Anne Boleyn Files visitor, Lexy from France, has written us a special Halloween article – enjoy it and don’t forget to enter our Halloween Competition. Also, if you go to a Halloween event at somewhere like Hever Castle or Sudeley Castle then please do let me know what it was like.
Was Henry VIII a Cursed King
In 1528, as the King of England was about to change his country’s destiny by creating a new Church, a mad ( or well manipulated) nun named Elizabeth Barton announced that if he married Anne Boleyn dogs would lick up his corpse’s blood. Twenty years later, when his coffin broke and a dog licked what was coming out, lots of people remembered this prophecy. But as we are about to celebrate Halloween, the time of all the horrors, we should ask ourselves if, indeed, Old Harry was under the spell of another curse, more ancient, and which had nothing to do with his marital status, the Curse of the Templars.
The story begins with King Philip the Fair, who ruled France from 1285 to 1314.
Apart from siring the infamous She-wolf of France, his major deeds were uniting definitively what was before a patchwork of more or less independent territories and being the first French King to defy the Pope for another reason than marriage. He considered that the King of France had the right to decide who would receive the charges and money in his own kingdom, and to receive the money himself in the case of the charge having no tenant. Of course, this financial aspect had more to do with the creation of what historians call “gallicanism” than religion, Philip being constantly on the brink of ruin. He accused the Pope Boniface VIII of sodomy and simony ( the act of selling religious goods) and even allowed his ambassador, Guillaume de Nogaret, to slap the Holy Father in the face in 1303.
But, when Clement V succeeded Boniface, Philip found a partner in crime, in particular in destroying the wealthy and controversial Templars. On Friday October 13th 1307, the leaders of the Order were arrested; after being accused of adoring the devil and sodomy ( the Medieval and legal equivalent of a Swiss knife, which could be used for every reason). They were tortured and burned at the stake. Their wealth was shared between the King and the Pope, as expected; but what wasn’t expected were Master Jacque de Molay’s last words. Here is a translation of another translation from Medieval French, by the writer and historian Maurice Druon:
“Pope Clement, knight Guillaume de Nogaret, King Philip, before a year will have passed, I summon you to God’s court! Cursed, you’ll be all cursed, until the thirteenth generation of your races will have disappeared! “
Here is the trailer of the most recent adaptation of this book: you can hear Gerard Depardieu screaming the curse in it:-
These words took another dimension when all three men died in the time announced, especially when one couldn’t close the eyes of the dead king, a sign that he was doomed by Medieval standards.
The Heirs of the Curse: Was Henry One of Them?
Philip wasn’t the only one to be cursed: cursing someone, especially until the naturally cursed thirteenth generation, meant that your whole blood, including your family’s had to disappear. Philip’s three sons died young and sonless; and some historians, having noticed that Louis XVI was the thirteenth generation descended from Philip, even link this curse to all the French kings.
But what of Philip’s other descendants, the Kings of England? Through Isabella, one can imagine they too were affected: Richard II’s infamous death, Henry VI’s madness, the destiny of all the Yorkists kings and pretenders… But Henry VIII was not only twice a descendant of Isabella of France , through Edmund of Langley and John of Gaunt, he had an extra drop of accursed blood from Katherine of Valois, whose father’s madness was considered to be another part of the curse. The suffering and lack of a male heir would then be a consequence of something beyond the wife’s choice or anybody’s sin.
But another point played against Henry: like his ancestor Philip, he acted with hubris and arrogance against the Church, creating his own in order to be the only one to own both the wealth and power in his country, a major argument for being doomed by a monk’s curse. Like Philip, he used the stake and the sword against the innocent in order to seize this power and wealth, from Cardinal Fisher to Anne Askew. Henry had the blood of innocents on his hands, just like Philip. Like Philip’s son, Louis X, his wife was found guilty of adultery, put in jail and executed ( though Louis did it unofficially), and the son his fair other wife had didn’t live long. One can even consider the lack of heirs of Edward, Mary and Elizabeth a result of the curse, after all, thirteen generations had not yet passed.
Spooky facts, no?
What Does All This Teach Us?
Now, what can we learn from this story?
When a man as fat as Henry, with his ulcerous legs, was put in a wooden coffin, it is more believable that the coffin had a flaw, that it broke under his weight and that a corpse already rotting in life had continued to rot after death. Philip’s death resulted from a fall from a horse, and Clement’s death had more to do with poison and the internal rivalries in the Vatican than with a curse from a dying old man. But can we accuse Medieval people of credulity and superstition, when we look at the similarities between the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and Kennedy, or read articles about how Nostradamus predicted September the Eleventh 20o1? When people in France believed that an eclipse would be the end of the world because Paco Rabanne had written a book on it? Every man in this world, since its beginning, has been looking for meaning and sense, and we, with all our science and progress, are not that different from Medieval and Tudor people.
But since a little dreadful moment is always good… Happy Halloween!
Thanks, Lexy! I wish I could write as well as that in French!
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