In today’s instalment of my “Questions about Anne Boleyn” series, I consider the relationship between Anne Boleyn and her stepdaughter, Mary, daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.

Anne Boleyn is often blamed for the ill-treatment Mary received in the 1530s, being painted as a wicked stepmother, so I look at how Mary actually suffered, what was said about Anne’s role in it, and what happened after Anne’s execution in 1536.

Do take part in the poll at the end of the video to have your say on this topic (it pops up in the top right of the screen). I’d love to know what you think.

Book recommendations: Mary Tudor: The First Queen by Linda Porter; Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock; Mary Tudor by David Loades; The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives; The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown by Claire Ridgway.

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29 thoughts on “Was Anne Boleyn a wicked stepmother?”
  1. Anne has been very much maligned re her treatment of Mary. In actuality she sounds very human and neither better nor worse than anyone else. If this were a normal family Anne may not have acted the way she did. However this was the family of the King of England. What she wanted to ensure was precedence to the throne. She saw first hand how easily Henry could push away a wife and declare his child illegitimate and after the birth of Elizabeth, knowing Henry’s obsession for a son she was beginning to feel very pressured and many of her actions including those against Mary were out of fear of she and Elizabeth being discarded like Henry’s other family. We all react to pressure differently. Just a thought.

  2. IMO, no one could have spared Mary from the mis-treatment that Henry wanted meted out to her, but I don’t think Anne is due much credit, either. (Jane Seymour at least tried to get better treatment for Mary, without her having to surrender — that Henry refused does not reduce the credit due Jane for the attempt.) On the other hand, Anne’s “attempts” to secure recognition from Mary were merely polite requests for Mary’s unconditional surrender.

    Also, I don’t know what Anne was thinking in trying to secure her surrender. Unlike Henry (who thought he could rule from beyond the grave) I don’t think Anne was so stupid as to think that Elizabeth would succeed if anything happened to Henry before a son was born — the only thing that would have stopped the Emperor invading was that the people would overwhelmingly place Mary on the throne.

    1. “(Jane Seymour at least tried to get better treatment for Mary, without her having to surrender — that Henry refused does not reduce the credit due Jane for the – that Henry refused does not reduce the credit due Jane for the attempt.)”

      I don’t think it’s justified to compare Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour in this case. While Katherine lived, Anne’s position as Queen and her children’s position as the only heirs to the throne depended on that the Parlament’s decision was accepted by all Henry’s subjects, but especially by Mary.

      By refusing to surrender she declared that she was still the the true heir of the throne and that meant a danger that she aimed after Henry’s death to demand her heritance.

      Instead, Mary was no threat to Jane. When Henry married Jane, Katherine of Aragon was dead, so Jane was without doubt Henry’s wife and Queen and any children she bore were heirs to the throne.

      Although it was kind of Jane to try to help Mary’s postition, her failure showed that she didn’t know her new husband’s mentality at all. Ultimately it was Henry who wanted Mary’s submission.

  3. It’s very hard not to have sympathy for this young girl who was a princess one day happy in the protective security of her parents, then the next had it all ripped away from her, I too own Porters book on Mary and it is a wonderful book, with a very clear balanced view on both Anne Henry and Mary and the tension and animosity that existed between them, we can see clearly all sides in this predicament that engulfed the Tudor court at this time, Mary possibly had no idea her father was seeking to annul his marriage to her mother, she was just a child and thought everything was rosy she would have no idea that her father was discontented and wanted a male heir, when the news came quite likely from her mother that he was intending to cast her aside it must have come with a shock, and then the knowledge that her father meant to marry one of her ladies in waiting must have made her feel highly indignant on behalf of Katherine, quite naturally she sided with their mother but she must have been torn with conflicting emotions as she loved her father and felt in the middle of it all, we can understand her resentment towards the woman who was about to replace her mother, and being so young she had not the maturity of age to hide it a little, Henry V111 adored his daughter calling her his pearl, she was highly intelligent and quite understandably he was afraid of the influence her mother had on her, all he wanted was his daughters respect and love and obscience that he felt he deserved, as King of the realm and her father, however Mary by nature was stubborn and caught up in the whirlpool of emotions that was caused over her parents split she began to adopt the same stance her mother had, she believed absolutely her mother was a wronged and persecuted woman and her father through no fault of his own, was enthralled by this wicked woman named Anne Boleyn, it is only natural and far easier for a young girl to blame the other woman, she was seen as a threat to her mothers and her own personal happiness her very status and position, from Annes point of view she was acting very badly, defying her father who had always been good to her, and also with hindsight Anne knew that Marys stubbornness would do her no good she would lose in the end, how many stepmothers have had to deal with truculent stepdaughters/ sons? Many have torn their hair out in frustration, in Annes case Mary was no ordinary stepdaughter she had been born a princess acknowledged as such, the people loved her and her mother and wanted no truck with plain Nan Bullen, therefore Mary felt she had a very good legal right to call herself princess that her mother was the lawful queen consort of the King, and Anne merely her father’s whore and of course when Elizabeth came along, their fathers bastard, it really if we take into account the stress and misery this brought on her, it is no wonder this unhappy girl suffered illnesse’s throughout her youth, we can assume they were psychomatic and today she would be offered counselling and put on anti depressants, Anne in the beginning I feel did not resent Mary that much but after her overtures of friendship were rejected she began to lose her patience, when one is hated by another, it is natural to return that hate and Michael makes a very good point when he mentions that we all respond to pressure differently, had Anne not been such a screeching virago she would have thought first before saying she would like to poison both Mary and her mother, she was the adult here not Mary and her youth I feel was responsible for some of her behaviour, Anne could have tried to put herself in her shoes and try to imagine how she would feel if the shoe was on the other foot, but Anne began to grow weary of this rebellious teenager and her venom was influenced I think by the support she had from people at court and in the country, part of it was yes out of fear, and she probably did influence Henry in his treatment of Mary as she felt especially when she was queen, that she should be treated with more respect, she made a very grand gesture after Katherine had died, and probably because she felt more secure as well, she sent a message to her saying that if she would acknowledge her as queen then she would be welcome at court and she could walk beside her, thus saying that Mary was on an equal with her, she would treat her like a daughter and she would make peace with her father, but Mary again was insistent that she would do no such thing she knew no other queen but her mother and I think with Anne this was the last straw, we have to be fair to Anne here as she did try with Mary but she must have felt she was banging her head against a brick wall, she was now queen and her daughter was Henrys heiress she hoped to give him a son soon, she wished to befriend Mary, her greatest threat Katherine was gone so she could be kinder to her daughter yet it did no good, Mary was stubborn like her mother yet she in a sense had been untouchable, Spain loomed ever near if Henry had touched a hair on her head, but his daughter was his subject as the video plainly states, all the Kings subjects including his family from the highest to the lowest in his land were bound by law to obey him, I think Henry had hoped initially his daughter would stop her foolishness and stop calling herself the princess and I think he was easy on her to begin with, he loved her very much and perhaps thought she would grow out of this rebellious phase, then as time went on and she continued to defy him his behaviour became more harsh, she maybe thought because he was her father, that the King would not punish her, so much, but she was wrong, Linda Porter does make a very interesting point when she says she did not realise the change in her father, away from court she was in a sense cut of from reality, those who were near the King everyday saw his character chance from a genial monarch to an increasingly bad one, and they would not dare to talk to him the same way Mary did, had she known I am sure she would have been more reticent in her behaviour, Henry V111 was like an angry bull and she was waving a red flag at him, after receiving a visit from members of his council about her change in status she sat down and wrote him a letter, confessing her amazement at his actions and singing herself insolently Princess, oh my she really was like Katherine who refused to talk to anyone unless they addressed her as queen, Anne probably did complain about Mary to Henry about her lack of respect but because she was his own flesh and blood he felt very sentimental about her, he must have soothed Anne with the promises that he would make sure she was punished etc, Anne to Mary was the wicked stepmother but if we are to be fair we have to acknowledge that Anne did try to befriend this unhappy girl, Marys behaviour exasperated both her and the King, taking her mother as a role model she defied them both, Anne herself was to say ‘she is my death and I am hers’, after Elizabeth was born and she was crowned queen Mary was sent to wait on her step sister at Hatfield, she refused to go and one can just see this slight young woman arguaing outside with the burly coachmen who was expecting her to climb into the waiting carriage, in the end she was picked up and probabley pushed inside, Mary did bring a lot of her own heartache on herself her father was the King, however noble she believed her cause was, at the end she inevitably had to bow to his commands, we can understand her dismay at the loss of her royal title and the right to be her father’s heir, we can understand her filial devotion to her mother, but she was no Richard the Lionheart who rebelled against Henry 11, and who had the support of his powerful mother Eleanor the Duchess of Aqutaine and the French king to, she was a very young woman who whilst she had her supporters could do nothing themselves against the powerful man her father was, Chapyus knew because he was at court often the situation there, he did begin to worry about Mary and when the bill was passed that it became treason not to acknowledge Henry as head of the church, quite naturally he must have been more so as if Mary was accused of treason she could have had her head lopped of, however I don’t think for a minute that would have happened, after Annes death and she was visited by members of her father’s council to sign the document she began to act stubborn again arguaing with them, we have seen what happen in the previous post, Chapyus relayed his fear to Mary that she could die for refusing to act on the wishes of the King and so she relented, Eric Ives says when she discovered it was not all Anne who was responsible for her misery her spirit was broken, there is the oft told tale about Annes plea for forgiveness which she begged Lady Kingston to do for her, whether that is true or not it probably gave Mary a lot of satisfaction to see her hated enemy brought so low and humiliating herself in front of a servant, she had spent her teenage years in open rebellion against the father she had adored so much, she had blamed it all in the wicked woman who had led him astray, when she grew older maybe she came to realise it was not all Annes fault but she hated her till the day she died and I cannot believe she accepted her plea for forgiveness, to her she would always be the woman who had ruined her mothers life and was the cause of the loss of her own legitimate status, we have to understand the importance of this in that far of world where kings ruled supreme and birthright meant everything, to be branded a bastard was a dreadful stigma, for those who were born bastards it could not have mattered much, Henry Fitzroy was aware of the circumstances of his birth from a young age, and Royal bastards were just grateful for the riches and privileges they enjoyed as Royal bastards, for a prince or princess to be told they were base born and then declared illegitimate by law must have been a dreadful blow, so I fully understand Marys horror at her new position, however she had not the means or power to continue defying her father and it was only after she had signed away her mothers rights and her own, did fortune begin to smile again on her.

  4. Was Anne Boleyn ‘wicked’ towards Mary? Of course not. No. Neither was she wicked’s opposite – benign, aiding, helpful, non-aggressive. These two women, Henry’s daughter Mary and his new wife, Anne Boleyn, now legally and rightfully the Queen of England, are contenders for the throne and in direct competition. Each feels entitled, both have everything to lose and everything to gain. One seems to represent the past, the other the future. Neither are prepared to give in. However horrible, Mary is ‘legally’ in the wrong. For the time being, Anne has right and might on her side. Anne behaves – it seems to me – with some restraint (at first). It is a revelation to her and to us, how quickly and devastatingly things can change. And change, they do.

  5. It was.natural to dislike the stepmother most especially when you were the Pearl of the World and you mother a saint in your eyes. It seems several times Anne was the one to make gestures and was rebuffed. Henry was the tyrant and he demanded unthinking loyalty, I think he would be even more angry it was his child who dared to not now to his will. Anne gets blame for everything and I think she had little choice because once.The king comes a’courting, I can’t see how she could make a life differently once Henry decided she was his. I don’t think she could say no and marry elsewhere Anne play the cards she was dealt but really as a woman made the only choice the King had left her.

    1. Henry wasn’t a tyrant when he courted Anne, he was in love with her, although he was also obsessed with her. They both fell in love and Anne agreed to marry him once the crown was offered. His marriage with Katherine was already in doubt and he had already opened a commission to examine the validity of his marriage but the case became public and Katherine challenged him. When Anne promised him sons, Henry offered the crown, but the evidence points to a proper mutual loving relationship. Anne could say no: it’s a myth invented by the twenty first century that Anne could not say no to marriage as a woman. In fact the opposite is true. For any marriage to be valid it requires consent and Anne was free to say no. She said yes because she wanted to marry him. Convention was also for the woman to give consent even in a formal setting, which she could withdraw at any time. Even if it was harder because he was the King, Anne could withdraw from their relationship and in fact did lose patience in the time it was taking. Henry begged her father to beg her to come back. From about 1531/2 there is evidence of Henry Viii becoming more impatient, more reluctant to brook opposition and harsher. During his marriage to Anne legislation was passed to end further objection to his marriage with her and he became more powerful as a result of the supremacy. This an a possible brain injury (hotly debated) and the personality changes as a result were making him more short tempered and paranoid. He was an absolute monarch, although he still used Parliament, used them with skill, to give legal weight to his legislative programmes, but he wasn’t yet the tyrant of the next ten years. His behaviour towards his daughter is also a symptom of his increasing power and the need now to be in control, to validate his authority in the eyes of his people.

      Anne Boleyn does indeed get the blame for everything; Henry blamed her in a fit of guilt and grief for driving him to kill Thomas More, but she wasn’t exactly passive in attempting to bring Mary to heal, with both a carrot and a whip.

      1. Although women could formally say “no” to marriage she didn’t like, in practice fathers or other guardians decided who they married and they accepted it, as they were raised to promote their family’s interets which were also their own.

        Anne of course wasn’t married off by her father, but otherwise she was in the same situation. Her only way to succeed in the world was to marry well and get children. So long Henry was in love with her, she couldn’t have any other offer as suitable men were afraid of King’s displeasure.

        So, after she had refused to become Henry’s mistress and he still persisted to her her, her options were to try the gamble to become his wife and get all the advantages of it to herself, her future children and her family – or continue to say “no”, get no husband and no children and cause possible disadvantages of her family.

  6. To Mary she most certainly was, but in reality it is much more complex than that. Mary was the beloved daughter of Henry and Katherine and she was the much well treated, much honoured, much pampered and the beloved heir, his pearl and then suddenly she was denied her royal status, her lawful inheritance and even declared a bastard and was then forced to move into the household of her infant half sister, whom she was meant to serve. Mary suffered banishment, separation from both of her parents and punishment simply for remaining loyal to her mother and for being disobedient to her father. Mary was told she was no longer Princess and her household was reduced, she was bullied, her father told her she was disobedient and she was told she was obstinate and had contempt and Anne also told her servants to hit and beat her. At one point Mary received a gift of fruit which made her ill and Mistress Sheldon feared that she had been poisoned but the fruit may simply have not been washed. When Henry married Anne her treatment was very difficult, which was partly the fault of Anne and partly the orders of the King.

    Anne made overtures towards Mary, but they were conditional on her acknowledging Anne as Queen, but Mary refused and only acknowledged Anne as Henry’s mistress. A few times she tried to get Mary to make a reverence to her and then she would make things well between her and her father, but Mary would acknowledge no Queen but her mother. Anne was certainly to blame for a lot of the mistreatment which Mary went through but Henry allowed and even ordered it. Mary was, however, threatening towards Anne as the lady who was the true heir and Anne lashed out because she needed Mary to recognise her as Queen and she was also bound to obey her father as the monarch and her father. Anne did make direct threats in her frustration and she did influence Henry’s treatment of Mary, which only started when he married Anne. She didn’t exactly try to intercede for Mary and wished her dead after she fell into despair for a time. Chapuys feared for Mary and of course he blamed Anne outright as did Princess Mary. It is difficult to gleen the full extent of Anne’s involvement because Chapuys is reporting second hand and there also appeared to be others at Court who backed the King’s own hard line with his daughter. Henry also softened towards Mary, especially when she became ill and moved her out of Elizabeth’s household, much to his wife’s annoyances. However, it became clear that Henry at least consented and allowed Anne to deal with Mary in her own way because of Mary’s disobedience after Anne’s execution, because Henry put his foot down and insisted on Mary totally obeying him and her surrender before he would reconcile with her.

    Mary was very shocked by how her father was treating her and when he married Jane Seymour she had hoped everything would change but Henry sent a delegation and they demanded her surrender. Jane did ask Henry to restore Mary to the succession but she was rebuffed and Cromwell had to help Mary to write her letter of surrender after Chapuys persuaded her to sign the articles accepting him as head of the Church and that her parents were not lawfully married. Mary signed because it was believed her life was in danger and several members of her inner circle had been arrested and interrogated for showing support for Mary. Of course once she did sign she became a pampered pooch once more.

    I don’t believe it’s actually fair to call Henry a monster here as many Tudor fathers treated disobedient children harshly. He was no different and Mary did owe him obedience and loyalty. She was denying his authority and his new title and she could indeed have been accused of treason and if that sounds preposterous, Peter the Great had his own son arrested, tortured and condemned for treason; Alexis died from the torture. It may well be the case that Henry would not kill his daughter, I don’t believe he would, but he was very much in control and he couldn’t be seen not to be obeyed by his own children. His authority over his subjects may be challenged if he couldn’t control his daughter and Henry was aware of that because he was aware of his image. Mary’s submission immediately restored everything she had lost, everything but her legitimate status.

    1. What really shocked me was (and I cannot remember the full details), I read in my biography of Henry 1st that he had his grandchildren blinded because of something their parents had done, I find that absolutely dreadful, his own grandchildren the poor mites, Bq is right about the upbringing of the Tudor child it was very strict, and we know Lady Jane had complained about her parents to her tutor, possibly I feel they could have been over strict because they were schooling her for queenship, at one time I believe they hoped she would marry King Edward, Tudor children of the higher classes were taught correct posture, how to sit properly no slouching and table manners were impeccable, no slurping no picking ones nose, they were taught from an early age how to read and write, the classics were there to read and mathematics which was quite a new subject, those who could mastered Latin and Greek, Jane Grey was such a pupil along with her cousins Edward and Elizabeth, but apart from academic achievements what they were taught above all else was their complete obedience to their parents, total respect and devotion, the lady Mary in rebelling against Henry V111 went against this way of thinking.

      1. Relative blinding was a left over pre Norman punishment for rebellious blood relatives from the Carolingians and Merovingian Kings of Francia which the Normans used rarely but in some cases it was still used as an alternative to spilling family blood. Henry I had 13 illegitimate children and one of his daughters made trouble and put another illegitimate son in danger. Her children were held to guarantee Eugene safety but for some reason his daughter didn’t keep her word and with the cruelty of a Norman ruler enforcing obedience, Henry had the children, his grandchildren blinded and according to one source, noses split as well. Talk about bringing your family into line! Of course it also meant that even legitimate relatives treated this way couldn’t inherit the throne and usually retired to a religious institution.

        Jane Grey did indeed complain about her parents and unfortunately for Lady Frances it was this exaggerated report by the visiting school master which gave her mother such a bad and untrue reputation. Jane moaned about being pinched and hit, which no doubt did happen to correct her, but probably not to the extent Jane made out. Remember this was a fourteen year old and which teenagers haven’t complained about parental discipline lol, especially when they want to go out with their mates on Friday night? Jane apparently found someone who understood her, a fellow intellect and off she went. His account is written much later but we can see how strict these parents were, especially as they had the heads of future great houses to form and make. It was even stricter in the immediate royal family, even loving ones, discipline and obedience were everything.

        1. I have Leanda de Lisles book on the tragic Grey sisters and she does note that Francis reputation for cruelty is mostly undeserved, it seems we learn something more about history every day but I still find myself shocked by the brutality of the past, particurlaly the ancient world, Jane was academically bright, she was said to have had the edge on her cousin Elizabeth, myths have woven around these historical figures, the Victorians would have us believe that Jane was meek and docile and went to her death like a lamb to the slaughter, whilst I agree she was innocent, she was no lamb, she was a firebrand and her days as queen proved that, passionate about her faith she also proved she was capable of ruling, also incredibly brave for a girl her age she refused to accept the catholic faith which Queen Mary so desperately wanted, as she wanted her to live, her death was a dreadful waste of a brilliant mind, and her mother who has been so often reviled had to live with the consequences all her life.

    2. Mary’s misfortune wasn’t due only Henry but also Katherine. Had she accepted the annulment of her marriage, Mary would probably have remained an heir presumptive as a legimite child “conceived in good faith”. But because of her Catholism and pride Katherine stubbornly refused and, what’s more, would have seen her only child rather die as a martyr than to submit and live.

      Still, even if Henry got his marriage annulled by Cranmer, he could have decided to leave Mary’s position intact. But he didn’t, evidently because he wanted to pressure Katherine and because he was sure that Anne would bear a son,

      As all subject had to make a vow to accept Henry’s Suprenacy and Anne as Queen and Henry’s children by her as only legitimate heirs, it was clear that Henry couldn’t accept nothing else from Mary than her total surrender. It was too dangerous to leave her as a possible threat to Anne and her children.

      After Anne’s execution Henry could have legitimized Mary and restored her to succession, especially as until Edward was born, Henry had no legitimite heir. But Henry was too proud to admit that he had done anything wrong or unwise. However his second marriage had ended, he had to be right in his Great Matter and especially about his Supremacy.

      1. I wish people would stop putting the onus on Katherine. She entered the marriage with Henry in good faith and for over 20 years upheld her end. When Henry had a ‘change of conscience’ he decided his marriage to her was not lawful and wanted it annulment. The annulment would have meant the union never took place which would have made Mary illegitimate. Henry did not want and did not believe that a woman could reign and he wanted son(s) Some of Katherine’s actions may be stubbornness but in her heart she felt Henry had strayed and was attempting to save his eternal soul. We don’t put much value in faith and religion today but in the 16th century it was a part of everything.

        1. The annulment of Henry and Katherine ‘s marriage would have maintained the legitimate status of Mary had it gone through the normal channels and Rome gotten round to deciding on it, because as a couple they had entered into the marriage under good faith. A good faith measure only applied if one or both didn’t know at the time that they were not lawfully married. If one knew but kept an impediment from his partner, it still applied. If both knew about an impediment, but married anyway, the good faith protection didn’t apply and the children were affected. Katherine couldn’t accept an annulment because her marriage to Henry was valid and Henry took the decision away from everyone. He made himself Head of the Church in England, broke from Rome and the English Parliament declared his daughters illegitimate. That’s the only reason the good faith provision didn’t apply, nothing to do with Katherine but with Henry’s decision to break from Rome and get his own annulment. Katherine would have saved everyone a lot of trouble but why? That is just twenty first century thinking. To Katherine Henry was in the wrong, his case was convenient and she was his true wife, he knew he was lawfully married and he was being misled. Henry of course had an opposite view but in fact his reading of Leviticus was mistaken and he was obligated in Deuteronomy to marry Katherine. Katherine was crowned at the same time as her husband, she didn’t have a problem with female rule and she had every right to refuse to go without her case being heard. Jeanette, you cannot have it both ways, women could not say no to the King and at the same time Katherine should have done just that, when in fact she did say no. Personally, I wish Katherine had have accepted a compromise and retired to religious contemplation, but she was called by vocation to marriage which was her own arguments and she felt her Queenship as being ordained by God, just as Henry was ordained by God as King. She was defending her own rights and those of her daughter. She had ruled for eighteen years and Henry had been devoted to her. His pursuit of Anne Boleyn wasn’t his sole reason for an annulment, his desperation for a son was but his relationship with Anne pushed the proceedings because she agreed to become his wife and they had a mutually satisfying relationship for six years, the evidence is clear on that. I disagree that Anne could not say no, in fact Henry didn’t even ask until she offered to give him sons, so who was pursuing whom? Yes, of course his pursuit of her meant nobody else could court her, but she would have been found a husband had their relationship broken down. Anne said yes because she had fallen in love with the King, just as Henry had with her, that is the belief of most scholars and how we interpret the evidence. While all the scenarios you present are valid, they don’t take into consideration the fact that Anne and Henry were passionate lovers who both turned England upside down to achieve the marriage they both desired. Katherine wasn’t responsible for anything Henry decided to allow to be used against Mary, her husband was. Henry could have chosen to accept his daughter and he wasn’t treating her any differently until after he married Anne and obedience to his marriage was now required by oath. His harsher line with Mary reflected that clampdown on opposition to his lawful authority as King and Sovereign as well as her father and the new powers he had obtained as a result of taking over the mantle of Rome.

    1. What correction? Sorry to ask what is a daft question but I think I was replying to about half a dozen people at the same time at three in the morning, in the middle of the countryside, after three pints so am not exactly sure who I am talking to. Do you mean the bit about the “good faith clause” ? In any event, much appreciated if it helps.

      I think we tend to forget that Henry complicated everything, including canon law because he did his own annulment and declared his children illegitimate on a whim through Parliament and his own Archbishop and as a do it yourself job he made the rules up as his circumstances changed, but he justified everything because he couldn’t say his first annulment was wrong, even though Anne Boleyn also didn’t turn out the way he had wanted, because if he admitted that then he would look like a fool. I am with you, as far as Katherine of Aragon is concerned, blaming her for Henry’s ill treatment of her daughter is nonsense. Henry didn’t need to be so harsh, even if as an absolute monarch his control over his daughter and wife had to be as firm and total as his subjects or his authority would have been challenged. The bazardization of Mary in my opinion was totally needless. The way Henry did this in 1533 provoked Mary’s stubborn behaviour and it was at his door that her mistreatment stops although Anne had her own part in the details of what happened over the next three years.

      The mistreatment of Mary continued after Anne was unjustly executed, even though Mary hoped it would improve and moved to her own household. Jane Seymour tried to intervene, Mary wrote to her father, Cromwell helped but Henry demanded her total surrender. He was not going to accept a disobedient daughter, no Tudor fathers could, especially the King and Mary had no choice but to sign her rights away after the delegation from hell came to call. Once Henry did receive her surrender she was treated as if she was still a Princess, she was received at Court, given everything she wanted, her father was affectionate towards her again, people paid her homage and she was present at Court again.

      1. I think Henry was acting vindictively when he declared Mary illegitimate and I feel it was because of Katherine stubbornness towards him, I can see him saying ‘two can play at that game’, but we also have to take into consideration that when Katherine was offered the choice of going to a convent and if she would do so then Mary would still be legitimate and in the line to the throne, she refused and it is this one act which Linda Porter says was all about her and her need to be queen and Henry’s wife still, her daughter did not come into it, therefore she did not make the path smooth for Mary,
        but Henry in bastardising her I feel was unnecessary, he could well have been punishing Katherine through their daughter but the latter was to suffer through the loss of her legitimate royal status as it made her unmarriageble in Europe, apart from the dismay and shock she felt when on that day her servants were told to take her livery badges of and replace them with the kings, and she was told to stop calling herself princess she was merely the Lady Mary, her household were also told not to refer to her as princess as well, both mother and father we have to remember adored Mary she was the only child that had survived and they wished her no unhappiness, but we have to realise Henry V111 was king and he expected complete submission from his subjects including Mary, she did I think go too far on several occasions even Chapyus frowned upon her behaviour when she refused to travel to Hatfield with her baby sister, Cromwell himself wrote to her of her stubbornness and he more or less washed his hands of her, which made her worried as she always thought he was loyal to her, Cromwell was loyal to the king no one else and we can see here how many were beginning to be exasperated by Mary, it could not have been fun having to tell this wilful girl the king commands this and that, and having sarcastic remarks made at you all the time, Mary really was the epitome of the rebellious teenager, Lady Shelton did not relish being in charge of her either, she was Ann Boleyn’s aunt and was told by the queen not to give her special treatment she was no longer a princess just the kings bastard, Mary appears like Cinderella forced into a life of drudgery after the loss of her mother, and Anne the wicked stepmother who sought to advance her own child over that of her husbands, but this was no fairytale which I find very sad because Mary never really obtained true happiness again, the harshness continued after Anne was dead and there was a brief interlude during her new stepmothers tenure as queen, when she experienced happiness but she died and so Mary again had to suffer the loss of loved one, was there any other princess in English history who suffered so much, probably not but then they did not have Henry V111 as a father.

      2. Hi BQ. I had made the comment that if the annulment went through Mary would be made illegitimate.

  7. It is all too easy for us looking back at the 16thc to say Katherine should have done this or that but had we been in her shoes how would we have acted? We cannot put ourself into her mind we are only looking back at the miserable life she had after she set herself up as opposition to Henry V111, we know how she ended up but Katherine knew not the future, for all she knew Henry could have tired of Anne and returned to her, iv said before that it was foolish for Henry to claim theirs had been no marriage the reason for that quoting the line from Leviticus, how would any queen indeed any wife feel that after twenty years of marriage, that her husband told her they had merely been living in sin? I feel he was being naive in thinking he would have no opposition from Katherine, after all she was not the first queen to have her marriage annulled and their spouses had had no problem in the Pope of the time granting them an anullment, so why was his wife being so difficult? As Bq attest’s Katherine felt her marriage was her vocation and it was gods wish that she was Englands true anointed queen consort, her parents and his had wanted it, and twenty years is a long time to be married it was not as if they had only been married a few years, Katherine knew her husband well, she knew he was merely quoting Leviticus because it suited his purpose as a way to end his marriage, (she knew of his conscience)and because she had heard rumours about his fancy for one of her lady’s in waiting, at the same time she knew he wanted a son and she had the memory of the sad loss of their children that she had failed in that aspect, queens were for breeding and for cementing important alliances, to gain allies, Henry V11 and Elizabeth of York were both pleased to welcome the young Catalina into their family, now England had powerful Spain as an ally, it was said that Henrys V111’s eagerness in marrying Katherine was partly due to him having Ferdinand as a father in law, it was also his father’s wish and so he promptly married her, the pope granted the dispensation and thus they were wed, theirs had been a happy marriage and the young king had his wife to turn to for sound good advice when he wanted it, she became pregnant easily proof she was fertile and gave birth to their first child, named Henry after his father but sadly he died and thus followed a pattern which went on for years, only a girl Mary survived, then his mistress gave birth to a bonny boy who lived, did Henry V111 genuinely believe his marriage was cursed I believe so, he was very pious and superstitious he was a product of his age and after Bessie Blount had his son, I think that’s when the first seeds of doubt reared in his mind, why did God let his children die, why did his base born son live ? Was his marriage not blessed by the almighty had he offended God in some way? After so many infant deaths one can allow this King some licence into his reasoning, he began to look through the bible and found the passage from Leviticus, the words burned in his mind,’ if a man looks upon his brothers nakedness he will be unclean and the marriage childless’…by childless he meant no sons, he meant no insult to Katherine he respected her a good deal and wished her no harm, but she had failed to give him a prince that lived, so she had to go, Henry was not unusual in getting rid of an older wife in favour of a younger model, it sounds harsh to us but we know their prime purpose was to give the country an heir or two, he had discussed his marriage with Wolsley for some time without Katherines knowledge, the negotiations had been underway for sone time so when he found a suitable bride to be he would have had to break the news to Katherine in due course, we can guess how she would have reacted much the same! But his intended was one of her own ladies in waiting, a girl descended from a country mercer, here we have not a noblewoman from a foreign land about to replace her but a girl so inferior to her in class and breeding that she was indignant – and she must have been furious to although she probably kept her emotions in check, she thought like most that her husband was acting like a lovesick fool, sending this girl love letters chasing around after her when she went to Hever, buying her expensive gifts and just because she refused to sleep with him, she knew her husband had had mistresse’s in the past and her dismay was apparent when young Henry Fitzroy came to court, but they never lasted and I think her stance was partly due to her thinking Henry would soon get weary of the chase, she could not believe the way he was acting and so she must have thought in time he would get fed up and drop the very idea of discarding her, but I feel she underestimated Henrys urgent desire for a son, and when he met Anne Boleyn that need was fuelled by desire for her, it was a powerful combination, she still loved her husband dearly and she must have been heartbroken over his betrayal, many wives have lost their husband to a younger woman, sometimes their middle aged and it’s called the ‘middle aged crisis’, Katherine wore a hair shirt close to her skin, she had grown fat and had lost her looks and a later portrait of her shows her with a somewhat mulish expression amid a heavy jowelled face, the enchanting young girl of yesteryear with auburn tresses shown in a Madonna like setting has all but vanished, she spent time in fasting and praying it’s her ladies and had grown apart from Henry, yet she still loved him, but he could not help but compare her to this vivacious slender dark eyed Sprite who had stolen his heart, and it must have seemed to him, his very mind also, both Henry Katherine and Anne were all stubborn relentless people and neither one of them would loosen their grip on their personal aim, at the end after long years of struggle both women would be dead and this King still would have no prince, Katherines fight to remain Englands queen came with a cost, Henrys hatred her own personal freedom, and seperation from her daughter, and Ann in her quest to be queen lost her head, Henry was really only the victor here.

    1. In that sense Henry and Katherine are really as many other couples going through a divorce, they are often vindictive and especially if one is offered a good way out and they refuse. Katherine probably should have taken the offer, Henry saw his reaction as the right one because he had tried to get her to agree many times, but she didn’t because marriage was her calling. Yes, I can see him saying that as well and he certainly thought he could force Katherine to submit. Her retirement would have been much better had she gone to a convent. Henry took his frustration out of her, probably because he was fed up. It was definitely vindictive.

  8. To Banditqueen

    “in fact Henry didn’t even ask until she offered to give him sons”

    You evidently mean the picture in the prayer book Anne write, but we don’t know when she did.

    “so who was pursuing whom?”

    We don’t know that for sure, but on the basis of Henry’s letters it was he.

    As for the annulment, Katherine was of course right legally and to the Catholics the Pope’s dispensation was enough.

    But Popes had often found lopeholes to kings who wanted to get rid of their vives. And most of those wives had gone willingly. So there was evidently something in Katherine’s character that made her fight, not just the age she lived or religion.

    As for Henry, it wasn’t seldom that a king wanted the annulment to get a son for but it didn’t succeed, he found other means like marrying his daughter. Henry was an exeption in his stubbornness and the dangers he took.

    1. Hi, Jeanette, yes, we don’t know for certain how much pursuing Henry was doing, but we do know Anne ran off to Hever, although by 1527 things had changed and she and Henry were in a relationship. It is a great pity that we don’t have the letters which Anne wrote to Henry because it is misleading that Henry was just chasing Anne and she was playing hard to get. The inner evidence of those letters shows that Anne wrote encouraging words to him regularly and that they were both looking forward to the day of their marriage, especially as they waited for the papa legate in 1529. Henry refers to her response to him and he is clearly happy with it in his letters. There are letters of pursuit, concern, desire, love, what Henry hoped when next they met, sexuality, sensuality, commitment and passion. They speak of a well developed, passionate and mutually beneficial relationship, not just Henry chasing Anne. Of course that’s how it was at the start, but for six years this was a couple in love, committed to each other and planning to marry. I have studied Anne and Henry for over forty years and the passion of those letters is still fresh, full of new details and fascinating.

      Yes, Popes indeed had made all kinds of controversial decisions to annul a noble or royal marriage, although it was relatively rare, but also to reverse decisions in favour of the woman as her husband was discarding her without reason and she has appealed to the Holy Father. There were other pathways open to Henry one being the marriage of Mary to say Charles V or another option was to marry her to Reginald de la Pole, her cousin, a Plantagenet with a better pedigree than Henry Viii, with sons from that marriage being handed the succession. One argument against the former world be England becoming part of the Empire but on the other hand a son may inherit two crowns. The other plan made more sense but it was abandoned. Reginald of course turned out to be Henry’s worst nightmare because of the annulment and supremacy, because he wrote against it and worked to support Catholic protesters and the northern rebellions which of course would not have happened but for the way Henry went about things.

      Henry had another problem. In this case the Pope was trapped in a political vacuum and had been the prisoner of Katherine’s nephew, Emperor Charles V. Rome was sacked in 1527 and for twelve months it was impossible to move on with this great matter. Even when he was allowed to escape Clement was threatened by the armies of Charles V and Katherine appealed to both her nephew and the Pope. Katherine refused to accept the marriage of the last eighteen years was invalid and maintaining her first marriage wasn’t consummated, she was firm in her determination to hold to her own truth as Queen. Clement was trapped and weak as well and would not make any decisions which pushed Henry into his eventual controversial religious and political decisions. Henry’s obsession and desperate fight to have a son is unique as was his solution. He really didn’t have any choice as he saw it, holding on for several years, going through one thing or another to try and resolve his case, so from his point of view, what he did was the only way out. We have to remember that Henry and Katherine were both strong and determined characters, both quite stubborn and both as determined in the righteousness of their cause. It was little wonder coming from such parents that Mary was just as strong and stubborn. One factor in her surrender was the arrest of several members of her household and supporters who promoted her restoration to the succession. She didn’t just surrender to save her own life, as persuaded by Chapuys but she also did so to save their lives. We can speculate about what choices we think Henry may have had, although in reality his choice was limited by the madness in Europe, we can analyse what was possible through history, but we have to consider the reality of the time, not what was possible for others, because Henry didn’t face the adaptability of some earlier Kings; the entrapment of Pope Clement made an annulment extremely unlikely. As historians we can only comment on the actual events which did happen, not what choices we believe Henry Viii should have had available or made. Yes, his actions and decisions were unique, but the situation in Europe and the power of his wife’s nephew actually limited the response he gave: i.e his break from Rome. The sad reality is that had Henry waited for his case to be decided in Rome, he was not going to get a decision in his favour. Clement Vii confirmed the decision of the Roman Curia that the marriage of Henry Viii and Katherine of Aragon was valid months after his marriage to Anne Boleyn and threatened him with a Bull of Excommunication if he didn’t return to Katherine within three months.

      1. Henry letters have no date, but there are a clear diffrence between those where Henry tried to get Anne to become his mistress and those where they have “engaged” to marry once Henry got his annulment.

        In the first phase Anne obviously refused. There are two interpretations why: she did so sincely but Henry didn’t accept it, or she did it calculatingly to get he want her more and thus get more of him.

        One can’t know which her motive was and it’s clear the interpretations depend much on one’s view of women, men and courting. Is the best way to get a man to say no?

        In the second phase Henry and Anne were a committed couple who had a common goal. Anne was clearly an active partner, but we have no evidence whether she had fallen in love with Henry or whether she had just accepted the inevitable and took the chance because of ambition. In both cases she would have acted in the same manner!

        1. While I agree with most of what you say, my interpretation is based on my knowledge as a historian, although people do interpret things on how they view womanhood and courtship, which in my opinion fails to read how women were expected to maintain their virtue no matter what at this time and how courtship was interpreted at the time. I agree with you that Anne clearly plays games trying to warn Henry off because she isn’t interested in being his mistress. A few people have made attempts to arrange the letters in order with different results, but we do have clues in some of them because of events they refer to. The second phase shows a more committed relationship and most historians agree. No, we don’t know for certain if Anne was in love with Henry in the way he was so passionately in love with her, but interpretation of the sources and evidence leads to that interpretation. If she accepted otherwise then in my book that makes her the grasping, ambitious and scheming minx of legend and not the more balanced and sophisticated woman which the sources reveal. I believe Anne was in love with Henry and that they were in the phase of a passionate and deepening relationship by the late Summer of 1527 and were both working towards the goal of marriage during 1528. This best fits the available evidence. However, there are other interpretations, which contribute to the analysis of the endlessly fascinating relationship between Henry Viii and Anne Boleyn.

          Internal analysis of the love letters reveal several tantalising pieces of evidence, they show Henry torn by grief and despair and worry when Anne is sick with the life threatening sweating sickness which attacked her, her brother and other household and another letter thanks her for her comfortable words and her several pleasant promises to him, as well as her gifts and letters, so we know Anne reciprocated at least during their courtship. She was as enthusiastic about the annulment and the theological arguments behind his great matter as Henry, they had much in common and she sent him a ship with a lady, accepting his protection and commitment to her as his sole mistress. Both Henry and Anne it is now believed mutually agreed to refrain from consummation of their union until marriage was at least around the corner as they already knew that the Vatican regarded their relationship as the real reason behind Henry’s annulment case. Any children would only be illegitimate in any case so they refrained from full sexual intercourse. Anne’s own morality, her strong virtue, held her back from full sexual relations with the King and it is assumed she didn’t want to be his mistress because of her sister Mary but her own moral choices contributed to that decision. She didn’t want to be the mistress of a married man, King or not, but she agreed to become his wife, once the offer of the crown was made and there is also evidence that Henry believed his marriage was over before he began a relationship with Anne Boleyn. He asked for a special commission to examine it secretly in the 1525 but a) Thomas Wolsey came up against objections and b) Katherine found out and everything was forced into the open. The start of Henry’s relationship or courtship with Anne is dated between 1525 (David Starkey) and the Summer of 1526/7 (Eric Ives) although the majority of historians favour the latter date as the one supported by what little evidence is available. A relationship based on commitment can also be inferred in 1526 when Henry asked the Vatican for a dispensation to marry someone related to a woman with whom he had previously had a sexual relationship. That woman is generally taken to be Mary Boleyn, although that is by process of elimination as the woman is not named, but putting all of the evidence together, Mary Boleyn is the only reasonable candidate. One thing which slightly complicates things is that we don’t know much about the earlier relationship with Henry and Mary either.

          It is traditionally assumed that because Henry rode out at a joust to declare his heart broken that he was declaring his love for Mary Boleyn, but these ceremonies were always dedicated to love and honour and beauty and his entire team wore the same outfits. He could be declaring something and nothing. Because Henry was generally discrete during his affairs before Anne Boleyn his affair with Mary has people baffled. It could have been as early as 1520, just before her marriage and as late as 1524/5. Anyway, Henry had a short affair with Mary Boleyn and may or may not have been the father of one or both of her children. Henry needed a dispensation because if he had a union with Anne it would be the same as marrying his sister. However, this request has been used to help date the start of a,growing commitment to Anne Boleyn, which was mutually passionate. You are right, we don’t know what either Anne or Henry was really thinking, but we do know that by piecing the evidence together and reconstructing the timeline of events, we can give an approximate period within which Henry and Anne fell in love and turned their courtship towards marriage once he was free. The year which best fits the evidence, based on the request to the Vatican, internal evidence from Henry’s love letters and the fact that as a couple they were now more visible, is 1527.

  9. Mary went from being the King’s Pearl to the reluctant servant of her baby half sister, whom she regarded as illegitimate, although she became fond of Elizabeth as she grew up, within a few whirlwind months. Even during the turbulent years of Henry’s long searching for his annulment, (1525 to 1533) Mary remained the focus of his fatherly attention. She went to Ludlow to rule with a council on his behalf in the Marches, where although the council ruled for her, she was the symbol of royal authority and learning how to use that authority. I have literally walked in her footsteps through her grand apartments and the beautiful Princess Mary’s walk at the back of the castle, sheltered from the town, with fabulous views and a wooded avenue. A private garden and covered walkway led to her private gate which still exists, although you can’t use it as its old and needs repair. Mary would return to Court and she was still receiving both parents as late as 1531/2. Mary still received gifts from her father and mother and then boom, it all stopped.

    Mary was firstly moved to Court and kept an eye on but then into the household of her sister. It wasn’t as bad as it was made out in the Tudors, she didn’t have a tiny room in the corner and she did manage to avoid the household most of the time by making them serve her dinner in her rooms. Anne did give orders for her to be punished with pinching and hitting but I doubt anyone laid an actual finger on her. She was ordered to keep to her rooms when Henry visited and she moved as the Household moved. On occasion Henry does appear to have lessened his hard treatment but there were other reasons for him doing so. For example, Mary was moved to the Midlands because there were reports that the Emperor had made arrangements to remove her from the country. Ironically this gave her relief from the spies in the household and she was in her own establishment when she heard the news about the fall of Anne and given false hope of her restoration. The delegations whom Henry sent may have overstretched their authority by making personal threats but Henry wanted her obedience and surrender and this he received after others helped her to word her response. Mary was closer to the Court than people realise and she was very much in touch via a network of friends and wasn’t entirely ignorant of what was happening. Her being separated from her mother was very cruel, but again her forced exile didn’t start until after Henry’s marriage to Anne. I am not blaming Anne per say, but Mary was a threat to Elizabeth as far as Anne was concerned and her reluctance to accept Anne as Queen also contributed to this.

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