Are the Religious Divisions of Tudor Times Still Alive Today?

Posted By on June 10, 2011

God is love isn't he?

I’m not sure what it is about Fridays but I always seem to be getting on my soapbox on Fridays and here I am again ready to fight the world and shout my opinion from the roof tops (or my soapbox or high horse!)!

Today’s rant was sparked off by an email I received from 13 year old Alexis, who, while researching the Tudor era online, came across some rather disturbing posts on religious websites and forums. Alexis said: “I have visited plenty of Catholic websites, and the way they bash Elizabeth and Anne Boleyn is a little troubling to me” and recounted how many of the posts took “the slander and bias that the Catholics wrote about her [Anne Boleyn] as legitimate facts” and were calling Elizabeth I “the Murderess Queen”, “Bloody Bess”, “bastard”, “whore” and “tyrant”.

Here are some quotes and “facts” that Alexis came across regarding Anne Boleyn:-

  • Anne Boleyn was not truly married to Henry VIII but was his “immoral mistress”
  • Anne Boleyn “had a hobby of burning saints”, talking about Thomas More – And here was me thinking he was beheaded and that it was on Henry VIII’s orders!!
  • “I thought that the portrayal of Anne Boleyn was accurate in The Other Boleyn Girl because it shows the elements of how she was nothing but a whore and ruthless woman”.

Alexis just could not understand the hatred and bias that is out there but it didn’t surprise me as I read it all the time, what did surprise me was that these types of posts were on religious websites. I find it deeply disturbing that nearly five hundred years after the break with Rome people are still so divided and are full of hate for these historical characters. One poster on a Catholic forum admitted to cheering in “Anne of the Thousand Days” when Anne Boleyn was beheaded! Am I silly for thinking that that is rather sick?

If you remember, I have spoken before about one website that is arguing for Catherine of Aragon to be made a saint or to be added to the list of English martyrs. Well, although I don’t believe that Catherine was a martyr, in that she did not die for her faith, I believe that she was an admirable woman who deserves recognition for the way that she stood up to Henry and fought for her marriage and her daughter’s rights; however, I hate the way that this site falls into the whole Team Catherine vs Team Anne, Saint vs Whore trap. When I read bits like “In a strange twist of fate – in what could be viewed as a true Old Testament display of God’s wrath upon those who break his commandments – three weeks after Katharine died – Anne Boleyn delivered a stillborn son. Some believe Katharine was slowly poisoned at the distant instructions of Anne – some believe it was cancer – perhaps it was both”1, it makes me so angry. So, Anne’s miscarriage was a judgement from God?! Well, that’s not the God I believe in!

It’s like the emails I get from Catherine of Aragon “fans” who abuse me for running an Anne Boleyn website – ahem, I admire Catherine of Aragon too! – or the offensive comments I get on The Elizabeth Files accusing me of defending a murderess, or the people who think that you have to pick sides and then attack anyone and everyone who is on the other side – Anne Boleyn vs Catherine, Anne Boleyn vs Jane Seymour, Elizabeth I vs Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I vs Mary I, Catholicism vs Protestantism. It’s horrible! What really upsets me is that the hatred is expressed in forums which are Church forums, by people who should believe in peace, love and friendship, in unity.

Now, I grew up in a Baptist Church but I have gone to many different churches in my life and I don’t see myself as belonging to any particular denomination, I see myself as a Christian, and as someone who grew up with friends of many different denominations and faiths, I find it really upsetting to see this Tudor style division still alive and, in fact, thriving today.

We think of Tudor times as cruel and intolerant but we haven’t moved on have we? We still have people spouting hatred and applauding stories of executions and what they see as ‘divine retribution’. How very very sad. Next, we’ll be going back to burnings and hangings for heresy!

Silly me, all this time I thought the Christian message was about love and forgiveness…

Notes and Sources

  1. Katharine of Aragon: Forgotten Among The Blessed – Why is Her Name Omitted from the List of English, position paper

48 thoughts on “Are the Religious Divisions of Tudor Times Still Alive Today?”

  1. Jen says:

    Claire, I totally agree. What strikes me as so bizarre is that the things their contemporaries (and I guess their contemporary’s descendants, too) used to insult them applied in many cases to both of them. Both Mary and Elizabeth executed their fair share of “heretics,” both were declared bastards by Parliament. etc. oOps??

    People made comments post-Katrina that the hurricane was divine punishment for “loose living.” I think there are just some people whose views are either so extreme or so precarious/delicate that they need to make statements like that to “validate” the way they view the world.

  2. Eliza says:

    I am also shocked that people still think this way.. The fact that they think that Anne’s miscarriage -or any miscarriage-is a punishment from God is horrible. And I agree that there shouldn’t be so much hatred and rivarly among Christian denominations.. I am Greek orthodox and I have felt the need to pray or light a candle in both Catholic and Anglican churches. After all we are all Christian people and even for those who aren’t, every person is free to have any faith he/she wants.

  3. Claire says:

    By the way, there’s a weird Anne Boleyn website which:-
    – Accuses Henry and Catherine of having an incestuous relationship
    – Accuses Catherine’s confessor, Fray Diego Fernandez of murdering Henry VII
    – Likens Anne Boleyn to Queen Esther
    – Says that Anne risked her life to tell Henry the good news of the Gospel
    – That God “shut up” Catherine’s womb
    – That Anne was reluctant to marry Henry but Cranmer persuaded her to for the good of the Reformation
    – That Wolsey and More plotted Anne’s destruction and used Jane Seymour to get rid of her

    There are some odd things out there!

    1. Rachel says:

      Claire, I googled that and wow – it’s just absolutely bizarre, and frightening. Much of that stuff on that website you refer to was completely made up, but promoted as fact (with a fair dose of hysteria thrown in.)

      I am no longer religious, although I was a member of the Uniting Church (one of the more inclusive churches in Australia) growing up, although I would consider myself a reasonably spiritual person. But my memory of Sunday School is that “God is love” and the messages about Jesus’ tolerance etc – so much for that, with certain people!

      I am very uncomfortable with the notion that you often see during discussions of historical figures: “X deserved a traitor’s death”; “A deserved what she got” etc. The level of gloating that’s inherent in that is really distasteful. Though I sadly am not surprised to see so much nastiness being spouted by so-called “god-fearing” people. It’s probably the same people that call someone who just happens to love a member of his or her own sex vile names, for example. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

    2. The Moost Happi says:

      I know I’m late coming but I found it very odd indeed especially the part with Wolsey,More and Janeseeing as they were dead at the time ( I mean Wolsey and
      Also the parts at the beginning about a conspiracy aand her physician bringing on the miscarriage. As well as that you kno w how it says about a prophecy made by Joshua. And that 1400 years later Anne was born. Shouldn’t it be 1500 years on? Do correct me if I’m wrong

  4. Adriane says:

    Wow! I too have read the articles about making Katherine of Aragon a martyr and those who get on that kick need to realize she was not put to death because of her Catholic beliefs. I admire Katherine of Aragon she went through some very trying times and through it all stayed true to her faith and belief in God. If anything her daughter Mary had to fight and deal with all the trouble because of her Catholic beliefs, she went through turmoil during her father’s reign and her brother’s reign. So with all that being said it was Mary who had to fight to stay a devout Catholic. I don’t know why people have such a hard time getting facts straight. As far as taking the character portrayals on The Other Boleyn Girl or any other work of historical fiction as fact, I personally have always thought on any work of historical fiction based around true events a disclaimer should be made letting the audience know that it is indeed a work of fiction based around real people and events and that altercations have been made. The sad thing is I know many adults who only know of Anne Boleyn because of The Other Boleyn Girl. So I guess what does that say about schools and history teaching but that is a whole other story in itself. Wow Claire you got me on my high horse now hahaha. Like you Claire I too am a non denominational Christian, and the God I love and serve is one of love and forgiveness!! And yes Claire cheering when the Anne character gets beheaded is very twisted and sick so your far from silly. Maybe we need to raid the religious forums and give them a good ole history lesson filled with sources so they can point all their energy at learning fact from fiction.

  5. Esther Sorkin says:

    Several random thoughts:

    First, I wonder what is driving some of the posters — both the “pro-Anne” stuff that Claire cited in her post above, and the “anti-Anne” cited in the article. It is not uncommon for old wounds to be kept alive … in the US, for example, “Jim Crow” segregation kept alive the wounds of slavery for over a century after slavery ended. I’m sure there are places in the world where there is still a lot of anti-Catholocism (or anti-Protestantism) . I’m Jewish, so I am not aware of the current location of such religioius problems, but it wasn’t that long ago that Northern Ireland was plagued by them. Maybe, some of these posters need out prayers.

    Another factor may be “one-sided praise”.. I recall an article on this website poiting out how Henry killed tens of thousands more people than Mary I, yet she is “Bloody Mary” while he is a great king. It must be equally irritating to hear Elizabeth praised when she, too, persecuted. (Similar to what we think of Jane Seymour, lauded for doing to Anne Boleyn the same sort of things that Anne Boleyn is condemned for doing to Catherine of Aragon)

    Finally, IMO, Catherine of Aragon should be on a special list of “blessed” for both Catholic and Anglican churches, even if technically she wasn’t martyred because of her faith. Blessed in the Catholic church because she certainly suffered for her faith, even though she wasn’t killed for it. She could have made her life much more pleasant if she acknowledged Henry as head of the Church, but she refused to do so. Blessed in the Anglican church because she had a valid claim to the English throne of her own (arguably, an even better claim than Henry’s) yet refused to authorize an invasion.

    1. Esther Sorkin says:

      Need to make a correction: the article I referred (“Bloody Mary and Bluff King Hal”) to was on The Elizabeth Files, not this website. I hope this link comes through:

  6. Rose says:

    I think that it is very childish when people act that way, slandering others that they have never met, although quite an obvious response from people ignorant of the circumstances they are talking about. Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn are both women to admire in certain aspects if you ask me, and although I am not religious, I would think that the obvious thing to do would be respect other peoples’ faiths! You can’t call someone a murderess or whore just because of what they believed in!

  7. Christine H. says:

    Claire, I absolutely agree with you that God is love and forgiveness, and it’s very good that you address this strange trend. Just to clarify, I am myself 50% Protestant and 50% Catholic from my family background, though non-Anglo-Saxon, which seems to be of some relevance in these matters. Some contemporary of Oliver Cromwell marvellously spoke of “everyman his own Church”, and he didn’t mean that as a joke and so do I!

    Unfortunately the phenomenon you describe above is not just a trend in the crazy world wide web, but even in some of the more recent “serious scholarship”: The Reformation was a sort of crime, Mary Tudor was a persecuted saint, and her “ungrateful” sister Elizabeth killed many more people and it was she who entertained the police state! One of the more odd things I read in an incensed customer review on a book was that Elizabeth was the one who lost Calais, not Mary (because she concluded the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis which officially ceded Calais to the French in 1559).

    Now if we are at beans counting: According to my officially Catholic textbook on Church history, during Elizabeth’s reign chiefly Catholic priests and a few Catholic laypeople were executed for high treason, in all 185. According to John Foxe (and Eamon Duffy, which is important) 284 heretics were burnt in Mary’s reign, plus some fifteen or so died during their time in prison from the effects of the beautiful surroundings. David Loades, who cannot be blamed of being unsympathetic to Mary, writes: “most of those who suffered were humble people, labourers or artisans, and servants of both sexes.” The youngest known burnt heretic was a twelve year old boy. Regarding Philip of Spain, there has also been some newer scholarship which has reckoned the victims of the Spanish Inquisition during his entire reign at c. 250 burnt to death (against 20.000 cases investigated). So we have husband against wife with 250 executed in 42 years and 284 executed in 3 1/2 years. So much for beans counting.

    I think it’s also important to remember that Christians only came to support the death penalty (in any form) after the Emperor Constantine had made them a state religion: They could not now resist the state, plus there was the allure of executing your enemies for heresy …

    1. Christine H. says:

      I actually had a look at this Telegraph article supplied above by Esther Sorkin, and I would describe it as a typical example of what I meant here: We can’t compare Henry VIII with Mary I in this way (for several reasons). It’s comparing apples with oranges. First Henry’s number of 72,000 executed is highly dubious given without explanation by Holinshed (I somewhere read it was by Stow), while the figure of 284 heretics burnt under Mary is a relatively accurate figure: we know how Foxe and his contacts worked, and he gives case stories, which in many instances has proved accurate when checked. Included in Henry’s number there are all victims of state persecution including rebellions and even the victims of criminal justice over a reign of 38 years; they do not represent religious persecution especially. Mary is not blamed generally for executing common criminals or rebels.

      That newspaper article also contains many inaccuries regarding facts; it’s simply rubbish to claim that under Edward VI 5,000 rebels died in the Prayer Book rebellion alone. These are typically exaggerated numbers of battle casualties; the same goes for the Norfolk rebellion. The number for both battles, and these were battles — the rebels even had offers of pardon and they chose to fight — put together are perhaps 5,000 dead. Plus there were naturally executions afterwards, especially in the West Country, but this was not “religious persecution”. Elizabeth executed 800 after the rebellion of 1570, but these victims are not even regarded as martyrs by the Catholic Church.

      On the Marian persecutions on the other hand, David Loades wrote in History Today, December 2005: “Heretics had occasionally been burned in England since the early fifteenth century but nothing on this scale, or with this ferocity of intention, had been experienced before, which is why the Queen later acquired the soubriquet, Bloody Mary.” Now of course that nick name may be unfair but such is history — it’s nearly always unfair, often terribly so, and this is only a popularly used nickname, part of folklore. No historian has ever used it, like they have used Alexander the Great, Charles the Bald, Charles the Bold, Pepin le Bref …

      1. Esther Sorkin says:

        I didn’t make my point clear; I apologize. I think what sets people off is not comparing Mary and Henry; instead, I think some people feel defensive about Mary because of the bias shown by the sobriquets. The number of people killed by Henry VIII is shockingly high for someone known as “Bluff King Hal”. Mary’s nickname ignores her mercy to the “rank and file” in both the Lady Jane Grey and the Wyatt matters; Elizabeth’s nickname of “good Queen Bess” ignores her lack of mercy to the “rank and file”.

        1. TheGoldenCrown says:

          Although Mary I did show mercy to Lady Jane Grey, she eventually had her executed after a few months of imprisonment, after the Wyatt Rebellion. Mary executed nearly a hundred rebels, many of them were hanged , drawn and quartered, a gruesome painful death. Elizabeth gave Mary, Queen of Scots chance after chance after chance until 19 years later, she finally had to have her executed, after the Babington plot. Elizabeth had the first group of seven rebels hanged drawn and quartered but when she saw how barbaric is was, she had the second batch of traitors hanged until they died before the rest of the sentence was carried out. I’ll say Elizabeth had more Mercy.

  8. Kelly says:

    What a shame that people are not learning from history… I have no religion, yet i believe in a god and in good and bad and loving in each other and to give and recieve. I have visited different churches in my life out of curiosity. I love Anne, but i love Catherine of Aragon as much. I love history with all it’s comlexity, i love to learn more and more of the tudor era everyday. In history many people have died for their faith, and i thought that because of that history we were free people now, but i am guessing i am wrong if i read the article on the the other website, people who condem others for their faith, passion, personality etc should take a good look at their self and see their own faults. We have in the whole history era seen many prosecutions, burnings, beheadings, witch trials about 70 years ago a holocaust, can’t we learn something from those teribble things. Aplauding the beheading of Anne is very sick in my eyes. Shame on them, but i choose to cherish my beliefs, my love for history and tracking the facts. I love both your sides, i aplaud you for making them and keeping it up to date, you go Claire.. They do not deserve your energy!

  9. Kelly says:

    And for the record, i am a descended from a jewish family, my family name is almost gone in the country i live in, when i was a child my grandmothers stood great fears when she heard something about germans, yes she was traumatised because she saw what happened, as a grown up i have learned because of my families history to still love and cherish people, Claire, i am sorry, but i should have wrote that i love both your sites (meaning your websites offcourse), sorry but i find these people annoying because of their judgement. Is a child that died from cancer the punishment of a god too?

  10. Cathy says:

    The Catholics take Holy Communion on Sunday. They drink, embezzle, have affairs, and beat their kids or worse. They go to confession on Saturday, say the prescribed number of Hail Marys, go out whoring and drinking, and their back to Sunday where they take Communion and start all over again. Anne’s only crime was falling in love with the wrong man. Granted, not every Catholic lives like I described above. The priests are busy molesting kids so Rome can cover it up.

    1. Claire says:

      That’s certainly not limited to Catholics, there are many hypocrites in this world and many people who abuse religion and children. There is corruption in every church, in every organisation. I really don’t want to this to turn into a Catholic bashing thread.

  11. Dawn says:

    Religion. What a controversional subject this is. Every religion, right across the spectrum, believe that their God, and their beliefs are the right ones. There is nothing wrong with that as long as the beliefs they have do not harm others, and in an ideal world we would all tolerate different ideals. As we all know that is not the case. There has never been so many atrocities, wars, and ‘legalised murder’ committed by mankind than in the name of religion . Within the Christian faith we have people worshipping the SAME God in different ways, which isn’t the problem, the problem is with the powerful people behind the religion. For the higher up the eccestiastial tree you were the more power, control and wealth you had .Look at the vast wealth Wolsey accumulate, and all the other high ranking churchmen. when all they stand for is questioned by others they feel threatened, and will incite hatred in their followers to protect their position at any cost. Lutherism would have come to England eventually, whether Anne Boleyn patronised it or not it was rife in Europe long before it hit these shores. Times were changing. When the people of our time are still placing blame on a single figure in history as the blame for all their woes, then they are misinformed and insecure. And when they post their child like glee in the beheading of an innocent women, they are trying to incite you to retaliate with deogatory remarks against their beliefs which will fuel their fires.. Rise above it, its history, can’t be changed,and we all have different views on happenings, which give rise to good debate. They are behaving in the misguided way they did all those years ago, which is rediculous in the 21st century I thought we had become more educated than that. These comments are aimed at any religious belief that preaches intolerance, and it would be ashame if this site becomes bogged down with the ravings of religious fanatics from other sites. I keep my own beliefs private, therefore I have less chanch of offending anyone. Can I feel those flames flickering around my feet!!! 🙂

  12. MegC says:

    It’s because of things like this that so many people view Christianity as hypocritical and hateful. Why can’t we all get on the same page, regardless of our Catholic/Protestant status, and learn to love and accept each other. I have many Christian friends who are also Protestant but whose beliefs are not 100% the same as mine–it doesn’t make them any less Christian nor me any more Christian. I think it’s awesome that there are so many different flavors of Christianity out there that allow you to worship God in the way that makes you feel closest to him, and while I, for example, might find snake-handling an exceptionally unusual way of feeling God’s presence in my life, if it works for you then more power to you. But it’s things like this, where Christians openly bash each other for differences that, ultimately mean very little, that weaken the Christian church as a whole. I’m not saying that we should turn a blind eye to things that go on in some churches (molestation or abuse for example–these things must be dealt with severely), but seriously, people, we need to start looking at the bigger picture. Does it REALLY matter how many people Elizabeth had martyred or Mary had martyred? Protestant or Catholic, murder’s still a sin. Both women had to answer to God about those injustices. I don’t know, maybe my views are a little too broad.

    1. Shoshana says:

      We should extend your thought to all religions, whether Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Buddish, or Worship of the Giant Green Toad. If your beliefs make you a better person who strives to be kind, help your fellow man, love your neighbor and do unto others kindly, then it should be respected by all. You don’t have to subscribe to a religion to be respectful of it.

  13. Dana says:

    “There is only one Christ, Jesus, one faith. All else is a dispute over trifles.”

    I was just on another website where a Catholic man was claiming that the Catholic Church was the One True Church and all other churches aren’t accepted by Christ (so I guess all Protestant Christians are going to hell.) His reasoning behind this was that Jesus himself created and sanctified the Cathlic Church as THE ONLY Christian church. This man also claimed to know a lot about history, but I wonder from exactly which books he was getting his knowledge. Jesus created Christianity, not Catholicism. Catholicism was created by the Romans one they realized that they needed to either convert to Christianity or lose their empire. That is why in Catholicism there remains so much imagery from past Roman religions, ie., idolatry such as worship of the Virgin Mary and crucifixes, and ritualism.

    Btw, I am not against Catholicism. I was raised going to Catholic, Methodist and Baptist churches, and I truely believe that as long as one worships Christ–no matter the way they choose to do so–and abide by His message, they will be, “With him in Paradise” in the end. However, those that choose to judge others for the way they choose to worship Him are NOT abiding by His message.

    1. Shoshana says:

      Please anyone correct me if I’m wrong but I was taught that Jesus did not create Christanity, he only wanted to change some Jewish laws and did. His apostles and those who followed them, created the first Christian churches. Jesus was a Jew who lived by Jewish laws.

  14. Shelley says:

    I’m not really surprised that idiots still exist. They have a one track mind and will not let go of something no matter what the facts are, or, how far fetched and ridiculous the “facts” being presented may be.

    It is truly disturbing that religious websites are allowing this sort of hatred to be written and posted! Shame on them!

    To my mind the only truly guilty party is Henry VIII. He made each and every decision that ended his marriages, the lives of his wives. No one else was responsible!

    Catherine fought for her rights and Mary’s. Personally, I would have walked away and taken what Henry offered, but, she needed to protect her daughter and ensure her rights as the legal heir.

    Unfortunately, Catherine was dealing with a single minded, determined husband who wanted to remarry and get himself a male heir come Hell or high water.

    Anne caught his eye and for a short time kept his interest. I think he lost that interest once he married her. The fact that she only gave birth to one living child *Elizabeth* only helped to hasten her departure. The man was getting on in years and was desperate to have a male heir, so, Anne had to go. Her trial was a mockery of justice and anyone with half a brain would realize this.

    I feel pity and a small amount of contempt for idiots who buy into the “party line”. In this case the Catholic Church’s version of events May 1536. An innocent woman, her brother, friends and a musician were executed to make room for the new wife *Jane Seymour*. With Henry a widower there would be no questions of the legitimacy of his male heir. Solved the problem quite neatly for Henry didn’t it?!?!

    I hope one day people will realize that religious divisions do no good and only promote hate and strife. This is the 21st century after all and time for humanity to grow up and stop acting like spoiled children.

    Thanks for the article Claire!


  15. Dawn says:

    To add to what I said earlier, religion althrough the ages has been used to control the people by fear no matter what denomination its from and I would have thought that in this modern world that religions would adapt a more modern approach, but no.The people at the top minipulate which ever text they read from to suit. They sit in their ivory towers, dicating their ‘holier than thou’ policies to us lowly ones telling us the way to a better life in the here after. In other words do as I say not as I do. If their convictions are as strong as they protest, why are they not living the life of modesty, chastity,a meagre living as Nuns, Monks and the equivalents of other religions. These religious houses, although not perfect as we all have read, have been in the past and present a strong support system for the poor and needy, giving alms, medical care, providing work and shelter. Thats what religion is about, not my church is better than yours,get over yourselves and enjoy your religion which ever one it is with like minded people, but for goodness sake practise what you preach, tolerence and goodwill to all . The world has no place for fanatics it deminishes your beliefs in the eyes of others. This is a history site where people want to enjoy a shared interest, and of course religion is a part of this period, and because we discuss what happened and put our slant on it doesn’ t mean we are favouring one side more than the other we like all tudor history, we like all of the Queens, and empathise with all 6 of them. So for crying out loud , all you with strong religious convictions leave us to our interest, and stop abusing our right to have opinions, and stop sending abusive messages to the sites, it only shows your ignorence. Oooh those flames are getting higher 🙂

  16. lisaannejane says:

    While I was raised Catholic, I do not belong to any religious group. I believe in the teachings of Jesus and that we should be kind to one another and try to do the right thing. Of course we make mistakes but that does not mean that we should not try to make amends. From what I have read about the history of religion, most of the basic ideas become embroiled in debates over things which can not be proven one way or the other. I just try to be aware of what I am reading so I know what the author’s background is and what their bias probably is as well. I do not like reading religious websites because I already am fairly sure that their religious views will paint the past as they want to see it. It is a shame that people still want to blame one person for what is usually an event caused by many things coming together,

  17. Amanda-Leigh says:

    I would say it’s almost worse today then before (although punishment for non-believers is much better today…). Like you said, this whole thing was sparked by online research. Organizations can spread their views much more quickly and broadly than ever before, and they can keep track of what those with opposing views are saying/doing. It’s so sad, though. I’m not attached to any specific religion, and have my own ideas about the world, but I would have thought love should have been #1 on every list.

    It’s strange to think that we’re really not that different in religious perspectives than the Tudors… while we don’t legally kill people with different views, people die and kill because of their beliefs, and it becomes a good vs. evil idea that’s just sad. Everyone has something good to give the world…

  18. GIllyo says:

    I had an interesting conversation about this very topic with my husband’s late uncle, who at the time we talked was a brother in a Catholic religious order.

    I told him that I believed that the Reformation in England was entirely the fault of the Catholic church. My reasoning was that there was no reason, (that had not been overcome elsewhere), for Pope Clement to not grant Henry VIII the divorce he requested. His sister had been given two divorces and divorces had been granted to other rulers when their wives were barren, (or did not have sons).

    Clement’s weakness in allowing his own precarious position to affect his decision regarding Henry’s “Great Matter” forced the English king to find his own solution, which was to break with Rome. I believe that Clement did not think Henry would do what he did. He did not understand Henry’s deep need for a son, to secure the Tudor dynasty and to make his own throne secure. The fact that he had looked into a divorce before his love affair with Anne makes it even more obvious that she was not the reason for his actions.

    My husband’s uncle agreed with me and said that there is a very real weakness in the Catholic church to be too dictatorial about matters without thoroughly understanding the issues. It’s a “blinders” mentality that also led to the recent scandals regarding child molestation. He was a “religious” for over 50 years and had seen many things that disturbed him. However, his philosophy was the same as the one I had been taught by my Protestant mother, that is, that it is always a mistake to look to people, because they will always disappoint you, but that if you give God a chance he won’t.

  19. Teresa Isabelle says:

    This article actually reminds me of the book I’m reading, The Queen’s Lady by Barbara Kyle. In the book is set during the last years of Katherine’s reign and the beginning of Anne’s and deals with the emergence of the different forms of Christianity. The main character has her beliefs thrown into question as the different religions begin to fight each other and people are widely persecuted for their faith. The author seems to build up each new religion as the main character encounters it before pointing out the obvious flaws in each of them, mainly their intolerance of other religions.

    As a non-religious person, I often find myself wondering how people could do something as brutal and “sinful” as murder in the name of God. I understand how people can have faith and be passionate about it, but is it really necessary for them to “save” the world from other religions? After all, one of Luther’s main beliefs was non-violence. He even went against his own followers when they attacked Catholics. I don’t think anyone should be discriminated against or persecuted for simply worshiping a God in a different way.

  20. Adrienne Dillard says:

    What a great post Claire! I do think it’s alive and well and may even be more so than it was back then. Back then, there were only really three religions warring, now there are so many, I can’t even give you a number. What we all need to remember is that no matter our religion or our faith, we are all one. We are all connected to each other in one way or another as people of the Earth. I don’t say children of God because we are connected to athiests as well and while I believe they are children of God, they don’t believe there is a God and that needs to be respected. We are all human and all deserve compassion and respect whether we agree or not. Ultimately no one person will EVER know the truth until we are dead and for that reason alone if none other, we should respect everyone’s beliefs.

    As far as the history goes, unfortunately, people are going to spout off about things they know nothing about. We just need to take the responsibility for our own knowledge and not take what other people say as gospel truth. And just spread our knowledge, like lovely Claire has done! You don’t have to set out to make a super star website, but don’t be afraid to share what you know. I am ALWAYS giving impromptu history lessons at work, haha. Just the other day I was telling a coworker about the origination of Ring Around the Rosie and where pomanders came from. She was totally interested!

    People are going to say what they say and they are going to believe what they believe, but we can take responsibility for ourselves and our conduct and be the peaceful ones because in the end kindness is what counts.

  21. Dawn says:

    I have just read this article again, and picked up on the part about Catherine being made a martyr, I agree with you that although she had a strong faith, she did not die because of it. To be blunt, Catherine suffered the hurt and humiliation that millions of women suffer worldwide all the time. She was a middle aged women, married to a philandering husband, who wanted to get it on with a younger woman, and have a new brood of children because he wasn’t satisfied with the ones he already had. She also had to bear the separation from her daughter, which was cruel to say the least, but again many women have had to bear this pain also. Now if these millions of other women do/did not have the same strong religious conviction as Catherine, does that lessen the hurt and humiliation that they felt/feel, No defiinitely not. Therefore all women that have suffered the same fate deserve to be martyred too.

  22. Sarah Rooke says:

    Totally agre Claire, i am a druid, as you know, and a pagan priestess. I have had vile comments directed at me such’as ‘You should be burnt at the stake!’ and this from the teenaga daughter of a neighbour, and here was me thinking we lived in more modern times, where equality and diversity had meant we had moved on from all that.
    I have also had this Team Anne and Team Catherine thing at work too, from Catholic people i work with. Well, i admire Anne, but i also admire Catherine! I feel sad and sorry for them both because of what happened. Anne was surely set up and Henry wanted to get rid of her, so e concocted a tale of incest and witchcraft, poor Anne didnt stand a chance.
    Speaking of Elizabeth, have you seen the trailer for the new Horrible Histories, it has an Aztec, a Victorian pauper and Elizabeth in a sort oif X Factor competition. Elizabeth is porrayed as someone who keeps beheading people, okay i know its for fun and all that, but thats not the Elizabeth i know! They are confusing her with either Mary 1 or Henry VIII! Also worrying is that this is what they are teaching children

    1. Charlie says:

      I’ve seen that trailer. It is worrying. I can see the fun in it, but then I’m an adult who has read about Elizabeth from various sources. And I know how my view of Richard III was created in childhood and took a while to dispel.

  23. Valerie says:

    Great article, Claire! I was reading some comments on a religious website a few weeks ago (not about the Tudor period but about the Royal Wedding Service) and was amazed and also very saddened to find that it had turned into a rather nasty Protestant v Catholic debate. I read John Knox’s ‘First Blast of the Trumpet’ a while ago and couldn’t believe the amount of hatred there was, mainly for Mary I. He said some terrible things about her and didn’t seem too fond of Mary Queen of Scots or Mary of Guise either. I think some of the posters on these forums are following in his footsteps, which I personally think is very sad. I think if people are taught that only their beliefs are right and everyone else is wrong then they are going to have these extreme views and want to express them. In the sixteenth century there might not have been a lot of opportunity to learn about how other people worshipped God or viewed the world but there really is no excuse in this day and age for intolerance. There also seems to be this mistaken belief that if you admire Catherine you have to hate Anne, you can’t like both Elizabeth and Mary etc. I think this is utter nonsense. Why do you have to choose between them? Or why would you want to?

  24. Shoshana says:

    The intolerance in the religious world has always saddened me. I was raised in a strict Catholic family; mass each morning, confession and communion each week. But even as a child I did not beieve in the tenets of the Church. I am almost 61 and still remember my first year of religious school being given a pamphlet that explained G-d’s creation of man. It said that first G-d created man and he was black; but black was not the color of good so G-d tried again. He then created a brown man but again, he was not the color of good so he created a brown man, then a yellow and finally a white man that He declared good and named Adam. I got in sooooo much trouble when I asked the nun where in the bible that story was told because my Grandfather read the bible to us each evening and I had never heard that story. I was sent to the priest for punishment and almost was refused first communion! I guess I was a pint size heretic. On becoming an adult I embarked on a religious quest to try to reconcile my personal beliefs with the Churches and when I could not do that I started to explore other religions. As a result, I converted to Judaism. Many in my family disowned me and I know at the time it broke my fathers heart. But over time I convinced them it was the right choice for me because I became a better person and my Dad even attended some services with me when he visited me. He actually told a Rabbi, “It does me good to see her actually praying in a House of G-d. I use to have to threaten mayhem just to get her to Church!” In my studies I learned many things about myself; some that are right in line with Judaism and some not. But, for me, the beauty of my found faith is that I can disagree with an established belief or tradition and still be a “good” Jew. I have seen people stop the Rabbi in the middle of a service to debate a point; it is one of the most valued rights of a Jew. Any one, including “gentiles” can offer a different opinion and have it found valid and see it become part of our religious studies. There is a world council of rabbis who meet once a year to debate one qestion of theology. I think it was 1980 when they debated “Should we include the teaching of Jesus in our religous schools?” The answer was no but probably not for the reason most people would think of first. It was decided that while the teaching of Jesus were beautiful and of value, Jews do not believe the Messiah has come and we could not teach that Jesus was the Messiah but only that he was a great Rabbi (which means teacher). Since we would have to teach that he was less than our “Christian brothers and sisters” believed him to be, it would be offensive and we can not offend those of other religions and beliefs. I would say that is rather sensitive and caring. One of the reasons I was drawn to Judaism. But I can’t say I have seen such senstivity in other religions very often. Just yesterday I learned of a division in my own famiy. My nephew, whom I have adored all his life, was raised a strict Catholic and grew up to marry a Christian woman of a non-denominational church. In the last year, he joined her church and was born again. That is fine with me; if he truly believes and it makes him a better man, I’m all for it. But unfortunately, recently he showed that it has only made him judgemental, hateful, and cruel. His father and step-mother recently took a life long dreamed of trip to Europe. On their return they had the family over to see all the pictures. My sweet, kind, generous, loving brother was showing my nephew and his wife a slide show on his computer and talking about the beautiful buildings, tile works, frescoes, and all the magnificent ancient churches, mosques, and temples they had seen. My brother said not one word about religion – only about the beauty of the buildings and history. My newphew went ballistic, screaming his father was disrespecting him and his Christianity by showing them pictures of ancient mosques and synagogues along with the churches and cathedrals! Unbelievable. He then went on to verbally abuse his younger sister calling her names and saying she’d burn in hell because she refused to join his church or to stop dating a man she has been seeing for almost 10 years while she finishes medical school. If this is the result of the teachings of this non-denominational church; it should not call itself christian. What ever happened to honor thy father and mother? It is this type of mind set that causes hatred in this world. I do not believe that when we stand in front of G-d in judgement, He is going to ask, “Jew, Christian or Moslem or Buddist or what?” I believe He will be judging us on how we loved our fellow man/woman, whether we were kind or cruel, how well we adhered to the 10 commandments, and whether or not we set a good example for our children. Most people forget that Jesus was a Jew who said he did not come to destroy the faith but only to change it; the changes he made are still in affect today (no money lending in temple or animal sacrifices). I don’t believe he inteneded to form a religion based on himself but to make need changes within the religion he grew up with and lived is life by it’s tenets and beliefs. I know he’d be appalled at some of the ways Christianity has been perverted for an individuals wants. There are problems in very religion; and it is only when people insist “My beliefs are the true and only way” that wedges are put in place. Until mankind can respect one anothers beliefs, and understand there are many paths to Heaven and each is the true way if it enables the person to become a better person, we will continue to have hatred, evil and wars. If G-d chose, He could let mankind know which religion He wanted everyone to practice – but He hasn’t done that. He gave us free will and wants us to resolve our differences in love, respect, and kindness. I just pray He isn’t giving up on us any time soon because right now, He would probably send us all to Hades and start over again with gerbils.

  25. Claire,
    I would like to personally thank you for publishing my post. After having a long and hard discussion with my mother, I finally do understand. But I would like to point, that I have also visited plenty of Protestant sites that bash both Catherine of Aragon and Mary 1. By the way I love your website! It really helped me with my report on Anne Boleyn ( I got an A+) Thanks for posting my post=)


  26. I would also like to say, the reason that I couldn’t understand all the Elizabeth & Anne Boleyn bashing that took place at these Catholic websites, was because I couldn’t digest why people who claim that they ‘love god’ would say such monstrous things about who lived 500 years ago. When I dug into all the Elizabeth 1 hating, what bothered the most was that they seem to ignore all the positive entities that occurred during her reign. As I delved into further of all the disturbing hate comments, something would ring in my head: WHY HATE ON THESE WOMEN JUST BECAUSE THEY DIDN”T ENDORSE YOUR RELIGION!? That probably ailed me more than anything. Some comments tore Anne Boleyn apart for quote ‘not being a religious women.’ I tried to post a comment trying to collimate all the assumptions that they made, and even commented that, ‘Anne Boleyn was very charitable during her reign.’ Big mistake, because within minutes I was being verbally abused. What also got under my skin, some Catholics sites were advising people to read Philippa Gregory’s books as a resource on these ‘vile women,’ as they put it. I rather like PG’s books but I take it as complete fiction, and wouldn’t recommend anyone to read her books if they want to learn about Elizabeth & Anne Boleyn. I would definitely recommend “The Life of Death of Anne Boleyn,” By Eric Ives. My family and I are Protestants and I still though admire Catherine of Aragon deeply and pity Mary 1even though they were not of my religion. I find it really sad that people would waste their time using vulgar language against historical figures who they have never meet and hate on them when they are long dead. Again like my early post, I want to make sure that people know that this also happens at Protestants sites that do plenty of CoA & Mary 1 bashing which I also find to be disturbing. Catholics and Protestant sites are at war with ‘TEAM CoA & MARY1’ vs ‘TEAM ANNE BOLEYN & ELIZABETH 1.’ I think that if people would just take the time and read about ladies in a sympathetic light they might not necessarily like them but respect enough to stop all these childish bashings. (BTW I am thirteen and I think that it is childish LOL. )

    – Alexis

    1. Shoshana says:

      Alexis, I would say that you are well on the way to becoming a lady of wisdom, caring, charity, and kindness – something that all religions should be working very hard at to teach their congregations. We can build all sorts of modern technology that makes life easier but we just can’t seem to resolve certain issues – religion, politics, race. It is truly sad but when I hear of a young person like you, who can see through all the hate and realize there is a better way, I have hope. Live long and prosper.

  27. Bridget says:

    If only more people in the world thought as you do, Claire. Loved the article!

  28. Emma says:

    With history as with politics and religion (and in this case a mixture of all three) there are always going to be people who want easy answers. They want there to be a white hat team and a black hat team with no shades of grey or troubling ambiguity inbetween. The first thing you realise when you study history is that the ‘image’ of historical figures is often either completley distorted or simplified compared to who they really were. Some people just feel more comfortable with the sterotypes of heroes and villains that fit their own view of religion, society ect.

  29. Emma says:

    A while back we were discussing whether Anne Bolyen’s body should be removed from the chapel at the Tower of London. One of the reasons I think it should not is that I think it is nice that there is a place where both reformers and conservatives are buried and that those of both denominations can pay their respects. (Or people of different faiths, no faith ect).

  30. Anne Barnhill says:

    Another great discussion! And article! When things like religion are discussed, people have their very souls at stake, so to speak. Because these beliefs are deeply entrenched, there can be a lack of tolerance and respect for those differing in opinions. I have a funny story: When I was young, I had a friend who was an evangelical Christian and I was a different denominations. Well, everything I thought or believed was always wrong. Then, over the years, I became an Episcopalian and she became a Catholic–the services are similar and I thought we could now agree–guess what? I was still wrong, still on the outside, not good enough! I finally figured out that for her, I would never be good enough, not matter what I beleived. I had to let the friendship go. So, sometimes it’s not even really about religion. I sort of got off subject but my point is that when somethine is dear to one’s heart, tempers and feelings can get in the way of logic and mutual respect. I try very hard to live and let live!

  31. Emma says:

    It’s her loss Anne. You just got rid of bigot, she’s lost a tolerant, open minded friend. That reminds me of a story my husband told me. When he was a teenager he was hanging out with his friends near the local catholic church when the orange march went past. They all started yelling abuse. Some of the lads including my husband were protestants but they still yelled because they all had equal contempt for bigotry.

  32. Janet Silvester says:

    Has anyone looked at ?

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, the website owner has launched quite a few public attacks on me and has also attacked Alison Weir, G W Bernard and Eric Ives, while claiming some very weird and wacky things about Anne, e.g. that Margaret of Austria ran some kind of Hogwarts establishment for sibyls (prophetesses) and that Anne was one. As people know, I am always open to people’s ideas and opinions on Anne but not when they promote them by launching attacks on people. Very odd!

    2. Claire says:

      Forgot to ask what you thought of it, Janet?

  33. Tina says:

    Why do people even blame Anne? I do not understand personally. I am not for or against either Catherine or Anne. However, why do we point fingers at the women in History when we should really be looking at the men? Even before Catherine and Anne in the time of Jesus we had Mary Magdalene whom the Bishop’s wanted to have her stoned to death because she was caught in the act of adultery. Ummm Hello it takes two. There is no mention of the Man she was having sex with!
    It is unfortunate that Catherine was married to an adulterous man! She was kind and humble. from beginning to end. By why must we point the finger at Anne alone? As the adulterous whore? She would not give Henry his desire until they were married. Well they were married in the eyes of God? We will never know for sure. But in her heart she was a married woman whom lay with her husband, what sin is there in that? Only God can say who was right and wrong! NO MAN CAN CONDEMN ANOTHER MAN/WOMAN!

  34. margaret says:

    katherine of aragon should have gone quitely away when she knew full well her marriage was over ,anne boleyn should have run away when henry started noticing her ,this is nothing to do with religion ,it was a spoilt egomaniac wanting his own way all because he had a crown on his head .

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