Sunday, April 14, 2013

King Henry VIII and His Six Wives Part I

This wouldn't be considered a history blog if there isn't a post about King Henry VIII! Hence, I shall make a short write up about Henry VIII and each of Henry's wives. I will write a more detailed one about them later in separate posts.

The Tudor Dynasty has been one of my favourites in History. Actually the 16th century is probably one of the best historical era everywhere in the world (e.g Joseon Dynasty in Korea). There is a saying that in Henry VIII and Elizabeth I (Henry VIII's daughter), the Tudor Dynasty produced the two most famous monarchs in English History. The ironic twist is this: Henry VIII was infamously known as the tyrant yet his daughter made her ruling era (the Elizabethan Era) known as England's Golden Age. Another fun fact is Henry's eldest daughter, Queen Mary I (also known as Bloody Mary), is the most hated Queen in British History! All in all, 16th century England has been one of the most dramatic periods in History

To read more about Queen Elizabeth I click here

Here is a summarised version of Henry VIII's six wives in a form of a song:

Wife 1: Catherine of Aragon

young Catherine/ Catalina of Spain
The first wife of Henry VIII was initially betrothed to Henry's elder brother, Prince Arthur. However, Prince Arthur died before he could be king. Henry VIII later fell in love with the Spanish Infanta/Princess who was the descendent of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon (really powerful and most feared monarchs at that time); hence, Henry had decided to marry his brother's widow. Everyone thought Henry's reign would be a very promising one indeed, with a merry court and a young monarch. This was very much different from his father's court which mostly consisted of old and dull men, battered from the War of the Roses. According to historical records, even Prince Arthur was considered a rather dull and uptight boy. It was no wonder everyone believed Princess Catherine when she claimed her marriage with Prince Arthur was not consummated due to his impotency; hence she was allowed to marry Arthur's younger brother, the next Prince of Wales. The bright and merry Henry was said to be very much in love with Catherine then, maybe because he was always regarded as a shadow of his brother thus wanting everything that belonged to Arthur. It may also be due to Catherine's beauty since she was highly regarded for her looks-- even Henry's father once considered to marry her after his son's death! Whether Catherine was indeed Arthur's lover, no one knows.

Their marriage was a happy one in the early years. However when years have passed the only surviving child in their marriage was Princess Mary Tudor. With the Queen unable to bear a surviving heir and the King in his prime age, Henry VIII lead on a prodigal lifestyle with many mistresses. One of his mistresses, Lady Elizabeth Blount, who was the Queen's lady in waiting was able to bear him a son, and that made Henry VIII believe that the reason why he was unable to bear a male heir is his sin to marry his brother's wife. He excused himself by claiming that Catherine's marriage with Arthur was indeed consummated, and he had been living in deception.
Henry's eldest child, Princess Mary (later known as Bloody Mary). She had lived in mockery and was justifiably one of
the unhappiest lady in Christendom. She was considered the King's bastard and had to serve her step-sister as a maidservant. Sometimes her life was threatened by the King. She was a pious Catholic and was against religious reform
Queen Catherine was no longer remembered as a great beauty nor a daughter of one of the most powerful monarchs in Christendom. After being a neglected Princess Dowager and then a Queen Dowager, people viewed her as a fat, quiet, solemn, helpless lady who was way older than her "husband" the King of England. Even though she had won the hearts of the citizens and had the Emperor of Spain and Rome's backing, the King had decided that he should be the supreme head of the Church of England, with the support of his lover, Lady Anne Boleyn. Thus, England broke all ties with Rome and King Henry VIII was made the head of the Church of England.

Queen Catherine died alone, in an outcasted place. Her death was probably due to depression and isolation, since she was not allowed to see her daughter for years; she will not submit that her marriage with Henry was indeed annulled and invalid. While her deathbed wishes and prayers were about Henry's well-being, King Henry celebrated upon knowing that his stubborn wife was no longer able to oppose him with his marriage with Anne Boleyn.

Note: Modern medical experts are in agreement that Catherine's cause of death was poisoning. Catherine's heart had also blackened during her embalming. Of course, Henry and/or Anne was accused of murdering her

Henry VIII caused a religious upheaval in England just so he could be married to Anne Boleyn. The change of religion from Roman Catholic to Protestant to rid Queen Catherine and his marriage changed the lives of many in England. During the Tudor Era, the "right" religion is highly dependent on who was the ruling monarch. The cost of not obeying the Monarch's religion and not repenting to their "sins" was to be burnt to death

Wife 2: Anne Boleyn

Always seen with the Pearl necklace "B"
The most infamous Queen of all time. I have been hearing a lot about her since I was a child. Mostly because people like to describe her as the most travelled ghost in Britain. There have been a lot of "sightings" of her unrest spirit especially in the Tower of London.

Anne was the sister of King Henry's favourite mistress at one point of time. After growing tired of Mary Boleyn, King Henry fell madly in love with Mary's sister, Anne Boleyn (some have claimed that Anne Boleyn was the reason King Henry grew tired of Mary Boleyn; Anne flirted with Henry while Mary was pregnant). He probably fell in love with Anne the longest and deepest in his entire lifetime (longest marriage would be with his first wife though). Causing a chaos in his country just so he could be with her was just one measure of how much he loved her, because if there is any woman he must have hated most in his life, it would also be Anne Boleyn. He had accused her of witchcraft, adultery (one account said she had 100 lovers, one of it her own brother), incest, heresy, treason, and cursed, before he had her beheaded in the Tower of London, only to celebrate and marry his next wife a day after.

Note: One or both of Mary Boleyn's child(ren) might be offspring(s) of the King. Mary was already the King's mistress when she just got married to William Carey. Her eldest daughter Catherine Carey accompanied Queen Anne to her execution, then became lady in waiting to Queen Anne of Cleves (after the third Queen Jane Seymour), Queen Katherine Howard, Queen Catherine Parr, and ultimately QUEEN ELIZABETH I OF ENGLAND*. Mary Boleyn's second child Henry Carey was said to strongly resemble Henry VIII of England. Henry VIII did not formally acknowledge them as his child(ren); he was already besotted by Anne when he abandoned Mary. Both of Mary's children played significant roles in Queen Elizabeth I's Golden Age.

*Might seem like Catherine Carrey lived for a long time, but really, the Queens all died/stepped down very fast.

Initially Queen Catherine's lady in waiting, Lady Anne Boleyn was from one of the most powerful and influential families in 16th century England, the Howards. She was raised and educated in France where she first served the Queen of France with her sister Mary Boleyn. It was said that her dull sister Mary was "the great prostitute" while Anne insisted that she herself was unlike Mary; she was pure and with honour, only fit to be a wife and not having a status of a mistress. On many accounts it was also said that there was a sister rivalry to compete for almost anything, including the King's favour. When Mary Boleyn (also the Queen's lady in waiting) was the King's favourite, the hard-headed and strong-willed Anne Boleyn secretly married Henry Percy just so she could be the wife of a Duke, outshining her sister who was married to a mere William Carey. Anne was later banished in Hever then France due to disgrace, but was later called back to seduce the King, backstabbing her sister since Mary was then the King's lover.
Mary Boleyn and Anne Boleyn. The beautiful, infamous sisters with their stories often told in novels, dramas, movies, etc
King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn together would be one of the most selfish couples in the world. Anne Boleyn influenced King Henry into thinking that he is able to be the supreme head of the Church of England, and with the crown of England, he could do anything he pleases for his words are like God's alone. Flirtatious, intelligent, yet playing hard to get, Anne made everyone including King Henry extremely besotted. Unlike other women who would give the King anything he wishes, the Lady Anne Boleyn knew how to play the King's heart and mind. The "elusive femme fatale" was justifiably a whole lot more interesting hence Anne had kept the King's capricious affections for the longest period of time.
Anne was considered the most stylish and accomplished woman at court. Some say that Anne resisted the King's attempts to seduce her, refusing to become his mistress, often leaving court for the seclusion of Hever Castle. But within a year, he proposed marriage to her, and she accepted. Both assumed an annulment could be obtained within a matter of months. There is no evidence to suggest that they engaged in a sexual relationship until very shortly before their marriage; Henry's love letters to Anne seem to suggest that their love affair remained unconsummated for much of their seven-year courtship. However, Anne was pregnant by the time of her marriage. -- Wikipedia
Anne's only surviving child is her first born, a red-haired Elizabeth like her father. Anne's struggle to produce a male heir eventually lead to her downfall. The King was shifting his affection towards Anne's lady in waiting, Lady Jane Seymour. Anne had suffered a few miscarriages, all most likely to be a boy. Her miscarriage must have stemmed from depression and pressure: Henry was badly injured during a jousting event (this eventually caused him a severe leg ulcer and ultimately his cause of death); Anne was jealous of Jane Seymour who seemed to provoke Anne with the gifts Henry gave Jane; Anne witnessed Jane Seymour showing affection towards the King; etc. Her final miscarriage caused Henry's resentment towards Anne, which had also culminated from her tantrums and displayed jealousy. Queen Catherine of Aragon was nowhere like Anne: Catherine remained passive and silent when Henry flirted with her ladies in waiting and had multiple mistresses. Anne however, was naturally not submissive, and no longer with Henry's favour, she was bringing herself into great danger. Ever since the expulsion of Queen Catherine, Henry had transformed into a tyrant, where no one dared to challenge nor question his supreme authority. Even Henry's looks had transformed from the golden, much adored Prince Charming of Christendom to a fat, ostentatious old man (like how people often see him in his portraits, he was said to be extremely handsome during his young age). Anne was the main contributor towards his limitless authority, fiery temper, and unquestionable power. The fire she had played eventually burnt her metaphorically.

Henry never said goodbye. Anne was captured and locked in the Tower of London. Anne's unborn child who was deformed was said to be the son of the devil, the son of her brother from the product of incest. Henry never believed for once that he is able to produce a deformed foetus; he was always deluded to be the eternally handsome young boy when in truth he turned into an ugly old man. Allegations were made by George Boleyn's wife, Lady Jane Parker/Boleyn/ Lady Rochford (also lady in waiting to Queen Catherine, Queen Anne Boleyn, Queen Jane, Queen Anne of Cleves, Queen Katherine). In truth, historians most likely suggest that George Boleyn was actually gay, and his unhappy marriage with Jane Parker made Jane a backstabber, in addition to her jealousy of Anne's beauty and influence. It was a known fact that George had always been with Anne, maybe because Anne couldn't trust anyone from the hate everyone had against her. Anne regarded George as her only sibling; she broke all ties with Mary Boleyn for marrying a nobody and Mary was banished from court. After all Anne was jealous that Mary had been pregnant many times while Anne was struggling to have a surviving child.

Jane Parker being the only survivor from the Boleyn's disgrace made her a hated figure in history. In some books that depict Jane's point of view, it was due to pressure from their patriarch Sir Howard that caused her to turn against Anne and George Boleyn in order to guarantee her safety. After all Sir Howard and Anne Boleyn had a fall out after Anne had excessive power. Sir Howard felt that she had forgotten who placed her on the throne; he sentenced his niece to death.
Young Elizabeth Tudor, especially hated by Mary Tudor.
Said to be extremely beautiful and highly intelligent.
A great monarch for sure

Princess Elizabeth was named a bastard and lived in poverty during her youth. All her mother's expenses when locked in the dungeon had to be paid by Elizabeth as well. She had managed to escape death many times since many resented her mother, the "French slut". Her half sister even imprisoned Elizabeth in a tower once. When Elizabeth found out the cause of her mother's death and the hate people have on her mother, the distraught Princess Elizabeth swore to live and die a celibate. She was the last of the Tudor Queen and reigned the longest in the Tudor Dynasty. Her ruling era was named England's Golden Age. Queen Elizabeth I is the epitome of a female Monarch, she had made England rich again for the first time after the ruling of the first Tudor Monarch her grandfather. She had regained peace in the land after the religious upheaval and massacre.  Even though many had questioned her parentage, her temper and red hair was a good proof that she was indeed the child of Henry VIII's. After all, it is now widely believed that Queen Anne was innocent. She might not had committed adultery nor incest but she may had lied about being unmarried to Henry Percy during the King's courting with her sister Mary.

After Queen Anne's death, the King married Jane Seymour shortly after-- they were betrothed on the same day Anne lost her head! Queen Anne was raised in France and used to influence the court into a French Style. Her disgrace made anything seductive in nature depicted as "French". Anne was killed by a French sword.

To be continued...

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