Thank you to Clare Cherry for writing this guest article for us today. I know Clare is very concerned about how some theories and myths crop up so regularly that they are taken as facts, and yet many of them have very little basis. Goodness knows how many times I’ve had to correct the idea that Anne Boleyn was charged with witchcraft, for example.

Over to Clare…

There are hundreds of books about Henry VIII and his wives, particularly about Anne Boleyn, and to make a splash, there is a constant desire to come up with a new ‘fact/theory’ to make the story fresh and ‘different’. I’ve read a number of books in the past thirty years which desperately try to come up with a different slant on the lives of Henry and his wives, but I can’t help feeling that this sometimes comes at the expense of history and historical accuracy, when vague theories are later regurgitated as fact.

We’ve had the ‘sexual heresy’ theory where Anne’s last miscarriage, when she supposedly gave birth to a deformed foetus, caused her downfall. The only person who ever mentioned the miscarried foetus of 1536 being deformed was Nicholas Sander writing in exile during the reign of Elizabeth I. It wasn’t mentioned at the time of the miscarriage or at the subsequent trial of Anne for sexual offences. But despite there being no corroborative evidence whatsoever, a whole book has been dedicated to the theory, and George Boleyn has been turned into a homosexual man whose lover was Mark Smeaton because they once shared a book and because George Cavendish wrote about George’s ‘unlawful lechery’, despite the fact he also wrote about Henry VIII’s unlawful lechery. Does it all just stem from the need to come up with something different in order to be heard?

Perhaps the ‘sexual heresy’ theory is nothing more than that and doesn’t pretend to be anything other than an academic ‘what-if’. But if a theory has no basis to it, if it’s merely put forward as an interesting academic debate, then what’s the point of it? Is it clever, something to be respected and admired? Anyone, whether they are a historian or not, can come up with any theory on any subject. Questioning, challenging and re-evaluating historical sources is very different to coming up with a theory and trying to make the evidence fit it.

Over recent years it has been suggested that Catherine Howard was sexually abused by Francis Dereham. Yet they had sex on numerous occasions in a room full of other girls with no suggestion that this was not consensual. The fact that a terrified Catherine later accused him of rape to save herself doesn’t make it true. It is also said that Catherine was being blackmailed by Culpeper, who had found out about her relationship with Dereham. There is zero evidence for this. Gareth Russell in his new biography of Catherine brilliantly dismisses these theories. But again, do they stem from trying to write something different? The rehabilitation of Catherine, which is admirable, has had to come at the expense of the men around her by making them rapists and blackmailers. It’s a theory which is rapidly gaining momentum and is on it’s way to becoming fact.

We have now got Anne Boleyn in love with Henry Norris; a theory which presumably stemmed from a desire to find a new slant on their story. The theory goes that Anne didn’t offend the King with her body, but she did with her mind and heart because she secretly loved another man. Of course, she could have been in love with Norris, but to interpret her denial of the offences against her as compelling evidence of this seems a bit of a stretch. It is just a theory, but after it’s repeated often enough, how long before some people start thinking it as fact? After all, in fiction Anne and George have been shown to commit incest to pass their child off as Henry’s. It didn’t take long before social media confused that with fact, and people started stating it as such.
On her author website, Alison Weir says of Anne Boleyn:

“Indeed, the Anne who appeared on the scaffold, displaying great courage and dignity in the face of death, hardly seems to be the same woman who, years before, had schemed and plotted to achieve the throne, and who would not have stopped at murder had she had the opportunity. Had Anne not met the end she did, she would no doubt have gone down in history as a figure of infamy, with few good points to redeem her reputation, and which is certainly the way in which the majority of her husband’s subjects viewed her. But instead, the succeeding centuries have enveloped her name in romantic legend, so that within a very short time she came to be known as a wronged wife, whose wicked husband murdered her in order to marry her lady-in-waiting.

This is obviously a much-distorted picture. If Anne had had her way both Catherine of Aragon and her daughter would have gone to the block: so much is clear in contemporary records and letters. But because Henry VIII would not consent to this ultimate atrocity, Anne had to content herself with a campaign of persecution as relentless as it was cruel. This is all conveniently forgotten by historians who allow themselves to be carried away by the harrowing descriptions of Anne’s last days, and the remembrance that she left behind her a daughter not yet three.”
This clearly shows Weir’s views on Anne, so it’s hardly surprising how she depicts Anne in her fiction as well as her non-fiction. It doesn’t say anything about Anne fleeing to Hever to try and remove herself from Henry’s attentions. Instead, Anne is the schemer depicted in fiction who plotted to achieve the throne. Does anyone really believe that Anne was solely responsible for the treatment of Catherine and Mary, or that she seriously sought their deaths? But this does go a long way towards how Anne is viewed in certain quarters. Again, maybe Anne was everything Weir believes her to be. A plotter, murderess, poisoner etc. It’s possible, but again, there’s no proof that she and her family plotted to kill Fisher or Catherine. Accusations are not evidence; they are just accusations.

Historian G W Bernard had a hunch Anne was guilty of at least some of the crimes levelled against her. He devoted a whole book to that hunch, primarily using the contents of a poem written by someone not present at the trials. Alison Weir believes Anne was a scheming potential murderess who was corrupted at the French court, whose mother had a bad reputation, whose brother was a rapist and whose father pimped her to the King for personal gain. Retha Warnicke thinks Anne gave birth to a monster and was surrounded by a circle of homosexual men. To accept these views is to overlook all of the evidence to the contrary and to simply conclude, ‘it’s possible’.

Of course, it’s possible that Anne did give birth to a grotesquely deformed foetus in 1536. It’s possible that George Boleyn was having a relationship with Mark Smeaton. It’s possible Catherine Howard was raped by Francis Dereham and was being blackmailed by Thomas Culpeper. It is possible Anne Boleyn was guilty of all the charges levelled against her. It’s possible the Boleyn family did poison Fisher. It’s possible they did poison Catherine of Aragon. It’s possible Jane Boleyn did hate her husband and that she did plant seeds to have him accused of incest and treason. It’s all possible because anything is possible, but it doesn’t make it probable, or even in some cases logical.

Quite often a random idea can blossom into a theory based on a possibility. That possibility can become so ingrained that the person putting forward the theory starts thinking of it as fact. The difficulty with that is that extant sources can become distorted in order to try and prove it.

For instance, a lot of the ‘evidence’ to show that Jane Boleyn accused her husband and sister-in-law of incest is fabricated and has been debunked. The only eye witness account of her execution makes no mention of her confessing to lying about them. But if you really want to believe she was the informer then you are going to take that myth as fact, whether you know it to be misleading or not. No one at the trials, or who wrote about them immediately afterwards, made any mention of Jane – other than the note given to her husband, George, regarding Anne confiding in Jane about Henry’s sexual dysfunction – and to suggest otherwise is disingenuous.

A lot of accusations against people who lived so long ago, and a lot of the theories about them, are put forward based on the adage, ‘you can’t prove a negative’. I think that is a particularly irrational adage to base a belief on; after all, if we followed that to the letter then all of the Salem witches were in fact witches, as is anyone accused of witchcraft. Everyone who ever spent any time together, just the two of them, must have been having sex. If you do not have an alibi for a crime, then you are guilty. No civilised legal system convicts people who can’t prove a negative, so why are we prepared to accept a theory based on it, or based on the assertion that anything is possible. Isn’t that a ridiculous argument? We could theorise that Henry VIII was having an affair with Henry Norris because they spent time alone together in intimate circumstances. After all, it’s possible, and there is no evidence to prove they were not having a sexual relationship. We could go on and on and on.

No one should ever stop questioning what was previously thought to be incontrovertible. Look at Darwin, Wallace, Columbus, etc. In the world of history, there are people who work hard to dispel long established myths, only to have more myths grow out of nothing more than someone’s vague hunch. Is it clever, enterprising and deserving of respect to hide behind the fact that it is impossible to prove a negative and that anything is possible? We deserve to have theories justified by the people putting them forward, with sound evidence, and if they can’t justify them then aren’t they just fictional devices masquerading as something supposedly more noble?

Clare Cherry works as a solicitor in Dorset, but has a passion for Tudor history and began researching the life of George Boleyn in 2006. Clare started corresponding with Claire Ridgway in late 2009, after meeting through The Anne Boleyn Files website, and the two Tudor enthusiasts became firm friends. In 2014, Clare and Claire published George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat, a biography of George Boleyn.

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30 thoughts on “To Justify or Not to Justify, That is the Theory”
  1. The problem with ‘historical accuracy’ is that really, there is no such thing. History is constructed of evidence which is often fragmentary, contradictory, biased and highly open to interpretation. I think it is the historian’s job to take what evidence there is, and form a theory around it. Theories should have some evidential basis of course and form part of a coherent whole. Anne Boleyn is, of course, a particularly interesting character likely to polarise opinion, and theories will always be formed when little is known of her motives.

    1. If there is solid evidence then there can be accuracy.

      With regards to theories, like Clare, I feel that these need to be justified with sources and not just cherry picked sources either. For example, one should not use Cavendish’s words regarding “unlawful lechery” as evidence that George Boleyn was gay and ignore the fact that Cavendish also used these words to describe Henry VIII, that is misleading. I also think it is misleading to suggest that George and Mark Smeaton were intimate because they both wrote in the same book, a satire on marriage, but ignore the fact that Thomas Wyatt also wrote in the books. It is misleading, frustrating and annoying.

      We have to theorise when there’s no hard evidence and we can also interpret sources and situations differently, but I think we need to be careful that we don’t fall into the trap of having the theory first and then picking sources, or even twisting them, to back up our case.

  2. Do you think part of the problem is that people are viewing events through modern eyes, with modern values and conventions? Today Francis Dereham would most certainly be guilty of statutory rape or sexual contact with a minor. Catherine’s grandmother could be charged with child neglect. But in those times things were much different. The relationship was most likely not unusual at all.
    I’ve also wondered why people demonize Henry VIII for doing what men do every day: get tired of their wives, divorce them, and look for someone younger & prettier. If divorce is too embarrassing or expensive, there are many men who simply murder their wives. Like it or not, there are still plenty of men who regard women as property to be kept or disposed of at will. Doesn’t make it right, but at least Henry made a pretence of doing it legally, and had the at least partial justification of desperately needing a male heir.

    1. Katherine Howard’s affair with Francis Dereham is open to question and largely depends on how old you believe she was. Traditionally, she was thought to have been born in 1520 or 1521, which would have made her about sixteen or seventeen when she and Dereham commenced a relationship. Noblewomen were usually married by that age. If you believe Katherine was born as late as 1525, then she would have been twelve or thirteen: the age at which girls could legally marry.

      It is generally not disputed that she was molested by Manox. It is the Dereham affair, and later the Culpeper liaison, that causes a lot of debate.

      Regarding demonizing Henry VIII, apologies but no other English king beheaded one wife, let alone two. Eleanor of Aquitaine led a rebellion against her husband, Isabella of Angouleme allegedly committed adultery against King John (although that may be nothing more than a salacious rumour), Isabella of France forced her husband from the throne, Joan of Navarre was accused of sorcery and compassing her stepson’s death, Margaret of Anjou was regarded by the victorious Yorkists as a traitor and was captured and imprisoned… and yet none of these women were tried, let alone executed. The Yorkists showed no qualms in murdering Henry VI, but they did not execute his wife. The execution of Anne Boleyn in 1536 was shocking, even to her enemies. But this execution established a dangerous precedent. It meant that Katherine’s execution in 1542 was not viewed in as shocking a light as it might have been otherwise.

      It is also significant that no king after Henry executed his wives.

      1. The fate of the Margaret of Burgundy, wife of Prince Louis of France is the closest equivalent. She was not executed openly, but the rumor has been for centuries that she was privately executed. Anne was not a normal queen in a normal situation. The Queens you mention were true royalty-Eleanor was a sovereign Duchess in her own right, Isabella of Angouleme ended up hiding in Fontevrault to escape her actions(hiding from the French King), but she was a sovereign Countess, Isabella of France was protected by her son-there was no husband left to injure her, Joan of Navarre was a princess whose husband loved her, and protected her-he did not want a divorce, and the French would have acted for her, Margaret of Anou was also a princess, if penurious, and the French King acted to protect her more than once-an execution would have meant a war. In fact, a war or serious loss of property protected all of these ladies. Anne had none of these protections. She brought only herself and great change for England to her marriage.

        Anne took a man’s part and paid a man’s price. The little Howard paid for her family’s ambition and her own folly. It stinks but politics had got to be a mean and nasty business under Henry. Those who failed paid with their lives. Cyclically this did happen in English politics.

      2. Not to defend Henry’s actions in any way, but I would make much the same point as Mary – that Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard had no powerful enough relations to protest their executions, which the others mentioned did. Post-Henry VIII, the next monarch married to an English/British woman would be George VI, long past the era when capital punishment for infidelity would be acceptable.

        The nearest case we really have in British monarchs would be George I and his wife Sophia-Dorothea of Celle. While George did not have her executed, he did lock her up for the rest of her life, some 30-odd years. One cannot blame her for her last letter cursing him to die within a year of her own death, which in fact happened.

      3. Yes these previous queen consorts would have deserved the death sentence but their husbands did not shed their blood, leading a rebellion against a crowned and anointed monarch was shocking, even more to depose that monarch which is what Isabella did and after imprisonment her husband Edward 11 was never seen again, Eleanor the wife of Henry 11 waged war on her husband with her sons yet all she got was a lengthy stay in prison, these women were actually guilty of treason yet they escaped the death sentence, why was Anne different? It was because Henry could not suffer her to live, awful though it seems it was because of the trouble with his first wife and the fact he needed a legitimate heir that she had to die, she was in the way of Henry having a legal marriage and heir, so she had to go, no matter that she was innocent, that was not important, what was important was that the King had to have another wife with no legal qualms about if she was his lawful wife, there must be no shadowy wife lurking in the background, it was unprecedented and the world was astounded, and yes when he beheaded his fifth wife it did not appear as shocking, people probably thought ‘here we go again’….

        1. Stateira Christine is using two 11s to indicate the Roman numerical symbols for 2. Two ii or two II are probably meant also denoting 2. I am certain it is not eleven.

    2. Regarding demonizing Henry, men of his day did not divorce their wives “every day”. Royals especially did not do so. We cannot apply modern mores to historical motives. Context matters.

    3. It’s true, there were many princes and nobles who wished to have their marriages annulled because they wanted a younger model, wives were solely for providing heirs to ensure the dynasty continued, if they failed to do this their usefulness was at an end, King John had his first marriage annulled as they were third cousins yet in reality he was fed up with her, Henry was not the first King to apply to the Pope for an anullment but his case was different because Katherine dug her heels in, we do not know how old Catherine Howard was when she began having relations with Manox her dancing master, she could have been as young as twelve or thirteen, but today he would be deemed a paedophile and he had completely taken advantage of the situation as he was in a position of trust, in fact social services would have been called into the dowager duchess of Norfolks house and Catherine would have been taken into care, it was all so different then, and yes there are still men today who believe that women can just be used and discarded, some men still believe a woman’s place is in the home and they are subject to their husbands will, all utter nonsense and old fashioned but some men do exist unfortunately.

    4. Henry did judicially murder 2 of his
      wives though. He hired executioners
      to actually do it but he might as well
      have swung the ax and sword himself.
      The pretense actually makes him much
      worse imo.

  3. As far as demonizing Henry goes … no king ever guaranteed trouble or the destruction of his dynasty the way Henry did in bastardizing Mary (unnecessarily, since there was a “good faith exception” that would preserve her legitimacy while he tried to annul his marriage) in favor of Elizabeth — or in failing to grant any recognition or title to her while she was in her most fertile years.

    As to the main point — I think part of the problem is there is no agreement as to what constitutes “solid evidence” because people disagree as to the weight that should be assigned to many of the sources. Some give undue weight to older sources because they may have had access to evidence that no longer exists (for example, I recall reading somewhere of a fire in a library that destroyed a lot of documents) Others rely on sources may not have been intended as an accurate record of things — for example, Cavendish’s “Metrical Visions” may have been meant more as poetry rather than history, and More biographer Peter Ackroyd thinks that More’s “Life of Richard III” was not meant as a serious. Much of the controversy over Anne Boleyn is due to the weight (if any) a given historian assigns to the hearsay in Chapuys’s dispatches.

    1. I agree, Esther, there is a difference of opinion on the weight of sources, especially hostile sources, but we must also be careful about favourable sources. George Wyatt for example wrote a favourable biography of Anne Boleyn in the late Tudor period, but this is also biased as he was the grandson of Thomas Wyatt, who deeply admired Anne and may have loved her and he was also the son of Thomas Wyatt the Younger who led a rebellion to unseat Mary I and was executed by her government. It doesn’t take a genius to work out his son may be a tiny bit influenced by family loyalties and his views coloured. Nicholas Sander is dismissed for making stuff up but in one or two places he is still referred to as acceptable. I have no doubt that he is deliberately biased and much stuff is a load of nonsense as we have contemporary and near contemporary evidence to contradict his most famous saying that Anne had a sixth finger and gave birth to deformed babies. Nicholas Harpsfield is seen as hostile but making a useful effort to be be accurate according to Elizabeth Norton who has collected almost everything there is as a source into a fantastic volume on Anne Boleyn.

      Chapuys has been both interpreted as hostile and accurate. In Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgeway book on George Boleyn they use Chapuys a lot, while giving a warning of caution as his sources are often from Anne’s enemies and not always identified. Lauren Mackey, however, an expert on Chapuys while admitting errors and bias has studied the dispatches of the Ambassador and says he is criticized unfairly. He tries to present an honest picture of events and his sources are often people on the inside. Much of his information actually comes from Cromwell. Chapuys himself acknowledged that he sometimes made mistakes and corrected those mistakes. Mackay gives more weight to his reports than others and they do give us information which we may not otherwise have. To dismiss Chapuys or another source just because you don’t like what he says by not quoting him would leave us with huge gaps. However, caution should always be used and it’s very important to understand Chapuys is writing in context of his intense loyalty to Katherine of Aragon and her daughter. Chapuys has intense feelings to protect Mary and at times he wears his heart on his sleeve. This can make him vulnerable to emotional outbursts which he later moderated. Yes, he may be biased in places and he may also not have identified sources or other verified information, but he should still be cited as a source if one is making a balanced biography of Anne Boleyn. The weight given is open to interpretation and the biographies of George Boleyn and modern ones of Anne do attempt this. The problem comes not from interpretation but from cherry picking as Clare says in the article…taking a phrase out of context and then going out of the way to prove something or other.

      I won’t accuse historians of invention, but some do have pet theories which they like to push hard and they stretch phases used in dispatches which may be only opinion to breaking point. The witchcraft thing for example is based on one off the cuff bad hair day remark Henry is alleged to have made to one courtier in February 1536 that he felt his marriage was cursed and Anne had bewitched him. Do we have a reliable source for this? Well if we do I can’t find it other than every historian liked to repeat it. It’s not in the biography mentioned and it is challenged elsewhere. However, who did he say it to and what did he mean? Bewitching can mean charmed or sexual appeal. It could mean cast a spell or under a spell…literally. However, if Henry said it, he didn’t take it any further. Anne Boleyn contrary to popular fiction and some historians, sadly, wasn’t executed for witchcraft. Nowhere is it mentioned in the charges at her trial. We don’t have all of her trial documents and we don’t have any record of her being tested as a witch or accused of doing harm. But we do have Judge Spellmans report of her trial and he doesn’t mention it. We do have the charges and court papers. These are very juicy but no witchcraft. So where does it come from?

      I honestly don’t know. Maybe it’s in Sander, I honestly haven’t got a clue.
      However, it is in several novels and has been mentioned in movies. It has also been stated a few times on tours at the Tower, although it’s not in their official written script. It is a theory taken seriously by Norah Lofts and Silvia Zupanic and Philippa Gregory. However, the novice reader may be forgiven for not realising that Anne was not accused of witchcraft when such popular authors bring the idea into prominence. Confusion may also have arisen because of Anne’s death sentence. Anne was sentenced to be burnt or beheaded. It was unusual to give the King a choice at the condemned person’s trial for the sentence for treason was set in stone. Female traitors were executed by burning alive. Male treason was punished by hanging, drawing and quartering. The King could, however, show clemency by commuting the sentence of either sex to beheading and did so in most cases with the nobility. Anne was accused of adultery, incest and treason….imagination of the King’s death. Witchcraft in Europe was dealt with by the accused being burnt to death but in England at this time it was hanging which was to be the new punishment. Perhaps burning being one of the options of death has allowed the myth of witchcraft to be allowed to flourish. In any event it is a myth and historians at least should know better.

      The other controversial thing which Anne was accused of in contemporary reports and later written history is trying to murder Katherine and Mary. Alison Weir in her books exaggerating this, cites Chapuys a number of times. However, she takes it further on her website. Chapuys does indeed make mention of Anne wishing Mary ill, did suspect Katherine had been poisoned based on the report of her embalmer who turned out to be unqualified so his testimony must be questioned, of expressing a desire to order Mary’s execution and on a few occasions he greatly feared for Mary’s safety. On other occasions he is more moderate, stating he no longer believed Katherine had been poisoned. He falls short of actually stating Anne sought to or killed Katherine and he also qualified his reports by stating it was advised to him or a rumour. Anne may or may not have said that she couldn’t conceive if Mary is still alive, but again we must be cautious over the source. Chapuys was also writing some of these things immediately after Katherine’s death and after an incident in which Mary became ill after Lady Sheldon gave her a herbal tonic sent apparently by Queen Anne. Lady Sheldon was mortified. It’s more likely, however, that Anne sent a goodwill gift and the Princess merely had a bad reaction to the fruit or herbs. Herbs meant as a remedy could become toxic at other times of the year. Anne was also reported to mistreat Mary but again this may be exaggerated. Henry may well have been the real culprit when Mary refused to acknowledge his new wife as Queen. He was the one who separated Katherine and Mary, ordered Mary to serve her infant sister, demanding that she accept him as head of the church and deny her parents were never married and who bullied her into submission after Anne’s execution on false charges. All this has to be interpreted in context with other evidence but in some cases we have no other evidence. A good historian acknowledges this and analysis the sources in this light.

      However, there is some good news. We have extant, independent evidence of Anne’s positive character. Several ladies and ordinary women wrote to Anne to thank her for helping them with injustice or poor circumstances. The Queen wrote to them as well and is very gracious. We have a memorial by Alais recalling the sad sight of Anne pleading with Henry for another chance at their marriage with Elizabeth in her arms. It’s a beautiful but sad and moving letter. We have Matthew Parker and William Latymer, chaplains who knew and served Anne, we have the love letters of the King himself from the years he was smitten with Anne, we have evidence of her charity and her generosity, her love for the Gospel, her religious devotion, which appears genuine, her education, her scholarship, her intellect, her love for her daughter, her sadness over Henry’s unfaithfulness, her broken heart, her courage and in the end even grudging administration from Chapuys. Even he wrote of her being gracious and her innocence. All of this does not come from die hard Anne Boleyn supporters, necessarily, but from ordinary people whose lives she touched and whom she had helped. They may not have even met her, but these women found her accessible, warm, generous and genuinely caring. There are others whose opinion varied like the Duke of Norfolk who still was moved to tears as her condemned her (possibly reluctantly). He may have opposed her elevation as Queen and was naturally drawn to support Mary and Katherine, but he did his duty in her service on the King’s behalf and he promoted her cause. Suffolk came to hate her for personal reasons, but apart from taking his assigned part in her judgement and being happy at her fall, in his credit, he took no active part to plot it, that we have any evidence for.

      Anne Boleyn was controversial because she crossed a taboo line and with Henry’s help and pursuit of her, she ousted and replaced a popular, religious and royal Queen. Anne was maligned because she was the other woman. Henry, himself helped to shape the way we view Anne and his other five Queens. Katherine and Anne threw as many mud rocks at Henry as he did them and their counter views have come down, howbeit, half muffled. Henry made certain his other wives wouldn’t have as much to say, although Katherine Parr left us a glimpse of herself. There are numerous myths about Anne and numerous truths hidden in contemporary documents. Unfortunately, working out which is which in order to present as much of a balanced and unbiased view of her is like trying to get blood from a stone, at times its impossible.

      1. Hi Banditqueen your right about the witchcraft remark, it was just an off the cuff remark Henry allegedly said to one of his courtiers after Anne had miscarried their last child, he could have been drinking heavily and was feeling depressed and maudlin, he had been obsessed with her for so long for so long he just muttered he must have been bewitched, it was just a remark to explain the hold she had had over him, it did not mean she practiced the dark arts, possibly made in anger against her and over the years it has been embroiled and coloured by writers and some historians so now people think Henry actually did believe she was a witch, yet the charge of witchcraft was not in any of the indictments against Anne and it has been woven out of all proportion, but the mention of witchcraft does lend a fanciful ring to the sad story of these two doomed lovers so it does seem plausible how the myth of Anne being a witch has endured, again it just goes to show how people can take a remark out of context and make of it how they will, this is how many historians and writers reach the conclusions they arrive at.

        1. Absolutely agree. Maybe it’s that raven hair or dark eyes or fiery red hair or just that she was a woman with whom a King fell in love and who held his interest for seven long years before he married her and two more as his wife, before it all went wrong. Definitely just a casual remark turned into the devil woman of someone’s imagination. Poor Anne. As if she hasn’t suffered enough.

  4. We are looking at the wives, not the man. Henry had no .male heir, bad he bad one he would never have got have got rid of Catherine , he would have remained R.C.
    Ann was not liked by many in court. Cromwell being one. She could not give him the heir
    Katherine Howard I believe used Culpeper as the King was not up to much in bed.Plus the smell from his leg must have been bad. Had she become pregnant Henry would have bought it as his own even more so if a son
    It’s said that Henry was in the Chapel at Hampton Court when she was arrested. She is said to try to run to him and had she got to him , he would have stopped it

    1. “Had she become pregnant Henry would have bought it as his own even more so if a son” – only one historian, Joanna Denny, has proposed this and it has generally not been accepted by other historians. Both Katherine and Culpeper denied engaging in sexual intercourse, so I don’t know why people continue to assume that their relationship was a physical one. Katherine adamantly stated that the furthest they went was hand holding. The suggestion that they engaged in sexual relations is the kind of suggestion that Clare has raised issue with in this very article – it is POSSIBLE but that does not mean it is either logical or probable.

        1. Here! Here! Nobody can say one way or another if Thomas Culpepper and Katherine Howard had a sexual relationship only that they met in odd places, late at night with the aid of certain ladies and talked all night. Katherine and Culpepper denied anything else and there is no evidence for anything else. Katherine would be foolish to get pregnant by another man as if she was caught the child would be evidence of her treason and illegitimate seed put the dynasty in danger. Yes, as has been debated over and over, there are always possibilities in this scenario, but that does not make them true. It was reasonable for Henry and his council to presume the worst when his wife entertained his gentleman in her private chambers, when he had no call to be there and it’s unfortunate for Katherine that this was the case. Thomas Culpepper was close to the King, trusted by him and he bound his leg and had taken gifts to Katherine. Henry must have felt destroyed by accusations that he and his perfect Queen had been intimate. For the inquisitors it mattered not if they were physically guilty, admitting they intended to go further was enough to presume adultery and treason. It’s a pity she didn’t agree to being once promised to Francis Dereham as she may have been spared but she was pressed and pressed and Culpepper and Dereham interrogated harshly (code for some sort of torture) and they were forced to admit more would happen than Henry had imagined. Dereham only admitted to being Katherine’s lover before Henry met her but there was nothing since, so he implicated Culpepper. No, we don’t have evidence of adultery, but that was not important to the council, they were content and made a case for it happening. That is all we know, which is one reason people debate the truth of her guilt or innocence. Katherine, Culpeper and Jane Lady Rochford blamed each other with conflicting testimony which only makes it even more difficult for historians. Katherine certainly wouldn’t have tried to get a child and using Culpepper as a stud instead of the King is another Hollywood myth with no evidence.

    2. I doubt if a young girl of roundabout 18 or so would have relished the thought of sleeping with Henry as he was then, he was far removed from being the handsome prince he once was, he was bald and grossly overweight, and had two bad legs which stunk to high heaven, he was also bad tempered and suspicious, I think Catherine relished the time he was too infirm to sleep with her even though she knew he was desperate for another son, and having a son would be in her favour but I think Catherine was not thinking like that, I think she just saw a tired fat old man and was grateful she was spared his bed, she was free to carry on her liaisons with Culpeper a young handsome man near her own age, Catherine would not have dared to become pregnant by any other man, she had said she practised contraception methods, crude though they must have been, but even Catherine, reckless and not very far seeing would not have tried to pass of another mans son as her husbands, it would have been a very dangerous thing to do and would have meant certain death, she was risking her position with meeting with Culpeper in the first place, I think we have to credit her with some common sense here.

  5. The biggest factual criticism of Henry is not really on his treatment of his wives, but the utter fiscal ruination of England that crippled policy for decades. Not only did he run through the fortune his father had saved for him, but he plundered the wealth of the Church in England, and spent that as well. He left his people without a resource they had been able to count on for centuries-the hospitals and charity of the Church, which limited as they were, constituted the public welfare system of the day. He debased the coinage to finance useless foreign wars.

  6. I think it would so nice if we could time travel and learn EXACTLY what happened back then. I know there are documented letters from ambassadors and letters that the Queens wrote, but to truly know would be wonderful!!
    I have not done the research as many have here. I enjoy reading Tudor history by several of the authors discussed here. And it seems there is much speculation dotted by some documented facts. And there will continue to be I am sure.

  7. About time someone put all of this in writing. Great article. Thank you!! I’m a huge fan from the U.S.

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