Happy New Year 2020!
Posted By Claire on January 1, 2020
Happy New Year to all Anne Boleyn Files followers! I hope you had a lovely time celebrating the New Year and that 2020 brings you lots of joy. Thank you for following this site and my work.
How did people at the Tudor court celebrate New Year?
Well, here’s my video from last year
I’ve also done videos on two “on this day events” which took place on 1st January in the Tudor period:
On 1st January 1540, Henry VIII met Anne of Cleves for the first time, and it didn’t go according to plan…
And, in 1511, Queen Catherine of Aragon gave birth to a son…
86 thoughts on “Happy New Year 2020!”
On this day the 1st of January Henry V111 excitedly rushed off to meet his new bride to be ‘Anna’ from Cleves as she was so called in her home country, the English know her as Anne, and history would paint her as the bride whom Henry V111 rejected, the fourth bride who so repulsed the king, that on his wedding night he was already planning a means to end this disastrous matrimonial state he found himself in, as Claire explains there were two versions of the kings meeting with his intended, we do not know which is the correct one but we do no Henry was disenchanted with Anne and his feelings towards her did not improve as the bleak January month slipped by, and the winter turned into spring and then summer, Henry V111 was a Renaissance Prince, his upbringing was that of one well schooled in etiquette and chivalry, therefore the version where he was said to have chatted lovingly with Anne is probably correct, as king he had to be the master of diplomacy and could not afford to let his disappointment show, after the embarrassment had died down where his bride was informed whom the king was, she at once sought to make amends and possibly she had an interpreter who informed Henry how apologetic she was in not recognising him in his camouflaged outfit, so why was Henry so disappointed with Anne.? Once they were chatting together quite amicably one supposes surely any animosity and resentment would have disappeared, yet Henry in private grumbled she stunk she was not whom men have made of her, alas he bewailed whom can one trust? Her portrait by Holbein shows a sweet faced lady with wide brown eyes and a kind disposition, yet Henry was not satisfied, no one else remarked on her ugliness no one else complained about her body odour, was Henry making excuses to cover his embarrassment at their first meeting or was he genuinely disappointed in her, it seems petty of Henry to hold that against her if she came from a world where dressing up and courtly love were alien, we often hear glowing reports of the beauty of queens and princesses and we can assume it was all done in the name of politics, Christina of Milan was described as a beauty and in her full length portrait by Holbein we can see she was, her skin is so white it almost has a pearlescent quality and is set of brilliantly by the raven darkness of the velvet robe she is wearing, so why were the reports on Anne’s beauty any different, poor Anne was chosen by Henry as his bride and he must have thought as he arose that first day in the new year, a new year a new beginning, yet nothing it must have seemed to him went right, his bride did not recognise him she was not like her portrait, etc so he looked around for some one to blame and his eyes rested on his chief minister who had arranged it all, Thomas Cromwells fate was inextricably linked with his masters brides, his fortune rose when Anne Boleyns star was in the ascendant, now with her namesake it looked like it was about to fall, before the year was out Henry would be married again, Cromwells head would be lying on the straw his discarded bride would be his beloved sister, the queen whom escaped the fate of most of her sister queens, the queen who was rejected by her royal bridegroom because he found her too repulsive would escape with her life, the queen known as the lucky one, and unlike her predecessors would be the only one of King Henry V111’s wives to lie in Westminster Abbey, where monarchs before and since have been married and laid to rest, she failed to please her king and husband yet lying among the ancient dead, she keeps grand company does Anna of Cleves, one time bride of King Henry V111.
Happy New Year, Happy New Decade, Tim and Claire and Family and Cats and Dogs and Teasel. Happy New Year to one and all. Still barking like a dog but now sounding more like a small dog than a husky. Clearing up and took a walk in the park this afternoon.
I saw people doing the annual cold swim around the country in our sea and cold rivers on the news, for charity but still, I would give a donation and do the warm spa. Still lots of people having fun and giving their bodies a shock. We are a weird nation. Going out on New Year, however, harks back to playing games after the Mass and feasting in Medieval/Tudor times. The rules on public games were relaxed over the 12_Days and people marked New Year in this way. As you all know they also baked a cake and sang what we call carols, had communal meals and drank some very odd but tasty drinks. I haven’t had any pudding or Christmas cake yet, but am looking forward to once my chest fully clears.
In the Christian calendar the 1st January is dedicated to the honour of Our Lady, Mary, as the Mother of God. It is not clear how long this has been a Universal Day of Obligation, but the theological emphasis on Mary as God Bearer goes back to the Fourth Century. I believe it was firmly established at the Council of Ephesus. The Octave or Eighth Day of Christmas took on this special significance after the Western Church moved the Feast of Christmas to 25th December from the original Eastern Festival of Epiphany, 6th January when the Wise Men visited Jesus in the Cave in Bethlehem. (A cave at the back of a house was a common place to have the animals, what we now call a stable although it was nearer to a cowshed. Such caves have been excavated and exist today). Remember Christianity is an Eastern Faith that spread across the Roman Empire to the West and to Britain and Bethlehem and Jerusalem were part of that Empire, which is how all these things took on Christian symbols. The Schism meant that the Solemnity of Our Lady as the Mother of God was set aside and the Circumcision of Jesus took over. Later the original celebration was restored and it became a Universal Feast again.
Anyway, have a very good New Year and not too much cake.
Iv seen pics of folk dipping themselves in the freezing cold sea, and thought rather them than me! Seriously though if anyone of them were suffering a cold they could easy develop pneumonia, but as you say it is all done for charity and I’m sure they would not attempt it if they were unwell, I’m glad your on the mend Bq, and the walk in the park probably done you good, I like to get out when I can for some fresh air, I woke up so late today but needed nothing from the shops so decided to stay in and have a duvet day, have a little cold and so just resting, drinking cups of tea and doing quite literally nothing ! So many folk I know have been unwell over Christmas and now we are in January and the decorations come down, but I’m keeping mine up till I feel like taking them down, I do not hold with superstition and when I feel up to it, then I will do when and if it suits me, I’m watching the New Year’s Day concert from Vienna at the moment, recorded it from this morning, I watch it every year and it’s lovely.
Sir Anthony Browne speaketh with a fork tongue! Edward Hall and the German ambassador agreed with the original Chronicle. Henry may have been irritated by the fact Anne of Cleves didn’t swoon at his feet or recognise him in his costume, but that was his fault, not hers and the rest of how he made certain she had everything for her comfort, every little thing to make her feel at home, all contradict his claim to be repelled by her appearance. I believe he was embarrassed but he soon got over it because he remained and had supper with Anna. He had breakfast with her the next day and gave her gifts. So how do we explain his version six months later and that of Sir Anthony Browne and others? Simple…these were dispositions to get Henry untangled from a marriage which was no longer convenient. The video points out that Henry was the only one who found her unattractive. He was desperate to get out of his marriage as he had a bit of fluff waiting for him, the sexy and pretty Kathryn Howard, he claimed he couldn’t consummate the marriage and that Anna wasn’t free to marry him. Therefore, according to Henry, he had married another man’s wife.
Anna was originally betrothed to the young Duke of Lorraine as a child but that contract was ended a couple of years earlier. Anna was perfectly free to marry Henry Viii but he needed as much ammunition as he could get in order to end his present marriage. It was more likely his own fault that he didn’t consummate this marriage, his pride and impotency got in the way. As Claire stated Henry could not blame himself, that would not do so he blamed everyone else. He had people singing from the same hymn sheet, all writing the same nonsense about her looks and body, but he definitely didn’t call her a Flanders Mare. In fact he doesn’t even say she was ugly. No he complained about her in a more intimate way, her breasts sagged, she smelled, she had strange airs about her, she was not a maid. Then the women are roped in to confirm that Henry has not had sex with her and to find out if she was pregnant. Why would they want to do that, you may ask? Henry wanted proof Anna was still a virgin. It was either ask a load of foolish questions or examine the poor woman, physically. Another conversation was invented, apparently with her cooperation, providing the laughable evidence that she didn’t know anything about sexual intercourse. Anna spent many weeks alone with her mother before leaving Germany, so she would have received the instructions she needed for her wedding night. Henry also slept with Anna every night. He tried on at least three occasions to consummate the marriage but nothing happened. .This is all in the dispositions, but are they reliable? Possibly some details are, but the account of his first meeting being the real problem because of Anna’s appearance and reception towards him are poppycock. There are several, all saying the same thing, which if presented in Court today would be thrown out as fraudulent and the writers either being told what to put or conspiring together. In other words Sir Anthony and also Charles Brandon wrote exactly what Henry told them to say. Cromwell did the same thing.
Thomas Cromwell, locked up in the Tower on charges for treason, was asked to write a full report of everything that had passed between himself and the King on the day before his marriage, the morning of the marriage, the day afterwards. He was on warning for his life. He received several visitors one day in June 1540 and was asked to make his report. The Council were sent by the King with secret and strict instructions, get a confession based on this being a total disaster. Cromwell was to agree that Henry had spoken with him about how he liked the Queen and to confirm that he had not liked her and why. Cromwell would also confirm that Henry had reluctantly entered into the marriage against his will. He would also report other conversations about Anna and her looks and the difficulty in consummation. Did Cromwell have such a great memory or his notes? Well his memory might be sharp and recall conversations, but even people with good memories can’t recall in the details of his letters to Henry Viii. In other words, Cromwell knew what his master wanted and gave it to him, inventing anything he could not remember, probably most of it. He wrote as Henry expected, possibly thinking his life would be spared if he did.
The roots of discontentment may have been based on that first meeting but the truth is that the changing political situation on the Continent made the Cleves marriage untenable. Henry’s inability in the bedroom and something which put him off Anna, made him anxious to get out of a match he no longer wanted or needed. The more he tried, the greater entrenched he became. His own sexual desires were awakened by young Kathryn Howard, whom he was visiting every night across the river. A disastrous first meeting was a good excuse to get out of this marriage which was put in jeopardy from the outset by his own stupidity and continued to be so because of his own physical misfortune. Anna and her looks was just a convenient excuse.
It could have been the ‘strange airs about her‘ which was how Henry described her as just being the fact she was not English but German, Anne was the only one of his brides he had not seen before the ceremony, he had not chosen her for her prettiness her sexual allure, she was the result of an alliance between England and Germany, with his first queen he had been pleased to marry her, Henry had a crush on his older sister in law who must have appeared sophisticated to his young eyes, then as he grew older he fell in love with Anne Boleyn, he was attracted to both Catherine Howard and possibly Catherine Parr, we can see a pattern emerging here, but with poor Anne from Cleves he had not seen her and fell in love with an ideal, possibly Holbein made her look more attractive in his painting than she actually was, that he was expecting something else is obvious in his reaction to her, I do not think the disastrous first meeting had much to do with his abhorrence to her, though that would not have helped, I have said before it could well have been a few things that added up to his dislike for her, which is a shame as all who grew to know her commented on how pleasant she was, as Claire states, Brandon his old friend never said there was anything unattractive about her, possibly with all the numerous reports of her beauty he was expecting some one out of the ordinary, perhaps an Aphrodite a Helen of Troy, he knew that ambassadors all regaled tales of loveliness about the ladies that were put forward as suitable brides for foreign princes, maybe in his excitement about treading down the marital path again he forgot they were exaggerated somewhat, Cromwell wanted the alliance with the Low Countries and he it was who put forward the idea his master should marry again, Henry was deep in grief with the loss of Jane Seymour and had his prince and heir little Edward, he could well have been content to not marry again for another five years or so, although he knew it was imperative he had another son, a year had passed since Jane had died and so the search for another royal bride begun, but the world was still reeling from the execution of Anne Boleyn and there were not many brides who wished to step into her shoes and those made vacant by Jane Seymours, Duke William, Anne of Cleves brother was not that bothered by the shadow of the sword however and believed an alliance with England would bode well for Cleves, he had two sisters and Anna was chosen by the king, but was it true their faces were veiled when they appeared to Henry’s ambassador? This was portrayed in ‘The Tudors’ but did it really happen ? Holbein was sent to paint her likeness and to this day her face stares out at us in it’s huge ornate frame, she is dressed in a gown of russet and tan heavy with jewels, with cumbersome wide sleeves and an equally cumbersome headdress, German fashion was not noted for its elegance, and the English courtiers had been following the French fashions for many years, her clothes were seen as ugly by those at court, Cleves was not a Renaissance court and she had lived quietly with her mother who it appears did nothing to educate her daughter for a role in a sophisticated court like that of England, Burgundy or France, she knew no dance steps and had no education regarding music or singing lessons, maybe she had lived more like a nun than a young woman, she knew no card games either, but learnt some when she lived in England and grew to love the sport, it seems the longer she stayed in England the more cultured she became as she partnered the new Queen Catherine Howard the following Christmas at court, so she must have taken dancing lessons, but it appears she was totally unsuited to be queen when she first arrived in her new country, Henry was used to sophisticated educated women, Anne must have appeared gauche which must have served to add to her lack of appeal to Henry, she must have seemed like a drab little duckling amongst the swans at court, lack of communication is always a problem to, Henry loved conversing with women, both Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn had been polished learned women and he loved a debate, possibly such women seemed sexier to him, but with poor Anne from Cleves all he got from her was a nod and a ya and he could not have but compared her to his first three wives, all of whom he had loved and had no difficulty in sleeping with either of them, if he was having impotency problems as stated in his second wife’s infamous trial, and as we have seen, he was married to Jane Seymour for a year before she became pregnant, maybe it is not presumptuous of us to assume he could not bed his fourth wife and that was another problem he found with her, he said himself to one of his doctors he was still having wet dreams and was sure he could do the deed but not with her, had Anne been English she would have known what all the sniggering looks and silences were about in her bedchamber, we can feel for the poor woman who must have known something was wrong with her marriage yet could not put her finger on it, wether she was covering up for Henry when she innocently remarked surely marriage was just about kissing one another goodnight and good morning, surely she would know if her husband had not been able to make love to her, or wether she was as innocent as the day she was born which I find very hard to believe, and her own women must have at the time, particularly the one who told her there must be more else we will not have another prince, maybe to spare Henry’s embarrassment at his lack of performance she did make that remark but in doing so, she treated him better than he did her, really it was petulant and childish and not chivalrous at all to complain about his bride in that way, Henry prided himself on his chivalry yet he acted like an insensitive clod over his fourth marriage, poor Anne had come all that way to marry a man whom was fast becoming known as a tyrant in Europe, the English Nero was one such unflattering name, and he treated her like he was the catch of the century, and he was doing her a favour in marrying her, he then proceeded to ignore her and began courting her young lady in waiting the giddy Catherine Howard, is it not strange that once married, Henry V111 always cast his eyes on his queens ladies in waiting, it happened with all of his first three wives, Anne Boleyn was Katherines maid, and so was Jane Seymour a maid of Anne’s, thus Catherine Howard was one of Anne of Cleves maids, it is very strange almost droll like about this old king of ours about the way he conducted his ill fated marriages.
Anna was the typical dynastic Princess, the seal for the diplomatic deal between Germany and England or rather the United Duchies and England as of course Cleves Jullich was not the whole of Germany. Lower Westphalia, the greater regional area was and is a very strategic area and the Duchy of Gelders had been added to the pile of Anna’s inheritance. Her mother, Maria of Jullich brought wealth and prestige and Charles V was liking his lips over the disputed lands. Had Anna been the first wife of King Henry or the heir to any throne, her marriage would be no different to any other dynastic marriage, they would have to put up with it. It was how marriage was made between royal houses, negotiations completed, portraits exchanged, a marriage arranged, gifts and settlement paid and the bride despatched to her new homeland. It wasn’t about romance, it was about alliances, protection from mutual enemies and if the partnership worked, good, if not then it was generally accepted as hard luck. However, people got on with it because there was far more at stake than personal happiness. In some cases everything worked out well and people had a good match, fell in love even, but this was rare. Henry Viii was extremely lucky in that a) he knew Katherine of Aragon well from her years in England and he wanted to marry her b) she was the right person for him and they were a successful couple. Anna could well have made Henry a good wife and a successful Queen. However, Henry was an idiot and he thought he was the handsome knight of his youth and therefore the idea of being romantic with his bride to be practically consumed him. Anna should have been warned about the traditional courtly love, but then again, she had not met Henry and wasn’t expecting him. Whatever happened next was his own fault. He needed a reality check. I don’t suppose Anna was expecting him to be so large, bald and with ulcers on his legs. However, she was delighted to be Queen of England, it raised her rank above her siblings and brought great prestige. Her sister, Sybella was Electress of Saxony, married to the man who protected Martin Luther and she was very proud of her position. William was considered a great catch as well as his own marriages to Jeanne de Albert and Maria of Austria, a niece of Charles V by his brother, Ferdinand, Holy Roman Emperor proved. Anna and Amelia were therefore great catches and the alliance for England a good one.
Anna and her sisters were raised in the Ladies Room, not alone with their mother, sorry that was a misunderstanding, but Anna spent much time with her mother, especially before her marriage. This was the place the high ranking women of the Court spent their time and were they were educated. Anna would most certainly have been well prepared for her marriage, she was sent several ladies to help her and her wedding party included the best families in the Empire as well as United Duchies. She was politically astute and her mother took a role in the Parliament of the Duchies. Maria was in fact a very influential and powerful woman and a devoted Catholic, as were her younger daughters. Although there was an emphasis on reformation in the Duchies it was also known for that rare quality of tolerance. Even William was pragmatic when it came to religion and seems to have had the best of both worlds in his approach. Despite being officially considered a Protestant by modern writers it seems closer examination of his ideas show that William of Cleves was anything but. In fact his religious devotion is hard to pinpoint. He was in favour of reform and allowed it to flourish, but he was also something of a conservative traditional Catholic. Perhaps he hoped for the best. Sybella of Saxony, Anna’s oldest sister, said to be a great beauty, on the other hand was a devout Protestant and there was a great deal of trouble and resentment between Saxony and the United Duchies. Anna probably absorbed all of these influences, but remained a Catholic, although Henry’s supremacy was acceptable to her. As I said, politically astute.
The one thing that does bug me is the idea that Cleves was not a Renaissance Court. There was more than one Renaissance, it happened in Germany long before the Italians came up with the idea, starting in the 12th century. It is a classic misunderstanding that because Anna was not taught music or dancing that this was something not endorsed by the Court. No, it was not considered proper for noble women to learn dancing and music because of its immoral influence. It wasn’t seemly. However, Cleves had been heavily influenced by the Burgundian Court since the mid fifteenth century or earlier because of connections and marriage. Burgundian culture and arts and music were well-known and integrated into Court life in Cleves. Anna would have been exposed to this indirectly even if she didn’t learn music. She certainly had a natural talent as she became an accomplished musician after her divorce and she had an eye for fine artwork as her famous Panels show in their intricate designs. The wood and craftsmanship came from her homeland. Anna and her sisters may have led a fairly sheltered and protected life but they were hardly living like nuns. They made public appearances. Anna was certainly keen to learn all that she could about Henry’s likes as she wanted to know his favourite card game. She certainly learned well because she later became a card sharp. Again this prohibition was about moral and strict standards for men and women, not because the nobles of Cleves were ignorant of such things. Anna showed grace and intelligence and warm spirit. Whatever Henry imagined he didn’t like about her sexually it wasn’t anything to do with her character. He couldn’t help but get on with her, himself, once they were no longer married. He got on better with Anna of Cleves than with his other wives. So what was up with him? His pride was hurt, yes, but that doesn’t explain his sexual inability, save he really couldn’t do it. He had to blame Anna, he was meant to be masculine and show himself as masculine before the people. I actually believe Henry lied to his doctor in order to gain support for getting out of his marriage. He may or may not have been impotent before, with Anne Boleyn, but the only evidence is the infamous paper read out by George Boleyn at his trial. Anne moaning to her sister in law is hardly objective and therefore evidence we can dismiss. However, there is evidence that Henry was impotent for periods with Katherine Howard, due mostly to illness and depression. So Anna probably wasn’t to blame and I suspect Henry knew it. Whatever his problem was it wasn’t with her looks or character or personal attributes.
It was your comments on his wanting Christine of Milan which got me thinking. Maybe his vast disappointment of her refusal to marry him plagued him and he was longing for his lost love for her portraits. Henry had also built up Anna in his imagination. As you said, she wasn’t Helen of Troy and that’s the main problem. He built up Anna so much in his mind, that he was disappointed because she wasn’t quite as expected. Her clothes are magnificent but very heavy. Some people made fun of them. That strangeness may also have played apart. Anna soon took to wearing English dress and fashion and her wedding dress was delicate and cloth of gold. She was received well and very gracious and everyone reported well of her. Anna very much wanted to remain as Queen. She didn’t have a lucky escape. She was upset at the Annulment but pacified by the deal she got. As a political refugee, unable to return home due to the political instability in Germany and Flanders, Anna settled in England by choice, received several homes and palaces, an income and was known as the King’s Sister. She remained on good terms with Henry and his children and is buried in Westminster Abbey, the only one of six Queens to be given that honour.
It’s a real pity that the beautiful little boy born on this day 1511 to Katherine and her beloved King Henry, her handsome knight in shining armour who adored her, didn’t live more than 52_days. This young couple were a golden couple, they were,loved by the people, devoted to one another and full of hope at the beginning of what could have been a true golden age. Henry put on a beautiful Tournament for his Queen to celebrate his son and it is depicted in a wonderful manuscript. He put on games and largesse and entertainment and Katherine was delighted. Then tragedy struck. The celebrations are cut short and they had to return to the palace to find their little boy had suddenly been unable to breathe and was already dead.
This was a crushing blow and both Henry and Katherine mourned deeply and wept for the loss of their little boy. It’s recorded that Katherine mourned “like a natural woman” in other words she was inconsolable. Henry wrote of his concern for her and for his own loss. Henry and Katherine lost five children. Two more sons died, one possibly a few moments or hours after birth and their only surviving child was a daughter, Princess Mary. For many years she was her father’s pearl, the apple of his eyes, raised to rule, sent to Ludlow as an earlier Prince of Wales had been sent to rule, treated as his accepted heir. However, Henry at that time still hoped for a son and then he was suddenly doubtful about the legitimacy of his marriage. What happened?
In 1524 most people believe Katherine stopped being fertile and was unable to have more children. Henry Viii suffered a series of accidents, including almost dying from a marsh fever from falling into a ditch he had tried to pole vault, being hit on the forehead by the lance of his best friend and here again he could have been killed. Personally I believe Henry became anxious about leaving England with a young daughter as his heir and thought about his mortality. It was at this time that he came across the famous passages in Leviticus and comes to the conclusion that his marriage to his brothers widow is the reason God is displeased with him and why he has no male heir. Henry ordered a secret commission to look into the problem but he was found out by Katherine and nothing came of this enquiry. Between 1525 and the Summer 1526 Henry got to know and became fascinated with a gentle woman, the second daughter of Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard, both high ranking courtiers in long service and asks her to be his mistress. Anne wasn’t interested because her older sister, Mary had been his mistress and she was also a moral person. Not that she wasn’t ambitious, but she was also in another relationship. We think Anne may have been going out with Henry Percy, the son of the Earl of Northumberland some time either just prior to Henry’s interest or at the same time. One source, Cavendish, outlines a scenario in which Percy, a servant of Cardinal Wolsey is called into his masters presence because King Henry wanted Wolsey to break him and Anne up. The Earl wanted the same thing and Wolsey gave Percy a right old dressing down. Henry Viii now found that he really did want Anne badly and he began to send her presents and notes and to woo her and some time before the Summer of 1526, the couple fell in love. Henry now wanted an annulment to marry Anne as well as to have a son because he was examining his marriage with Katherine as he no longer saw it as legal. The Summer of 1526/7 saw them as agreeing to marry. Henry was still respectful of Katherine but in his mind, he had not done right to marry her as she was previously married to his late brother, Prince Arthur. He was also afraid of the security of England if he left behind a daughter and not a son. Katherine was shocked, furious, outraged, upset and refused his request. As the rightful Queen and Henry’s lawful wife, she was going nowhere. The rest as they say is history.
The young Prince Henry was by all accounts a bonny boy and we know royal children were pampered over so it was not neglect that caused his death, sudden infant death syndrome has been around it seems for eternity but what causes it, maybe there really is no mystery to this tragic illness but merely a test of nature, those babies not hardy enough do not sadly thrive, maybe they have weak lungs or a problem with the heart, but to carry a child for nine months to go through labour, to experience all the highs of having a Prince the exultation the knowledge that you have succeeded in your duty, only to be dealt the most devastating blow of all, to be informed that golden child has died and for no reason whatsoever, one can only imagine the deep sorrow and regret Katherine felt and not only her, we have also to spare sympathy for Henry V111, it is so easy to forget this man also grieved he too lost children daughters as well as sons, it is easy to forget this indomitable king deserves our sympathy to, it was these lost heirs of England that set him on the quest for a prince to take care of his realm when he died, it was a quest that made him undertake five more marriages and ruin many lives in the process,including that of his eldest daughters, the fact he had several bastard children is not disputed although he only acknowledged one, his son born to Elizabeth Blount, a daughter born to a laundress called Ethelreda Malte and highly likely a daughter named Catherine to Mary Boleyn, a John Perrot was rumoured to be his also as he looked very like him, with his great height and ruddy colouring, but he did lose many legitimate offspring and some were the result of several miscarriages with his first two wives, Henry V111 had come into the world endowed with physical beauty manly prowess and a fertile clever brain, it seemed the gods favoured him, yet he was extremely unlucky in the one thing that mattered, the ability to sire healthy sons, and we have discussed before, his wives with their sad obstetric histories may have had a part to play in that, Henry and Katherine as Bq rightly says were the golden couple, like William and Kate are now, history could have been so different not so bloody had Henry’s sons only been allowed to live.
Hi Claire. I just want to tell you how much I enjoyed “The Anne Boleyn Collection III”. Fun read and hard to put down. Your chapter ‘Context is king’ I feel was written for me. I do struggle with basing my opinions on the the times and not on the 20th & 21st centuries. Well done! (as usual).
I truly believe that Henry’s dislike of Anna upon their meeting was not physical. It was Henry’s bloated and fragile ego. She did not recognizing him= he didn’t like her. I do agree with you that when he could not perform sexually he blamed it on her. When he complained of her bad smells he was probably smelling his own ulcerated leg. The way she handled the whole scenario shows what a dignified woman she was. Henry didn’t deserve someone as good as she was.
I have often wondered as I am sure many others do also, what sort of impression did Henry make on Anne? His disappointment with her everyone knew about but did he ever consider the impact he had made on her, she could well have been expecting ‘the handsomest prince in Christendom’ which was how a Venetian visitor had once described Henry V111, alas that Henry had long since departed and so yes she possibly was not expecting a bald fat man with ulcerated legs that stunk, in his glittering oversized garments, Henry looked ever wider and he must have appeared larger than life to poor Anna from Cleves, maybe he even frightened her a little? The mystery of his animosity towards his fourth wife is something that endures today and we will never know the truth, we can only speculate, she could well have had a harsh sounding voice which grated on the kings nerves, maybe she was a bit clumsy, as I said before, Henry loved to hold intelligent conversations with his women, if she hardly spoke any English that was another lost point in her favour, poor Anne I could say poor Henry to but he acted like a spoilt schoolboy, so what if Anne was not whom he imagined, he was no gods gift to women either, and kings marriages were dynastic alliances done for the love of a country certainly not out of any personal favour because the king liked the look of their portrait, attractiveness did not come into it, as Bq mentions, it was their duty to marry and if they found one another attractive that was a bonus, but it was the lot of kings all over the world to marry for the good of their countries not out of personal feelings, so Henry V111 was here acting very unking like, it was a wonder he never caused a war the way he chopped (excuse the pun ) and changed his wives, he risked a war with Spain over his treatment of his first wife and he was extremely lucky that Duke William held no animosity towards him over his treatment of his sister, here’s something I have often wondered on to, he could have got a son on Anne he certainly did not with her successor, so what on Earth was the whole point of marrying little Catherine Howard, that was not a dynastic alliance but just made out of pure lust, Henry V111 really did act at times like a silly schoolboy!
You ask a very good question: did Henry give a thought about his impression on Anne? At this stage of his life I would say no. In Henry’s mind no one else mattered except Henry and maybe his son Edward. In his mind attraction only needed to go one way. As he got older he seems to have become the most selfish self centered person I’ve ever read about. I am happy for Anne in the sense that she survived but I also feel terrible for her because she was raised to be a noble/Royal wife and then to be rejected by her intended must have hurt terribly and then to see him marry someone of lower rank than herself. I wonder if anyone ever tried to explain Henry’s actions to her or if she always wondered what happened?
Yes she had obviously heard rumours about her husbands preference for one of her ladies in waiting, and asked some of her maids about it, they of course tried to play it down but how can you tell your mistress your husband wants out of his marriage simply because he finds you very unattractive, how can one insult ones royal mistress? I like to think Anne never knew the real reason for her husbands antipathy and thought he had just fallen in love with another lady, as you mention Michael Catherine was of lower rank than herself, she just happened to be one of her own maids to, and only recently come to court, however Anne appeared contented with her life after she agreed to the annulment and was rewarded with, as a means of compensation, some very fine homes, Hever Castle for one, the one time residence of Anne Boleyn, her tragic namesake, the Boleyn’s themselves having long departed, she had a good income and was invited to court where the king welcomed her most fondly and she was known as his dearest sister, but records show she was not content and this is evident after Catherine Howard’s execution, she hoped the king would consider her and take her back and was upset when he married Catherine Parr, she had a comfortable life but must have in her heart of hands found it wanting, she had been insulted after all, she had been raised as a princess to marry into royalty and had come far to marry a most capricious king only to be rejected, and publicly humiliated, she sent the king back her betrothal ring asking him to accept it as it was broken, we can read a very personal barb in her message, though she did well out of her arrangement she had not travelled to England to be merely the kings sister, she had come to marry him to be his consort, any bride to be would have been insulted and offended, however much the king dressed up the settlement, I have not heard of any other monarch treating his bride to be thus, Henry V111 was very very lucky there he did not cause a political issue with his German allies, and after his fifth queens execution he must have felt a very real fool and aware that his fellow European monarchs were laughing at him, he had rejected a woman who could have made a good queen consort, and instead married a heedless young girl who made a mockery of him.
She deserved so much better.
Hi Michael and Christine, there is a funny scene in Private Life of Henry Viii, played by Charles Laughton and Elsa Lancaster as Anna of Cleves, who I believe was his wife at some point in real life, start arguing about what is wrong with her and she tells him he isn’t such a good catch himself and he stinks. They end up laughing and playing cards over which they agree terms for an annulment as neither of them want the marriage. In the film she also has a boyfriend who fancies her and tries to make herself unattractive on purpose. It’s a very weird situation but of course it didn’t happen. Yes, I really would love to know what Anna thought of Henry Viii. We don’t even know if she saw a portrait of him, although it seems she probably didn’t as surely it would be mentioned in sources. However, she had contact with his friends and representatives and they probably painted only good things about him, although I can imagine Brandon slipping her a few stories. There is the language barrier to consider. German is one of the most difficult languages to learn and quite hard sounding. They combine phrases into one word as well which makes it even harder. French was commonly spoken as a common language at many European Courts and was most definitely known by the Ambassadors and even Brandon who had spent time in France. I really don’t know if Anna spoke French but she certainly would have an interpreter. She did use the long journey overland which took several months to learn some English, small phrases, English customs and to familiarise herself as much as possible with life at Court. She learned a few things about Henry as well and they really did play cards before retiring to bed. It is a complete mystery as to why he decided he didn’t want to marry her. Everything he later claimed, however, he made up. He had not wooed Anna and maybe there was no chemistry. That can be awkward. The language barrier may not have put them off, couples sleep with people all the time on holiday, without much understanding of language. Love and sexual attraction have their own language. Anna was looking forward to being his Queen so this must have been a real shock and disappointment for her, especially the embarrassment of rejection. Charlemagne rejected his first wife after 12 months because he no longer wanted to be married to a woman his mother had chosen. He said she was barren, sent her back to Italy and started a war. The real reason was the Pope disapproved. His second wife was his choice, a diplomatic marriage, but one he arranged and she bore him at least eight healthy children. Henry was reluctant to marry again after he lost Jane Seymour, he fell in love with a portrait and then tried to be romantic. Anna wasn’t impressed when he kissed and pawed her. She practically ignored him on his arrival. Henry had his delusions shattered. Maybe that was the problem. Had he realised the truth?
Henry was indeed a big fool. Anna seems to me a very duty conscious lady because she accepted this was the man chosen for her, no matter what he now looked like, perhaps she even had some sympathy for him, it wasn’t his fault after all that his legs stank. We can only speculate, but it seemed that he treated her with respect around her and no matter what rubbish he said later, he didn’t say it to her face and Anna was raised to please her Lord so she just wanted to please King Henry. She was very gracious and she also saw great potential in being Queen. It raised her status and wealth. Henry tried to make her feel at home and to assimilate. Everyone made her welcome. She put on English dress to blend in and to make herself more pleasing. She was welcomed by his children. Whatever Anna thought of her husband’s appearance, she quite clearly wanted to make a real effort to like him and for her marriage to work. As you both say she probably did look at him and think oh dear, this isn’t what I signed up for, but then as he was treating her well, thought well he’s not bad. I have read somewhere that she complained to Cromwell about his leg and he approached her to make herself more pleasing, but then he had everything to lose. Henry apparently knew about their contact from Cromwell. So what else could she do? Well nothing, she could only be patient. Anna was proud to be Queen. She valued her marriage vows. She hoped they could give it another go, after Katherine Howard was executed. Anna stated shock when Henry didn’t remarry her and chose Katherine Parr instead. It’s not as if there was much sexual attraction with his last wife, for Henry wanted a companion and although KP was fair and attractive, Henry saw her as care giver to his younger children, maybe to himself, companion, someone to rely upon, possibly to trust with the Kingdom and she was experienced. He didn’t realise he was marrying a religious zealot.
Ann had good reason to be fooled by Henry after KH was executed, because she became a good friend to Henry and his family, spending time at Court with them, Henry visited her and found he liked her after all. She was at home and lived life to the full. That Henry had married one of her own maids, a woman below her in rank but of noble stock, was shocking enough, that he had married one so young must have raised eyebrows. We don’t really know when KH was born, although it was between 1519 and 1525. She could have been as young as fifteen or sixteen in 1540 or in her twenties. Most evidence points to her being about 17 or 18 and no more than 19/20 at her death. Anna was raised to show dignity and respect and protocols and she demonstrated all of those qualities when she showed reverence for KH once the girl was Queen. She sent New Year’s gifts of four fine horses, livery and harness and she addressed Katherine on her knees, who, embarrassed, raised her up. Henry, Anna and Katherine spent the evening at Supper three days later and Katherine gave her a little dog. It must have been very odd, especially when Katherine and Anna danced together all night. Most historians say she had no idea what was going on, but this isn’t true. Anna wrote to her Ambassador that she was concerned about her marriage and that Henry had eyes for another in May 1540. She was in the dark about her marriage being ended, although I suspect she heard rumours, but certainly she suspected about Katherine Howard or someone taking her husband’s attention away from her.
Hi BQ. Yes, Laughton and Lanchester were married at one time. I’ve never seen the movie but I’ve always thought a better actor couldn’t be found to play Henry. That scene sounds so funny. Why couldn’t Henry Viii settle all of his differences like that instead of lopping off so many heads? I would be very interested in seeing a contemporary portrait of Anna in English dress to compare her to other ladies Henry was attracted to. I think it would confirm that his revulsion towards her was not physical but ego driven. I doubt if there is any portrait like that out there but who knows.
Yes that film is comical and both Laughton and Lancaster played their roles with gusto, married in real life they must have found playing Henry V111 and Anne of Cleves quite amusing, I havnt seen it for some years now and wish they would do a colourised version of it, Merle Oberon was Anne Boleyn and Binnie Barnes Catherine Howard, I have no idea who played his first queen though and I believe the film ended with Anne of Cleves fussing around Henry dipping and bobbing and saying ya all the time, in a daft German accent, Henry mumbled she’s the best out of the lot of them as he munched on a chicken or turkey bone, it was a scream.
I’m a bit surprised a colorized version isn’t available. With the newer technology it would look great, not like the early colorization process that made everything a shade of brown. It would be great to see the costumes though fabrics and patterns were often chosen for how they would appear on b&w film. I’d still like to see it however
Yes the only portrait I have seen of Anne is the one by Holbein in her German attire, the other is a painting showing just her face, in this one her face is at an angle and she looks quite sharp with a long pointy nose, the trouble with having only these paintings of her is because she was queen for so short a time, and therefore none other were commissioned, it would be lovely I agree Michael, to see Anne in English dress, the square necked gowns were quite provocatively low and the French hoods which Henry’s second queen had favoured, showed the ladies hair and were much more flattering to the wearer, although when Jane Seymour was queen she re introduced the English gable hood and forbade her ladies to wear the French hood, one can see the French hood was definitely more attractive than the Gable one, had Anne been painted in her adoptive fashion she would I am sure looked more pleasing, alas we have so little to go on regarding her looks, the Holbein portrait just shows us a blank canvas really, her face looks pleasant enough in fact, there is no emotion in her face whatsoever she stares as if she is in a trance, the fact that Henry was so shocked at her looks and no others were, was possibly due to the fact that they did not have to marry her, as I have said before it was quite possibly a number of things that turned Henry off her, including the problems he had in the bedroom, we can only speculate, it would be so interesting to go back in time and be a fly on the wall at that disastrous first meeting however.
Yes I bet it would still look lovely, some years ago they colourised the Laurel & Hardy films including Babes in Toyland, I know they were old hat but I still find them so funny, there was no vulgar language used it was just good clean fun, if they appear on tv I always watch them, the women who played their long suffering wives were brilliant to and the man who played the drunk at the bar, they were all brilliant actors, I know I have transgressed from the subject so apologies but I just wanted to stress the fact that over the decades people’s sense of fun has not changed that much.
I agree with you about comedic taste. One of the earliest gags is a pie in the face
I still find it hilarious. I dont know why as it’s quite juvenile. I kmow what you mean about those old movies being funny. They may be 75+ years old but situations involving people remain the same. Look at Shakespeare’s comedies, though he wrote them four centuries ago they are still relevant. That’s something I love about history, the times and situations are differentbut the people are not.
Quite agree, I do not think people have changed much really but of course the age they lived in and religion and superstition does play a part.
It’s a wonderful film, Michael, if a bit tongue in cheek, oh and Merle Oberon as Anne Boleyn would have been stunning, save she wasn’t available for the actual film, so we only see her for moments and that’s a great pity and it could have made the film much better. Yes, when he marries Katherine Parr, she is fussing over his weight and diet and it’s really funny him nibbling his chicken legs saying the worst is the best. I loved Lancaster bobbing up and down and saying yah! all the time, making faces and showing she has but a few teeth. She was wonderful. I loved the scene were Henry takes on a professional wrestler and is breathless afterwards. Katherine Howard and his attendants carry him back to his rooms, put him to bed and then she goes and meets Thomas Culpeper, hidden in the next room and they have relations. Its a really corny but good film. I would love to see it in colour. Film was available in colour at the time but it was very expensive. We have the technology so it could be done.
Most portraits of Anna and her family by Lucus Cranoch and Barthel Bruyn show German dress similar to the one Hans Holbein painted, save her face is more petite and more side on. I actually find her dress stunning in the Holbein portrait. However, as you can see from the Holbein, German fashion was widely different from English or French, heavy material, Cleves is in a part of Germany with cold winters so that is no surprise, very ornate in design, high neck, no bosom showing here, she was wearing long decorated sleeves, very wide sleeves, slender waist and square shoulders, the whole dress is puffed out. Although she wore small caps in other portraits, this one has a full headed headdress, no hair showing. French and English hoods generally shaped the face and showed some hair. Women dressed modestly but the bosom was always a little on show. It wasn’t as shocking as it was to show the legs and feet. It was both sexual and a sign that a woman was fertile.
The best account of the first meeting comes from the German account, written immediately afterwards, not from the English dispositions, written several months later in June 1540, including Henry’s version, provided by a condemned Thomas Cromwell. It tells us that a group of private individuals arrived when Anna was recovering from her journey, they sent her gifts of a golden cup and came into her presence unannounced. Anna was taken aback because this was impolite and shocking. To receive any visitors without preparing was not done. This was a private person coming in and although she received them graciously, she was obviously out of sorts and even offended. The main private individual then remained as her guest for two days, having super with her, but sleeping elsewhere. Anna ate again with the stranger the next day. We do not know when he revealed he was the King or even if he did. However, Edward Hall, who also wrote soon afterwards says similar things, but the guest showed himself as the King after he had presented the gifts and Anna did him reverence. Henry then remained as her guest for supper which was very pleasant and breakfast the next day. He didn’t mention not liking her. He was gracious and kind. Heather R Darsie the latest biographer of Anna of Cleves gives an excellent case for what was most likely the real reason the marriage was ended and Henry used the ridiculous excuses he did: the European situation had become such that within weeks the Cleves marriage was politically dangerous and this was the only way out.
I would indeed love to have been a fly on the wall, though, to find out for myself. You don’t need to invent fictions with Henry Viii, he did enough of that himself, which is why history is better than any novel around.
Must say I thought the scenes where it showed Merle Oberon as Anne Boleyn preparing for her execution most harrowing, and I was disappointed she only appeared then and I feel more air time should have been given her, as Anne Boleyn has always been styled as Henry’s most enigmatic queen, Oberon was a very beautiful actress of mixed race and looked dark and exotic, that scene and the scene where Henry V111 weeps pitifully in front of his council when he is shown the proof of Catherine Howard’s alleged betrayal, was also very moving and were the only dark moments in an otherwise comical movie, it showed the king tip toeing along the candle lit corridors at night trying to whisper to his guards not to announce his coming to his queen, as he intended to surprise her, it actually happened with his fifth queen not the tip toeing of course and the hushed whispers, but on one occasion he was going to visit Catherine in her chamber and Culpeper had to be hurried suddenly out of the room, both Catherine and Culpeper should have realised what an extremely dangerous game they were playing, the young lad could have been in a state of undress and as for the queen, one can imagine the scene, that is if we believe they were upto no good of course, imagine the uproar had Henry actually caught them both together wether just chatting innocently it would have made no difference, it was a strict breach of protocol for the queen consort to be alone at night in her bedchamber or anywhere else with a young man, the other scenes in the movie which show the king dining, throwing chicken bones over his shoulder at his hounds to gobble up, and here is where the myth of Henry V111 as a crude oaf with no table manners has taken hold, royal and noble children were brought up with the most strictest manners possible, they were not allowed to blow their nose or pick their nose at the table, break wind and fidget, they would join their parents for meal times when they were old enough to dine with them, before then it was the nursery, and when we consider the many banquets and state occasions that royal children attended where important visitors would be present, ambassadors visiting dignitaries from foreign lands, etc, it is hardly likely that they would have to conduct themselves in the manner befitting their high rank, so Henry V111’s table manners were impeccable and waiters would come round with a bowl of water and cloth for him and guests to wipe their hands, there were many courses and there was no munching away on a chicken or turkey bone whilst he chatted to his guests, and slinging the bones to the floor, gravy dribbling down his napkin, he also hated coarse talk as well, he deplored vulgarity and so Laughtons portrayal of Henry V111 is not a true one, , enjoyable yes but just not true.
After reading you and Christine’s description of the film I have got to finally watch it.
I know I would have hated that myself, to be dining and chatting with some one and only to know afterwards that he was your intended bridegroom the king himself ! What if you had asked that person questions about the king how embarrassing, especially if they were quite personal, Henry was childlike in his love of play acting there was the touch of the thespian about him, it was what he had engaged in for years and it was something the court, and his previous wives were used to, once he and his friends dressed up as Robin Hood and his merry men, and burst into his first queens apartments there was much merry making and laughter, Henry made the mistake in thinking the court of Cleves indulged in such jests but Anne was totally unprepared for such a display of exuberance and play acting, also us English have always had a bit of a reputation for being somewhat eccentric with a rather odd sense of humour, it is something not many races understand and Henry V111 was known for being quite easy and approachable with his courtiers and subjects, the German court must have been much more stricter, therefore yes Anne would have been offended if several gentleman strode into her chambers before any announcements were made, and presented her with gifts, to Anne it would have seemed like a serious breach of decorum, who were these gentlemen and why why did they just stride in her room before being given permission? Heathers book on Anne of Cleves sounds very interesting, I may treat myself to that one, as there are not many biographies on Henry’s fourth queen it sounds a right treasure.
I have just read a report by the French ambassador Marillac on Anne of Cleves looks, he said she was rather tall and is not as young as everyone supposed, and then he comments she is not so beautiful as the reports on her suggested, her skin he said is rather brown, this could imply that her complexion was rather sallow, it does seem that the reports on her beauty were exaggerated and that Henry was expecting more of a petite pink and gold bride, Marillac then said her women were no better looking, he was being somewhat derogatory but if Henry V111 was expecting a more petite lady and then he suddenly came face to face with Anne, a woman who was rather tall and maybe he found that off putting, with a sallow complexion and a rather long sharp nose,( a portrait of her with her face at an angle shows her with such a feature ), it’s hardly surprising he would be disappointed, and her style of dress was not flattering either, another comment the ambassador made, in fact I have seen early portraits by Flemish and Dutch artists and I must admit, I myself have found their fashion very unattractive, the headwear is strange to, early fashions I think right up to the late eighteenth century were strange, only then did people begin to wear clothes that looked more comfortable, apart from those dreadful whalebone corsets that the women had to endure however, they pushed the ribs up so far the chest was constricted and the poor ladies frequently passed out, but looks aside Anne had a very sweet eager to please disposition, and as any sensible person knows, true beauty does indeed come from within.
I recommend the Maidens and Manuscripts website with numerous articles on Anna of Cleves and her family, put together by Heather R Darsie who has studied her for several years. It also has many other interesting articles on Anne Boleyn, important Tudor people, well worth a look.
Henry Viii sounds like my friend who used to want to marry a hot blonde of 25, during his 50s, but never found one. Mind you I think I put him off by telling him they only want one thing from older settled men with their own homes, money. Unfortunately, Geoff doesn’t have any. Now he just enjoying life for himself. He is a very good friend, though, reliable and sensitive. Henry was hoping for Christine of Milan, young, sixteen, sophisticated, a virgin widow, beautiful and I think fair, so of course he was disappointed in Anna. That was his problem. I still say the annulment had nothing to do with her looks or anything else. It was politically desirable, his ego got in the way and Katherine Howard was no shy maid, although neither was she the slut of history. Henry was attracted to her and that suited him. He had no wooed Anna. By the way, he liked her enough to visit her on several occasions afterwards. She was believed to be a good cook, so maybe she fed him with some tasty German dishes. The way to a mans heart is through his stomach so that would be one way to try to win him back. This is Henry Viii, they broke the mould after him.
Ha ha yes an old family friend of mine told me how this couple he knew who’s an ex pat in Spain, he was around sixty five at the time, supposedly happily married, and he met this bit of fluff in her twenties and left his wife for her, my friend told him she was only interested in his villa his posh car and hefty bank balance, yet he took no notice his wife bleeded him dry after the divorce and then his girlfriend left him, she too bleeded him and now the old fools got no one and is a lot less richer than he was- mid life crises? Henry V111 of course was king and thought he could have whomsoever he wanted and any woman would be pleased to have him, possibly when he looked in the mirror he still saw himself as he used to be, on finding he was free of Anne he decided he liked her after all and yes he probably liked the cooking she was very domesticated, she had been taught how to run a large household as all ladies of her rank were taught from a young age, she was no dullard and knew how to distill herbs she did needlework, as of course that had been the pastime of well brought up ladies for centuries, I read her father was one of the reformists in Cleves yet her mother was a strict catholic, so she would have heard opposing views as she grew up, Anne herself was described as a Lutheran but it never caused any dissent between her and her eldest stepdaughter Mary Tudor, she and Elizabeth were both very fond of her and she left them her jewellery in her will, she was only forty two when she died I believe? The common view is she died from cancer, after Henry V111’s death her income was reduced a bit by Edward which must have worried her a little but she still lived comfortably, Edward appears to have found his fathers ex wife a bit of an encumbrance, she may have had to reduce her household staff a bit but those that served her kept very fond memories of her in their heart, indeed she was remembered with affection by all of them as a most sweet lady, in fact had she remained married to Henry V111 she could well have become very dearly loved by the English people as much as his first Queen was, had she been given the chance.
I have actually had that site marked as one of my favorites for some time but never seem to get around to looking at it. Heather also released a book last year called Anna of Cleves. She speaks German so was able to read first hand the German documents. She also found some portraits of Anna not previously published. At some point I’ll get it. As to older guys and younger women? We’re not all like that. Younger women hold a physica attraction but you can’t have a decent conversation with them and I am not attracted to just looks. Give me someone my own age anytime. JMO.
Yes that is certainly refreshing to hear Michael, that is where I cannot really understand the attraction Henry V111 had for Catherine Howard, of course it was purely physical and she must have made him feel young again, but Henry could not have enjoyed an intelligent conversation with her, like his previous wives, this is not being unfair to Catherine who after all was so young, but the king had always enjoyed debating politics religion the arts etc, it was something he had had in common with his first two queens, with Catherine that did not seem to bother him as he just liked to pamper her, he appeared at times with her like an indulgent father, maybe the lack of conversation did not bother him that much in fact, he possibly found it a refreshing change having a young girl bride who just listened to him, after her death he married some one near his own age as if he had gone from one extreme to the other, then Catherine Parr annoyed him a few times as she also was educated and very much a reformist, and nearly got herself into very deep trouble because of it.
I did reply to your comment yesterday but it hasn’t appeared, yes that is refreshing to know Michael, I have often wondered what Henry V111 found so attractive in Catherine Howard apart from her sex appeal, maybe he did not care by that time about intelligent conversation, that is not to say Catherine was not intelligent but his previous wives had all been very intelligent learned and cultured women, then he was saddled with Anne of Cleves and his eye lighted on the young niece of the Duke of Norfolk, she is shown as being a giggly teenager who loved to party all the time, she probably was like that most teenagers are, but that is not to say she could not discuss serious issues to, but being so young she probably did not care to, Henry must have been aware they had little in common, it was just pure physical attraction he had for her and the feelings were so strong it overrode everything else, the disappointment with his fourth bride made his attraction all the stronger, possibly she made him feel young again a return to his hedonistic youth, of course he was brought sharply down to earth when her alleged betrayal came to light, his image of her was cruelly crushed.
For many men I think the idea of aging is frightening to them. This may have have been Henry’s case too. I dont think he ever accepted the fact that in his late 40’s early 50’s he was not the same man he was in his 20’s and 30’s. Also in his obsession for a successor a young woman was a good bet for a slew of ‘spares’ as she had many childbearing years ahead of her. Henry VIII is such an enigma. What I said would be applicable when describing most people acting in this way but he is so hard to read. It would be interesting to talk to him but only if he didn’t have the ability to remove your head (or anything else)!
Yes, it does help if you have something in common, but a small age gap can be good, as Steve is ten years my senior, but double that or more, it may work at times, it doesn’t normally. Of course, in those times it wasn’t that uncommon, especially between those of higher ranks in society or for second marriages, for the protection of a young widow or for a mother of young children or to get a son when a first marriage produced only girls. It was fairly rare as a love match. Even now it is fairly rare. I sometimes joke that I wouldn’t mind a rich toy boy or rich 99 year old whose will I could change, but seriously, no thanks.
Yes, the book by Heather is the one which has changed my mind although I never accepted Henry’s version of events. The ins and outs of the German point of view and the insider view of the United Duchies and Anna’s world is fascinating. The account of the first meeting could not be more different, but Hall also backed it up. The politics had me on the edge of my seat reading it. It’s a wonderful book, very well researched. The Frauenzimmer or Women’s Room is a fantastic arrangement for the women were protected but also took part in social activities and seemed to be the ones calling the way things were done. Hunting was a favourite pastime and wild by the sounds of things. Entering Anna’s world was a joy. I loved the book and am reading it again. The Swan Castle was destroyed more or less during WW2,_sad to say, but Germany was rebuilt as it had been so it was replicated and I would love to go there. It’s very little wonder Thomas Cromwell was executed if Henry’s marriage became a political time bomb, he had unwittingly put England in a dangerous situation. His enemies saw that and rounded on the faithful servant like the locusts and vultures they were. Henry was so capricious by now and paranoid that service and hard work was meaningless and someone had to pay for his own bad judgement. Anna by the sounds of things would have made any King or Lord a good wife, especially if she really could cook, she was modelled to be an excellent wife and she was very adaptive. Reports say she made herself at home very quickly. I still wonder what she thought of Henry’s unfortunate legs though, not his fault of course, but oh boy, one does wish we had more information from the lady herself.
A bit of an age difference is ok. The woman I was married to was 4 yrs younger.
I agree. I wish we did have an account in Anna’s own words but my personal opinion is that she had too much class and was too tactful to ever speak or commit to paper what happened between she and the king.
After your wonderful review of Heather Darcie’s book I am very anxious to read it.
Do you remember when Anna Nicole Smith married that billionaire, cannot recall his name but he was around ninety and she was I believe in her twenties, she was cut out of his will and she tried to contest it, obviously the only reason she married him was because of his billions, she died some time ago I recall being shocked when I heard of her death.
Yes I did forget briefly that of course younger women are more fertile and of course Catherine did come from a large family, so that obviously made her a good choice, but Henry was so enamoured of her I am surprised she never became pregnant, as the king did not have any problems bedding her, I think here Catherine was using some form of contraception as I do believe she was seeing Culpeper at the time and therefore could not have risked becoming pregnant with his child, us women fear growing older as well, they say from the mid thirties there is a gradual decline in the human body, a woman is supposed to be her best at around the ages of twenty five to seven, (not talking fertility here), many of my friends lament the passing of their supple lean bodies but I think there is a plus side to growing older, for one confidence grows and you do not worry about people’s criticism much, you do not obsess about men so much and you inevitably grow wiser and more cautious, when I was younger I always preferred older men and being in the company of older people I found much more stimulating, people my own age irked me a little as they seemed so immature, i think possibly it’s because I have an older sister by eighteen months, and her friends and boyfriends seemed more sophisticated, iv changed as iv got older though.
I once thought Henry may have fancied Kathryn Howard on the rebound, but he started chasing her half way through his marriage. It had to be sexual attraction, although it was extreme even for him, she was younger than his daughter. She wasn’t anything near as sophisticated as his other wives, but perhaps she was raised to act as if she was. Childbearing was one consideration and she does seem to have been “placed” before him, in that she was introduced to him at a banquet given by Stephen Gardiner, although she was part of his wife’s household. Maybe she walked a certain way, sexy walking, had charm, flashed her eyes, like a certain cousin, maybe she even reminded Henry of Anne Boleyn, her cousin. Maybe she was an extreme opposite to Anna, we really don’t know. Henry was again the giddy schoolboy he had been with Anne Boleyn, she made him feel and act young for a time or maybe he was just a fool who fell for a pretty face. I don’t believe KH was unintelligent, I just believe she didn’t use her head. She wasn’t the whore that she is painted or an empty headed bimbo but she acted without thinking or caring for the consequences. What Henry saw in such a young woman is inexplicable. However, Kathryn Howard was between 17 and 19,_a good age for childbearing and Henry still desired, although he didn’t push for them, more sons. I too suspect Kathryn used contraception, although it has been speculated that she may not have been able to have children, because she slept with Francis Dereham several times before her marriage and the King and I honestly believe she had a sexual relationship with Thomas Culpeper, although it wasn’t proven. That’s three different men, two young and presumably fertile. One would think she would get pregnant by one of them if she didn’t use something or ” meddle with a man” in order to avoid pregnancy. Did she fake it? Did she use her natural fertility cycle to work out when to avoid pregnancy? Did she actually conceive and lose a child in April or May 1541? There is one incident in which Kathryn believed herself with child but it was a false alarm. How impotent was Henry now? She certainly could not risk using that as a cover for adultery, it was too much of a risk in case of pregnancy. If Kathryn was unfaithful to Henry Viii, then it was because she didn’t care and didn’t think of the consequences. She had help so may well have thought it impossible to get caught. However, one night on progress, the Chamberlain came to announce the King would visit her and found Queen Katherine’s room locked to him. Henry came along and Katherine pretended to be asleep and asked him to wait because she was getting ready. The truth was, Thomas Culpeper was in her room and had to be hurried down the back staircase so as the couple would not be caught. Kathryn got hurriedly ready and Henry was admitted. So besotted with his young wife was he that he probably didn’t even ask what was going on. He thought she was perfect. Henry was an older fool in love with a young wife who could do no wrong. That at the end of the day was the reality. Kathryn was a live wire. She was grateful, alive, full of spirit and bounce, sexually verbose, full of sex appeal, laughter, joy and knew how to flaunt it. She had the qualities to run a grand household and a great family name. She was pretty and petite and possibly the right proportions. No doubt she had charm and gave out joy and happiness. Henry was possibly drawn to a lovely smile or laughing eyes. Whatever her sexually charged personality gave Henry, he was drawn to her like a magnet. He couldn’t keep his hands off her, even in public. It might be a complete unsolved mystery as to why Henry Viii saw KH as a good candidate for his Queen, but there is no doubt that he was completely won over by her. Henry, the once New Year fool, was by the Spring of 1540,_a fool in love and the English Court could only hold its breath and pray.
I have always believed she had a sexual relationship with Culpeper to, the pair of them passed lingering looks at each other which were noted by many, they did not meet at night in private just to talk, two young attractive people do not plan a tryst at night together just to talk, they can talk during the day if conversation was all they wanted, Culpeper had duties with the king but he must have had some leisure time during which he could steal away, of course the queen had her own duties to see to, the more we think about it the more likely it seems that the queen and Culpeper did have a secret illicit affair, knowing her history and her attraction for men and they for her, the little minx was no doubt infatuated with her husbands groom of the stool, he was said to be a handsome lad and Catherine was saddled with an ageing fat man in poor health, she thought it would be so easy to keep her nocturnal visits a secret, but that’s where she went tragically wrong, there are so many eyes and ears at court, and a jealous ex in the background, it was a highly flammable situation.
I agree, no doubt she began with friendship and she was escorted by Jane Rochford but then her escort fell asleep leaving them plenty of time to get up to no good. Another time she was locked outside and heard puffing noises via the keyhole. Both of them denied sexual contact but admitted to wanting to go further and that is what they were accused off. It was presumed they had committed adultery and plotted the death of the King. That was enough under the Treason Act. Nobody knew what the pair had spoken about but it was assumed they had intended to wed after Henry’s death and that definitely was treason, even if adultery wasn’t. The authorities could make any case they wanted, the Queen had a man in her rooms and in others rooms til the early hours of the morning and everyone knew it, everyone but the King; they looked guilty. Even if they just talked, it was dangerous and foolish and any case could be easily made against them. Kathryn kept wanting to see him, she enjoyed him, he flattered her and it got physical. Yes, I believe they had a sexual relationship, even if there isn’t any direct evidence. Admitting they wanted to go further if they had the opportunity was plotting to commit adultery and put the succession in jeopardy as any resulting child could be passed off as the heir to the throne. Even thinking they may like to marry was called imagination of the Kings death, a crime punishable with death. That went back to a statute made by Edward iii, but which was expanded under the 1534 Statute. They needed to show this in order to confirm treason. Ironically neither Jane or Kathryn were Attained on those charges. They were actually accused of living an immoral life and intending to carry on living an immoral life after Kathryn married the King. It was further charged that Kathryn and her family deliberately kept her immoral life a secret and thus put the marriage to the King at peril and deliberately deceived him. Jane was accused of maliciously conspiring to assist with her crimes and of hiding knowledge of it, of procurement and misprison of treason. The men accused, Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham were accused of the usual, criminal intercourse with the Queen and intending to commit adultery by their actions and Dereham of coming into her service to do just that. Culpeper changed his plea to guilty but Dereham refused and maintained his innocence. Henry dealt more harshly with Dereham because he had been Kathryn’s lover before her marriage and he granted Thomas Culpeper the privilege of a beheading rather than the standard traitors death because of his fondness for him. Henry’s rage spread to the entire Howard family who were rounded up and interrogated because it was believed they had deliberately hidden the past from the King. This was dressed up as putting his marriage and the succession in danger as it might render the same unlawful if Kathryn was promised to Francis Dereham. The entire process of questioning was harsh and frightening but took time to establish the dark truth. Henry’s investigation was very thorough. The blame game between the various accused didn’t help, nor did Kathryn Howard’s two contradictory confessions and her hysteria. The entire Howard clan were arrested, interrogated and imprisoned, later being tried for misprison and again imprisoned. Henry’s anger died out, most of them were pardoned after several months and released but the family never really fully recovered. Jane Rochford was to suffer the same fate as her unfortunate mistress, despite being found to be too insane to be condemned because Henry had Parliament pass a law to allow her execution. She had only been doing the bidding of Kathryn but was held responsible as she had found the places for them to meet and acted as a chaperone. The two women died on the same morning, 13th February 1542. It was a tragic end to another young life, one which could have been better had this young girl not became bored or neglected by her spouse.
Henry’s original intention was to protect Kathryn from slander because he didn’t believe the revelations about her early life. Unfortunately, it all too soon became an open investigation into her current life and the meetings with Culpeper came out. Henry was both distressed and furious. Given that he had already executed one wife, and that one an innocent one, it was not going to end well. Kathryn herself must have been a complete nightmare to serve. She was up to all hours of the day and night and her maids could not go to sleep before she did. One of them, Margaret Morton, who knew her in the old Duchess household, declared one night that the Queen wasn’t yet abed. Culpeper had no business in the Queens apartments. He wasn’t on business for the King, he wasn’t a member of her household and he wasn’t a close family member such as her brother. Innocent or guilty, what did they think was going to happen if they were seen in the middle of the night? Henry Viii was by now no picture of health or beauty, but marriage vows are sacred. It was utterly foolish for anyone to act or think otherwise and as Queen, as a woman, she had a duty to be a paragon of virtue, no matter what her personal feelings were. That was just how it was: smelly legs or not.
Hi Christine. I do remember A.N. Smith. I don’t remember her husband’s name either but I do remember his family contested the will and won. I was also surprised when she died but then found out how addicted to drugs she was and the surprise went away. No doubt as to her reason for marrying him.
Yes I wish I could remember his name, he had some sons I think, I’m glad the court went in their favour, why should she have his cash when she had only been married to him for a few years, she did have an alcohol addiction that’s right, she looked a right bimbo with a big chest and platinum blonde hair think she had a little girl, not sure?
Who is A.N. Smith? Sounds like what one might call a gold digger.
O.K. yes, looked her up..used to be the play bunny Nicky Louise Hogan at birth. Anna Nicole Smith the career gold digger, model and actress and fake blonde, fake huge breasts. She died of an overdose in 2007 and had two children, neither of whom were his. Howard Marshall his name was and he was 89,_but she appeared to get cut out of his will and had to contend it. It was tragic her death though, especially as she had two young children. Yes, glad his family contested the will, but as his wife surely she had priority. That’s the thing about the law. Unless you make a will or pre nuptial agreement, the current wife gets the lot, after taxation and death duties. James Howard Marshall had made a will, however, one which excluded Anna Nicole and one of his sons and the Supreme Court upheld the will so she didn’t get nothing. Her husband was an oil tycoon. She ended up in bankruptcy courts and that was the end of her career. So, there’s a lesson, ladies, don’t assume that by marriage to a millionaire you are getting his family fortune. If he is smart he will make a will, not change it and you might just get a small income. Without that will, though, she would have walked off with everything. He actually sounds like he was a smart man..he even disowned his own son.
Ha ha smelly legs or not that made me laugh, yes she should have put a bag over Henry’s head and a peg on her nose, Catherine’s downfall was due to heedless wanton ignorance and the heady breathless feelings of being in love, she found it immensely exciting meeting with Culpeper we have all been there, we can understand but – Catherine was Queen of England and not only that, her husband happened to be King Henry V111 a man who had beheaded his second wife and was not known for his mercy, she was playing an extremely dangerous game, she seemed to have no idea that as queen she had to have a spotless reputation, Culpeper condemned Catherine and himself when he said under questioning, they had not done any ill but intended to, he may as well just have admitted they had jumped into bed together, had he no concept of the treason act, as you say imagining about committing adultery was the same as actually doing it, it was similar to the ill chosen words Anne Boleyn had uttered to Henry Norris about dead men’s shoes, speaking about the kings death was treason, we all know this was not brought up at her trial but it was highly toxic, any talk of the kings or queens death any intention of committing adultery was treason and in fact after Catherine’s fall, Henry had Parliament pass a bill that made it treason for the kings intended bride to conceal her past from him, Culpepers poor choice of words proclaim him to be an arrogant fool, he was trusted implicitly by his king who was also his master, he held a highly valued position in the kings household, that of groom of the stool, he must have chuckled to himself , ‘iv seen the kings bum and also the queens’ ha! I think he was arrogant he enjoyed the secret trysts with the queen, there were rumours he had in the past raped a poor gamekeepers wife but the king pardoned him because he favoured him, if that was the same Thomas Culpeper (as there is a theory he was mistaken for his brother), then he would have no morals about betraying the king by sleeping with his wife, Dereham was another arrogant fool, boasting about how he had known her carnally and there was a birthmark somewhere on her body, he enjoyed the attention he got from his boasts, part of this was pique as Catherine was not interested in him anymore, and I feel for poor Catherine as she must have been blackmailed into giving him the post in her household, she knew he was mouthy and no doubt worried when he was in his cups as they used to say, that he would start revealing intimate details about their past relationship, Jane Bulmer also managed to obtain a post in the queens household, one by one they came out of the woodwork to haunt her, that winter when Catherine’s past came back to haunt her, and as her world fell crashing around her, the court must have been a truly terrifying place to be in, Henry’s anger must have been dreadful and yes he had all the queens family dragged of to the Tower, her elderly grandmother to, Jane Rochfords death I feel was very tragic as all she had done was obey her mistress, it is easy to sympathise with her, but the queen owed her position to her husband, therefore Janes loyalty should have been to report her mistress, she was therefore guilty of misprision of treason, we understand how difficult she must have found her situation however and how does one betray ones mistress to her husband? Lady Rochford was placed in an unenviable position by her mistress and contrary to how history has painted her, she was merely a scapegoat for the kings blind fury over his wife’s betrayal, in order to save her very position and life she could have informed Cranmer a close friend of the king of Catherine’s wrongdoing, maybe she lacked the courage or maybe she sympathised with her young mistress, maybe she hoped Catherine would grow weary of her nocturnal visits and it would stop, then life would go on before and normality would be resumed, the other women it was noted helped Catherine in her secret meetings to but none of them were charged with misprision of treason, think there was a Katherine Tynley who exclaimed once ‘Jesus is not the queen abed yet’?, they must have got increasingly tired of helping the queen meet her admirer in the early hours of the morning, they all wanted to go to bed and I think Lady Rochford fell asleep in her chair once outside the queens chamber, these women I feel did not bother Henry much, but he seems to have borne a grudge against Jane, iv often wondered if it’s because of her family association with his second queen, and the old gossip about his impotency that she allegedly spoke of to her husband, he who once dared to read it out aloud in court.
That’s it Howard Marshall he was old enough to be her grandad, honestly! What on earth was he thinking of, it’s obvious she only married him because she thought he would die soon, leaving her a rich widow, he was in a wheelchair, I remember laughing when I saw them together on the television.
I don’t know why Kathryn Howard decided to take such risks by meeting a former boyfriend in the middle of the night while married to King Henry Viii, but I don’t think much of her choice in men. Both Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpeper were arrogant, boastful, demanding and neither had the best reputation in the world. Perhaps she liked dangerous men and adventure, whatever the truth, this,was a terrible risk. As you say, Christine, she knew Henry had disposed violently of one wife, her own cousin, Anne Boleyn and probably had heard the rumours that Anne was innocent and set up to get rid of her, he had also casually set aside two others to marry again, her predecessor for her. Kathryn must have been aware of how foolishly she was acting. Let us be generous for one moment and accept Kathryn and Culpeper were not lovers, they were on their way to becoming lovers, the physical attraction was there and they admitted it was only a matter of time.
Francis Dereham was her former lover and the last person she would have wanted in her service. There are theories that he may have blackmailed Kathryn in order yo gain a post in the service of Kathryn Howard, but exactly what his position was is unclear. Gareth Russell believed he wasn’t her Secretary as often believed and she had a female Secretary, more than one in fact. They were definitely lovers for a period of time, the length of which we are unsure, during her teens and consenting sexual partners. Francis and his friends came to the Maidens Chamber most nights with strawberries, wine and chocolate. The girls partook and then they coupled off, Edward Redgrave with Joan Bulmer and Francis with Kathryn. Although she claimed to be constrained, the others testified that the sex was consensual and that one girl, Margaret, had to swap beds with someone else because she couldn’t sleep with the couple at it beside her. Panting and sighing were heard coming from their bed. Kathryn also admitted that they made love often and ” hung together like two sparrows ” and exchanged gifts. Francis saw their relationship as far more than Kathryn did, seeing her as his intended. As pet names Kathryn and Francis called each other husband and wife, but it appears that she didn’t take this very seriously and the affair ended when Francis went to Ireland. By the time he returned, Kathryn was already at Court and now she was married to the King. Some evidence suggests he had intended to claim her as his wife but couldn’t challenge the King so he intended to be her lover, but found her affections had turned towards another, one Thomas Culpeper. It was during his very rough and intense questioning that Francis put Culpeper in the frame. When he followed Kathryn to Court with a letter of introduction from the old Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, she probably could not refuse out of obligation to her step grandmother. Family obligations often took priority over everything else and Kathryn may have not felt she had much choice. Yes, she could have refused, probably should have done, but she was in a bit of a pickle and made a poor choice. He was a womanizer and a bit of a nasty sort, a cad, a loud mouth who boasted he knew her while in the household of the old Duchess. He became insolent and argued with her other servants, hitting one of them, he was crude in her presence and he wasn’t of good character. He blamed Kathryn for everything but he claimed to stop short of adultery and he told his interrogators that Thomas Culpeper had taken his place as the Queens lover.
Thomas Culpeper was the King’s closest attendant, his Groom of the Stool, had been a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber for a number of years and was related to Kathryn through her mother. Henry was his master and it is possible he thought highly of Thomas, trusting him with intimate jobs and with his most intimate needs. He appears to have been fond of Culpeper and treated him as a son. He was romantically involved with Kathryn briefly before her marriage and she made friends with him as he delivered gifts and messages from her new husband, King Henry. He was also a very arrogant man, he was reckless and if he was the same Thomas Culpeper who committed rape and murder, highly dangerous. The King had pardoned him, but that still left him as a dangerous man. Some believe he blackmailed Kathryn but there is no evidence of that and she gave him several gifts and sent for him regularly. Kathryn laughed at him and called him her little fool but she fell in love with him.
Having found Thomas good company Kathryn wanted to see him alone and once Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford had helped her, she either had to confess and put them both in deep trouble or carry on. She was obliged to carry out her mistresses orders and keep her confidence. She was in a very difficult situation and although her helping the young Queen was irresponsible, it was a choice which she made with reluctance. She really could do nothing else, unless she betrayed the Queen. Jane may well have tried to dissuade Kathryn from meeting Culpeper, but Kathryn could be selfish and she could use threats to manipulate people into doing her will. Kathryn could be very persuasive and was hard to say no to. In short, she was a bully, sensitive yes, generous yes, but also someone who knew how to get her own way at the expense of others. She would only let Jane attend her at night when they conspired to meet her erstwhile lover. Jane sought out the places for them to meet and brought him to Kathryn in her room or elsewhere. It was high adventure, daring and risky, the adrenaline must have been pumping, it was dangerous and she enjoyed the chase. Even allowing for no sexual relationship, it was wrong to be entertaining a man in her room or in Jane’s room, even with a chaperone and it is little wonder the Government thought they were all guilty. Personally, as I have said many times before, I believe Culpeper and Kathryn had a sexual relationship and she enjoyed it. She found herself left to her own devices during March and April 1541 when Henry was unwell and she sought out intimate company. It was mainly friendship at this point with only a few meetings, but during the informal atmosphere of the Summer Progress 1541 those meetings became more regular, more urgent and longer. It was here that they had the opportunity for intimacy. Yes, there is no proof either way, but it is highly unlikely that Kathryn and Thomas were together all night during a ten day stay at Pontefract and didn’t get up to more than hand holding. As a historian if I was writing a biography, obviously it would be impossible to make such a statement without definative sources and evidence, but it is perfectly acceptable here. Kathryn should have been more discrete and dedicated her life to more spiritual pursuits as befitting the role of a Queen of England. It wasn’t permissible for Kathryn to entertain men in her rooms, even if her husband neglected her, especially as it was ill health which kept him from her. Kathryn Howard took a risk and tragically she paid with her life. She lit up Henry’s Court, she made him feel young again, he took up a better way of life to keep up with her, he adored her, thought she was perfect, showering her with gifts and even pardoning people at her request. However, Henry was a broken man after the “truth” was revealed about his perfect bloom of womanhood and his heart darkened towards her. Only revenge was left in his heart and his mercy disappeared. Something awakened in Henry when he married Kathryn Howard, a new version of the man he used to be, signs of the once gracious Prince briefly returned, but on a cold February morning in 1542,_as the axe removed the head of his pretty rose without a thorn, everything that knew love died inside Henry Viii that day, never to be seen again.
Yes Francis Dereham was I feel more enamoured of Catherine than she was of him, I think she was just enjoying a light love affair and it was just a game to her, they called themselves husband and wife but it could have been Dereham’s idea to do that and she just went along with it to please him, she could not for one minute ever think she would marry him, for one thing she was aware of her noble rank and that one day she would go to court and make a fine marriage, she was a Howard Dereham would not be considered good enough for her, he also should have known that but he was as you say arrogant and naive no doubt due to his youth, a husband would have been found for Catherine of equal rank to herself, Catherine was now Queen of England she was not the same giddy girl who had romped with the other ladies in the dormitories at night, everything she said and done was noted, she should have devoted herself to much better causes charity work for one, she should have realised she had to conduct herself in a queenly manner, she should have remembered the sad fate of her cousin Anne Boleyn, whom the king had once loved so obsessively, being queen did not mean being able to do what you wanted it did not mean you could click your fingers and everything and everyone came running, up to a certain extent it did but, with it came a responsibility a need to conduct oneself in the manner befitting that of a queen consort, poor Catherine became I think rather arrogant with her high status and thought she could do just that, what she wanted, so she sowed the seeds of her own destruction, had any of her older and wiser family members been aware of what she was up to, they would have been aghast, her uncle for one who was no stranger to the court and her grandmother, they would have known what a dangerous game she was playing, her relation Lady Rochford must have tried to advise her having been long at court herself, and having witnessed the downfall of her in laws the Boleyns, she knew first hand the terrible result of the kings anger, I feel Catherine thought it would be easy enough to meet with Culpeper at night and having got away with it once, thought let’s do it again, by now she was in love with him and that makes you reckless, he was a poor choice of a midnight companion I agree, as mentioned there were rumours he had brutally raped a gamekeepers wife, whilst his companions held her down, said to be handsome no doubt he had broken many a young girls heart, Catherine was certainly dazzled by him, she could have heard the rumours about him but no doubt made excuses for him as she liked him so much, maybe she thought it was envy spread by other men at the court, because of his high favour with the king he was certainly fond of him, that is what broke Henry so much when he heard about his meetings with his young wife and queen, he had been especially fond of Thomas Culpeper, his marriage was really the making of the king I agree, it was noted he began to care more about his health, he exercised more he ate less, he lost a little weight and all this was because he was happy, the news of her and Culpeper’s deceit broke him and after his queens death he became depressed morose and bitter, had Catherine not been so foolish in arranging to meet Culpeper alone and at night, had it been merely her past which was the issue, I believe her life would have been spared, her past made her unsuitable to be queen but that I feel the king could have forgiven, and he may have had a divorce or an annulment and she would be in disgrace but escaped with her life, it was the meetings coupled with her past and that she had Dereham in her household that finished Catherine Howard, the very flammatory note she wrote to Culpeper that was found in his rooms sealed her fate, the line where she wrote ‘it makes my heart to die to think I cannot always be in your presence’, strikes a chord down the ages with every young woman in love and who has ever been in love, she could not excuse herself after that note, and so young Catherine trod the same path her cousin had made before her, Henry V111 could not pardon that and Dereham had a most dreadful end, Culpeper got of most lightly considering, with Catherine’s fall from grace her Howard relatives filled the Tower up, even her elderly grandmother was questioned and taken to the Tower which could have done little for her health, or peace of mind, she must have raged at how complacent she had been with her young granddaughter who after all, had been in her care, her stepson the Duke tried to placate the king who several years later, would send his own son the young Earl of Surrey to the block, it was the king who held the power not those who were related to him or were in his favour, one wrong move and that power would vanish as many found to their cost, young Catherine sadly amongst them.
The ironic thing in all of this was that Kathryn could have been pardoned and annulled if she had been a bit more street wise. Francis Dereham was just questioned about his affair with Kathryn in the household of the Duchess and what that entailed, he wasn’t under any suspicions of adultery at the beginning. He readily admitted to regularly visiting her and of his promise to her as his wife. He seemed to think they were espoused and claimed he was promised to Kathryn. The problem was, when questioned Kathryn denied any such contract, not believing herself espoused and she admitted the affairs. She did also say she was “constrained to it” which translates to accusing Dereham of rape or at least being overly persuasive. Her confession at this point was, however, full of contradictions and her very next words speak of parties and midnight feasts and pleasant romps. It was clearly a teenage sexual affair, one which was consensual and one which both of them enjoyed but Francis saw himself as having a claim on Kathryn and her views were quite different. He wasn’t a man she could ever have realistically married, but the exchange of vows between them and consummation could be seen as a marriage, one that any priests might recognise. However, what it appeared to be was a more informal pet exchange between them, but Francis returned home from military activity in Ireland and he had it in mind to take up again with Kathryn. She saw the affair ending when he went to Ireland and had moved on, come to Court and was the lady to a new Queen. She didn’t give much credence or thought to Francis and her relatives would have looked for a husband of suitable rank at Court. Fate chose that husband for her in the person of her King. Her relatives could not have foreseen that but they hid her past as it would disgrace and scandalize Kathryn if they did so, so they kept quiet rather than jeopardize her glittering future.
Francis Dereham also put Kathryn in danger by trying to save his own skin because it wasn’t enough to interrogate him over the Queen’s past. No, it was decided to question him about why he had followed her to Court and if he had become her lover afterwards. He may or may not have been tortured: there is debate over this, but it probably didn’t mean the rack but other things like thumb screws or harsh treatment. He was so exhausted by his interrogators that he gave up and let it slip that he wanted to take up again with Kathryn, whom he regarded as his but she had already married the King. He was pushed even further and declared that another had taken his place, Thomas Culpeper. Until now, Culpeper was getting away with his adventures with the young Queen. Francis had tried to make a case for Kathryn as his promised wife and Henry was contemplating another annulment, Kathryn certainly would have been disgraced but got away with her life as would Francis Dereham because no crime had been committed. However, Kathryn refused to acknowledge him as being contracted to her and made the mistake of not supporting him. He wasn’t good enough for her and of course she was now Queen and enjoying being Queen, so maybe she could gain a,pardon and save her marriage. She didn’t know the truth about Thomas Culpeper was about to come out. Francis put him in the frame and he too was investigated. Any chance of pardons disappeared when her ladies and servants told of her meeting with the King’s man in her rooms and especially on the Royal Progress.
Kathryn had been seen. Thomas Culpeper and the Queen were now questioned and eventually they admitted to various meetings, they denied any contact beyond talking or hand holding or the occasional kissing. They denied any hint of adultery and they tried to blame each other and Kathryn of course had seduced Culpeper and it was all the fault of Lady Rochford who brought Culpeper to the Queen. Thomas could not resist her charms and evidently had no self control, which he lost in her presence. Both Culpeper and Kathryn turned on Lady Rochford who collapsed under the pressure and became mentally ill. She was removed to the household of Lord and Lady Russell to be nursed back to health, only to be prepared for her execution. Kathryn and Culpeper were being put under more and more pressure and eventually confessed that they would have gone further given the opportunity. They had condemned themselves with those foolish words. It condemned most of their family as well, being rounded up and interrogated and put in the Tower. The old Duchess was interrogated several times and admitted to hiding goods and letters and breaking open a confiscated chest. She became ill during this interrogation and was nursed while she recovered before being questioned again. The Duke of Norfolk turned on his family, having few scruples and wrote a letter begging for forgiveness and renouncing his two nieces as wanton and reminded Henry that he had helped him to discover the truth about them. He of course was allowed to go free and to go into semi retirement for a time. Henry was utterly distraught when he was finally confronted with the truth about Kathryn and her past and then with her alleged adultery and distress gave way to anger and outrage. He went into denial and he separated from his nobles and withdrew from the Court until this disaster was over and it was not the rushed investigation that he had launched over Anne Boleyn, but it was meticulous and long, over several weeks. It was months before Kathryn and Lady Rochford were executed and Henry clearly didn’t want to believe these things of his perfect young pretty wife. The two men were executed first, after a trial, during which Culpeper changed his plea to guilty, possibly hoping for mercy and that condemned Kathryn as well. The embarrassment of the trial of George and Anne Boleyn in front of the nobility, judges and 2000 members of the public had to be avoided here, as George had read out a certain infamous piece of paper on which lay the charge that he had said the King was not able to satisfy a woman in bed. Henry’s masculinity as well as his reputation had been challenged and his honour was at stake but in Kathryn’s case no trial was heard to avoid all of that. An Act of Attainder was produced in January 1541 but the Parliament were not happy about the Queen not being heard and the Act wasn’t passed. The Council wanted to give Kathryn a chance but Henry changed his mind, the Act returned to Parliament and condemned the Queen to death. It was a sign of the King’s vengeance that Jane Rochford, who should have been exempt from this execution because of her mental collapse, was condemned because of a special law being passed on his orders to allow a mad person to be executed for treason. This law was repealed by Queen Mary I, his daughter.
If this were almost anyone else but Henry I would have sympathy for him because he had been betrayed but by this time he had hurt so many people both physically and otherwise I get a certain amount of pleasure at seeing the bully get his. My sympathies lie with Katherine and the others who sadly and unfortunately paid with their lives.
I have always felt sympathy for Catherine she was just a young girl who had had no guidance in her early life, and I do feel sorry for Dereham who was just a braggart and died a most horrible death, however if Culpeper had raped the gamekeepers wife then I have no sympathy for him whatsoever, and he was just so foolish the way he said both he and the queen intended to sleep together, he condemned himself and Catherine, I believe he thought he was going to die so he may as well bring down the queen with him, even though he must have known she was in love with him, moreover he was in a trusted position and he threw away his life, his career his very future all for some meaningless romps with the queen, maybe the fool saw himself and Catherine as Lancelot and Guinevere, but there was nothing romantic nothing bold or daring about this young dissolute man, it was highly embarrassing for the king, who knew the unsympathetic in the land must have been sniggering behind their backs at him, and abroad the royal courts were gossiping about the latest marital adventures of the King of England, the act of attainder was unfair and his decision to push that through was possibly done to spare embarrassment, but Catherine had been kept languishing for many months whilst investigations were ongoing and she must have prayed that the king would soften and pardon her, passing the bill to have Lady Rochford executed was plain mean but the king was furious hurt and angry, he was hitting out at everyone who he suspected was involved with the queens betrayal, Jane was in the firing line here having played an active role in it, as I said before, he may not have been very fond of Jane maybe she reminded him of the gossip she had mentioned to her husband about his alleged impotence, Henry was in no mood for mercy Jane was doomed likewise her young and heedless mistress.
If I feel sorry for anyone, it’s Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, because her reputation was unjustly ruined for the rest of eternity. I find it very hard to feel sympathetic towards Kathryn, although she didn’t deserve a horrible death and as for the men, well my feelings are fairly mutual. Not that they deserved horrific deaths, especially Dereham, who suffered the full force of the law, but based on his relationship with Kathryn before marriage, which wasn’t any crime, but they Culpeper betrayed the King with little thought. We don’t know for certain he was the same man who raped the park keepers wife and killed her husband, but he certainly got his comeuppance if he was. I know Henry Viii had done a lot of bad stuff, but my sympathies are more with him than Kathryn because he was the victim here. Having said that, Michael, I appreciate how you feel. Jane was the one really who got the bad deal, though, her fate was already sealed because she obeyed and encouraged a demanding teenage Queen. She was almost condemned if she did or didn’t and then the law was changed just to allow her to be executed. That really galls me from Henry here. It’s at this point my sympathies wane. O.K I can’t get inside his head, he must have been really angry and distraught but to sanction that, that is vengeful and cruel. I have some pity for Kathryn because of her youth and there may just be a small chance she was not guilty of adultery, although I doubt it, but she was very young, may have suffered abuse and her moral compass was compromised by the lack of strict supervision. For example, the keys should have been better hidden so as Kathryn and the others could not get hold of them. That doesn’t excuse her deliberate stupidity and night time adventures, but it does explain why she took a refuge in sex and took risks in the first place. Unfortunately, the law was the law, the young Queen looked guilty and there was only one sentence for treason. O.K. other female traitors under other Kings didn’t die, noble ones that is, Henry Viii was unique, but they had done elsewhere. Why Henry was extreme in his treatment of his wives needs another article of its own, but I still have some sympathy here, because he didn’t ask to be cheated on. Today we might say he needed anger management because his love turned from love to hate and the ultimate penalty was the only answer he had. Henry had previously killed a wife, one whom we know was innocent, but did he have options here? Once angered Henry didn’t back down, his pride and honour refused to allow him to pardon Kathryn and the hurt he felt was his own justification. Still it was the sad end to a very young woman, a very young life and one that does move us to pity, even if she should have known better.
Hi BQ. You’re absolutely right about Jane. She certainly is the most tragic of those executed. I kinda understand how she got caught up in this but I just can’t believe she let it happen after seeing what happened to get husband and sister in law. As to Henry’s anger there could be no justice in vengeance. Everything you said I agree with 100%>
I doubt Jane had much choice Michael, I think she could have tried to advise Catherine but this young queen thought she would not discovered, the young are supremely confident in that they think nothing bad will happen to them, everything will be alright I am queen the king loves me, what I want goes etc, it was that naive belief in her own situation that was her downfall, she knew not the ways of the court she was too young and inexperienced to realise the folly of what she was doing, because even without her past to meet at night with another man beside your husband is totally unacceptable for a queen, as even if it was innocent wrongdoing could be inferred, Jane an older woman long been at court knew all this, a queens reputation had to be spotless I think she was therefore commanded to do her young queen and mistresses bidding, she knew it was dangerous she was no fool,but I feel Catherine was headstrong and did not heed her warning, the pressure and anxiety put on her was so great it ended in her having a nervous collapse, that showed she was not at ease with her situation at all, Catherine’s folly led to her death but also that of her favourite lady in waiting, something which must have haunted her also.
Sadly I think your right. The whole situation is a tragedy.
Henry V111 does not always get the sympathy he deserves, and in the case of Catherine Howard this is where opinion is divided, he certainly had a chequered love life and because of the dramatic fall out from his six marriages it is the wives who have all the sympathy, apart really from Anne Boleyn who in her day had fierce detractors and was largely blamed for the reformation the break up of the kings first marriage, and the effect it had on his unhappy daughter Princess Mary, there are those who dislike her today as she is forever cast as ‘the other woman’, there were those who believe she deserved what she got even whilst admitting to themselves she was merely the victim of a Tudor coup, the other queens of Henry V111 are different, but they all deserve our sympathy and then we come to little Catherine Howard, the youngest of them all, even younger than his daughter Mary, she was guilty of making some disastrous decisions in her tenure as queen, and her wild youth could not really be explained away to the king and his council, but her upbringing was unconventional as unbeknown to her guardian the Duchess of Norfolk, morality was lax and there was much horseplay prevalent in her household, the duchess was elderly and thought no doubt her young charge was being taught all the proper virtues that an aristocratic young lady should be taught, and Catherine certainly did have the right tuition for girls of her class, she was educated in managing a household needlework, etc etiquette and how to walk properly, how to sit properly they were taught all the latest court dances, she learnt how to hunt but her moral upbringing was sadly lacking, the old duchess could not have known such things were going on in her household and once Catherine was beaten because she was caught romping with Manox, another rogue like Culpeper and Dereham, thus we can see Catherine had no guidance she merely copied the older women who she shared the dormitory with, she thought there was nothing wrong in petting and kissing the young men who visited the women at night, she must have found it exciting as today any young girl would, the fact she later slept with Dereham shows that she must have seen the others engage in such acts and no doubt thought that’s how everyone carried on, maybe it did take place in other big households all over the country it must have among the working class but these were young women from noble household themselves, sent by their parents to learn how to manage their own households when they married, morality it has often been said, is far worse among the higher classes as they were wealthy, and thought they were above the law, and would indulge themselves in any vice imaginable, Catherine’s upbringing really when we consider the upbringing of Jane Grey was gay and carefree, no wonder Henry V111 was shocked when he learnt of her wild past, he had a strict moral code when it came to women, that was no way for a young noblewoman to act, but really we can see it was the tragic circumstances that led to her leaving her home to be in the care of her grandmother, her mother died when she was a baby and her father was penniless, had her grandmothers household been more efficiently run, that is had she had a strict matron like figure who kept a steely eye on the ladies and men’s coming and goings, had Catherine a room of her own she may not have been left open to temptation, her reputation was ruined and this came back to haunt the king and herself and her family, but it was her very foolish choice to meet with another admirer whilst queen and this behaviour was just not acceptable, I think she did have sex with Culpeper but being immoral does not make you a bad person, she was not a bad person neither was she wicked, she was easily led and felt herself to be in love with a man who was not worth it, she did I think hold her husband in regard but her emotions got the better of her, she was young it is believed she was not quite twenty when she lost her life, she tried to help others in distress, Lady Pole for example, taking her food and blankets as she was residing in the Tower, that shows a caring nature, she gave a present to Anne of Cleves a little puppy a present from the king one Christmas, she could be generous and sweet natured, the issue was she was too inexperienced to be queen and did not love the king, her head was turned by someone far younger and more handsome, she was weak and paid the price, I feel sorry for Catherine but it is easy to feel some sympathy for Henry V111 also, I have said before we can feel for his devastation, so even though he treated his other wives very badly I feel there is that in us to perhaps sympathise with this king who was getting on in years and far older in his bodily ailments, the fact his wife betrayed him allegedly or not whatever we wish to believe, must have made him only too aware of his lost youth, when he looked in the mirror then maybe he saw himself as he really was not what he wished to see, a corpulent red face man with thinning grey hair not the strapping youth of his distant past, he had married Catherine and yet she had not conceived a child even though they were married for a few years, he had married her in haste I believe just out of the sticky mess he found himself in with his fourth bride, he emerged from this latest marriage miserable and depressed and worse, he felt a fool, and they do say, marry in haste repent at leisure, one historian ponders why the king married her at all, he had his heir why not keep her as his mistress? But he knew only too well how sons could be carried of suddenly and we can understand that, as Henry’s lack of sons was the reason behind all his marriages, even though with his second it was initially lust which blinded him, he only married his fourth bride because of Cromwell, I think after Catherine’s death he stopped hoping he would father anymore children, as his sixth queen was much older than Catherine, and having been married three times previously she had no child to show for any of them, she was the exact opposite of her successor and I think he liked that quite a lot.
Beautifully said Christine. I admit, I do have a tinge of sympathy for Henry in the sense that a human being’s heart was broken but I must admit you are a much better person than I am.
Thank you Michael, I just think we tend to forget sometimes that underneath the glittering garments and outsize ego, under the selfish tyrannical nature of this king, lay just a man after all, a rather complex man deeply disturbed maybe, but a man after all who suffered like others, cursed by his own inheritance who had lost many children throughout his turbulent life and reign.
Yes, a very well put and well balanced comment on the trauma of Henry Viii and his wives. Henry had evolved into the man he was in the 1540s because of a complexity of life experiences, disappointments and loss, terrible loss. Both Anna of Cleves and Kathryn Howard surely could have given him more children, but his health problems had made that practically impossible now. There had been the loss of six or more children with Katherine of Aragon, with whom he had shared the depth of her grief and desperation, through every loss, that is well recorded, there were two, possibly three lost children with Anne Boleyn, depending on how her recorded pregnancies are interpreted and one of them was the tragic loss of their son in January 1536. Both Henry and Anne were devastated by that loss but they reacted in quite different and extreme ways. Henry was devastated to the point of anger and believing the marriage to be cursed, Anne was heartbroken but received little sympathy from Henry. This was her last chance and Henry saw it as a failure, one which made her vulnerable to her enemies. This wasn’t the end for Anne but she was open to those who would have brought her down, who now waited for the right moment to strike. Henry became more and more paranoid during the next few months, falling into a swift decline, his brain probably damaged by the falls he had taken, especially the one in January, the one which led to the miscarriage suffered by his second wife. The tragedy ended with the arrest and execution of Anne and five of the friends and close associates of the King on trumped up charges of treason and adultery, because Henry suddenly wanted to end his marriage but didn’t want another annulment. Whether Thomas Cromwell was the instigator and chief conspirator or whether Henry was, the paranoia his mind was now filled with would not allow him to reason on the question of their innocence. Maybe Henry really didn’t care, but I am not sure that is exactly true, but in any event, he acted with little regard as he gave devastating orders for the execution of Anne and her brother, George Boleyn, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton and a lowly musician called Mark Smeaton who had been brow beaten into a bizarre confession, which he never retracted. It’s no wonder, with things like this that Henry has lost any sympathy for any bad things which befell him afterwards. Henry was indeed now well and truly obsessed with the birth of a son, the supremacy had given him the real power that meant he could not be challenged and he would brook no further opposition. That was clear in the legislation created by Thomas Cromwell, the deaths caused by the Act of Supremacy including the two most well respected men of their age, Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher, the deaths of the holy monks who refused the oath and the closure of the religious houses for mere greed. This really is the completion of Henry into what we might judge as a monster or a tyrant, the way in which he dealt with the Northern Rebellions was really no different than any other monarch, although it is often flagged up because of a letter which commanded the destruction of everyone, if they didn’t surrender. However, most people did surrender, negotiations took place as the reality was that the Royal army was 6000 versus a rebel force of 30,000 to 50,000 marching south and Henry had to pretend to negotiate while raising more troops. It worked, a general pardon was offered, the Pilgrims went home and two leaders, including Robert Aske were entertained at Court. Aske returned with a promise of a pardon and that the crown would consider the proposals of the rebels, but an attack on Carlisle Castle by a small armed rebel army and 700 people were killed or captured by the much better prepared Royal army, gave Henry the excuse he needed to put it down with retribution. His retribution was harsh but it was similar to the reaction of other Tudor monarchs and even earlier or later Kings or Queens. Henry’s paranoia certainly wasn’t helped by these rebellions which were the first and only serious threat to his throne. After the death of Jane Seymour, we again see a different King Henry, one brought low by genuine grief and loss, who shut himself away for several months, barely able to function. His nobles and friends were excluded from his presence and probably feared for his sanity. During the next few years as he reluctantly searched for a new bride across a continent, he found himself rejected again and again and fobbed off while candidates found husbands elsewhere. By the time he married Anne of Cleves in January 1540, who was actually an early candidate, he had suffered from several bouts of ulcers bursting and poisonous leeks coming from his legs, his lack of exercise had caused depression and gross weight gain, his temper was unpredictable and he suffered from pain and mood swings. The cures contained lead which in itself is poisonous and there are any number of theories to explain his decline into tyranny. Henry saw Katherine Howard as the perfect woman and the perfect wife and believed she was everything he had hoped for after so many problems with his previous wives. He had invested all of his hopes into this young woman, so his reaction to her perceived betrayal was the culmination of everything he had experienced before. I have sympathy for Henry because he wanted a woman to settle down with and he thought Katherine Howard was just that as well as the potential mother of more children. She may have been intended as his mistress but he was clearly obsessed and completely besotted with this little beauty and wanted her as his wife. He was completely taken with her, she was kind and generous and charming and was able to beseech mercy from Henry for various criminals and one or two people in big trouble, a man about to lose his hand and she had a hand in the pardon of Sir Thomas Wyatt. Henry did everything he could to please her and lavishly showered her with presents. He had even lost weight to please his wife and she gave him a new lease of life. Having invested so much in his sweet and perfect Kathryn, it was a huge shock to learn of her past and he thought it was all one big lie. It is little wonder that he hit the roof and then the depths of despair as the “truth” came out, that she may have betrayed him with an other man, news which was utterly devastating to Henry. Henry fell into a pit of self pity and it was extremely hard for him afterwards. The only sensible thing he did in the last few years of his death was to marry a woman in her 30s and one whom he could rely on as nurse, companion, help mate and Regent. Henry now began to feel his mortality and his will reflects the last sensible steps he took to restore his daughters to the Succession and leave his son in the hands of capable men.
Henry Viii began his reign as a young Renaissance Prince, the accolades for him over the next few years were endless from allies, friends and neutral observers. He was renowned for his athletic prowess, was adored by his people and was praised as a promoter of scholarship. He was the most original King to sit on the English throne, he could find a solution to anything, he was the Father of the English navy, he was a theological expert and his libraries were full of the best books in Christendom. However, unlike his contemporaries, Henry Viii had a wife he adored and worshipped, but he also had no son. Therein lies the root cause of all of his later problems, the one thing he couldn’t resolve and the rest of his life saw the consequences of that unfortunate failure. Illness, weight gain, depression, a potential blood disorder, his craving for ultimate power and the gaining of that power, opposition to the resulting political and religious changes as the result of a long search for the wife who would give him a son, then ultimately paranoia and disillusionment in his last years all contributed to Henry’s transformation into dangerous tyranny. However, we have to remember, it was his enemies who saw him as such and modern historians. Henry was never seen as a monster or tyrant by his own people. Why? Simple, he kept them safe from foreign invasions and maintained the peace and stability of his Kingdom for the best of four decades. A monarch was a sacred person and even the pilgrimage of grace aimed its anger at his advisers, evil counselling from Cromwell and Audley, had taken Henry from Rome, the people blamed Anne Boleyn before that for seduction of their Henry away from his wife and daughter and he was even called Great in his lifetime. How, when and why Henry transformed into the fearsome person of the last decade of his life is the subject of medical, psychological and neuroscience studies and serious debate on this and thousands of blogs and websites all over the world. Henry Viii is a fascination, an obsession for many people. His behaviour is certainly not acceptable or explainable, but then again, although aspects of his behaviour, the treatment of some of his wives, stands out even against the times he lived in, much of his behaviour is not considered unusually cruel by his contemporaries. It is certainly a fact though that Henry Viii is beyond all understanding.
I’m not so sure that we can know what the “people” thought about Henry. History is written by the Victor’s who in this case we’re the Tudors. They were in power for over half a century after his death. Yes, I agree that they believed he was annointed by God and outwardly they blamed those around him for the troubles in the country. What were the private conversations in their homes regarding the king? Many left England and went to the continent to escape him. I know this happened during all monarchies so Henry’s isn’t unusual in that respect. My point being people saw the king/queen, though annointed by God as fallible and disagreed with them but would not speak or write of it during the reign of that particular person or dynasty. I’m sure not much was spoken of about Henry’s tyranny until after March 1603.
Yes, you are quite right we can only go on the official sources, and we all know they tended to clean things up a bit and only report large events or reactions, popular movements and public events, not necessarily the thoughts of the ordinary people. No doubt there are scribblings somewhere on a wall saying what someone thought but we don’t tend to report them in none social histories.. Wide mourning was reported at his death but that was normal, especially during the time of a long reign. Fear and insecurity tended to rattle people when a monarch passed, especially if the successor was a boy of nine or ten. Henry’s Tyranny certainly wasn’t the subject of much literature during the lifetime of his successors but there are early historians from at least the eighteenth century who put his reign under the microscope. Modern historians tend to be more balanced in their assessment of Henry Viii but he was either one or the other extreme during the nineteenth century. Reasons for his tyranny have certainly been debated since the 1930s when Frederick Chamberlain closely examined his medical records for clues about his personality and at the same time put to bed any ideas of his having had syphilis. Even in his last years the more eccentric Henry can be found like in a cold freezing winter in 1545 when he took his entire orchestral band onto the ice to entertain the ladies, himself acting as conductor. This was from a source in Chamberlain, although I can’t remember which, but can you imagine the spectacle! This was the Henry we lost, trying to recapture that spark of youth and joy we all need from time to time. On another occasion he had a garden of roses planted to please Katherine Willoughby whose company he often kept, because he learned she liked roses. Some historians believe he actually wanted to marry her, but the only evidence is from a note by the Ambassador to Delft, during the time of Katherine Parr about him being fed up with her and ” my lady of Suffolk is much spoken off” so of course he wanted her as his wife. The late David Baldwin even wrote her biography and put an emphasis on her as a potential Seventh Wife and even his mistress during Brandon’ s lifetime, although this doesn’t hold water. Henry certainly has enough surprises to still remain human and interesting, even during the last and worst years of his reign. Even though literacy was not as good as now, among the ordinary people, although certainly not as low as so called experts like to claim, or rather assume, most people had the rudiments of a basic education and were capable of popular scribbling. In Ancient Egypt pieces of pottery have been found in the workers villages with all kinds of scrawled messages on them. The same on Hadrians Wall. “Come to my birthday party” ” Mrs so and so is an ass” “Sobeski is a cheat and a liar” “My husband is off with the whore next door” that sort of thing. It would be very useful to find some ordinary bits of paper or wall graffiti saying what someone thought of King Henry Viii. Maybe one day we will. Social history isn’t the stuff of historical legends, the battlefield, the royal Court scandal, the political change, but it does tell us a lot about everything else, the day to day things of ordinary people, such as who was fined for not going to Church and why, who was fined for watering down the beer, who was fined for pocketing funds in the wool trade, who attended which grammar school, who was paid for providing food for such and such, how many people designed the Windows in a Cathedral, who was up before the magistrates for sleeping with so and so for the fourth time outside of marriage, who was reported for casting spells, whose mill took water from whose land and who were the recruits on the Mary Rose: all of these tell us about everyday life and activities. Ordinary people were reported to Cromwell so we have a long record of what people said about the King and his new wife and the new laws on religious changes. Many were harmless, others seen as seditious. During the chaos of the announcement that Jane Grey was now Queen we have one poor young man who cried out above the silence that Mary was the true Queen was condemned to have his ears nailed to the pillary and when they released him they had to cut his ears off. So we know how he felt. A merchant recorded many events of the reign of Mary I so we have an ordinary account. We don’t have anything like what we would really need to gage public and individuals opinions and that makes a proper assessment of how people viewed events to be really certain about the popularity of any one monarch. We only have a few scraps and the writing of the educated classes, most of whom are in the service of the King.
I love the story of Henry conducting the orchestra on the ice. I’d not heard that before. I like THAT Henry. When you mentioned finding graffiti about him I was imagining a tourist visiting an old castle and as they step into the garderobe the sun hits the wall just right and there, scratched into the stone and revealed for the first time is….’henry viii is a doo doo head’. Not exactly profound but it would be clearly a negative opinion.
Wow did Henry V111 actually do that, have an orchestra on the ice, what a spectacular scene that must have looked, he did compose music as well as play several instruments so he could well have conducted the entertainment, but how odd on the ice, I wonder if he was thinking along the lines of I may be dead soon and one thing I have never done is conduct an orchestra on the ice, I wonder where it took place, the company must have been covered literally in layers of furs and there must have been servants wandering around with platters of punch maybe since it was winter, or was punch not around then? That behaviour does appear somewhat eccentric but then they used to hold fairs on the Thames when it froze over, maybe he thought it would be fun to have some musical entertainment also, though it was probably held on one of the great lakes at a country residence, I remember at school doing social history we thought it was a bore, I recall some girl shouting out ‘why can’t we do Henry V111 and his wives’? Our teacher promptly ignored her, we had learnt about him the previous year and the old rascal had definitely made some sort of an impression on her, in social history we learnt about drains and the industrial revolution and cholera yawn! It was not exciting like learning about the marital escapades of Henry V111, and yet it is very much a part of our history it affected our ancestors lives after all.
I must admit Henry Viii and his wives is a much more interesting subject than the invention of the Davy Lamp or electoral reform when you are at school. I yawned my way through a 1001 Acts of Parliament and nineteenth century social reforms at school only to take Sociology and Health and History at University. And what do you start with in Sociology? Welfare Reforms from the 18th Centuries until now and social reforms. Of course it was much more interesting than at school. I got frustrated when it came to the various theories to explain everything and now I know why you get a robust thick academic text, it bounced well when you threw it on the floor in frustration. However, the small pieces of daily information tell you far more about life in the past than King Henry’s latest wife being exchanged. Literally thousands of fragmentation of cuniform writing from an ancient fortress in Babylon have told us more about how the Empire was run than any decree from any King. You would be surprised at the amount of information you can prize out of such things. It’s not sexy history, but it’s actually what most historians end up looking through, that or thousands of archives worth of documents. Ancient graffiti of course has been found all over the place, from numerous centuries and in many languages. A recent piece of English graffiti was found in a village in the Midlands from where John Wycliffe came, not written by him, but written in two different hands by ordinary people in the local Church on the back of a chest and on the stonework. They were basically lamenting the Black Death and the calamity it brought. Another piece from the same place but dating to the period of the Peasants Revolt basically calls the local landowners all the not so nice names going and blamed him for their misfortune. I like that, Michael, some person suddenly coming on sunlit graffiti calling Henry a big doo doo head, yes, that’s a good one.
A load of women did threaten to attack Anne Boleyn once when she was having dinner somewhere. She had to make a quick getaway. Another time when the King was out hunting, some workers on their way home jeered him and one shouted “Get back to your wife”. This wasn’t treason so there wasn’t much he could do but chase them. No doubt his guards gave the person a beating, after all one can’t just yell abuse at the King and get off free. Henry being with Anne Boleyn caused a right old scandal and fuss. This wasn’t just his usual odd mistress, kept discreetly out of the way while Katherine was pregnant, no this was a blatant affair, conducted for all to see and it was soon public knowledge that Henry was trying to put away his wife and daughter. Anne got more of the blame, luring the helpless man with her charms, as was the way things were, the woman was to blame, being a temptress and casting our spells over men. The double standard meant that men could have affairs and there were little consequences but a woman had to behave like a saint. The King on the other hand was meant to set some sort of standard and one could not leave a virtuous loyal wife and have happy hour with one’s fancy woman. Katherine was extremely popular and this annulment in order to marry Anne was intolerable to the ordinary people, even if Henry thought he was acting to save England from future disasters. The people obviously had higher standards than the King.
Something I find so humorous when reading these histories is the belief that women cannot control their sexual desires but it’s ok for men to find an outlet through having a mistress. Say what? Is it just me who sees the inanety in this or was it just accepted fact? It just sounds like something thrown out there to give men an excuse to mess around.
It was always thought in the sixteenth century that women being the descendants of Eve were more frail carnally than men, given over to temptation more, women who sinned were called wicked and immoral, even though they were in love, where men were merely acting out their natural urges and instincts, women who took lovers particularly married women were frowned upon very much so, and Elizabeth Wyatt, the poets wife was such an example, in a queen it was horrendous as she risked the legality of the succession, maybe there has always been this view that because women are the nurturers, they should have this pure mystical image like the Virgin Mary, Elizabeth 1st used this image to promote herself but she was far from being a pure and benign human being, Henry V111 had Parliament pass a bill to make adultery an act of treason after Anne Boleyn, men were lauded for having many lovers, they seem to grow in prestige the more notches they have on their bedpost, it was perfectly acceptable for kings and nobleman to have several mistresses, in France it was an natural as breathing, and the women did not complain as it was the way of things. the problem with Henry V111 marrying Anne Boleyn, was she had been his adored mistress and was used to his undivided attention, although understanding it was normal for Henry to act like a king in that he took lovers where and when he wanted, during his queens pregnancies for example, when such behaviour was expected of kings, we can sympathise with Anne who having the king to herself for so long, found it very very hard to accustom herself to being the pliant wife, the subservient queen and having to look the other way when her husband eyed up her pretty maids of honour and the other beautiful ladies of the court, Anne was not brought up to be queen unlike her predecessor, and we can see how this longed for marriage was doomed from the start.
As you state in the 16th century it was thought that women were frail carnally and couldn’t control their urges but it was natural that men take a mistress(es). Why? Because men couldn’t control their urges! It wouldn’t surprise me that this was touted as biblical since the Bible was for so long in Latin and no one could verify or deny it. Even in the 16th century and earlier there had to be some who saw this as rank hypocrisy. As I said this notion had to have been put forward by men and used, at the start at least as an excuse for men’s infidelities.
Your a good advocate for women’s lib Michael ! Seriously though yes it’s double standards is it not, after all it takes two to tango
Thank you. I just don’t like half of the population being told they’re inferior. I’ve never known a woman who was less than a man
It was even worse if you were a menstruating woman, who were believed to have magical powers so powerful that by looking at a man she could turn him infertile. There were all sorts of fears that a witch could do all kinds of weird things, make storms and crops fail, kill with a look and of course cause infertility and sickness. The fact so many witches were women, more than 90% shows the misogynistic nature of men’s thinking at the time. Women were seen as inferior and weak willed and more likely to give into the seductions of Satan. One sign of a witch was kissing the entrails of the Devil who appeared to women and week men in order to get them to submit to his evil ways and kissing his entrails was like submitting to his authority. These rules were of course thought up by men and much literature was dedicated to the subject of women as weak and sin. There was even a debate as to whether or not women had a soul, during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Christine de Prizon took part in these debates and wrote history and books promoting women as the intellectual equal of men. Men were scared of women and invented much crap to justify keeping them as second class citizens. In reality men and women depended on each other for support, just as they always have.
I had mo idea that you ladies could be so powerful! It’s nice to read a confirmation of what I suspected re men making up those stupid things to make themselves look superior.
Regarding Christine de Pisan I have read and heard quite a bit on her. A most impressive woman. I was surprised to find out that she was not criticized for her writings at the time.
There certainly has been a lot of prejudice against women down the centuries, John Knox was a right old male chauvinistic pig when he wrote his book ‘the monstrous regiment of women’, he was certainly opposed against women’s rule, not that he was alone in that and really, the early days in the history of the world was a violent dangerous place for a ruler, let alone a female ruler, it is good the world has changed now with it being more tolerant and the attitudes against women, but it has taken a very long time for women to be able to take their place in society, as equals to men not merely second class citizens, as being able to forge their own careers and breadwinners to, winning the right to vote was one such victory, Florence Nightingale who I admit I do adore most wholeheartedly, (she was my first heroine along with Queen Boudicca) had her work cut out in Victorian England, coming from a wealthy family she was able to use her influence in society to travel to the Crimea and paved the way for the nursing profession, as a respectable vocation for women, up till then nurses were old bawds slovenly and often drunk, surgeons also were seen as rascally fellows but Nightingale achieved wonders for the medical profession, her family had not agreed with her burning desire to go to Scutari and tend the wounded, young ladies were expected to do their needlework quietly beside the fireside, engaging in dull talk over cups of tea in rose patterned china, she should have married instead which was expected of her, Jane Austen also established a career for herself in the literary field, like the Bronte sisters but women writers like women artists did not have the courage or the support of society like their male counterparts, but the Victorian age did see a rise of women writers and poets to, there was also Mary Anne Everett Green who wrote about the lives of the Princesses of England, Agnes Strickland whose work on Henry V111’s wives is a good source of reference, in science have to mention Marie Curie who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work on radium, in Henry V111’s day also his court was the home of many learned intelligent women, his first queen was an intellectual as his second queen, his sixth queen was the first woman to have her works published and although there was the belief that women were inferior to men, society in the upper classes saw that their daughters were well educated, to thrive at court you had to be, Sir Thomas More gave all his daughters a very good education and Henry V111 liked nothing better than a debate with any of his courtiers, male or female, he did not like being made to look like he did not know what he was talking about however, his sixth wife was discussing with him about her views on reform and Henry grew rather displeased with her, her talk bordered on heresy and Henry did not like heresy and those who practiced it, nor those who spoke of it, Catherine Parr had to keep her mouth shut as Jane Seymour had years before when she dared to confront the king about the torment of the pilgrimage of grace and the fallout from the monasteries, Henry did admire clever women but he was the king as he loved to remind them, I think as far as society is concerned women have not done too bad, of course there are prejudices, personally I do not think women should be in the army, I admire those who do enlist as it’s tough, but some of those women have families with young children and I don’t think it’s fair on them.
Prior to our civil war here in the states (1861-1865) men were the primary caregivers in hospitals. After the war began women started coming into the camps and taking over those duties and it was discovered that the wounded soldiers responded better to the women than the men. Wasn’t that Florence Nightingale’s experience also?
Quite possibly Michael, one can also understand how patients respond better to women nurses than male nurses, I think female nurses have a better bedside manner, possibly more patience and a more caring attitude, it must be the maternal instinct.
I always liked seeing Margaret Thatcher at the nato summits, she used to stand with all the other leaders and pose for the photographs smiling away, it did not seem to bother her that she was the only woman amongst them.
I loved it when she went to Brussels and told them to give us our money back. One lady you didn’t argue with.
There have been a few powerful women around in history, men just didn’t appreciate them. I actually can’t believe it took until after the Second World War and several strikes in the 60s and 70s for women to be paid the same as men. No reason for them not to be, just didn’t value women as much. Even now a woman at the BBC had to fight to get paid for her show the same as Jeremy Vine is for his on the principle of work of equal value. That’s been law for donkeys years. Really, how did they seriously believe they would get away with it in the 21st century? The person saying they were disappointed on behalf of the BBC about this decision was also a woman. She should have been popping the champagne! I really think the BBC needs a complete overhaul, they really have made some terrible errors in judgement in the last few years.
They have been guilty of sexism as well as ageism to, I remember when there was Arlene Philips one of the judges on Strictly for years, then the BBC decided she was too old so she had to go, Philips was brilliant yet she was replaced by some woman who really was rather embarrassing to watch as she struggled to make some intelligent remarks about the contestants dancing skills, I cannot recall her name but she has been on many shows, she’s a nice woman but the next Monday all the papers were critical of her as she was not a patch on Philips, Bruce Forsyth was trying to help her and failed miserably, she was soon replaced , I am not keen on the BBC anyway, their coverage of Brexit was biased and I thought ‘The Christmas Carol’ by Mark Gatiss was rubbish, I don’t like these new writers who re write classic stories, I watched about twenty five minutes and couldn’t watch anymore, the actors who played Marley and Scrooge were just not believable, they were men of means and would have spoken with cut glass accents, yet Guy Pierce who played Scrooge and Marley spoke like a pair of barrow boys from the east end, I felt they were too young as well, to me Scrooge is about seventy in age with a white beard, bit like Alistair Sim, they altered the story so much with Scrooge being the victim of child abuse and then trying to blackmail his clerks wife into sleeping with him, it was a dark dreary tale and I bet Dickens would have turned in his grave had he seen what they had done to his beloved story, A Christmas Carol is the ultimate Christmas tale, it’s heartfelt and warming at the end and carries a moral tone to it, Dickens himself moved by the plight of the poor, sought to bring their suffering to the notice of Parliament by writing about them in A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist, it covers the tedium and poverty of their lives in the workhouse and the dreadfully long hours they were forced to work in the factories, the little children who were forced up chimneys many of whom lost their lives, and those who did not suffered dreadful injuries and often went onto to develop cancer of the lungs and other horrendous diseases, the poverty of the working classes which forced many a woman into prostitution and the sickness that was prevalent then, cholera typhoid diphtheria, consumption legionaries disease, the dreaded workhouse the refuge of the poor and orphaned child, Dickens sought to make Britain a better place for the unfortunate in society, this drama series had a lot of critiscm and really I was not at all surprised.
Yes she certainly was gutsy, after the Brighton bombing she was interviewed and you just could not but admire her nerve, she had nearly been blown to pieces and there was carnage and death all around her, yet she was still in control her voice never wavered, many women would have completely gone to pieces, Thatcher really was a unique woman.
The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw an increase in women acting with authority and power, a rise in women ruling, either by themselves or in the name of a minor or absent/incapacitated husband. In the Flanders Netherlands you had two women in power, Margaret of Austria and the Regent Mary. Later there was another Margaret in power. In India at the start of the seventeenth century you had the Empress Nur Jahan, ruling with her husband, in his place when he was taken captive and who built his tomb and commanded an army to rescue him. In France you had powerful Queen Mothers and consorts like Louise of Savoy and the sister of King Francis Marguerite of Navarre who kept the place together when he was also in prison and they negotiated his release. Catherine de Medici was both a powerful consort and a powerful reagent for her sons, Anne of Austria, Marie de Medici both had active roles as Queen and Regents. Mary of Hungary was another powerful Queen, who used her military might in the political cauldron of the European powers and who was a good ally to England. Then of course we have our Queen Regnants, Mary I and Elizabeth I both the daughters of Henry Viii, who were powerful and unique and brave in their own ways. Mary who had to stand up to both a father who went from calling her his pearl to practicality ignoring and abandoning her, forcing her to sign away her own inheritance rights, before he would accept her back into his public affections. Mary who was kept from the crown by her own half brother, who cut her out of the succession a second time, only to escape when she was threatened by loss of liberty to her own estates and rallied support in order to take the throne which was rightly hers. Mary who defied everyone to keep and defend her faith and again rallied support when threatened by rebellion. Mary who established the gender free authority of the crown that allowed her illegitimate half sister to succeed in the first place. Then we have Elizabeth whose greatness is always paraded but whose achievements are hotly debated by modern scholarship because today we look at the evidence of her reign rather than the legendary status of her legacy. Losing her mother at such a young age and in such terrible circumstances put a strain on her relationship with her father, but also a slur on her own name. She was never legitimized and unlike Mary she didn’t reverse the legislation responsible for that. Elizabeth was proud of both parents just the same and remembered them during her lifetime. Lucky to come to the throne at 25, Elizabeth had the benefits of youth and a long life to establish a grand reputation and to downplay her sister’s. In fact she deliberately sullied Mary and was a good liar and politician when it came to herself. Elizabeth was able to use paintings and plays and all kinds of visual media to develop herself as Glorianna and Virgin Queen through her long and fairly successful 44 year reign. There are plenty of negatives associated with Elizabeth and her age, bright for some, dark for others, but we have forgotten about most of them. Unlike Mary we have forgotten the Elizabethan persecutions of many different groups of Christian dissidents as well as Catholics. We remember the victory of the English over the Spanish Armada but forget the disaster of the English Armada one year later. We remember that Mary lost Calais, well not personally, but forget the Victory at Saint Quentin one year earlier. Elizabeth was actually a very weak woman, she was terrified all the time, but a brave and determined Queen to overcome all of those fears and experiences. Elizabeth had, partly through her own fault, been imprisoned in the Tower by Mary on suspicion of treason and plotting with Thomas Wyatt the Younger. I say own fault because she was summoned to Court and disobeyed, so of course Mary was even more suspicious. She was housed in the same royal apartments Anne Boleyn had been crowned from and executed from which must have been frightening and traumatic. However, Mary resisted all calls to try and execute Elizabeth and there wasn’t anything to convict her. Mary was perfectly justified in her actions and until now there is no evidence whatsoever that the sisters were enemies. Nor is there any evidence Mary wanted her dead, she was merely suspicious and no longer trusted her. Their relationship was broken at this point. Elizabeth was a survivor, a sharp thinker and talker, she was also an observer. She watched what was good and were others made mistakes. That was the secret in a world dominated by men of ambition. That’s why she was successful. She chose men of talent and good political sense and kept at arms length anyone who had loved her. Her chief councillors were men of experience and what a gloomy looking lot they were too. But they weren’t there to flatter and fall in love with Elizabeth, they were there to keep her and the throne safe. Elizabeth had a reputation abroad before she even sat down on her throne because she was the embodiment of everything others hated, female, Protestant and legally illegitimate with a condemned traitor and adutltress as a mother. Elizabeth was a skilled diplomat and her correspondence in Italian is to be admired, she maintained good relations with most countries for a considerable time, but she was mocked abroad because of her unfortunate heritage. She had plenty of courtiers whose job it was to adore her, to flatter her and a number ended up in an intimate relationship with her, one in particular found this to be his undoing. Elizabeth fell head over heals for her toy boy, the 21 year old dandy, Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex, stepson of her original favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and he betrayed her, confronting her in her bedroom and marching with 600 men towards her palace. It cost him his head of course and Elizabeth showed she would not share power with anyone. Everyone wanted to marry Elizabeth, everyone wanted her to marry but she would need to promise to obey her husband, rather a bizarre thing for a Queen. Mary had no problems with this, but her marriage treaty firmly placed power in her hands and Philip was only her equal on joint decrees and proclamations. England maintained her independence. Elizabeth had seen all too closely the dark side of men and marriage and stayed clear of it, but also refused to name a successor. The son of her main rival, yet another Queen Regnant, Mary Queen of Scots,_was the obvious choice who emerged after the demise of Catherine Grey and others, but it was only the hard work of Robert Cecil that made it easy for the succession of James Vi of Scotland as 1st of England. His mother, the beautiful, whitty, wild, intelligent and head strong, Mary, Queen of Scots had as a child Queen been taken from her homeland to France to marry Francis, the heir to the French crown, having escaped the clutches of the English who had tried to kidnap her. She was raised in absolute luxury and as Queen for two years she and Francis had some happiness, although he wasn’t in good health and an infection and haemorrhage in his ears killed him. To return home at 19 to rule a now alien country which had turned Protestant and which was ruled by the Lords of the Congregation as the Presbyterian nobles were called, showed great courage and strength of character. For her first two years as Queen, Mary did well, putting her country in good order and touring the Highlands and putting down an attempt to kidnap and marry her by her Catholic cousins, the Huntleys, keeping the Lords and John Knox in check, her personal rule was a success. Her letters to Elizabeth during this period are firm but friendly and the succession was still open for discussion. However, the time came to marry and although Mary had enough suitors, Elizabeth decided to interfere and offered her Robert Dudley, newly knighted and a widow, but Mary saw this as an insult and more or less wrote how dare you. Instead, having been in exile at the English Court, her first cousins, Matthew Earl of Lennox and his son, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, came home to Scotland, essentially to act as spies but that’s not how it turned out. Mary fell for Henry who was handsome and charming and somehow managed to hide the fact he was a drunken womanizer and homosexual. He wasn’t the brightest spark either and was easily influenced. No sooner had Mary married him than his true character emerged. The next couple of years were a nightmare. He conspired to get himself made King and is noted as King in documents but Mary denied him the full crown matrimonial or any authority. He killed her secretary, David Rizzio, an Italian and the heavily pregnant Mary was in fear for her life. She and her husband fled and she was wise enough to flee to safety. Raising an army she returned to Edinburgh in triumph and the Lords and her brother, illegitimate half brother surrendered and through clenched teeth they were reconciled and Mary pardoned them. Mary and James had already been estranged and Elizabeth had sheltered him and his cronies before they were recalled. After giving birth to her son, the future King James, Mary tried to make the best of things but Darnley became too much for the Lords and her and he also came down with small pox. She was in Hollyrood Palace, her own illness keeping her in bed, while Darnley recovered from treatment at the Kirk of the Field, a private house close by, when a group of armed men entered and drew him out. The house blew up and Darnley was killed by these men, either strangled or stabbed, depending on the source. Mary held a hearing but nothing was found and nobody was prosecuted. Rumours now abounded, spread by John Knox and her brother that Mary had murdered Darnley. She was forced to flee and was abducted and forced to marry James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, who had a crush on the Queen. Mary was also raped by him and conceived twins. Mary and Bothwell were forced into battle and taken prisoners. She was paraded by the mob through the streets of Edinburgh and called Murderess Whore and Adulterer and Knox shouted a sermon at her. Mary should have done with him what her mother did, when he objected to her privately holding Mass in her own Chapel and sent him to the galley ship. Instead he had actually been a member of her Council and she put up with him until his verbal assaults became too much. Mary was now forced to abdicate with a blade to her throat, having miscarried her children, Bothwell was allowed to go to Denmark where he eventually went mad in a Danish prison and died there. Mary was imprisoned on a small loch called Loch Leven and escaped from the castle there in a rowing boat with the help of a page. She raised another army but this time was outnumbered and negotiated her freedom and surrender and fled South to that place at the bottom of Scotland, called England. Here Mary hoped Elizabeth would welcome her and was disappointed to be taken into custody for her own protection. However, Elizabeth was playing games as always, she refused to receive Mary until she was cleared of the murder of Lord Darnley and she received into her processing the Casket Letters, a set of letters in a silver casket which show a plot to kill him but which most people are certain they are forgeries and Mary denounced them. Mary was cleared but Elizabeth still refused to receive her, keeping her a prisoner for 19 years, in closer and closer confinement and restrictions were put on her visitors, servants were bodily searched, including her ladies and she was in the end forbidden exercise and her letters were opened. Francis Walsingham and William Cecil spent years trying to convince Elizabeth to kill Mary and she was implicated in a number of Catholic plots who saw her as a rival to their persecutor, as Elizabeth had become and as a legitimate heir to the throne. However, for most of them they had very little evidence. They set Mary up to fall by allowing communication with certain Catholic gentlemen to be taken in and out of Chartley House, in barrels and waited, opening and resealing them and trying to work out Mary’s extremely elaborate codes. This went on for six weeks and Cecil became increasingly desperate as did Walsingham as nothing criminal had been said. Then one letter came from Sir Anthony Babington and his friends in late 1586 outlying a plan to meet Mary if she could get permission to ride and to escort her to safety. Mary was enthusiastic about this part of the plan but it wasn’t enough and another letter came saying they intended to kill Elizabeth and Mary needed to consent. Many people today believe this was actually written in part by Walsingham as his job was in jeopardy. Mary took several days before responding “Set the six gentlemen to their work” but Mary would insist at her trial that she had no intention of consenting to kill Elizabeth and Babington apparently had cold feet anyway. Mary was allowed to ride out in the country and went to where she was to meet the gentlemen but the riders coming towards her were there to arrest her. Various letters were found under her floor boards and many of these used at her trial, although she wasn’t allowed to see them. As we know Mary Queen of Scots faced a show trial at Fotheringhay Castle in the Midlands and gave a good account of herself. She was found guilty and condemned to death. Elizabeth was shocked and took her time over the death warrant because she condemned a fellow Queen, a fellow monarch, anointed by God and thus condemned herself and gave permission for a people to kill their Sovereign. She also condemned her cousin, her blood, her heir. Elizabeth was in real turmoil over this and when the warrant was brought refused to sign it. Eventually it w was signed, mysteriously being hidden so Elizabeth could say she had no knowledge of the execution. Cecil took the warrant and handed it over to others who took it to Fotheringhay to the condemned Queen Mary. On 8th February 1587,_Mary and her ladies entered the Great Hall and stepped onto the scaffold drapped in black. Mary began to pray, interrupted by some Protestant bishop who she told off, then she said a few words, gave her prayer book and rosary, now at Arundel Castle, to her ladies, removed her outer robes and revealed a dress of bright scarlet, the colour of martyrdom. Mary knelt, prayed, forgave her executioner and the axe struck. Unfortunately, it took three blows, including one to her shoulder to remove her head. The room was in stunned silence as the axe man lifted up her head and her red curled wig fell off in his hand, the head rolling towards the Council at the side, her lips still moving. Mary had a wee dog who took refuge under her skirts and refused to be comforted. He sadly died. Mary was at first buried in Peterborough Cathedral but a most magnificent tomb was made by her son, James when he became King of England. He commissioned one for Elizabeth but Mary Queen of Scots has a more magnificent one in Westminster Abbey in the same Chapel.
Mary has often been said to be a failure but I prefer to see her as courageous and yes, she was a tragic person but she also endured a lot of personal danger from the moment she was born. She had to flee English armies and fleet at least twice, was sent to France for her safety as well as her marriage, enduring loss at an early age and she was threatened by up to 70 men with daggers and swords while seven months pregnant while her servant was murdered in front of her, she was forced to flee and raised an army, she gave birth in difficult circumstances, then her horrible husband was murdered, she was abducted, raped and forced into a marriage she hated, she miscarried twins and again faced down a group of brave men with swords and daggers. Afraid for her life and that of her son she was forced to abdicate and again was put in prison. Yet again she escaped and tried to regain her crown. Ultimately Mary was defeated, forced to find refuge with the old enemy and again imprisoned for the rest of her life. Mary must have been absolutely desperate, she suffered from arthritis and she was held in intolerable conditions. Finally, she was forced to answer before a tribunal of stuffy looking men who tried to trip her up and condemned to death. She was executed and she was even disrupted while praying and her execution was botched. I believe after what she endured Mary Queen of Scots really deserves of our respect and sympathy.
The seventeenth century saw its share of women on the throne, maybe with more limited roles and certainly restricted power but they carried on the normalisation of female rule. Henrietta Maria definitely influenced and had an active role in the decisions of her husband, many would say in a negative way, but she also travelled to Holland to gain support for his cause and her ship was fired on during her return. She was forced to take refuge in the huts of local fishermen who welcomed her. She also gave birth to her last child almost alone and on the run, her husband already besieged and losing. Whether or not she was responsible for the disaster caused by King Charles I is debatable. Henrietta was a force to be reckoned with and she fought for him and his son, Charles Ii in exile, seeing the latter restored. She has been wrongly condemned for acting as a dutiful and persuasive wife with her own very well determined ideas.
Two Queen Regnants completed the seventeenth century in England, Mary II was married off to William Iii, Prince of Orange as a young woman in her teens and the success of this alliance has again been debated. She ruled with William as a joint Sovereign after the invasion of 1688 which was them being invited to rule, although the 30,000 troops with them must have made a point. Mary died of smallpox and William was left to reign alone. He died eleven years later, still mourning his wife, when he fell from his horse whilst hunting in Hampton Court Parks. Mary’s sister, Anne succeeded in 1700 and reigned for fourteen years. She was not in robust health having lost all but one of her seventeen children. Her son George died aged eleven, again probably of smallpox. Having faced all of that loss and grief it is hard to know how this brave and sad lady kept her sanity. Anne is remembered for her long term passionately intense friendship with Sarah Churchill, the wife of John Churchill, Lord Marlborough, the hero of Blenheim, whose knowledge of government was vital for her. However, Anne also had the foresight to finish what her great great uncle, James I, began, the unification of the three Kingdoms into one United Kingdom and the Unification of the Parliaments. She invited several delegates to London and in what is now the side rooms of Downing Street, then one of last remaining parts of the destroyed Whitehall Palace, the agreement was bashed out and signed in 1707. This was very much Anne’s project against the objections of several of her ministers and should be recognised as her personal and greatest achievement.
Any man of those times reading this litany of female power and rule would run a mile, so threatening would it be.
If you want a truly dangerous woman though Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty takes some beating. I won’t give any spoilers but this was some woman and both her cruelty and reforms and greatness are legendary.
The Empress sounds like she was a very formidable woman Bq, I may look her up thank you.
So many gentle women were becoming scholars at this time that the period could be said to be a feminine renaissance. To name but a few we have the well educated daughter of Sir Thomas More, Margaret Roper, three of King Henry’s Queens, Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Parr, the latter a published author, the feisty and beautiful Katherine Willoughby, Mildred Cook, the wife of William Cecil and a female genius of her time, Katherine Cromwell, stand out. Then we have Jane and Catherine Grey, the former whose life was cut short and presumably their sister, Mary, all educated by fathers who saw beyond their sex to find their true potential. Italy also produced women who graced the international stage with power, politics and education. Catolina Sforza, the Tigress of Forli, who defied the might of Rome and the Borgia Popes, was cultured, academic and fiercely independent. It took an Imperial Army to tame her, although her spirit remained indomitable. Isabella de Este was probably the most cultured and scholarly woman of the age and admired widely for her diplomatic skills and wisdom. An unexpected lady of letters, learning and through her third marriage, great influence and believe it or not, in her later years, deep piety, wisdom and honour was Lucretia Borgia. In the Vatican we had Olympia Maidalchini, advisor, Master of Ceremonies, a woman who influenced papal appointments and had great influence and wide ranging powers to the Popes. She is regarded as a scholar, political agent and a prophet. Her works are still in publication today. So many others could be mentioned but one may run out of space. Men were frightened of female influence, yet several of them cultivated it and benefited from it that their attitude is rather hard to fathom.
Queen Anne’s friendship with Sarah Jennings Lady Churchill was so close historians have speculated that the queen could have had lesbian feelings towards her, certainly Sarah dominated the queen and was seen by many as the real power behind the throne, she was vibrant red headed and seen by many as a bit of a tartar, Anne did have it is true a very passionate attachment towards her and the two would often be closeted for hours, gambling and card playing, she wrote her numerous letters over the long years of their acquaintance, and after their friendship ended, Sarah threatened to reveal them which is proof that Anne did have very strong feelings towards her, and that the contents would have been embarrassing to the queen, Sarah’s husband John was the victor of Blenheim and the two of them really were the golden couple of the age, I have read Plaidys ‘ The Haunted Sisters’ which was the story of James 11 flight to France and the acceptance of the throne from his son in law Duke William Of Orange, his devastation when he learnt of his daughters betrayal of him when they openly supported William and the strange relationship between Anne and Sarah, Anne’s many children who died as infants and her sisters Mary’s inability to conceive, Mary’s marriage to William where he is portrayed as being cold and of fish towards his wife who quite frankly adored him, wether that is all true I have no idea but it was said they were an old looking couple, because Mary was tall and stately looking, not as big as her younger sister, and William was short and when walking together she had to walk pigeon toed so he could keep up with her, there is a portrait of Queen Anne in Blenheim and she was quite overweight, Mary was I believe the more attractive of the two with beautiful chestnut hair and she is said to have hated Sarah Churchill for her influence over Anne, the deaths of Anne’s infants have been attributed by modern doctors to be the result of a condition she had that causes blood clots, which in turn caused the queen to miscarry, I saw a television programme about royal illnesses and deaths, and one programme studied Anne’s sad medical history, it was believed a simple aspirin would have cured the queen as it is a blood thinner but of course, no such drug was available in Anne’s day, her spoilt young son the only one to reach as you mention eleven died leaving her bereft, it was then she suffered qualms of conscience and wrote her to father ‘ The King Across The Water’ of her grief at their separation and believed she was fated to never bear a healthy child, as God had punished both her and Mary for betraying their father, when they deserted him and supported Duke William, Anne had lost all her children and Mary was barren surely a sign of gods displeasure, Mary was criticised more than Anne as she had accepted the crown, along with her husband, the English did not take to this short dour Dutchman and she was called Goneril in some quarters, the latter being one of the ungrateful daughters of King Lear, immortalised in Shakespeare’s play, Anne when she became queen was the last of the Stuart’s though she did not know it, Bq mentions the unification of the three parliaments, I find it sad now that many in Scotland want to break up the Union, it was James 1st who was called the first King of Great Britain, after many centuries of having separate monarchs on the thrones of England and Scotland, and battles to, as England sought to have her northern neighbour in her yoke, it was hailed as a time for peace, maybe now there will be no more border raids, no more petty squabbles, in fact when James travelled south to reclaim his kingdom, he brought with him a whole retinue (hardly surprising) of Scotsman, and the English court found their accents strange and their ways uncouth, James himself was not particularly easy on the eye, strange because his parents had both been very tall and attractive people, he dribbled at the table and was quite lax with the servants, yet he was a clever studious man and not for nothing was he called the wisest fool in Christendom, I agree Mary Queen Of Scots his mother was noted for her bravery, she endured a dreadful trauma when her secretary was murdured in front of her whilst she was pregnant, I cannot believe they did that to her, the shock could easily have brought on a miscarriage it was a very harsh country to rule, and Mary cosseted in France was totally unprepared for life in chilly Scotland where the Scots were nothing like the French and where petty jealousies inevitably led to the slaying of blood, I have read Frasers biography on Mary which was excellent, I am tempted to read Weirs view in her book called ‘The Murder Of Lord Darnley’, her life was wild turbulent and romantic and after her execution which was dreadful, (it reminds me of Lady Margaret Poles death), James had Fotheringhay Castle that which was the birthplace of another ill fated monarch Richard 111, burnt to the ground, Fraser notes that since Mary’s death carpets of wild white flowers grew around the castle, and she tells us these have been known as Queen Mary’s tears by the locals.
Aye to everything you say, Christine. I made the mistake of going to see the Favourite and although it had some good points, it was more a parody of everything which was wrong with the late Stuart/early Georgian Court. The book, an updated biography of Sarah Jennings Churchill by Ophelia Field has very little in common with the film. Yes, it is a starting point and inspiration for the film, but the film is a great departure from reality. Costumes, acting, staging, mainly at Hampton Court, characters all very well done. Anne is portrayed as weak in mind as well as body and Sarah tells her what to do and say and she is dominated by Sarah first, then her servant, Abigail Marshsm. The relationship goes far too far into a full blown lesbian one, with both women and the entire place is debauched. Anne in the film is a remote and rather pathetic figure, ground down by the weight of life, ill health, sorrow and fear. You have a lot of sympathy for her and want to slap Sarah across the face, several times. Anne is very well played. However, the real Queen Anne is much more of an active and great monarch than in this misleading drama. Her biographer Anne Somerset appeared on Sky Arts at a literature festival with Ophelia Fields to answer questions on the two women.
While it is very true their letters are very deep and hint at a possible sexual relationship or at least platonic gay friendship, ideas about lesbianism were not fully understood in the same modern manner in the eighteenth century. The Bible has a lot to say about homosexuality, relations between two men, condemning male on male sex and those who lived like that to hell. The Church and Judaism adopted the same line, although toleration could vary as could laws and attitudes towards gay men. Most gay men married because it was expected to have a family and met same sex partners in secret. A number of countries, including England, had the death sentence for homosexual practices. However, very little is actually mentioned about women having sexual relations with other women and it was not clear how acceptable this actually was. Queen Victoria famously did not believe it was possible. She wasn’t the only one. Although generally thought to be unnatural, close female companionship was encouraged and could be intense enough for friends to develop overly familiar love feelings for each other. Women spent far more time in each other’s company than that of their husbands and female communities bonded for support. In such circumstances expressions of romantic love may not be out of place or indeed uncommon.
What was shocking about the letters between Sarah and Anne wasn’t the intimacy, but the use of male nouns. They wrote to each other as if they were two men, using male pen names. This together with deep expressions of love and devotion could be interpreted as forming a female same sex relationship. We have no idea if their relationship was sexually motivated or if they crossed the line into lesbianism. It was Sarah and indeed Abigail who in mutually violent fits of rage threatened to publish the letters and to claim a lesbian relationship, when one replaced the other in Anne’s affections. As in the film, this happened often. In the end Anne got rid of both of them, the Churchills were banished for embezzlement and crown debts. Blenheim wasn’t furnished by Anne but is believed to have been through fraud. Fields only hints at a possible relationship, it isn’t confirmed in her biography. In the film on the other hand, Anne and Sarah do it in the library while Abigail sneaks around the shelves looking for a book, on a ladder, trying to stay out of sight. There are plenty of other crude examples.
Anne it is true suffered many physical conditions, was obese and had a sweet tooth which sent her blood sugar through the roof. She had blood clots and suffered from the effects of seventeen pregnancies and the scars of loss and grief lay heavy on her. However, she maintained a close relationship with her husband who was very supportive of her. Contrary to the weak minded woman in the film, however, Anne was a dedicated hands on monarch. She worked hard and attended more council meetings than most other Sovereigns. Yes, she did heavily rely on the smart and versatile Sarah who was politically astute and active around the male dominated Court. However, Sarah didn’t dominate the Queen to the extent of telling her what to do or telling her off like a naughty child. Abigail was the one who soothed and brought fun to the Queen, Sarah the sensible one, but Anne remained aware of their tricks and rivalry. Anne’s dream of Unification came into being through hard work and dedication. It took a lot of hard nosed negotiating and it wasn’t exactly automatically accepted in Scotland. The opening ceremony was apparently very pro Scotland and hinted at England being inferior. This was just bluster but it made a carefully crafted point that Scotland still had self rule firmly on the agenda.
Regarding Mary II yes in most books you get the idea that they had a cold relationship, but the fact that William deeply mourned his wife suggests otherwise. In Plaidy isn’t he painted as having an intimate relationship with Bennick, his Chamberlain? Again speculation out of one fact, Mary and William were not blessed with children. He spent long hours at her side when she was dying, risking his own life from the smallpox. This suggests a devoted husband. Yes, Marlborough betrayed James by supporting William of Orange, then when James was in exile, years later, wrote to him for pardon and gave his backing to a potential Jacobean Restoration. He was received by James in France. It was one round after another of betrayal and a most dysfunctional family.
So Queen Anne and Lady Churchill were shown as indulging in a love affair, typical and they no doubt hoped that would draw the crowds in, another gross parody of the truth, the Churchill’s were happily married and no doubt the pair of them were completely heterosexual, her cousin Abigail Masham replaced her in the queens affections possibly she was much milder in character than her fiery cousin, Sarah made the mistake of being too arrogant, arrogance is a most unattractive trait of character and the queen grew weary of her outbursts and bossiness, once at dinner Sarah even told the queen to shut up as she carried on talking, her ancestors Henry V111 and Elizabeth 1st would have had her head off in seconds, it was downright rude and disrespectful to tell the monarch to shut up, it just did not happen, there was protocol to abide by, you could not sit down or eat until the monarch did, and here was Sarah like she was the queen telling Anne to shut up, the whole room must have fallen silent, Sarah was so used to having her own way and so sure of the queens love that she grew incredibly arrogant, no wonder people disliked Sarah and muttered about their odd relationship, Anne really was part to blame and regarding the gay scene these days, I cannot but help wondering if theres a hidden agenda the way same sex couples dominate the film and television industry these days, it seems to be promoted a lot, it has been made legal but people either accept it or they don’t, as you mention it was abhorred in the bible and was illegal in Britain for centuries, homosexuality was called sodomy and yes lesbian sex was just not recognised, there have never been any reference’s to women having an unnatural love towards members of their own sex, in the eighteenth century women were expected to have close women friends and often wrote passionate letters to each other, they often kissed each other on the lips when meeting and taking farewell of each other, this hearts and flowers behaviour was in keeping with the age of elegance and it was perfectly acceptable, but Queen Anne’s attachment to Sarah was definitely frowned on by the latters enemies, and there must have been some gossip about them, many who wanted favours from the queen would first approach Sarah to help them, she was a very hot tempered woman though and very interfering, towards the end of her long life she had managed to alienate nearly all her family, she was referred to as old Marlborough and people looked on her with some amusement and derision, before her death she wrote her memoirs and in these she revealed the depth of the Queens devotion to her and how she had controlled her, both Sarah and her husband had suffered grief in her life when they lost their son and heir, and so the honourable title of Duchess of Marlborough went to their eldest daughter, she married a Spencer which was put in front of her own illustrious name, so their descendants were therefore called Spencer Churchill, paintings of the queens favourite show her to have been very attractive with marvellous titian hair, in one portrait she reclines on a couch she looks erotic in a satin like wrap and typical of the fashion of the day, she has a Rubens like quality about her with the rosy cheeks and full red lips, her husband also John Churchill the victor of Blenheim was very handsome, they both did very well out of the Queen and although Sarah was well favoured by her, her husband had her undying gratitude and that of the nation, Blenheim took years to build and boasts beautiful rooms filled with with many art treasures and painted gilded ceilings, coming to Annes health yes she did have a very sweet tooth it is true, a lot of health issues are down to weight and being queen she could afford the best food and wines, which did not help the situation rather like Henry V111, both she and Mary are said to have taken after their mother Anne Hyde who was quite a big woman, her stone carving in Blenheim palace shows her to have been quite obese, she died of dropsy and then Britain had to accept a German ruler, it was time for the House of Hanover to make its appearance, the days of the Stuart’s were over, not so bloodthirsty as their Tudor forbears they did however produce some engaging rulers.
We only visited Blenheim because we decided to stop at Woodstock for two nights on our way home from Surrey. It was about halfway so we stopped and took a chance. Got a lovely B and B pub and of course we could walk to Blenheim. I remember the second evening walking in the grounds and there was a beautiful October sunset, one of the loveliest I have seen. I can’t say Blenheim was the most beautiful state home but it is marvellous and over the top with a lot of bling. The gardens are stunning. People had very odd tastes in the eighteenth century, trying to recreate the Greeks and getting it all wrong. A lot of palatial rooms, gold and painted walls and ceilings. Huge busts and paintings. Mythological stuff. Influences from India and China and all sorts of things, often all mixed up together. Mind you Burghley House, Stamford, home of the Cecils might look Elizabethan but that’s as bad. It’s got a great hall, old kitchens and then fantasy land. Seriously the eighteenth century take over starts as soon as you go upstairs. A room dedicated to the Greek version of Paradise, a lot of baths filled with grapes, a staircase, curving round, descending into hell, with a chairlift! A beautiful old Tudor Great Hall and one or two bits, but really too much eighteenth century Grand Tour.
Have visited Chatsworth with its spectacular waterfall going down the gardens, Sudely Castle, Syon House which was fun as there’s a butterfly sanctuary there, Hampton Court twice, my parents visited Blenheim my aunt and uncle travelled to Bladon and saw Churchill’s grave, been to the Tower twice and Hever, I was going to book it for my 60 th this year but the cost put me of, been to Audley End in Buckinghamshire with the school years ago there is a great old building baroque in style, and Hatfield Palace a few times, once with the school, there’s so many of these stately homes around and yes over the ages they do reflect certain influences in their furnishings, they have long galleries and huge library’s, it’s the libraries I love there’s always an air of calmness about them, and also I suppose it’s to do with the fact that I love books, their usually furnished in muted colours with the inevitable globe standing up one end of the room, the bookcases usually reach right up to the ceilings, it has never ceased to amaze me as what the cost of these fine old castles and houses took to build, the treasures they house some with the most costliest paintings in the world, their owners were stinking rich and yet there was such poverty in the country among the working classes, I love the nurseries with the usual rocking horse and dolls house and Noah’s ark, I think it was in Sudely there was an exquisite layette of a child’s pinafore and bib, one place I would love to visit is Longleat as it has the safari, have visited Buckingham Palace and Woburn but only the safari park not the Abbey, Castle Howard is huge and was the setting for Brideshead Revisited, sometimes the television crews are allowed into these homes and you can go on a grand tour from the comfort of your lounge, I saw the home of the Dukes of Norfolk which is still owned by the family today, like Woburn Abbey the same family is still in residence after several hundred years, Warwick Castle I have visited it was a stifling hot day and I spent more time inside, as it was lovely and cool, that was the first building to install electric lighting and there are wax dummies of a scene from the roaring twenties, I must admit when I come home I always feel like I’m living in a goldfish bowl after the vastness of those rooms.