Sunday, 3 April 2011

The six wives of Henry VIII


Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived! As this popular song says, all king Henry VIII’s wives suffered a similar and unfortunate fate. Their particular dramatic stories and personalities have turned them into striking characters as poor women who were raised and later destroyed by their own husband. That is the story of six Women who suffered the sexism and exclusion of their time and coexisted with power, ambition and conspiracy.


1. Catherine of Aragon: “Humble and loyal”

Catherine of Aragon (1485 –1536) was the youngest daughter of the Catholic Monarchs. She was married with Prince Arthur (Henry’s oldest brother) but He died before being king. After that, young king Henry VIII decided to marry his brother’s widow asking for a papal dispensation. They were married for 24 years but had only one survivor child, Princess Mary (future Mary I named bloody Mary). Henry was obsessed with having a male heir and Catherine was not able to have more kids after six pregnancies. By this time, Henry was still in love with Anne Boleyn and so decided to ask the Pope for the divorce for marrying Anne. However, Queen Catherine was Emperor Charles V‘s aunt so that Rome refused. Henry broke down with Rome founding the Anglican Church. Despite Henry’s attempts to give in Catherine to the divorce (He removed her Spanish ladies, moved Mary away from her, took her jewels out etc.) She never resigned herself, even though the marriage was declared illegal. Catherine was expelled from court in 1533 to Kimbolton’s castle where she died in 1536 as the “Dowager Princess of Wales” of cancer. She is buried in Westminster Abbey.


2. Anne Boleyn: “The most happy”

Anne Boleyn (150?-1536) was a young, ambitious and intelligent lady who was educated in the French court. Anne was quite different of the rest of the women on the court. She was a strong, cheerful and advanced woman with a great culture and vitality but really moody too. She refused to be the King’s unless He promised her marriage and the crown. Anne was completely opposite to queen Catherine and Henry fell in love with her deeply and decided to get married hopeful to have a male heir. The Boleyn family increased their power and patrimony and Anne became the most powerful person in the court; in fact, she promoted Cardinal Wolsey’s downfall and introduced Lutheran ideas into the court convincing Henry too. In 1533 Anne married Henry in a secret ceremony and was crowned in the same year as legitimate queen being pregnant. Despite Henry’s wishes, Anne gave birth to a girl: Elizabeth (future queen Elizabeth I). Henry was so disappointed and the problems started. Anne had two miscarriages and Henry soon decided to take another wife: one less bad-tempered and more obedient. Henry met Jane Seymour and ordered his minister Cromwell to get rid of Anne. In 1536, Anne was accused of adultery, incest, witchery, high treason etc. and declared guilty. She was beheaded in 1536 being buried in the Tower of London.


3. Jane Seymour: “Bound to obey and serve”

Jane Seymour (1509-1537) served as lady in waiting both for Queen Catherine and Queen Anne. Unlike Anne Boleyn, Jane was a pale, blond and blue eyed lady. She was not described as a beautiful girl but as virtuous, shy and obedient. She was of the Roman Catholic faith, really formal and strict as queen, banned the French fashion introduced by Anne Boleyn and She was never involved in national affairs. Henry and Jane got married just eleven days after Anne’s execution. Jane’s principal task was Jane was to reconcile Princess Mary with the king. After a short time Jane got pregnant giving birth to Henry’s wished male heir on October 1537 but unfortunately, Jane’s labor had been difficult and She died by puerperal fever a few days later. Henry was so depressed and He remembered her as “his true wife” being buried beside her.


4. Anne of Cleves: “God has sent me well to keep”

Anne of Cleves (1515-1557) was a German noblewoman that was chosen as 4th wife for King Henry after Jane’s Seymour death. Cromwell urged the king the match with Anne and after the king saw her portrait the negotiations were begun. Henry was pleased with the portrait but when Anne came to England. He felt so disappointed. In fact, He named her “The Flanders’s mare” They were married for just seven months and the marriage ended when Henry asked for the annulment on the grounds of non-consummation. Anne was considered part of the King's family and was referred as "the King's Beloved Sister".


5. Catherine Howard: “No other will but his”

Catherine Howard (152?-1542) was almost 30 years younger than King Henry. She was first cousin of Anne Boleyn but Catherine’s family was poorer and less ambitious. In fact, Catherine grew in her Grandmother’s household. Catherine was a cheerful and innocent girl but not really clever. She was too immature but Henry found in her vitality, happiness and youth. Catherine fell in love with Thomas Culpeper, a handsome gentleman of the King's privy chamber, and they started an affair. In 1542, Henry got some evidences of the queen’s unfaith and both them were arrested being found guilty and sentenced to death. Catherine Howard was beheaded and buried next to her cousin Anne Boleyn.


6. Catherine Parr: "To Be Useful in All I Do"

Catherine Parr (1512-1548) was the last wife of King Henry. In 1543, Henry was ill and old and He needed a nurse more than a wife. Catherine Parr was about 30 and had been married four times before. Catherine was a great friend for Henry and a good stepmother for the royal children. She was able to restore the line to the throne both Mary and Elizabeth behind Edward. She was one of the first women in England in writing a book (Lamentations of a sinner). Catherine was a strong and really intelligent woman and she ruled England as regent in a short period of time when Henry was in France in a campaign. She knew perfectly what to say and how. In fact, there was a conspiracy against her because of her Lutheranism but it failed because of her cleverness to convince the king. After Henry’s death she married Thomas Seymour (brother of Queen Jane) and take Elizabeth with her. She got pregnant and died giving birth to her daughter. She was buried in the chapel of Sudeley Castle.

Henry VIII and his six wives as seen on in The Tudors series















Media:
-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6GsFipeldo
-http://www.youtube.com/user/littlemisssunnydale (David Starkey's documentary and more)
Bibliography:
-Wikipedia
-The six wives of Henry VIII (Antonia Fraser)

Esther Ayora González, Group AA

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