The First Wives Club of Henry VIII by Paulla Hunter Schreiner

On the 31 January 1547 in the Queen’s bedroom at Hampton Court, Palace, a very strange meeting occurred. The official charter gathering of the First Wives of Henry VIII both incarnate and in spiritus transpired.

Catherine Parr sent out the call. Anne of Cleaves, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Catherine Parr and Catherine Howard all heeded the summons quickly.

As you might expect, Catherine of Aragon was slightly reluctant to join the group though now she was firmly ensconced as a heavenly being. She finally relented when Catherine Parr made the case.

“Poor Henry,” Catherin P. said. “He died and now must meet his Maker and plead the case for his life. Those of us who loved him, or married him because we had to,” She nodded inclusively to Catherine Howard and Anne of Cleves, “should attempt to offer one last service for the repose of his soul.”

Catherine of Aragon, never one to back away from a challenge finally acquiesced and drifted in on a light mauve mist, which contrasted with the brilliant red cloud manifested by her nemesis, Anne Boleyn.

Catherine A. pursed her lips slightly and glared at Anne B’s display. “Even now you are too gaudy.”

“Better than being pallid and bloodless like you!” Anne B. snapped.

“Now ladies,” Catherine P. intervened. “Let us remember why we are here. It is past time to put away old hurts and animosities and attempt to create an Aplolgia that Henry can use to try to avoid hell.”

“I just came for the gossip,” piped Catherine Howard as she negligently tossed her disembodied head up in the air and caught it. “Besides…I was just down in the Gallery scaring the hell out of some tourists there.”

“Stop that, won’t you?” Jane Seymour snapped. “Put your head back on. It is grisly and disgusting.”

“As if sitting in your blood-stained night-rail isn’t?” Catherine H. snapped back.

“Ladies! Ladies!” Catherine P. “Can’t we try to get along?”

“NO!” came the resounding and uniform answer from all but Anne of Cleves.

“I’ve nothing against any of you ladies or Henry. As the only ‘annulled’ wife I did really well,” said Anne C.

“Spoken like a true German hausfrau,” Catherine A. said. “Henry gives you a house and says you will be treated like his honored sister and you vacate the field like a coward. You should have insisted on Henry honoring your wedding contract.”

“Because it worked out so well for you?” Anne C said.

“We had twenty-two years of wedded bliss…”

“If you don’t count Bessie Blount, Mary Boleyn and countless others. No offence, Cousin Anne,” Catherine H. said

“None taken,” said Anne B. “My sister was a little loose. Kind of like you. No offence, Cousin Catherine.”

“Ouch! That hurt, Annie B.” Catherine H. whined.

“Enough! Let us proceed to the reason for this meeting. I need to get this done. I would like to get on with the rest of my life.” Catherin P. exclaimed. “Your brother Tommy is such a hottie, Jane.” Catherine P. said, and blushed.

“Well, since I was his favorite…I should probably start,” Jane S. began.

“Just because you died before he tired of you,” Catherine A said.

“And because I gave him a male heir which none of the rest of you could accomplish,” Jane S. said with a decided air of smugness.

“Don’t get too high in your instep, Janie,” Anne B snapped. “He loved all of us at one time.”

“Except me,” muttered Anne C.

“Oops! Sorry,” Anne B said.

“Anyway, one of the things you can say about Henry is that he was always faithful after a fashion.” Jane S. smiled at all her fellow wives.

“Which fashion would that be?” Catherine A. asked.

“I mean he always loved the one he was with,” Jane explained.

“Until he didn’t,” said Anne B.

“I would like to say Henry was a devoted Catholic for most of his life. He was even declared the Defender of the Faith and got a commendation from the Pope. That should count for something,” said Catherine P.

“It should,” Anne B agreed, “except then he divorced you, broke from the Catholic church, declared himself the head of the Church of England, killed his good friend Thomas More, closed all the monasteries, and confiscated their revenues and properties for his own use.”

“That was all your fault, you brazen hussy!”

“Hey! I was just in the neighborhood,” Anne B said. “He did most of that stuff on his own.”

“Can’t any of you think of something nice we can use to recommend Henry to God?” Catherine P asked.

It was silent in the Queen’s Bedchamber.

“Well,” Catherine H. said. “He was awfully good about giving us all jewelry and things. Generous to fault I would say.”

“That’s true,” Catherine A said. “And he gave me my lovely daughter Mary.” Catherine A. brushed away a sentimental tear.

“And Elizabeth, my darling girl, is none too shabby either,” Anne B. asserted.

“Too bad my Edward inherited the throne,” Jane S. said.

The three mothers in the group began a vituperative discussion about of each of their children as compared to the other two.

“Enough!” Catherine P. exclaimed. “Perhaps this was a bad idea.”

“Maybe we need a little more time to think about it,” Anne C. said. “Why don’t we meet next year and see what we can come up with?”

“But what about Henry?” Catherine P. persisted.

“Oh let him wait and worry,” Catherine A said with uncharacteristic acidity. “Lord knows, he made us all wait and worry often enough.”

All the wives laughed and heartily agreed at last.

With a Hey Nonny, Nonny, Hey!

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