on by his horse. At 35, he wasn't as spry as he had been and complained of 'the aches and the pains'' as well as swollen joints.
The fall seriously hurt Henry. His doctors reported he had been knocked out for several hours. Blood steadily drizzled from his nostrils and out of his right ear. (I wrote a piece about the protective headwear they wore then. It wasn't just a simple metal helmet. It was filled with down feathers and compacted tightly so the head would really be well protected. Henry's injuries were due to the only part of his head that was not covered, his face.)
When he came to his senses, Henry was in immense pain. He needed dental surgery for lost molars and chipped teeth. He likely had a severe concussion because he was nauseated and without balance for a week afterwards. A large wound opened out of a smaller and abscessed one on his left leg. It was already infected, and now it was four times its original size. But more ominously and suddenly, Henry grew dark and depressed.
4) While he was still recovering, Anne Boleyn was to miscarry. At five months, they could tell the little fetus would have been a boy. A dispirited Henry fell into a deep depression. The failure was the final straw for Henry and Anne, as he blamed her for all their misfortune.
Now at this time, Henry VIII called back Mary, his firstborn daughter. The injustice done was hopefully forgotten, but Mary had noticed her father's changes. Very quickly he gained weight. His eyes, she said, ''lost their twinkle'' and although he called her back - it wasn't to reconcile, but for her to be further humiliated and have to take care of her Half-Sister, Elizabeth - who was now the first Protestant Princess.
At four years old, Elizabeth couldn't have known better - but Mary did, and what she proceeded to do next was unthinkable - even by the standards of their day........
Soon, Henry would disown Mary, calling her the ''bastard'' child and sent both of them away. Mary never got over it. Below, are her pleas to her father for some sort of reconciliation. But Henry was having none of it. These letters show the hurt and confusion over her father's complete repudiation of their relationship.
This letter below shows Mary's desperate pleas to her father. She was under time constraints to write the letter and you can even see her make mistakes as she gets to the conclusion of the heartfelt attempt to win back her father's love.
''Most humbly obediently and glory at the they long most excellent (and) my fair most dear father sovereign Lord, to have this day pass and gracious clemency and merciful very to be more unkind and unnatural proceedings.......and your more our love whereof I can .........the same your fatherly piety ....daughterly on my part, (you) abandoned from my pure heart which .......and framed while God willing...as your only pleasure most grace to accept and receive ....to offer which shall memories...from that confession and .....made ones your unto you.....most blessed nature does surmount all evils, offences and trespasses, and is ever merciful and ready....I shall daily pray to God....I office to had .......''
Anne Boleyn played the part of 'evil stepmother' to Mary and ordered that members of her court 'slap and beat Mary' at the slightest infraction. The abuse was something Mary would avenge with a bloody outcome in the years ahead. But for now, she was little more than a 'Bastard Baby-Sitter' who Henry would have nothing to do with. It aged Mary and made her such a mess that she never chose lovers with any skill and her inability to make good decisions became evident.
In the meantime, Henry VIII had another mistress in Madge Shelton, a cousin to Anne Boleyn. Amongst his mistresses was Elizabeth Blount. Despite being a bastard child, Henry recognized him. Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset didn't have a large impact on English history, but his lineage through his father, Henry VIII, draws all the way through to the American families of the Roosevelts and the Bushes.
Enter Charles V of Spain
But through it all, Mary had support of the Pope and therefore the head of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V. He the most powerful man in Europe and ruled the Hapsburg dynasty. It was fabulously wealthy and it was under Charles V that the first ''stock'' exchange opened in the Netherlands.
He was the grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. His father married Isabella of Portugal and through his father's side, he was the great-grandson of Maximilian I. The Hapsburgs were perhaps the wealthiest family in all of Europe. As head of the House of Savoy, he ruled part of France. In fact, he ruled all but a portion of Prussia.
But as a Catholic during the reformations, he was constantly finding himself at war with protestants in Germany and Sweden. ''His Lordship, Charles V, was the loyal subject of Pope Alexander, who considered the infidelity of the English and Germanic peoples to be an affront to God Almighty.'' **
Yet it hastened the inheritance of death upon believers of the most high God, and for the many martyrs of Christ, they died burned at the stake, their spirits ascending to heaven.'' Charles V saw Henry VIII as an usurper of Christianity and his support of Mary - a Catholic - made perfect sense. And- he sought to make it all come together by having his son, the handsome Phillip II of Spain, marry Mary Tudor.
Phillip was the only son of Charles V and he was raised in the political courts of Machiavellian diplomacy. The thought of a King that wasn't from England did not go over well on the island. Angry nobles and commoners alike protested in the town centers. Phillip knew what he had to do.
Just how did all of this happen?
Henry VIII was a brilliant thinker. He was clearly aware of the reformations happening in Europe. Spain was in the second decade of inquisition. Martin Luther had nailed his thesis to a church door in Germany, causing a huge fracture in the church. With Ireland still being Catholic, Henry had to consider the ramifications if he split with the church. Surely the Pope would launch an invasion from the shores of Ireland. Theologically, Henry was quite wrong. But then again, he was the King.
There is no doubt in my mind that he was incredibly intelligent. But history books seldom mention this. In fact, many of the books written in the subsequent years of Henry's death record a revolting and stoic bully.
''The devil speed him! No man's pie is freed From his ambitious finger. What had he To do in these fierce vanities? I wonder That such a keech can with his very bulk Take up the rays o' th' beneficial sun And keep it from the Earth.''
William Shakespeare, Henry VIII
But a look deeper into things happening elsewhere in England tell of a different, and much more complex man. Not mentioned in most History books is the fact that Henry set up Royal Scholarships of Greek, Hebrew, Divinity, Theology, Civil Law, and Physics at both Oxford AND Cambridge. He was a patron of the arts and fascinated by the complexities of diplomacy.
But things began to go poorly when Henry VIII injured himself in a jousting event. Anne Boleyn - with whom has had a hot and heavy relationship with, had now miscarried two or three times and her body was showing the wear of such hardships. It was at this time that Henry met Jane Seymour, who seemed to be everything Anne Boleyn was not. He needed to get rid of her.
He had to come up with a devious plot to make Anne expendable. Very quickly he ''exacted'' a confession from two of the members of his court, each accusing Anne of adultery. Anne seemed shocked at these allegations, writing to Henry, ''If I have offended thee - my gracious Lord, i am ignorant of it. I plead to you for forgiveness, that I may live in your grace, true to you as always''
Anne Boleyn's Execution Gown
But the trial was a forgone conclusion. Anne was without a chance, and just as quickly as it began, it was over. Anne Boleyn was ordered beheaded in Tower Square on May 17th, 1536.
Now Henry could turn his attention to Jane Seymour, a somewhat unknown figure with something inside that made allured the king.
Coming after the sharp and witty Anne Boleyn, the comparisons weren't exactly fair. Jane was said to be intellectually lacking. Although Jane may not have received the same standard of education as her predecessors, Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, she received a traditional Tudor girl’s education – needlework, music and other “traditional feminine accomplishment.
Tenure30 May 1536 – 24 October 1537
She also wasn't as well educated as any of the other members of Henry's court. But then again, she wasn't exposed to royalty and therefore seemed rather awkward in the presence of biographers. This is how she was perceived, as intimidated and demure, without the ability to make casual conversation. (Mary for instance, could read and write Latin, Italian, old English, Welsh and French.) And yet Jane had a gentle and peaceful nature, all of which seemed to settle Henry into a more pleasing setting.
Eustace Chapuys was the Spanish Imperial Ambassador to Charles V and his letters detailing an almost journalistic view of the Court of Henry VIII are a rich source of Secondary Conclusions by a Primary Source. He wrote about the lives of others around him, but he was an actual eyewitness. This makes him a particularly useful and insightful author. He was also a very well educated Savoyard diplomat from 1529-1545.
In physical appearance she was 'ordinary, yet plain' according to her biographer John Russell. “...of middle stature and no great beauty, so fair that one would call her rather pale than otherwise” We're not sure exactly why, but Henry really took to her. Perhaps it was because she was opposite of Anne in so many ways. Anne could be disrespectful, whereas Jane was subservient to the king. Anne could be insensitive, whereas Jane was exceedingly compassionate. It would be the most cruel of ironies that the one woman who he seemed to love unconditionally would not survive seventeen months.
She quickly was able to produce one thing that neither Catherine or Anne were able to produce - a male heir. Henry doted on Anne throughout her seemingly peaceful pregnancy. He prayed incessantly for a son. With the number of infants lost to miscarriage or stillbirths, it's not surprising that Henry obsessed over the actual childbirth.
It was a decision so unusual at the time, Henry ordered his own physicians to attend to the birth of the child. It was customary to never allow a male to witness the presidency. In spite of the fact that the midwives had been doing this type of thing for a hundred years or more, Henry wasn't able to mobilize his own faith. And - this decision almost certainly played a role in what happened next....
With the announcement of Edward's birth 2000 cannon shots were fired from the Tower of London and bells were rung throughout the countryside. It had been an exhausting labor.
It was a 36-hour marathon labor and delivery. At one point the decision to deliver the baby by C-Section might have saved both lives. But when introduced to the idea of the possible trauma and death of the infant, Henry expressly forbid it. With the baby finally born, he envisioned his royal family. Meanwhile, shortly after the birth, Jane felt good enough to receive visitors, most touchingly, her Henry.
But things were not well with Jane, as she never seemed to have the energy to breastfeed the newborn Edward. On the second day she slept from sunrise to sundown. Her face quickly became gaunt and colorless. Very quickly she developed a terrible fever. Henry grew most concerned. She was ill, and it was Henry VIII's inadvertent and unintentional actions that led to her death.
The Midwives had never had a male in the same room where a child was born. It just wasn't done at the time. The experienced midwives were suddenly finding themselves under pressure, and under submission, to men who had next-to-knowledge about the act of childbirth.
As soon as the baby was born, the physicians took over, ignoring Jane's condition. The placenta only partially was expelled which caused a staph infection that would kill Jane Seymour just twelve days after giving birth to Edward. (Puerperal Sepsis)
But Henry finally had the next King and the assurance England would never be ruled by a foreign power. This meant a great deal for a variety of reasons. Economically, the fact that there would be a continuance of rule gave Henry a foundation to negotiate long-term trade deals. The royal courts of Sweden, Netherlands, France, Spain, and elsewhere, would have to send their princes to another royal court where the first or only heir were females.
Now at this time, women who were queens were only as powerful as the men that they married. In fact, the traditional view of women at this time was still very arcane. There was a solid foundational belief that some women didn't even have souls. This is why it was imperative for Henry to have a son. In this manner, no foreign power could marry into the English and claim the country for their own.
Henry was truly despondent over the death of Jane Seymour. For two years he did nothing but grow physically and mentally worse. His infections in his legs were grotesque and they smelled so bad that even his physicians were forced to wrap their faces ''like Saracens' to avoid the stench.
History tells us that Henry was still very vein about his looks. The sight of his rapidly growing girth and the legs that were once so strong played on Henry's mental state. Now, the thing he feared the most - growing old and alone - seemed plausible in its reality.
Something Very Interesting! A King's Buffet - What Did They Eat?
After nine years of suffering, Henry passes away at the young age of 55. Much had been said of the King's diet, but in reality it was not bad at all from a Medieval perspective. Beef and Mutton were put on open fires. Occasionally Henry would dine on Wild Boar.
The cost of cooking a feast for the king was very steep. The huge open-air ovens required them to pay a ''spit-boy'' whose jobs were to rotate the meat much like a rotisserie would today. While there were plenty of available spices and herbs, the use of oak to make the fires often seasoned the meat all by itself. There were vegetables as well.
Asparagus, Beans and Okra were seasoned with salt and saffron. a wild grain, possibly a barley or wheat mixture was crushed and boiled and crushed and boiled and crushed and boiled. The result was like a mashed potatoes type of side-dish which was - by all accounts- DELICIOUS. (I have seen the recipes for it and the closest i could come to it was to take Orzo and reduce it several times with cream of wheat and saffron, ginger and salt -- and it IS very good and very filling!)
If you were in the inner-circle with the King, you had somewhat of a buffet setting, where food was passed around and shared. But - if you were a guest of the King or a nobility, you would have eaten in the large hall where the setting was called a ''Mest'' and it is where we get the word ''Mess-Hall.'' (Interesting isn't it!!!)
The preparation of food was not without consequences. If the fire was too hot, the meat would burn on the outside and be raw on the inside. This happened all too frequently with quail and pheasants, which resulted more-often-than-not in food poisoning. Pork was another meat that had to be carefully prepared or it too could cause a particularly sinister form of gastro-intenitum that also came with a deadly affliction called trichinosis. (common to pork)
ANNE OF CLEVES
Tenure28 July 1540 – 23 November 1540
THE MYTHS OF HENRY'S NEXT WIFE, ANNE OF CLEVES
Henry VIII was soon looking for another wife. After the death of Jane Seymour he had intended to take his time finding a spouse. But he badly needed an ally because he unfriended the Church and therefore all of the countries where Roman Catholic was the religion of choice.
The principality of Cleves in Germany had become news to Henry for their refusal to excommunicate believers of their faith. The Church was facing defiance there as elsewhere in Europe. (Martin Luther had posted his thesis in 1517.) The Catholic Church considered John, the Duke of Cleves, to be an enemy of the state. Henry saw an opportunity to ally through marriage, an idea that was commonplace throughout feudal Europe. But the home of the the Duke was filled with well-educated and well intentioned men.
Anne was raised and educated in the Castle Schoenenburg, daughter of the Duke of Cleves. Duke John had an instinct for balance as was shown when he married his eldest daughter Sybille to John Frederick of Saxony. John Frederick would go on to later head the Schmalkaldic League. In many ways John of Cleves' court was ideal for raising a Queen. It was fundamentally liberal, but serious-minded, theologically inclined, profoundly Erasmian; as the court of Catherine of Aragon had once been. It was from this court that his daughter Anne would be raised.
Henry wanted to know most of all, what she looked like. So he sent his painter, Hans Holbein to record her likeness. The painting won Henry over at once. Their first meeting was an abrupt one. Henry was totally unimpressed. It was said her face had been postmarked by a childhood bout of small pox.
Furthermore, Anne's advisors had let her down. They hadn't told her of his tendency to enter a room in the manner in which he did.
Henry dressed up as Robin Hood and would surprise her in a moment she was totally unprepared for. She asked in German, 'who does this man thinks he is.'' The King stormed out of the room in what was perhaps history's most awkward blind date.
He tried desperately to wiggle out of the marriage. But Anne's family carried too much clout. One wonders how the two of them had any real communication when they were alone. Neither understood the other explained the courtiers who listened in on the couple on that first night. There was nothing happening in the marriage bedroom and it soon become worse.
''She is too difficult to look at and to stay enamored.'' explained Henry. Contemporary historical commentary in the 16th century was never going to allow Henry be seen in a negative light. He couldn't have been impotent because he had already fathered three children. '' He also accused her of not breaking off with a previous romance with the Duke of Lorraine.
The two had been married for a few months when he caught the eye of young Catherine Howard. Anne was in a precarious position now. In June of 1540 she was sent away to the Palace of Richmond. But Anne knew Henry couldn't afford it. ''A Diplomatic catastrophe might well be worse than a personal one.'' She said.
So Henry cut her a deal she couldn't refuse, two palaces, hundreds of servants and Anne Boleyn's former palatial estate. She would also gain the Title of Sister to the King. Henry would soon receive the wedding ring with the request that it be broken into little pieces.'The king paid handsomely. Anne was to be one of the richest women in all of England by the age of 24.
Anne was ill-suited for life at the English court. Her upbringing in Cleves had concentrated on domestic skills and not the music and literature so popular at Henry's court. In addition to his personal feelings for wanting to end the marriage, there were now political ones as well. Tension between the Duke of Cleves and the Empire was increasing towards war and Henry had no desire to become involved. Last but not least, at some point, Henry had become attracted to young Kathryn Howard.
Anne was probably smart enough to know that she would only be making trouble for herself if she raised any obstacles to Henry's attempts to annul the marriage. She testified that the match had not been consummated and that her previous engagement to the son of the Duke of Lorraine had not been properly broken.
The ''Flanders Mare'' as Henry called her was the most successful of all the wives of Henry. She outlived just about everyone - which is sad in a way -because she only made it to 42 years of age before she was being buried at Westminster in 1557. It's a fitting tribute to Anne to be buried in such a distinguished place.
Tenure28 July 1540 – 23 November 154
''He caresses her more than all of the others'' said a courtier of Henry and his relationship with Catherine Howard. Henry was very attracted to Catherine and the two of them began things very well. A first cousin of Anne Boleyn, the marriage began with great excitement. They were married by Bishop Bonner of London at Oatlands Palace on 28 July 1540, the same day Cromwell was executed.
The marriage was made public on 8 August, and prayers were said in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace. Henry "indulged her every whim" thanks to her "caprice. But it would soon turn sour.
Her story is a dark one. Her secret lover is courtier Thomas Culpepper and it was a steamy relationship. Culpepper however, had a terrible reputation. He had been found guilty of raping a teenager and killing another man who tried to stop him.
On the 2nd of November, 1541 - (All Souls Day) day, a letter was found in an area of the church that Henry would notice.
''When his wife was growing up, she had already had sex with a cousin of hers called Francis Dereham and of another man, Henry Mannox-her music teacher. Henry didn't want to believe it but ordered an investigator to look into the allegations, It brought the investigation to the childhood of Catherine.
When she was two, her mother had died. Catherine was sent to a boarding school where she lived with her 'Step-Grandmother. Chesworth Manner was a large household where they slept in a dormitory. But they weren't easily protected.
The Arch-Bishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, questioned her. When asked about the relationship, Catherine confessed only that she and Francis Durham had engaged to be married but never in the eyes of God or man did that happen. Then she admitted to having slept with Francis Dereham.
In the Duchess's household at Horsham, in around 1536, Catherine (then aged 13) was repeatedly molested by her music teacher, Henry Mannox (aged 36). He later gave evidence in the inquiry against her. Mannox and Catherine both confessed during her adultery inquisitions that they had engaged in sexual contact, but not actual coitus. When questioned Catherine was quoted as saying, "At the flattering and fair persuasions of Mannox, being but a young girl, I suffered him at sundry times to handle and touch the secret parts of my body, which neither became me with honesty to permit nor him to require.''
Mannox, on the other hand, was a rapist and child molester. He had been accused of multiple offenses already. Both men were taken into arrest and brought to the Tower of London. English historians call her ''the good time girl'' but today we would call her a victim.
Francis Dereham had wanted to keep their relationship alive even after the marriage to Henry VIII. She rejected him outright - but only because she had found another lover - Thomas Culpepper.
Dereham and Mannox were executed in London. It was a foreshadowing of things to come for Catherine.
Convicted of adultery, she was beheaded after just eighteen months after walking down a triumphant aisle.
The night before her execution, Catherine is believed to have spent many hours practicing how to lay her head upon the block, which had been brought to her at her request. She died with relative composure, but looked pale and terrified, she required assistance to climb the scaffold.
She made a speech describing her punishment as "worthy and just" and asked for mercy for her family and prayers for her soul. She sought forgiveness but in no way expected to live beyond the next day. According to popular folklore, her final words were, "I die a Queen, but I would rather have died the wife of Culpeper", however no eyewitness accounts support this.
Tenure12 July 1543 – 28 January 1547
At 52, Henry was too ill to walk without help. But he loved the company of females. In March of 1543, he Henry met Catherine Parr and was smitten with her. Parr would remain a huge figure in history. He trusted her in his absence.
Although considered dull and bland, she would prove to be anything but. July 1543 at Hampton Court, Henry married Parr. But there was one thing that would threaten their happiness. Henry was still settling into an England with a new religious order. He may have broken England into two from a church standpoint but in many ways, Henry was still a Catholic. The church was Anglican in name only.
Catherine was very outspoken. She thought the Bible should be printed in English s people could read it. Henry was so bothered by this that he went before parliament and complained. ''The precious jewel, the word of God, is being sung, disputed, rhymed and jangled in taverns and warehouses.''
The Queen was an outright evangelist. She took seven or eight Latin hymns and made them into a book written in English. She became the first woman in England to publish a book and it was clear Henry had challenges with her beliefs. As for the book, it turn England ripe for revolt.
The breaking points along the way that would threaten to have Catherine arrested.
One pivotal moment came when the young, twelve year old Elizabeth showed up in court. Elizabeth practically worshipped Catherine Parr and was inspired by piety. The young princess was fluent in five languages already, he presented a handmade wooden box to which a small book was inside. In her own beautiful handwriting she presented this to His Majesty, her father.
When he opened the pages, the book was full of hymns and scriptures translated into the common English.
Henry didn't know how to react. His conservative nature tended to see this as a form of heresy- however this is his daughter, what could be do to her? The answer was to take out his anger on Catherine Parr. For to take Latin texts and put them into English, she was violating some form of canon law.
Henry took Catherine aside. ''The articulation of your newfound beliefs are in contradiction with mine. Why put them on the face of MY daughter?'''' Henry demanded.
The King's court had wanted Catherine out of the way. The spoils that might be had in the wake of Henry's death and no one to protect the nine year old make heir Edward were tempting. A surviving Protestant Queen was not.
But Henry did deeply care for her. As the impending mortality of Henry came into his mind, he realized he wasn't going to have the energy or spirit to take another wife. In addition to all of this, Catherine Parr did in-fact love the King. From this point forward, Henry protected Catherine and would not allow her to arrested and executed.
Henry dies in the 'Small House' at Hampton Court in the early hours of 28th of January 1547. This leaves Elizabeth to be raised by Catherine. Four months later, the former queen seems to have everything coming together when she marries Thomas Seymour, her first love.
Finally, at the age of 36, she got pregnant. She was as happy as she had ever been. But it was once again the story of the Tudor women. She would pass away in 1548, just a week after giving birth to a young girl.
All Three children of Henry would rule England. Despite the infidelities, divorces, beheadings and miscarriages that all six women endured to give Henry a male heir, it was Elizabeth, a woman, who would secure the Tudor dynasty.
Growing Up a Young King
Edward was frail from the very beginning. Henry ordered his courtiers to keep other people clear of Edward by as much as ten feet. But when Henry died, Edward, the new king, was all of nine years old.
He had people to assist him in his rule but it seems historians never really get to know the boy-king. Edward wrote meticulously in his diary. It was detailed, but wanting for human emotion. Edward treated the day-to-day as a news reporter might, simply stating what had happened with a cold calculation. When his favorite uncle was executed, his diary entry was simply, ''The duke of Somerset was beheaded today at Tower Hill.''
Still, he was bright and surprisingly innovative, having his father's penchant for thinking outside the box. Upon seeing the confluence of the Thames river near Dover, he ordered two fortresses built on either side, which was a great way to protect London from future attack by sea. In Edward, Britain had a fiercely Protestant King who gave little quarter to the Catholics. He outlawed Mass. This prompted his much older half-sister Mary to make an unusual request of the new king.
She wrote him a letter asking is she could celebrate the communion without fear of being arrested. Edward refused her request, although it failed to stop Mary from doing it anyway. Edward imprisoned and exiled Catholics which prompted the ire of the Church. AND- he was not intimidated but he lacked his father's charisma and hid away in his quarters where he continued to write in his diary.
After six years, King Edward VI contracts a chest infection. He is too frail to make it through the illness and he dies. But before he passes away, he wanted to make sure he was true to the Protestant faith and refused to appoint Mary - a Catholic - as his successor. Instead, he appointed Lady Jane Grey as the Regent to the Empire. It wasn't to be. Jane Grey wouldn't last even TEN days. She quickly realized she was in over her head and realized that she had no business making the claim of Queen-ship. She was found guilty of high-treason and executed on July 19th, 1553.
it is poignant to note - Jane Grey is the only English monarch in the last 500 years of whom no proven contemporary portrait survives.
Suddenly, Mary Tudor, overcomer of all odds, comes triumphantly out of her prison on horseback to screaming masses of supporters in England. Despite being Catholic, the English people had seen enough chaos for the time-being.