The Six Wives’ Stereotypes

Posted By on January 13, 2011

It’s not just Anne Boleyn who has been misrepresented by history, TV, film and fiction, I think every single one of the six wives has been misrepresented. Here are some of the labels, stereotypes and myths which the general public believe regarding these 16th century women:-

Catherine of Aragon – The wronged woman, the pious queen, the stubborn ex-wife who caused her daughter’s ill-treatment and who is to blame for Mary’s shortcomings and brutal reign, the boring one.

Anne Boleyn – The whore, the witch, the murderess, the adulteress, the one who slept with her brother out of desperation, the one with six fingers, the bi**h, the other woman, the homewrecker… or, alternatively, the martyr, the saint, the heroine and the one responsible for the English Reformation.

Jane Seymour – The meek, mild, virtuous, conservative queen who was as boring as she was plain, the only one who gave Henry a son.

Anne of Cleves – The Flanders Mare who was so ugly that Henry VIII couldn’t even bring himself to sleep with her!

Catherine Howard – The tart, the airhead, the nymphomaniac, the stupid one who deserved all she got.

Catherine Parr – The mature nursemaid who nursed Henry in his last years, the one who got away.

See what I mean? None of those labels are correct, are they? And don’t these women deserve for these myths to be debunked and for people to hear their real stories? I think so. Over the next few weeks, I will be looking at each of these women in turn and looking at exactly why these labels are so wrong.

Can you think of any other labels that these women have been given? Please share in the comments below.

67 thoughts on “The Six Wives’ Stereotypes”

  1. Jenny says:

    I use that video to teach about Henry VIII!

  2. Valery says:

    I’m so looking forward to reading these articles! Also it would be great to know how true about all this is The Tudors TV Series which I love so much.

  3. Kari says:

    I am so excited you’re doing this! I’m really looking forward to reading your articles on each of the six wives.

    And thank you so much for sharing that YouTube vid. That’s the best thing I’ve seen in, well, ever. 😀

  4. Jillian says:

    That video isn’t entirely true..Anne of Cleves survived Henry as well as Catherine Parr…right? otherwise funny video

    1. Serena says:

      Anne of Cleves survived Henry and Parr. Parr died a year after Henry so Cleves survived everybody, dying before “Bloody” Mary died.

      1. Claire says:

        No, the video isn’t entirely accurate but their YouTube channel is a fantastic resource for teachers and parents. I love their Renaissance Man and Spanish Inquisition ones.

        1. miladyblue says:

          NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!

  5. Jennifer says:

    Can’t wait to read your articles!!! And thanks for sharing the video….it brightened my day! 🙂

  6. Clarebear says:

    Really looking forward to the articles to come over the next few weeks Claire. It will be great to look at the other wives in more detail and hopefully learn even more about them

  7. Janna says:

    THAT rocks!!!

  8. Gotnoups says:

    This is the best website I have ever seen!

    1. bethany.x says:


  9. ElizabethR 1533 says:

    Great video!
    I’ve always considered Anne of Cleeves to be the luckiest of Henry’s wives, and although naive in terms of sex, was savvy enough to accept the annulment! She walked away with considerable wealth and status. Plus, she didn’t end up having sex with a fat, egotistical, middle-aged, sweaty. smelly oaf with a gammey leg either!

    1. Ideana says:

      Yay!! I can’t wait to read the articles.

    2. Emma says:

      I don’t believe that she was as naive as she said – this wasn’t an era where ignorance was expected! She was probably taught about what was expected in the marriage bed. That’s another of the misinterpretations.

      1. miladyblue says:

        Sexual innocence was probably a useful tool for Anne to cultivate, however, so those “ladies” in waiting would understand the marriage was unconsummated, without having to “draw them a picture” such as it were. In addition, it would not leave her in the position of declaring her revulsion for Henry as a husband/lover.

        Wasn’t that one of the accusations against Anne Boleyn, that she told someone Henry was impotent? Imagine how dangerous it would have been for Anne of Cleves to say he was unappealing!

        1. Claire says:

          Yes, George Boleyn was accused of discussing Henry’s sexual problems and impugning the King’s issue by doing so and also joking that Elizabeth couldn’t be Henry’s.

          From what I’ve read, Anne of Cleves did seem to be an innocent about sex. She had never been educated in that way and nobody wanted to explain things to her and urge her to encourage the King as that then would have been suggesting that the King had a problem.

  10. Linda says:

    Dear Claire,

    I am in love with these vids! The US of A history teachers should use these in the classrooms to hold the attention of our plugged-in-wired-world-short-attention-span kids. They might actually learn to like history.

    I agree that all the wives are stereotyped and look forward to your articles. Out of all the wives, I believe that Anne of Cleves got the best deal as the kings sister.

    1. bethany.x says:

      Now you’re stereotyping teenagers… I’m twelve, history has been my passion since I was seven years old and my history teacher hates me for it…

      1. Fiz says:

        I know how you feel, Bethany, because the same thing happened to me.I hated her until I walked out of the school for good, and realised I was moving on and she was still stuck there.

      2. TinaII2None says:

        I fell in love with English history when I was 7 years old, and that’s been a few years ago LOL. I had fallen in love with Biblical history before that. I’m just thankful I had teachers who encouraged me in my studies. Way too many history teachers drain the life out of it, and I often wondered if a prerequisite to them teaching the subject was to hate it!

        Bethany — you keep it up and you’re not alone. My nephew is 14, my niece is 9 and both of them are history fans, especially the Tudors! (They come by that naturally LOL). Don’t let that teacher drag you down (doesn’t sound like she is).

  11. Anna says:

    One of my favourite books is Antonia Fraser’s ‘The Six Wives Of Henry VIII’ where in her conclusions she shows how unfair these labels are. I’m looking forward to read your further posts about them because you are right, they didn’t deserve such treatment. Catherine of Aragon couldn’t have been boring with her education that was equal to male rulers. And in fact she used it well when she was a regent! Calling Anne Boleyn ‘a whore’ simply makes no sense. How can you call ‘a whore’ someone who refuses an extramartial affair?! 😀 Jane Seymour wasn’t as passive and obedient as it may seem if she dared ask for grace for the convicted ones. Anne of Cleves found herself in a very difficult situation and could count on nobody but herself. And yet she was as successful in dealing with is as she could. Even if you find it surprising I think of Catherine Howard as the most innocent of the wives, a poor neglected child who suddenly got on the top and wasn’t completely prepared for that. And Catherine Parr proved that except of caring and nursing abilities she also had a bright mind if she was interested in Protestant teachings. So in fact the video is right, dealing with Henry was a very difficult challenge indeed. Thank you for your posts and please keep writing the next ones 🙂

  12. bollie says:

    great video..cant wait to read the articles..

  13. Tala says:

    i cant wait either,i have to say,i have watched almost all the shows about king Henry ,and last one was the Tudors,and i have to say not for once i felt like im not sympathizing with all his wives,i think that show presented them very well,i kinda always thought whatever happen to these women is all Henry fault ,he pushed to be the way they were,like for example :Catherine Howard ,a lot look at her like the who**, when she is just a child,wanted to have fun,and live her life,same goes to each one of his wives,but in different way ,i have David Starkey book,”the six wives of Henry)” i still didnt read it yet but i cant wait to read it,maybe i will have better opinion on this 🙂

  14. Jessica says:

    You’ve pretty much hit every nail on the head there when it comes to sterotypes, though one I hear commonly is that Jane Seymour was Henry VIII’s “perfect wife” or his “great love”. I tend to doubt this since this is all stuff said after Jane had died and it would be easy for Henry to have a fondness for the only one of his wives to give him a son. I try to tell people my belief that Jane was the wife he most fondly recalled, but Anne Boleyn was undoubtedly his greatest passion. Another sterotype of Anne is that she has hated by everyone in England and that Jane was welcomed as queen. Neither is true. While Anne wasn’t exactly adored by the people, she was sympathized during her trial and there were many songs chanted by the common folk condemning Jane and Henry while Anne stood trial.

  15. Mary Ann Cade says:

    You could add the title of opportunist to one of the myths about Anne Boleyn.

    She was simply looking to “better” the fortunes of herself and her family and would not settle for being Henry’s mistress, she wanted the crown and all the wealth, power and position that it promised.

    This myth makes her look like a scheming golddigger and is undeserved.

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, she is often called an opportunist and I also forgot seductress and tease. Many people feel that she was out to trap Henry.

  16. Cathy says:

    I never liked Jane Seymour much. She seems to be a sly, posing homewrecker! One can imagine her greedy brothers congratulating each other on their luck that their sister died before Henry got tired of her and after producing his male heir.

    If you like historical fiction, read Margaret George’s Autobiography of Henry VIII. It’s a lovely account “from Henry’s point of view.” So all the decisions, changes of heart and mood swings are explained away and you begin to follow his train of thought.

  17. Emma says:

    I do think that Catherine of Aragon was partially responsible for her daughter’s mistreatment. If she had gracefully accepted the role of ex-wife, her daughter would’ve had a brighter future, though probably still bleak and hopeless due to the title. Henry’s ego was to blame also – Catherine got in the way of his divine will, what he wanted, and she was neglected along with her daughter.

  18. Jeane Westin says:

    Since I’m not a pop music fan, I’ve never heard the ABBA song about Henry and his wives. What fun! Looking forward to your articles, Claire. Frankly, I’m very interested in Jane Seymour. I think those still waters ran much deeper than we know.

    Jeane Westin
    The Queen’s Lady Spy, Penguin/NAL, TBA 2012
    His Last Letter, Penguin/NAL, August, 2011
    The Virgin’s Daughters, Penguin/NAL, August 2010

    1. julieann says:

      hi Jeane, was just reading your comment about the six wives myths. just wanted you to know how big a fan i am! Been trying to get ‘His Last Letter’ everywhere. haven,t got card to buy. been everywhere! anyway nice to hear your views, why don,t you write a Jane Seymour book? julieannx

  19. Francesca says:

    Sorry but that video is dreadful – talk about perpetuating myths and stereotypes! It is scary to think that is being used to teach history.

    Nothing beats actually reading serious scholarshp to really understand the past. I personally also find The Tudors a travesty and it is tragic that so many think it is historically accurate.

    Historical accuracy is hard enough for historians to determine without the distortions created by popular mass media.

  20. DeAnn says:

    My favorite wives for obviously different reasons are Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves.

    I do have a theory on Henry’s repulsion for Anne of Cleves in bed anyway. He obviously had some issues or the wedding wouldn’t have been pushed back until Jan. 6.

    I must wonder if in the heat of the moment when trying to er do the deed he called out the name or nickname of his true passion. Who also had the name of Anne. I think something like that happened in bed. And that so embarrassed, etc., he could never again have sex with Anne of Cleves. People do call out the wrong name in bed. But can you imagine your new wife has the same name as the previous passion/love of your life who you beheaded? Of course that made for an interesting wedding night and I think ultimately helps explain the Anne of Cleves rejection.

  21. Melanie says:

    I agree that Antonia Fraser’s views of the six tend to be well researched and just.

    This is kind of frivolous, but it irritates me that Katherine of Aragon is usually portrayed in films–the 1971 “Six Wives” was an exception–as a dark, solemn “Mediterranean” type. She was little and blond in her youth, and thought very pretty by her new countrymen. Movies tend to pander to what they think the audience will grasp or like, but the truth is usually much more interesting.

    (Different century, but same themes: I’m reading Stacy Schiff’s new biography of Cleopatra, which is wonderful. C, of course, got slammed by most historians as a seductress who practiced magic on her (many) men. (Remind you of anyone?) Schiff doubts that she had sex with anyone but Caesar and Antony; after all, she was considered a goddess in Egypt, and goddesses don’t mess around with most mortals! Cleopatra was a skilled ruler, administrator, and diplomat, and these responsibilities were her priority.)

    1. Claire says:

      You’re right, Melanie, Catherine was not the usual dark-haired Spaniard, she had golden hair, probably strawberry blonde, which she got from her Trastamara ancestors. She was described as a beauty and we forget that when we see her presented as dumpy and middle-aged.

      Interesting what you say about Cleopatra, another woman who is surrounded by myths.

      1. Jennifer says:

        The Cleopatra book is fantastic and well researched. I just finished it. People don’t realize that Cleopatra was a very able ruler and spoke several languages. Another example of history being written by the winners and the truth as casualty.

        The same thin happened to poor Anne Boleyn and her reputation never recovered. I really don’t understand how people can believe she set out to “trap” Henry. At that point in time, the idea of Henry divorcing Catherine was insane. No one could have predicted that he would break from the church, not even Anne.

  22. Sherri says:

    Jane Seymour is always a mystery to me. The mystery being that Henry tended to pick wives (except Catherine of Aragon/Anne of Cleves) that other men were interested in. He seemed to want to obtain women who were beloved by other men. Henry wanted the prize. He wanted competition. So, I look forward to what you have to write about Jane Seymour. Who was she and where did she come from ? Would she have ended up Henry’s mistress if Anne had just ignored the affair ? Why wasn’t she betrothed earlier in her life ? Why did Henry pick Jane as Anne’s successor ? Was she just conveniently there, waiting in the wings for Anne’s demise ?

    I also never thought that Anne of Cleves was ugly or looked like a Flanders mare. Her portraits tell another story.

    Look forward to reading about all Henry’s Queens.

    1. TinaII2None says:

      Sherri — I know exactly what you mean about Jane Seymour. Of all Henry’s queens, she is the greatest puzzlement to me! I used to think of her as quiet, passive, secretly Catholic, a believer in the Old Faith, and obedient to her husband too. All of this was thanks to the original ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ with Anne Stallybrass as Jane. But we also saw her going into childbirth in the belief that Anne Boleyn was innocent, and had been framed in order to make Jane queen. Then sometimes we see her as outspoken, defending the Pilgrimmage of Grace. I’m not sure what to think of her. I look at her brothers and wonder if the apple didn’t fall far from the proverbial tree!

      I also have that image of Jane in Season 2 of The Tudors, sitting on Henry’s lap when the pregnant Anne finds them. Or Wendy Barrie’s empty-headed dolt in The Private Life of Henry VIII. For me she’s the least interesting of Henry’s wives, but the one I’d love to know more about. (Did anyone else read Weir’s Lady in the Tower and perhaps get the impression that Jane was helping to spin the lies about Anne, and yep, waiting in the wings for her rival’s fall? I really need to reread that section. That premise was interesting to me).

      And Anne of Cleves has been short-changed! I’m glad to see she’s finally getting the interest she deserves!

      1. Cassie says:

        Jane is quite a mystery!

        I once tried to discover more about her personality through her family since one is usually influenced by their family. Despite her brothers being overly ambitious I found it rather strange that both her parents were actually well known for being quiet, gentle and meek.

        If you read John Skelton’s poem about Jane’s mother you could be forgiven for mistaking the latter part of the poem being written about Jane, or the stereotype of Jane. God only knows where Edward and Thomas got their cut throat personaes from, but at least it gives suport to the theory that Jane was gentle and quiet by nature. She probably just had a quiet ambition within her and when she saw her chance she grabbed it with both hands.

        I don’t see why Jane should feel bad about what happened to Anne really, she probably thought Anne had no right to be Queen just as Anne thought that Katherine had no right to be Queen. The only difference being that Anne was put to death but Jane wasn’t directly responsible for that and she could have believed, like many people did and still do now, that Anne was trying to do the same to Mary and Katherine. She may have seen it as justice.

        I love supposing about Jane, she’s such an intriguing character!

  23. ElizabethR 1533 says:

    I also found Antonia Fraser’s book on the Six Wives brilliant. I have read numerous others, and for me, Fraser’s was the best.

    Part of the reason that Anne Boleyn has gone down in history as “the whore”, “the extra finger” etc etc, is that a lot of recorded history around that period specific to Anne and Henry, was written by Eustance Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador. He was Anne’s enemy, he hated her and called her “the concubine”. He was hardly going to record anything good about her, was he?
    As to Anne having an extra finger and the warts – Henry was OBSESSED about producing an heir, and was very superstitious. He wouldn’t have been the type to marry Anne if she had such “deformities”.

  24. Wendy says:

    Didn’t Katherine of Aragon describe Anne as “A woman who is the scandal of all Christendom”?

  25. Nima says:

    Just as much as people stereotype about Henry.
    Claire I like your writing but I am always amazed by your radical view of him

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, Nima, Henry also suffers from labels and stereotypes.

      When you say “I am always amazed by your radical view of him”, what do you mean? I wasn’t aware that I held a radical view, my views are in line with most historians I think. Let me know what you mean.

  26. Carolyn says:

    Religion might be another area where some of the wives are mischaracterized. Anne is stereotyped as a Protestant, when that term didn’t exist at the time and all evidence seems to point to Anne being a devout Catholic who thought the Church needed to be reformed, not replaced.

    Anne of Cleves is considered Protestant due to the views/policies of her brother, but was raised by her mother to be Catholic and returned to Catholicism during the reign of Mary I.

    Kathryn Howard is viewed as a Catholic because the Howard family was strongly conservative, but Kathryn herself seems not to have had a very coherent grasp on any religious dogma; she was afraid that if she confessed her sins, Henry would somehow know what she’d confessed because he was the head of the church!

    Katherine Parr did end up Reformist, but likely didn’t convert until after her marriage to Henry. She was raised Catholic and her first 2 husbands were Catholic; her second husband narrowly avoided being charged with treason during the Catholic uprising (the Pilgrimage of Grace).

    I’m really looking forward to these articles, Claire!

    1. Claire says:

      Very true, Carolyn. People do feel the need to label people in religious terms but this is tricky to do so early in the English Reformation. Lots of people who held Reformist views were not Protestant in the way we see it today, they were simply looking for reform within the church.

    2. Nasim says:

      Just to point out – the Howard family were not, wholly, strongly conservative. Katherine’s cousins, Mary Howard, duchess of Richmond, and Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, both were favourable towards aspects of reform (Mary was John Foxe’s early patron). The faith of Katherine’s uncle, the third duke of Norfolk, is rather unclear. Clearly he did not object to profiting from the dissolution of the monasteries. He may have died a Catholic – he died during Mary I’s reign – but at no point prior did he voice objection to the Royal Supremacy. He even asked several Protestant bishops at the beginning of Edward VI’s reign to provide him with instructions in the faith. He may have done this in order to secure a release from the Tower (which he failed to do!), but it still indicates a willingness to adapt to the times instead of blind devotion to traditional religious practices. Despite popular presentations of the fourth duke, including in films like ‘Elizabeth’ (1998) which would have us believe he was an observant Roman Catholic, he actually died a Protestant. What he truly believed is up for debate, but he stated in public and private that he was a loyal member of the C of E. Like his grandfather, his faith is up for debate.

      I think part of the perception that all the Howards were staunch Catholics comes from the fact that a) the family remains Catholic today, b) the family later produced a saint, and c) Tudor scholarship is dominated by the now outdated model of factional politics that would have us believe there was a group at court called the ‘conservatives’ and one called the ‘reformers’, and all conservatives were Roman Catholics and all reformers not. Like all families, then and now, the Howards were not all of one mind. There were numerous arguments amongst them about religion – Lady Bridgewater’s involvement in the P of G was regarded with horror by other members of the family, whilst the duchess of Richmond’s attachment to Protestantism was severally criticised by others. We don’t know when exactly Katherine Howard was born, though we know that she must have been very young when Henry broke from Rome and was, in many ways, part of a new generation which did not regard the Royal Supremacy with such horror, whilst also maintaining an appreciation for the modes of worship practised by their ancestors.

      And, I agree about Anne of Cleves. The supposedly ‘Protestant’ Anne was actually raised in a Catholic household (the rather strict establishment headed by her mother who offered patronage to humanists accused by leading Lutherans as opponents of reform). Anne’s father and brother may have been schismatic leaders, but they were not Lutherans and both did not join the Schmalkaldic League.

  27. Marie says:

    I will look forward to your thoughts on Henry VIII’s six wives. I think what gets lost in this fast track world of ours is the deep relgious convictions and supersticions that existed in that age. For instance if a woman were to produce only daughters it perceived as a sign of disfavour from God. We know that to be wrong but back in the 1500’s that way of thinking was prevalent.

    I also hope that poor Catherine Howard will finally have some justice. I did no tlike the way she was portrayed on the tv series ‘The Tudors’ and was very disappointed that she came across as vacuous and empty headed. She was a young girl married to a sick and IMO demented old villian, who was brutal and vindictive. If there IS a villian in this piece it is not the wives but the ONE husband of them all.
    Best Wishes to you Claire:)


  28. Eliza M. L. says:

    I’ve always thought of Kathryn Howard as being a young girl who became sexually aware far too soon for her own good, not a moron who deserved all that came to her. I honestly believe that she (naively) thought that she could manage a secret affair–be it physical, emotional or both–with Culpeper and not get caught by the King; she knew what she was doing was dangerous, but the danger was so far away from her somewhat sheltered life. (Although if I were in her position, I would’ve learned from Clever Cousin Anne’s fate. Just sayin’.)

  29. Ee Reen says:

    This youtube is really great … we get to remember all the facts in 7 mins! I love Tudor history!

  30. Julia says:

    Loved the video, it had me in stitches!!! However, there is an anomilie with that rymn, which is that the true survivor out of the wives, is Anne of Cleves. I believe she outlived even Katherine Parr and was buried in great state.

  31. catharine says:

    The first three wives are my faves. I admire Catherine and Anne for their spunk wisdom and wit. I love Janes quiet tranquility. Just because someone is sweet and quiet doesnt mean that they have rags for brains or that they are up to something lol.

  32. DeAnn says:

    I think Anne of Cleves was a very pragmatic woman and she was that way about her religion.

    Much is made that she died a Catholic under Mary. But what historians like Weir and Frasier don’t talk about is the enormous pressure at the time of her death to adhere to the Catholic faith under Mary I.

    The 2010 book about Elizabeth and her court quoted the Spanish ambassador making a fuss that neither Elizabeth or Anne of Cleves had been to mass in the first month or so of Mary’s reign. We know what pressure then Princess Elizabeth was put under by Mary as well as other Protestants.

    If Anne of Cleves was such a staunch Catholic, why wasn’t she celebrating mass in mid 1553? Why was the Spanish ambassador noting her absence? Anne of Cleves was the third lady of the land and her religion was a matter of state.

    Perhaps she did die truly Catholic. Or perhaps she loved Mary and she saw what was happening to folks like Thomas Cranmner, the burnings at Smithfield etc. Perhaps her “conversion” was a pragmatic way to keep her property and her life. As Weir talks about in her book on the Princes in the Tower, perhaps Anne of Cleves took the “least said soonest mended” position under Mary. I think this pressure she faced gets short shrift from historians who give Anne of Cleves short shrift anyway. I certainly am not saying Anne of Cleves was a die-hard Protestant but I also don’t think she died the devout Catholic that many claim she did. The only “proof” that we have as far as I know is her will. She knew Mary’s feelings on religion. She needed Mary to look after her servants, debts etc (Anne’s will is truly a lovely document). Being any thing other than a Catholic in her will would have been a quick way to ensure the things Anne wanted didn’t happen.

    If Anne had died under Elizabeth, I have to wonder if her will wouldn’t have read differently.

    1. Nasim says:

      DeAnn – Anne of Cleves was never a ‘Protestant’. The nature of her Catholic faith can be debated – did she deny papal supremacy whilst following other practises of the Church, or was she raised to recognise the Pope’s authority? Evidently she was comfortable enough with the ceremonies of Henry’s church – much of which was traditional. As for refusing to attend mass – we know that Anne did celebrate the traditional mass, for she did this immediately after her marriage ceremony to Henry and she continued to worship in this manner at court. Henry may have had his complaints about her, but he never criticised her for the way in which she worshiped.

      The Imperial ambassadors frequently, and incorrectly, accused Anne of being a Lutheran (see Chapuys’s remarks about her at the time of her marriage and shortly after the annulment). This was based solely on the fact that her kin, namely her brother, was a schismatic leader, and that her brother-in-law was a Lutheran. In the eyes of many staunch Catholics, someone who abandoned the Church must have been a Lutheran, despite William of Cleves refusing to convert to Lutheranism (to the annoyance of the duke of Saxony). Furthermore, William was the enemy of Charles V, which meant he was regarded with much disdain by the imperial party. He and his sister were accused of being ‘heretics’; the fact that Anne was raised in a Catholic household and observed Catholic practices, was overlooked by the ambassadors.

      Had Anne refused to attend mass, as the ambassador, Simon Renard, claimed, then why did not Mary act upon this? After all, she made it well known to everyone, her sister included, that those at court were to worship as she did. Conflict between Anne and Mary came about with the subject of the Queen’s marriage. Anne apparently made her opposition to the Spanish match known (after all, Philip was the son of her brother’s enemy). Of course Mary was dedicated to the marriage and it seems their relationship was affected somewhat thereafter. But not so damaged that Mary would not continue to help her (and of course she sees that Anne was given an honourable burial)

      Simon Renard accused Anne of a series things, all of which proved to be untrue and have been dismissed as unsubstantiated in the only full-length study on Anne of Cleves and her marriage (Retha Warnicke’s book). Renard also accused Anne of working for the French (!), and claimed that Mary knew this (!!). In fact at the time Renard was writing this, Mary was still receiving Anne and was even assisting her financially following Anne’s request for aid. Anne fared better than she did under Edward’s reign, but Renard would have us believe that Mary did not trust her and regarded her almost as a traitor and heretic.

      1. DeAnn says:

        Nasim, I have only read parts of Retha Warnicke’s book on Google Books. I plan to order it this weekend because it’s been on my must-buy list. Is your sourcing for Anne’s opposition to the marriage in this book? Could you please provide your sourcing?

        I have read the letter that Anne wrote Mary and her husband congratulating them on their marriage. I have never seen a hint that Anne objected to the marriage before your post. As far as being her brother’s enemy, I am not going to pretend to know the ins and outs of Cleves history so again perhaps you can help me out here. I do know that Anne’s brother married Charles V’s niece as part of an effort to resolve their territorial and other differences. By the time of Mary’s reign, that marriage was well in place so I thought the old “enemy” issue had waned and Anne wouldn’t have cared by the time of the marriage about Philip being “an enemy.” Of course, Anne may have been pragmatic enough to realize how badly the marriage would be viewed in England but again all the primary sourcing I’ve seen has indicated that Anne only offered wishes for Mary’s happiness.

        As far as your question about Anne attending mass, that’s my point. I think Anne of Cleves initially didn’t attend mass, Mary noted it, Anne saw what happened to others who didn’t and being pragmatic herself she then went along with Mary’s wishes. As you said, she had attended mass under Henry. The pope’s supremacy may have been the only issue. Or may not. We don’t know for sure.

        In Anne’s case, I think it was more politically expedient to make Mary happy than it was for Elizabeth and others hence she went along with Mary’s wishes. One of the personality characteristics about Anne that I so admire is that she had good relationships with both Elizabeth and Mary and didn’t try and overtly favor one over the other.

        1. Nasim says:

          DeAnn – as I mentioned, Anne ‘apparently’ made it known she was opposed to the match, something argued by the Imperial ambassador at the time (see Warnicke’s book). Of course it could have been another fabrication. However Anne did favour another marriage candidate – Mary’s cousin, Archduke Ferdinand (the great-grandson of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Ferdinand was also William of Cleves’s brother-in-law, so Anne was acting on her brother’s interests here. He could once again be a relation via marriage of a monarch of England!). Anne promoting Ferdinand as a candidate is discussed briefly in Linda Porter’s biography on Mary.

          As you state, Anne congratulated Mary and Philip upon their marriage as did many including those who had opposed the union (Bishop Gardiner and Cardinal Pole included). This shows an acceptance of the match but, again, we have to remember she had previously promoted another candidate. So Anne certainly accepted the marriage, but it doesn’t seem to have been her – or more accurately her brother’s – first choice.

          It is true that William of Cleves was then married to Charles’s niece. But, like all marriage alliances, this did not completely end all tensions between the two parties. After all, William had lost Guelders (well, his claim was always rather questionable, but nonetheless he had held on to it desperately and had been backed by his mother, from whom he claimed the land). Charles V had invaded Cleves and his troops committed notorious acts in Juliers (William’s other territory). William was then forced to sign an agreement – at Venlo – and was made to break another marriage alliance in order to marry Maria (sister of the Ferdinand who Anne wanted Mary to marry). To make a comparison – it was like when François I was forced to make concessions to Charles following his defeat at Pavia, including having to later marry Charles’s sister. This of course didn’t end the tension between the Emperor and France. Worse still, it was recorded that Anne’s mother had been greatly affected by the whole Cleves-Guelders-Juliers affair, so much so that she was, as one contemporary put it “out of her wits” with anguish (and she died very shortly after William signed the treaty). These events may have happened some ten years before Mary came to the throne, but they were not forgotten. In a way it is easy to understand why Renard was so concerned that Anne was a threat to Charles V’s plans. William had no reason to love Charles or his son, and seems to have regarded the dishonour of surrendering as having killed his mother (he even made a scene at her funeral concerning this). Why, Renard probably thought, should Anne think any differently to her brother.

          As for mass – Anne did attend mass. Simon Renard claimed otherwise but his comments are unsubstantiated. Anne always attended the traditional mass; there was no dispute with Mary on this. Anne was never a ‘Protestant’ in the 1530-50s context of the word (which has a rather specific meaning), and not in our more general usage of the term. Like all other Catholics, she was not allowed to have the traditional mass worshiped in her household under Edward VI but once Mary came to the throne there were no problems. I’m intrigued by which modern study argues in favour of Renard’s claims. None of Mary’s biographers have found this, including those that rely far too heavily on Renard’s words (like Loades’s biography). I know that Weir has claimed that Mary was allegedly responsible for Anne ‘converting’ to Catholicism. However Weir, who often fails to read original manuscripts and instead favours Victorian transcriptions, seems to have misunderstood the political and religious situation in Cleves. For instance, she refers to William of Cleves as a ‘strict Protestant (which he was not), and she provides no evidence of Mary’s supposed influence over Anne’s faith. She tells us that Mary was the renowned ‘Bloody’ queen, who forced Protestants to recant their views, but nothing specific when it comes to Anne. Weir even claims at one point in her six wives study that Mary was not pleased when she first heard Henry VIII was to marry Anne because she thought Anne was a Lutheran. This, however, is entirely untrue.

          I really recommend Warnicke’s study as her reading of the ambassador despatches is excellent. Unlike many other studies relating to Tudor politics, Warnicke explains fully affairs elsewhere, including the complex political situation in Cleves. It is not a biography, though Anne’s life is discussed in detail. It is a must for those interested in Anne (as I am; after Boleyn, she is my favourite of the wives!)

  33. DeAnn says:

    Can I also say how it drives me crazy how it’s so often said that Catherine of Aragon couldn’t have a son. She didn’t have a living son! She had a son who lived six weeks.

    Prince Henry was born Jan. 1, 1511, and London/England went nuts. He was even christened and great jousts were held. He died six weeks later. I’ve often theorized that he died from SIDS. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. A second son also died shortly after birth and was also buried in Westminster Abbey.

  34. MaggieR says:

    I have always thought that Katherine of Aragon lied through her teeth about never sleeping with Prince Arthur (since if she hadn’t, Henry VII would have likely packed her off back to Spain), and have always believed that she had a huge “martyr complex” (ie, the worse things got for her, the more she revelled in it, “Oh, poor Me”, etc.). Never had much use for her. I have, however, always felt that, had she and Henry remained married, Mary would possibly have been even worse, since she would have had many more years absorbing her mother’s religious fanaticism. (Remember, Katherine’s parents were staunch upholders of the Spanish Inquisition!)

    Anne and her stereotypical portrayal is an interesting case for me. I’ve always rolled my eyes at the “homewrecker”, “ambitious”, “witch”, etc. labels commonly attached to her, and yet….nowadays, so many biographies seem to whitewash her and make her the Saint of the Protestant movement. I, for one, find Saints boring. When Anne was “Evil”, at least she had a *personality*! Oy. I think the truth about Anne was somewhere in the middle.

    (I have come to wonder about Chapuys, though. What’s that old saying? “Methinks he doth protest too much?” The way he goes on and on and *on* about Anne, when usually we don’t say too much about people we truly hate, makes me wonder if, perhaps, he was in reality extremely attracted to Anne, if only subconsciously. He certainly makes her larger than life! I really want to reread all my Anne bios and search out his comments, to see if my theory holds up. Hmm…this would make kind of a fun novel…Chapuys and his secret lust for Anne Boleyn…LOL!)

    Anyway….you have given us a lot to think about, Claire! I look forward to reading your articles on the Six Wives Stereotypes. 🙂

  35. lisaannejane says:

    I really like the way you go back to the original sources of information, Claire, and examine them with an eye on as to when they were written, what the writer’s bias may have been, what information has been lost in a particular document, and even is the document may have been written by another person. I know that you need to be careful about Cleopatra because of the bias against her by Roman historians, who wanted to please Augustus. He made it quite plain that he wanted no competition from her or her son with Caesar, who could have gone to Rome and been a little too much like his dad for the adopted son’s comfort. But other sources point out how bright she was and her knowledge of many languages. She tried to keep Egypt out of Roman control but lost in the end. Making an alliance with Marc Antony was a logical move. History is filled with people who have been maligned by the writings of a few.

  36. Eliza says:

    I’m soo looking forward for your articles on the wives, Claire!!

    I agree with MaggieR about Catherine of Aragon lying about the (non)consummation of her marriage to Arthur. I find it pretty impossible to not consummate a royal marriage for months, as it was expected,, although we know something similar happened with Louis XVI of France and Marie Antoinette. I don’t think that that was the case for Catherine and Arthur, though.

  37. Fiz says:

    I think Arthur was pretty feeble – he looks like a pretty young man who was not in the best of health. I think his so-called remarks remembered at the Blackfriars Court was the boast of a young man trying to keep his chin up. However, clearly Katherine could be untruthful – she miscarried and lied to Henry and Ferdinand about it, saying she had mistaken her dates. Her son that died in 1511 was conceived on the back of a miscarriage, which is not recommended today. Despite her great dignity at Blackfriars, she made the fatal mistake of embarrassing Henry. Her continuing intransigence over her title cost her and Mary worse circumstances, and I would not be willing to swear that she was a virgin – even the pope had doubts since he had added the “forsan” to her dispension to marry Henry ,meaning she was “perhaps” a virgin.I love Anne but I now tend to see her as a woman who did not initially want anything to do with Henry. We do not know what promises he made Anne, and if she told George Henry had problems in bed, maybe she had prior experience? The adultery stories are pure rubbish, as many of the dates were impossible . Also, I loathe Jane Seymour with her prim little mouth and her imitation of Anne, turning away Henry’s gifts and her affected piety but her frantic hurry to replace Anne before her corpse was cold turns my stomach. She was surely meant to be the Seymour’s jewel in the crown, so they used other methods of climbing close to Henry after her death. Anne of Cleves was lucky and so very innocent, not even knowing if Henry had made love to her or not. I like her a lot. She had a miserable home in Cleves-Julich as her brother was a tight fisted bully, and she was prepared to marry Henry who had already become a monster, rather than stay in Germany! Poor Katherine Howard was not brought up properly as her grandmother the Duchess of Norfolk did not know how loose living her ladies -in-waiting were, or that Katherine had been induced to play their games at far too young an age. She had no parents or money and she could have had no idea that she would marry Henry. All the evidence shows she was truly in love with Culpepper and forced into marriage for the greater glorification of the House of Howard. She could not undo what had already been done and Culpepper, Dereham and Jane Boleyn seemed to have colluded to blackmail Catherine into repeating her behaviour. Katherine was young, naive , not very clever and at the whim of Henry or her conspirators. I feel sorry for her while marvelling at her stupidity. Catherine Parr also did not want to marry and she and Edward Seymour were already on the road to marriage when Henry decided to marry her. She,too, had no choice. Her increasing Protestantism placed her in danger, but she had the wit to get herself out of trouble. Henry was sick and a dangerous megalomaniac and I pity her for having to be his nurse. I think the only one who married Henry because she truly loved him was Katherine of Aragon. Anne, I think, only married Henry for what he could give her and she made the tragic mistake of thinking Henry loved her and she could give him a son.

  38. TudorRose says:

    Catherine of Aragon we all know was a devout catholic who was loyal to her husband and to her faith and was not responsible in any way for the way her daughter Mary turned out, it was down to Henry and his treatment of his daughter that made things worse for Mary.

    Anne was a hot-tempered woman who was called many a things by her catholic contemproarys but hardly to any of them were true. They were all fabrications that were used to bring her down due to the catholics disliking of her. As far as he religion stands it stood at neither catholic nor protestant she had been somewhere in the middle.I myself have always felt her to be more lutheran or evangelist than anything other a possible christian.

    Jane was a even-tempered catholic who wanted the abbeys ans the monastries restored but Henry after and upon Jane saying this was supposed to have said aswell as told her not to intefere or meddle in causes such as these unless she wanted to go the same way as her predessecor. Which just shows the state of the Kings mind at the time.Jane also was a caring step-mother to all of Henry’s children including her won as she had asked for the princess Mary and the Princess Elizabeth’s return back to court and upon asking Henry granted this wish.

    Anne of Cleves was a Lutheran despite being brought up and raised a catholic, she I think just changed aswell as converted to keep up with not only the times but also to fit in with who just happened to be ruling at the time. Anne was also one of the luckiest of all of the kings wives to survive, luckily for her not only did she survive she also outlived henry by ten years, she also was granted Hever castle and earned the title of “The Kings Sister”

    Catherine Howard or Hereward as it was originaly known was a young catholic girl who took the kings heart by storm at such a young age. She was naive and had been very silly and childish when it came to what she was doing with her life and in her life. She had no parental or family guidance as would show in her behaviour and how she was acting. It was not her fault but only that of her family’s.Catherine was also un-inhibited in her behaviour which would show along with other things that I mentioned earlier that what she was doing she could not help meaning that she could not help herself.

    Last but not least Catherine Parr the last of all of Henry’s wives who was a Lutheran not only cared for her husband the King until he died but she had also been a devoted aswell as caring step-mother to all of her step-children she even looked after them after the King died up to a certain level, well atleast until she died herself just a year after the Kings death in 1548.

    I have read many books on the period and some will tell you a different story opposed to others. I can admit that I may have read things which I once beleived to be true about Henry and all of his six wives which turned out not to be as true as once thought. Sometimes it is hard to diffrentiate and seperate fact from fiction, well unless you have the sources there right infront of you or the book that you are reading happens to be one that has been well written aswell as well researched you could not only be reading but also reciting what is false I am afraid to say and it would be even harder to tell the difference if you are a first time learner who is very young and new to the Tudors and to the subject this would make it even worse for the researcher or the person researching or studying the subject. I myself have never watched or listened to the recording above in my whole time of studying the subject but I feel sorry for the people that have watched this and have taken every single thing that has been said as real and substantial. It would be good to watch for fun but nothing else. I myself apart from reading several books written by several different authors used to listen to a casette tape which was by “Longman” and it was called “The Tudors and The Stuarts as it was aswell as had been a double casette tape. I have read books by Terry Deary and Neil Tongue, David Starkey, Antonia Fraser, Alison Weir, Eric Ives and last but not least Joanna Denny but according what some sources say “The Horrible Historries collection” by Terry Deary and Neil Tongue should be ignored aswell as books written by Alison Weir I also heard for some reason as some of the sources are not renowned for being real and are fake up to a degree, well up to a certain extent. I suppose it is due to something that Terry Deary said in one of his books about Anne Boleyn having trouble with her food and being able to keep it down as I have never read this anywhere before not ever in my whole lifetime so far studying Anne Boleyn and the Tudors and also when Alison Weir states a Mrs Orchard being present at court and I cannot seem to find any refferences to a Mrs orchard and wether or not she actually existed or not. So I would like to know where these two people, historians renowned for their writings aswell as work get their source/s of information from. We as people who have an interest in the subject of Tudor history have to take these things into consideration and as a result should be treated with suspect and caution as there is no way to back these said therorys up one way or another.

  39. TinaII2None says:

    I was trying to figure out where to possibly post this link (was thinkng about one of the threads on our forums), but since this subject has come up on here, I thought I’d do it here first. Yesterday I wa looking up information on historical figures that have become the source of various mysteries (such as the survival mystery), and found myself reading about Louis XVII (Marie Antoinette’s son) and of course, the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanova (thank God for DNA). I found a site about one of the Russian Imperial palaces, and this site had a forum, 🙂 and on this forum there is a section on royalty other than the Romanovs…and on THAT forum I found THE TUDORS. Which led me to a lengthy thread with this question: Could Catherine of Aragon have lied?

    The responses have been well thought out, polite and even left me thinking about other angles to the story. I know one thing — this is also among history’s great puzzles and sadly, no amount of DNA analysis or other scientific knowledge will give us the answer to what happened on that wedding night. Anyway, hope you all enjoy the thread as much as I did. I’ve only read about 6 pages of the 12 page thread so far….

Please note: Comment moderation is currently enabled so there will be a delay between when you post your comment and when it shows up.

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap