12 June 1530 – Henry VIII’s evil life and bad example

On this day in Tudor history, 12th June 1530, King Henry VIII got criticised for “the evil life he was leading and the bad example he was setting”.

Who had the nerve to speak like this to King Henry VIII?

His wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon, who was at her wit’s end with her husband’s behaviour and his relationship with her former lady, Anne Boleyn.

Find out what happened on this day in 1530, what led to Catherine saying this, and how Henry VIII reacted, in today’s “on this day in Tudor history” video.

I’m doing daily “on this day” videos on the Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society YouTube Channel, so do consider subscribing to the channel and having a good browse. There are lots of Tudor history videos there.

Also on this day in history, 12th June 1540, the newly imprisoned Thomas Cromwell wrote to King Henry VIII from the Tower of London, asking for mercy and pleading his innocence – click here to read more.

Related Post

26 thoughts on “12 June 1530 – Henry VIII’s evil life and bad example”
  1. I do feel sorry for Catherine, the situation must have been horrible for her. She had married him in good faith and been a loyal wife to him for over 29 years. Furthermore, she was a deeply devout Catholic, which made any talk of an invalid marriage unacceptable to her. On the other hand, she was way too stubborn. If she had accepted to go to a nunnery and take the veil (as had happened in France with a queen there who also had no son) and thus accept an annulment, she would’ve protected her daughter’s position. But she was too proud, the daughter of their Catholic Majesties Isabella and Ferdinand! No one was going to push her aside! And thus she ruined her daughter’s life. Sad.

    1. Well she did not intend to ruin Marys life Amira, from her view she was protecting her inheritance, but Mary was very wilful and as Katherine was her dear mother she believed she was in the right, like all children she wished only for her parents to be together and she was now turning into an adolescent, with all the insecurities and emotions that troubled stage in ones life brings, she loved both her parents but she took Katherines side possibly she was under the influence of her mother more, we do not know but Katherine said to her daughter, obey the King in all things but your conscience, that I feel was wrong of her as she was more or less saying to Mary, your conscience is more important than what your father commands, a dutiful Tudor daughter would obey her parents in everything, the upbringing was strict and parents often beat and chastised their children if they were unruly, it was expected therefore Marys rebellion angered Henry all the more, it is not fair really to blame Katherine on ruining her adored daughters life, it was the two of them that had a hand in that and I think the King in separating the two of them was uncalled for, I feel also it was dreadful Mary was not allowed to attend her mothers funeral he could have allowed that, but Mary had fought him all the way, refusing to acknowledge Anne as queen refusing to accept her baby sister was the princess and not she, (which we can in part understand) she had to be man handled into the carriage to take her to Hatfield to join Elizabeth in her new household, and over the years Henry grew weary of this wilful daughter, who he still loved in spite of everything, at the end after her mothers death she gave in and finally submitted to her father’s will, I feel Mary should have remained neutral over her parents battles maybe had she been older she would have been more accepting of the situation, had she been perhaps in her twenties or thirties who knows, research has shown that those children who are more affected by their parents seperation are in the teenage category, it was a lot for Mary to cope with and being female she of course vented her hatred on Anne Boleyn, not her adored father for her brutal treatment, it was an eye opener for her when she finally realised the sad truth.

      1. I feel a bit differently than you about Mary’s broken personality. I don’t put any blame on her mother. I blame Henry for all of it. He had it in his power to help Mary to understand what he was doing and why. Instead he informs her that everything she has known and believed for her entire life is no more and that she is a bastard. This is the 16th century. This is a terrible thing for an unmarried woman then. The daughter of a king no less. And then her father claims to be head of the church instead of the pope? I’m not Catholic so this is no problem for me but for Mary catholicism was rooted in her heart and soul. Like I said, if Mary wasbroken by anybody it was not by Katherine.

        1. I can see two sides but I think Mary was more influenced by her mother as in most marital affairs where there’s infidelity by the father, daughters sons as well tend to side with the mother, however quite rightly you mention Marys Catholic upbringing which did not believe in divorce anyway and there was more at stake here, there was her right to be Henrys heir so these were not two ordinary people but a King and his consort, to the King Mary was his rebellious daughter and yet to Katherine she was asserting her inheritance and the right to be called her father’s legal heir, I can understand both viewpoints but I do as I stated believe Henry V111 was unduly harsh with his daughter not allowing her to be with her mother more often, especially when it became known that she was dying, Katherines seperation from her daughter caused the pair of them a lot of suffering which I believe was unecessary, and this just proves the point of Katherines strength when she was quite prepared to forgoe the company of her beloved daughter, rather than give in to her husband and agree to a divorce/ anullment whatever, Mary caught in the middle of all this acted how she thought was right, but really for a rebellious daughter of a King there were many other monarchs who understood Henrys behaviour completely, and more shocking Mary was not a son she was female and they were expected to be dutiful and toe the line, i do not blame Katherine really as I said but I feel she should have told her daughter not to rebel against the King so much, today we would say she was using her daughter to get at her husband, it was a very sad situation for both mother and daughter.

    2. The offer to enter a convent was made in 1528 or 1529 — at a time when no one (least of all Katherine) had any reason to believe that Henry would break from Rome and attack his own family. Furthermore, there was no way that the daughter of Isabella of Castile — who had to fight for her throne — would admit that women couldn’t rule.

      Katherine didn’t ruin Mary’s life … Henry did. It was never necessary to bastardize Mary (his new Church could have adopted the Catholic “good faith” exception to annul the marriage and still protect Mary’s legitimacy) — and if Henry’s concern for the succession had any real substance, that is what he would have done (Mary — as the elder — would have been preferable to the infant Elizabeth). .

      1. I agree it was not necessary to bastardise Mary and of course he did the same with Elizabeth after her mother’s marriage was annulled, however they were later put back in the succession yet still had the stain of bastardy on them, Mary of course reversed this act and had her mother’s marriage declared lawful when she became Queen, Elizabeth however chose to let the past lay in the past, there was too much scandal attached to her mother, Mary’s position in fact had always been better than her younger sisters as she was the one whom Catholic Europe and most of England believed was the true heir, and her position became even stronger with the birth of Elizabeth as why should people support a baby sister over an older one?

  2. “Ha ha this post always makes me laugh, I can just see Katherine upbraiding Henry over the dinner table, her countenance sour faced and reproachful, and Henry like a naughty schoolboy glowering back at her as she speaks of his evil life and of the popes message to him, what did the pope know of the love the very passion between a man and a woman, and how dare Katherine speak to him the way she did when she was not his true wife! Her very stubbornness and the popes letter merely made Henry V111 all the more determined to rid himself of this cumbersome woman, he must have compared her to his enchanting mistress, there was Katherine fat dull and barren! and his darling Anne, slender and exciting with her sexual allure and dazzling wit, looking at this situation as outsiders we can see both sides, poor Katherine she had done nothing wrong except fail to give the King a son, she had been a good wife and queen to him for over twenty years, their marriage had been approved of by the pope and her families and his, yet from Henrys point of view he needed a son and Katherine now going through the menopause would never be able to give him one, all her babies had died and the King ever aware of the frailty of his dynasty which had been won by conquest, not by right of birth dared not leave his realm in the vulnerable hands of a daughter, he was not alone in this belief women were not considered able rulers, in France as we know they had the Salic law that prevented females from succeeding to that illustrious office, it may seem sexist to us now and in our age unecessary but our monarch is merely a figurehead, whearas to the ancient medieval and Tudor mind, there was much danger in that long ago world where men jostled for power, where Kings could be deposed and this is what Henry V111 feared with some justification of what could happen to his country if Mary were to become queen on his death, anarchy rebellion and worse, the country could become invaded and a foreign ruler could be in her place, so we can understand his urgent need for a son, but Katherine still loved her erring husband and did not want to lose him, apart from her very real belief that she coming from a long line of capable female rulers was quite convinced Mary would make an equally good ruler, she also was aghast and horrified that her husband was saying she had merely been his mistress for twenty years not his true wife, it was a huge insult to her and not only to her status and position but to her parents and his parents, who approved of the dispensation years before so she could marry Henry, and here we have the eternal triangle Henry Anne and Katherine, he had loved his first wife but he had been a young man of seventeen then, now he was older worldly wise and through his marriage had possibly loved quite a few of his mistresses, he had been said to have loved Elizabeth Blount quite dearly as their relationship had lasted for about three years and the result of that was she had given him a son, he had a brief quite possibly affair with Mary Boleyn as we do not know when their affair started and ended, in his youth he had had several love affairs which had fizzled out, but then after many years he had met Anne Boleyn and had fallen in love I believe really in love, for the first time in his life, and it enslaved him like no other he had, from a practical point of view he was not just blinded by love or lust, but his desire for a male heir and those that condemned Anne did not realise that the King was seeking to end his barren marriage anyway, as he and Wolsley had been in secret negotiations for some time about securing a new wife for him, Katherine I feel did not know about this but she may have, so had Anne not come along Henry would have surely married another, a French noblewoman no doubt or maybe a relative of King Francois, Anne did not make Henry want to end his marriage it had been dead a long time, but when he fell in love with her he decided she was the woman for him, thus she was hated by Katherine friends most of the people at court who saw her as un upstart and the country to, when they heard the rumours, she was merely the queens lady in waiting they did not feel she was good enough to be their queen, we can see how Anne was reviled quite unfairly in the early stages, the long stance from Katherine who continued to reproach him for his evil life, his messages from the pope, who was biased as the Emperor Charles V was Katherines nephew and he did not wish to upset him, the threat of excommunication, the chants from the London crowds, his daughter Mary who stubbornly sided with her mother, quite understandably as she vowed Anne as a threat to her inheritance, all these factors did nothing to deter the King from pursuing his goal of marrying Anne, i agree with Amira looking back over this distance in time she did not help her situation, she would not have been the first queen to take the veil and go into a nunnery and many queens had been put aside before in favour of a new younger wife, they had gone without trouble, but her proud spirit would not allow her to, Henry had misunderstood his wife, to expect her to accept she had never been married was the wrong route to take, he quoted the line from Leviticus but there was a line from the book of Deutronomy which said otherwise, of course Henry believed the line from Leviticus as it was favourable to him, but there was his problem Katherine would never accept that she had been wrong to marry her first husbands younger brother, her sad life afterwards was in part due to her stubbornness but I can understand the very insult she felt, and the dismay that her daughter the Princess Mary would be disinherited, but the law also said that those who married in good faith would consider their offspring legitimate, thus Mary would still be in the line of succession but Katherine would have none of that, her stance only angered Henry all the more and in the end he hated her, after her death her friend Chapyus commented she was too quick to judge that others were like her, she was single minded but worse for her was that her rival Anne Boleyn was also single minded and just as tenacious, thus was Henry V111 caught between two stubborn women, in another life he may have found it rather comical.

  3. Henry has got to be one of the strangest historical personalities I have ever run across. Once he came to a particular way of thinking he expected everyone to think the same and couldn’t understand or tolerate anyone who didn’t. He did this with Katherine. When he told her their marriage was over she did not accept it. Of course not. She made a promise to God that she took seriously. When she confronted him she did it not just as his wife and queen but as a friend concerned for his eternal soul. Of course Henry couldn’t argue with her. He was wrong and didn’t have a leg to stand on. He simply behaved like a spoiled child.

    1. Yes he was like a spoiled brat but that had been in part his upbringing, maybe had he been gifted with a healthy son or two I don’t believe he would have gone down the route he did and chose to discard Katherine, however strong his love for Anne was his prime concern was the begatting of heirs, he no longer slept with the queen and she had turned dowdy and fat, but he would have stayed married to her I’m sure if they had a prince, why rock the boat for no reason, and Karherine was the perfect wife never complaining turning a blind eye to his infidelities, however he fell for Anne and wether she would have slept with Henry or not, because of his love for her he would never have let her marry so her life would have been in a kind of limbo, what could she have done, been his mistress and as he declared in a letter to her, he would forsake all others so it’s tempting to believe in the end she would have settled for that position, she could not have bargained her virginity with him as a reason for marriage as there would have been no need for Henry to marry her, he had his son and heir, Elizabeth would have been born without the disappointment of her birth, the child’s gender of a mistress was not important as they were legally barred from the succession, Annes marriage as we know to this most fickle of kings proved her triumph yet her greatest undoing as it cost her her life,

  4. What bothers me more than Mary not being allowed to see her mother even while she lay dying is not being allowed nto even attend her funeral to say goodbye. Henry was a callous cold vindictive piece of work.

    1. Yes but then he beheaded Anne Boleyn without thinking of the effect it would have on the little Elizabeth.

      1. Don’t get me started on that. Yes, you are right. What’s so much worse than Henry murdering his wife is killing the mother of his child.

        1. And yet Elizabeth idolised her father, all her life she loved it when people drew attention to the likeness between them, it’s as if all the love she had for both her parents she centred on Henry V111, of course he was alive and her mother was dead, her name never spoken of and it must have been awful for her when she discovered the reasons for her death, there is nothing recorded which tells us how that happened but I should imagine it was her governess or nurse who told her, maybe Kat Ashley someone sympathetic to the little girl and who was versed in tact and diplomacy, when Katherine died Mary found out by her guardian Anne Shelton, Anne Boleyn’s aunt who told her rather bluntly of her mother’s demise, poor Mary she must have wondered how much more was life going to throw at her.

  5. Katherine of Aragon was very much right to remind Henry that he should behave himself because the case for the annulment had gone to Rome and he had given her leave to make that appeal in the first place. Katherine had a right to ask the Holy Father to hear her case and Henry had to wait for the decision. His behaviour with Anne was offensive to her and to common decency. The rights and wrongs of both cases are really not important: King Henry acting like a male hussy and displaying his concubine in the place of his legitimate wife was absolutely shocking. Anne was being displayed as if she was Queen, above everyone, his own daughter included. Oh I can just hear Katherine’s Spanish tongue clicking at him and giving him a dressing down. He wasn’t having much luck controlling his women at this point because this wasn’t the first or the last time Katherine would give Henry a good old ear bashing. Another time he got an ear full from Katherine, went to Anne for sympathy and got another ear full from her. Two strong and proud and obstinate women and an obstinate man who believed his own cause to be just and righteous. Yeah, this was going to turn out well, I don’t think.

  6. Henry thought he was not married to Katherine, although he was married to her for eighteen years before his conscience troubled him to the degree that he actually did anything about it. He relied on a misunderstanding of Leviticus which says that if a man sleeps with his brothers wife he uncovered his brothers nakedness and the couple would be childless. This doesn’t mean widow, it means living wife, because the verse 20:21_is among other prohibitions about marriage and sexual relations with various relatives and the penalty for doing so. Henry may or may not have known that, but I find it odd that a man who was trained in theology and meant for the Church would not have some idea. The verse is always taken to read widow, but a wife isn’t a widow and in context of a passage on adultery, sleeping with same sex partners, an uncle, sisters and so on, many of them bringing dire consequences, although today we have better translations, which read clearly. However, are we reading this verse based on what Henry’s lawyers and theological advisers have interpreted it for history? Deuteronomy 25 gives a very clear command that were brothers dwell together and one is married and dies leaving no son, the other brother should take his widow to wife and honour his memory by fathering a son, the first son will belong to the dead brother. If this obligation is not fulfilled the woman was to go to the gate and make it public until the obligation was fulfilled. The obligation was extended to other male patriarchal relatives such as an uncle, which is the case in the Book of Ruth. Katherine obviously based her case on this and the original dispensation as well as the fact that she maintained her first marriage to Prince Arthur wasn’t consummated.

    Katherine was offered a get out clause, that if she went into a convent, an honourable and religious retirement, she could leave her marriage and nothing would affect her daughter’s rights. Katherine had no problem with a female ruler and the example of her mother, Isabella the Catholic provided her with an adequate female example of a strong ruler. In fact the Catalan people had had a number of Queens, there had been rulers in Navarre as well as Aragon and Castile and for her Mary was the natural heir. Henry had become convinced that only a son could rule and the Tudor Dynasty was only young. He was insecure because he didn’t have a son and heir. Had the Catholic Church declared in Henry’s favour, the legitimacy of Mary could have been protected on the basis that the marriage had been good for eighteen years and the couple, both then good faithful Catholic rulers, had entered into the marriage in good faith. However, the Papacy was squeezed politically and threatened with military attack from the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V, Katherine’s nephew, so Clement didn’t make his mind up. Here we see the reaction of an impatient Henry Viii, in love with Anne Boleyn and wanting out of the marriage asap. Henry had tried to intervene and get the Curia to decide quickly or to send the case back to England. That wasn’t going to happen and he was basically threatened with consequences if anyone but the Pope, after the Curia reported, made any decisions on the legality of his marriage. This is what sparked the current arguments with Katherine, at her wits end with her husband behaving like a love sick bachelor and parading a woman she would later call ” the scandal of all Christendom ” in front of her and the whole Court for all to see, as if Anne and not she were Queen.

    Katherine could have taken honourable retirement but why should she? She believed she was the true Queen and her case as righteous as her husband’s. We know she made a mistake because of hindsight. Katherine didn’t invite her husband’s negligence and she didn’t invite being exiled under palace arrest or the separation from her daughter. That was Henry’s decision. When she was first told to leave and go to the More she lived in luxury comparable to Hampton Court and held Court. She still held state visits and on one occasion the King and Queen were invited to the same place at the same time and actually had to have separate wings to avoid one another. Her reduction in circumstances came after Henry married Anne because she was no longer entitled to the household of a Queen. Henry used her refusal to acknowledge her marriage was over and that she was no longer Queen to move her from place to place, restrict her movements and to harass her over the oath. He also restricted Mary in much the same way. Katherine was fighting for her rightful place and that of her daughter, she was crowned and anointed at the side of the husband she loved until her last breath and it was not a simple thing for her to decide otherwise. Yes, maybe she was obstinate, but then so was the man she married. He wanted his freedom and was shamelessly behaving as if he already had it. Let’s not be blaming Katherine for standing up for her rightful place, Henry was doing the same thing and when it all went pear shaped again, a paranoid Henry took it out on another woman he loved, Anne Boleyn, just so as he could move on to wife no three as quickly as possible.

    1. I agree that Henry V111 was wrong in parading Anne Boleyn around as if she were the queen, he was really rubbing Katherine’s nose in it and one Christmas she held court as if she was the queen and not Katherine, the situation soon became unendurable for Anne as Katherine was still officially the queen and Anne lost her temper after she heard that she still sewed Henrys shirts, Katherines calm stoicism is to be admired but it’s very difficult for us as modern women to understand it, your husband is flaunting his mistress in front of you and yet you are content to carry on sewing his shirts, it seems unbelievable to us looking back as many women now would throw them all out of the window after trampling on them first! But here we see Katherines regal queenly manner, the result of her strict Spanish upbringing, and so different from Annes tirades and sulks and tantrums, after he and Anne were married and they had a row, he remarked to Norfolk that Katherine had never once spoken to him the way Anne had, perhaps he was beginning to realise he should have appreciated her more, Katherine was a calm Griselda but when she believed in something she would upheld that right to the end, I do not criticise Katherine I merely feel a lot of her suffering could have been avoided, but it is very difficult as we are discussing a woman born Royal in the16th c, a woman who had been told the stories of her mothers valiant battle against the Moors and as Bq attest’s, she came from a long line of capable female rulers, really I like to think Katherine was a feminist, she believed women were quite capable of ruling, here’s where she differed greatly from the minds of her fellow rulers who were all men, her husband included, yet her daughter Mary was also capable, rousing the country behind her when Jane Grey was declared queen, she showed the same strength the same courage and spirit of her maternal Spanish ancestors, Anne also we could call a feminist, the 16th c really produced some remarkable women, Katherine Mary Elizabeth Anne Askew, Catherine Parr herself was highly educated and was the first English woman and queen to have several books published, Thomas Mores daughter Meg was also highly educated, there was Margaret D’Alecon Anne Boleyns friend in France, it’s easy to assume royal and noblewomen merely sat and stitched all day, but as shown there was a lot more to some of them than that.

      1. When you have a good delve into women’s her story, the number of incredible, talented and well educated women and even ordinary women, not necessarily well educated but very skilled or blessed or just extraordinary. Julian of Norwich, after a terrible illness, had her visions and experience written down for her and became an anchoress, a person who volunteered to withdraw from the world and live in one room, attached to a local church. They had one open window to the outside world and one to hear and participate in the Mass and they usually had visitors and gave advice. They were remarkable for their piety and spiritual knowledge. A middle class mother of seventeen children, Margery Kemp, who wrote her own autobiography and was known for her wilder form of spiritual demonstrations, who may actually have had what we now know as epilepsy, her visions were very vivid and she was very vocal as well, came to visit Julian for advice. All of the women mentioned above were very well educated and to an extent carved out their own life paths. Margaret More was especially gifted and was an example for other women. Beatrice and Isabella de Este were exceptional women as well and were well known patrons and scholars in their own time. Mary Tudor, Henry’s younger sister, the French Queen, obviously followed the family genius pool because she was a woman of letters which are complex and show literary prowess. Marguerite of Navarre was a mystical and theological writer and a novelist. She was the author of the famous semi reformation Mirror of the Soul. Anne Boleyn was reputed to have befriended her in France and to have learned much from her. You could probably pick out a fair number of women, certainly from the middle and noble or ruling classes over several centuries, although it was still a rare thing compared to men as women were traditionally educated to run a household, not to rule. Having said that, yes, again we must remember Katherine of Aragon came from a Spanish line of educated and with several powerful female rulers. Mary was raised to rule and educated to the highest standard, she was sent to Ludlow with her own ruling Council and household to learn how to rule when she was eleven. Until Henry had an inch in his conscience, Mary had every privilege and was being raised as the heir, in place of a son. Henry’s concern that a female could not rule and his “discovery” that his marriage to Katherine may not be valid changed Mary’s destiny and status as far as he was concerned , although he didn’t legally change it until after his marriage to Anne. Katherine naturally saw Mary as the heir, her husband’s behaviour was illogical to her. Mary was given the best scholarship for her education available. Ironically, even though Elizabeth was also declared illegitimate, she too was given a very advanced education and was naturally bright. The same was true of Edward of course. Henry married three highly intelligent and well educated women with their own ideas, two who were stubborn and fought tooth and nail for as long as possible and one who almost walked herself into the fire by driving him mad with her preaching. He married one other who turned out to have more common sense than the others put together and a keen legal mind and two more who received at least the moderate education of a traditional Tudor gentle woman. So he obviously did object to clever women, although he still expected them to assume the role of an obedient partner and provide him with a number of sons and daughters. Henry needed a son to succeed him, he was determined on that point and his pursuit of Anne was partly on that basis. He may have looked into the possibility of his first marriage not being valid, but his suit for an annulment took on a life of its own and excelled when he fell in love with Anne, who by 1527 had agreed to become his wife. If he hadn’t met Anne, he probably would have sued for an annulment and married another European Princess. Cardinal Wolsey seems to have supported his annulment with the original belief that Henry wanted to marry a French Princess and with a pro French agenda. Remember Henry couldn’t get a divorce because his first wife was still alive and he wanted to remarry. Katherine knew what he was up to and fought back, but she also naively believed Henry would come round to his senses and give Anne up. That of course didn’t happen and Katherine went in the attack, giving as good as she got. However, it wasn’t enough; Henry was the King, the power lay with him, especially after he gained the submission of the clergy and lay the legal foundations of his break from Rome. After that Katherine and Mary were kept in exile until they submitted and suffered because they stuck to their rights.

        I certainly agree with you that Katherine and Mary’s years of degradation could have been avoided had they chosen a different path. Anne of Cleves avoided Katherine’s fate, but she had the benefit of history. She may well have heard rumours that Henry might treat her badly or her life was in danger from stupid gossiping servants who knew quite well Henry would not harm a foreign Princess and risk a war he couldn’t afford and there is some speculation that she was possibly worried about her future. However, Anne was not as daft as Henry thought and she knew he was committing adultery with her young maid of honour, Kathryn Howard and although she was going through the motions of enjoying her new role as Queen of England, she clearly felt some anxiety and the political situation back home didn’t help either. Henry and the people treated her well but the King was more and more desperate to get out of a marriage he didn’t want in the first place. When the news was brought to Anna she was distressed, consulting her own experts and eventually accepted that there was nothing she could do if she wanted a dignified life. Anne didn’t want to end her marriage, she held herself to be his true wife all of her life, but assurances were given to her that she would be treated generously if she agreed to an annulment. She did so, saying she wanted to please the King as her husband and who had treated her with kindness and showed the common sense she is now famous for. Anna also had to consider the fact that it was dangerous to travel now through the territory of the Emperor Charles V and that, as well as the embarrassment of being a rejected bride and her comforting feeling of being in England, all of which made up her mind to accept the offer to remain in England. The letters by Cromwell, Sir Anthony Browne, the Council in June 1540 all made up the manufactured case put to Convocation which declared the marriage null and void, without any testimony on the Queen’s behalf. Anna showed the resolution to accept a good deal which Katherine of Aragon would not and probably couldn’t make. Her life would have been so much better if she had have accepted some kind of compromise and the same would have applied to Mary. However, Katherine had invested 24 years into this marriage, had a child to fight for, was a crowned Queen and loved her wayward husband. She saw her Queenship and her marriage as the calling God had given her and that made it impossible for her to accept. Her suffering and separation could have been avoided, but they could have been in any event as Henry could have simply chosen to be generous and it was his decisions, not those of his wife and child which led to their later problems. Mary was innocent, she was a very young woman of 17 in 1533 and found herself banished from the presence of both of her parents and told she had to wait on her half sister, a baby, whom she believed was illegitimate. There was no way Mary could accept Anne as Queen, even though she was offered a carrot and a stick on a number of occasions. She had only ever known one mother and one Queen, her own loving mother, Katherine, so she couldn’t bow to a woman whom she saw as a usurper and only her father’s mistress. It was only to save her life and those of her friends and household locked up in the Tower that Mary gave in to Henry’s demands three years later. By then both Katherine and Anne were dead, she had hope of a new start with a new stepmother who sympathized with her and she was able to make a,protest that she had submitted under duress.

        1. Before anybody says ‘Katherine should have…’ or asks ‘Why didn’t Katherine and Mary…?’ they need to be referred to this post and what you said at the end.

          History needs to know more about all these amazing women and not just from the usual male perspective.

        2. That was a great post Bq and I must say I have not heard of some of those women you mention, so it’s very interesting reading about them.

        3. Thank you, Michael and Christine, for your kind words. Studying these women was part of my degree and I was inspired to read further. The states of Italy seem to have had several influential women and it is worth looking into them; they are very interesting. Deadly Sisterhood by Lionie Frieda covers such women such as Catholina Sforza and Lucretia Borgia and the de Este women. Olympia Maidalchini Pamphilji was called the Mistress of the Vatican, not because of her being the mistress of a Pope, but because she was the chief advisor to Pope Innocent x. She was also a Sforza and of moderate means but was highly intelligent and her wisdom was well known and highly sought over a number of years. She was also advisor to her three nephews who were all Cardinals and her works of spiritual wisdom is still in print. Another English mystic was the early seventeenth century Mary Ward, who revived religious life in York and was famous throughout Europe. Digging up such fascinating ladies over the years is a pleasure. There are a number of works of women of the reformation as well in collective volumes and several very cheap copies of the various lives in Kindle for coppers. I mentioned Lucretia Borgia who is known for many other reasons, but who was actually a very intelligent woman and whose later life and third marriage saw her as a woman of influence and admiration on the families of Milan and the Medici in Florence. She was known in her last years for being a devoted wife and mother and for her piety. Her grave is a simple one in a convent. Another book which exploded the myth that women had little power and influence as rulers in this period is Sarah Gritswood and Game of Queens. She explores how a set of female regents and Queens created a culture of female power which saw this place power in female hands across Europe over a number of decades. Margaret of Austria and Margaret of Navarre, Jeanne de Albert, Louise of Savoy, Catherine de Medici and our own female Queens showed how, even in the shadow of male domination and rule women could wield real political influence and gain respect even in the sixteenth century. Scholars have in recent years paid a great deal of attention to Queenship and the nature and role of Queens and especial attention has been paid to Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, because both had real influence and active Queenships and left definite legacies. They were totally different women from practically opposite backgrounds, but they carved out their own style and methods of ruling and their education helped with that tremendously. Anne was rare for her class and time because she didn’t just receive a first class classic education from one of the most sophisticated Courts in Renaissance Europe but two. That wasn’t just a lucky break, it was the thing that marked her out for something beyond motherhood and marriage for the Destiny she fulfilled as Queen. Katherine was raised and trained to rule from the moment she could walk and had the finest international scholars teach her everything which would make her one of the best educated women in Europe. She was more than just the prospective mother of the heir to the throne, Katherine was the woman who helped shape Henry as King in his early reign. She was an obedient wife, yes, but she was also much more of a partner to Henry than his later wives and he did seek her help and advice in reigning. However, Katherine recognised Henry was the master in his household and the King, in charge and she adapted her own role according to his wishes and decisions. Katherine knew to ignore his intermittent affairs and with her Henry was very discrete. He wasn’t so with Anne who blew up every time he had a new mistress. Both Anne and Katherine took their roles as patrons and intercessors seriously and Katherine was trusted with the Regency in the absence of her husband in 1513.. Anne took on a political role, sometimes to the annoyance of the King, at other times at his behest but the image of Queenship was very much played out by both women. How they carried out the triumphant and glorious roles of being Queens and portrayed the magnificence of that transformation is highlighted now in greater detail and as rivals intertwined for so many years both are endlessly fascinating. As women they were strong and stubbornly fought their corner and Henry admired them for their strong minds but unfortunately, both of them failed in their major roles, their fates were partly decided in the bedroom. That was the lot of royal and noble women, no matter what their other attributes and contributions; if they didn’t produce sons to succeed their husbands, they were judged by their contemporaries as having not fulfilled their first and most vital role as a woman and dynastic hope. With a King who was proud of their masculinity and was genuinely insecure about female rule as Henry Viii, this had fatal consequences. If either of you are members of the Tudor Society, Roland Hui is doing a talk on Queenship this month and then the live chat on 29th June. It is very hard to understand Henry without reference to his various wives but it is also true to say his wives shaped him. There is a very good documentary on the Six Queens by Susanna Lipscomb and Dan Jones that examines their marriage and lives from the rival perspectives of Henry and his wives. Well worth a watch next time it’s on Channel 5.

  7. this is my first post here……enjoying the site mightily……..BQ, i note your rec of the documentary “Henry VIII and His Six Wives”……would love to see it, but looks as if it is not available in the USA. Just wondering if you might know of a source for it. Thank you!

  8. This is another example of context. I was not there to witness anything and am relying on accounts from others. I think Catherine was very suborn, probably thinking she was doing right, however, my sympathy only goes so far. If you want to stick by your guns with a King like Henry, then you know what you are in for. Mary was the same thing. I understand why he didn’t allow them to see each other. Doesn’t mean I agree. I feel bad for everyone involved, even Henry. Living in that time was not easy for anyone, no matter your station.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *