Documentary Notes – ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ with David Starkey – Part 1, Katherine of Aragon


Katherine of Aragon c.1502 by Michael Sittow.
Katherine of Aragon c.1502 by Michael Sittow.
  • 1501 16-year-old Spanish princess stands on brink of destiny to become Queen of England
  • Katherine of Aragon entered old St Paul’s Cathedral 14 November 1501 to marry the Prince of Wales
  • Ally England to the most powerful royal house in Europe
  • Future of upstart Tudor dynasty seemed secure
  • Wedding a mixture of fairy tale and international relations – took place on a raised walkway with bride and groom dressed in white
  • Future Henry VIII stole the show – escorted Katherine along the aisle
  • Prince Arthur (Henry VIII’s elder brother) was the groom
  • Katherine was the daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile – one of the great military partnerships of Europe
  • Conquered Granada and began conquest of Latin America
  • 1491 Spanish royal family entered the Alhambra in Granada
  • Katherine’s upbringing was founded on Catholicism, Inquisition and military conquest
  • Faith underpinned her life
  • Katherine’s role model was her mother, Isabella – monarch in her own right
  • Ferdinand and Isabella had an unusually equal relationship
  • Given an impressive education to prepare for queenship – betrothal to Prince Arthur aged 5 knowing she would leave for England aged 16
  • December 1501 Katherine was at Ludlow Castle – Arthur’s seat as Prince of Wales
  • Katherine didn’t find her life entirely strange at Ludlow, still a luxurious palace and a familiar pattern of life
  • Only common language between Katherine and Arthur was Latin
  • Katherine was allowed to keep her own Spanish attendants
  • Couples as young as Katherine and Arthur didn’t necessarily live together straightaway – Katherine was 16 and Arthur aged 14
  • The pair got on very well on their wedding night, so it was decided they would live together straightaway in the hope that Katherine would produce an heir quickly
  • Weather was foul and disease broke out at Ludlow
  • End of March 1502 both Arthur and Katherine were gravely ill
  • 2 April 1502 Prince Arthur died, probably from TB aged 15, married less than 5 months
  • The funeral procession struggled through mud and rain, abandoning horses and using oxen instead to make it
  • Katheirne was left vulnerable by sudden death of Arthur, in strange country
  • Two solutions – return to Spain or marry again in England
  • Henry VII and Ferdinand of Aragon bargained – Katherine would marry Arthur’s younger brother, Henry
Continue reading “Documentary Notes – ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ with David Starkey – Part 1, Katherine of Aragon”

Documentary Notes – British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley: the Wars of the Roses


  • Story of past open to interpretation 
  • Carefully edited and deceitful version of events 
  • Not just a version of what happened – more a tapestry of different stories woven together by whoever was in power at the time 
  • Wars of the Roses was invented by the Tudors to justify their power 
  • Immortalised by Shakespeare – darkest chapter in English history 
  • Lancaster and York locked in battle for the crown of England – kings deposed, innocent children murdered, cousin fought against cousin 
  • 1485 Richard III slain and Henry Tudor took the throne 
  • Henry VII’s victory hailed the ending of the Medieval period 
  • Line between fact and fiction often gets blurred 

Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.
Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.

  • 1455 Stubbins in Lancashire scene of a legendary battle in the Wars of the Roses beginning with volleys of arrows but ran out of ammunition 
  • Lancastrians pelted the Yorkists with black pudding – local legend 
  • Yorkists pelted the Lancastrians with Yorkshire puddings – local legend 
  • Wars of the Roses in national memory 
  • History books – rivalry between Lancaster (red rose) and York (white rose) – bloody rivalry largely a creation of the Tudors 
  • 1461 bloodshed real in the middle of a snowstorm at Towton 
  • Lancastrians started out well but tide turned against them, chased by the Yorkists down the slope to a river and so a massacre began 
  • Blood stained the snow red, so location became known as the bloody meadow 
  • Shakespeare portrayed the battle as a bloody Armageddon – represented a country torn apart by war, nothing as bad in our history 
  • Somme 19,000 British soldiers killed on the first day, Towton 28,000 killed 
  • 20 years ago Bradford University revealed barbarity of fighting with remains of 43 men killed at Towton 
  • Head forced down into the spine, poleaxes – exceptional even for the Wars of the Roses 
  • Skirmishes, but real battles only around 8 in 30 years 
  • Not ravaged by all-out war – later myth 
  • Out of 32 years of wars, fighting on lasted a total of 13 weeks 

Continue reading “Documentary Notes – British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley: the Wars of the Roses”

Documentary Notes – ‘Henry VIII and his Six Wives’ with Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 4, Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr


Katherine Howard miniature by Hans Holbein.
Katherine Howard miniature by Hans Holbein.

  • After 4 failed marriages Henry VIII married Katherine Howard
  • She had a guilty secret
  • Final wife Katherine Parr more obedient but not all she seemed
  • 1539 Henry VIII aged 48, first 3 wives dead
  • Henry stuck in a loveless marriage with Anne of Cleves – called her fat and ugly, he was so disgusted he couldn’t have sex with her
  • Big problem for Henry and the Tudor dynasty
  • The king only had one son, and child deaths were common
  • Just months into his marriage to Anne Henry began to look around for her replacement but didn’t look far
  • 1539 aged 17 Katherine Howard arrived at the Tudor court – came from a rich and powerful noble family
  • Henry fell in love at first sight
  • Katherine was everything Anne wasn’t – made him feel manly
  • Henry saw Katherine as virginal “blushing rose without a thorn”
  • Within months of arriving at court it is believed Katherine became Henry’s lover
  • Spring 1540 Henry was seen making regular trips day and night to Katherine’s house, and planned to wed her
  • Anne had to go – just 6 months after the wedding Henry left Anne
  • Used her previous engagement to a French nobleman to annul the marriage – she was paid off and sent away
  • 28 July 1540 Henry and Katherine married, just 2 weeks after the annulment of Henry’s previous marriage
  • Being queen was everything Katherine dreamed it would be
  • Henry showered Katherine with jewels and showed her off at banquets and hunting expeditions
  • Henry in love and lust, drunk with desire – sexual problems disappeared

Continue reading “Documentary Notes – ‘Henry VIII and his Six Wives’ with Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 4, Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr”

Documentary Notes – ‘Henry VIII and his Six Wives’ with Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 3, Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves


Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein c.1536.
Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein c.1536.

  • Jane Seymour often overlooked – Henry called her his true love
  • Taught Henry the importance of family, battled to reunite him with his daughter and gave him a son and heir
  • Cruel twist of fate – Jane was snatched from him
  • Death and betrayal turned Henry into a bitter and cruel man
  • Made his most disastrous marriage to Anne of Cleves
  • 1536 Henry VIII was aged 44, divorced one wife and other in the Tower awaiting execution for adultery and incest
  • Anne’s infidelity humiliated Henry and cast doubt over his sexual prowess
  • While Anne was in the Tower Henry tried to find her replacement
  • Jane Seymour caught the king’s eye, age 24 and had served both Katherine of Aragon anf Anne Boleyn
  • Virtuous, unassuming and honest
  • Henry sent Jane a letter but she sent it back unopened – wanted to make an honourable marriage
  • Henry’s chivalrous side and aroused his desire
  • Once Henry set his mind on having something he would do anything to get it
  • Henry courted Jane in earnest – before Anne Boleyn was executed Jane was in sight as wife number 3
  • 19 May 1536 Anne Boleyn beheaded on Tower Green
  • Anne still hoped for a last minute reprieve and mercy from Henry who had loved her but Henry had already switched his affections to Jane
  • Henry and Jane were planning their future together
  • Less than 24 hours after Anne’s death Henry and Jane were engaged
  • No record of how Jane reacted to Anne’s beheading but didn’t hesitate to step over Anne to the throne
  • Far steelier than anyone realised
  • 11 days after Anne’s beheading Henry and Jane married, Henry in love
  • Not everyone shared Henry’s affection for Jane
  • Chapuys reported that Jane was of middling stature and no great beauty, proud and haughty, of no great wit
  • Why did Henry marry Jane? Had previously been married to 2 attractive and intelligent women
  • Henry liked Jane because she was so different – compassionate, loyal and do what he told her without question

Continue reading “Documentary Notes – ‘Henry VIII and his Six Wives’ with Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 3, Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves”

Documentary Notes – ‘Hidden Killers of the Tudor Home’ with Suzannah Lipscomb


Suzannah Lipscomb, historian.
Suzannah Lipscomb, historian.

  • Tudor home is icon of Britishness
  • Quaint relics of the past – changed them and us
  • Age of discovery and anything is possible – change most evident in the home, domestic life transformed
  • As with anything new there were risks
  • Life threatening changes made their way into the heart of the Tudor home
  • Emergence of people with new wealth – aspirations for their homes
  • New homes introduced hidden killers to the home
  • Newly discovered lands brought killers home into the kitchen and dining room
  • Boom in trade, prospering in trade and new goods including food and furniture, home became more comfortable than ever home
  • Increase in material goods
  • Dining room – taste for the new and exotic
  • Until the 1540s the English didn’t have a word for orange
  • Sugar became more available with lower prices – slave trade
  • Medieval diet rather bland, enhanced with sugar in Tudor period
  • Sugar needs to be broken up – work hours as well as expense, desirable way of displaying status
  • Could play with sugar to shape and dye it
  • Huge release of energy when sugar introduced to a diet that had none before
  • Consumption more widespread but caused trouble – changes in disease patterns over time, impact of sugar on health
  • Dental health – marked change in dental health. Medieval teeth much healthier than Tudor skulls as sugar introduced
  • Methods of cleaning teeth in the Tudor period made things worse
  • Used solutions to clean their teeth containing sugar or alabaster
  • Kissing comfits were sweets which took away bad breath but damaged teeth
  • Sugar also affects chemicals in the body – serotonin, pleasure chemical

Continue reading “Documentary Notes – ‘Hidden Killers of the Tudor Home’ with Suzannah Lipscomb”

Documentary Notes – ‘Henry VIII and his Six Wives’ with Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 2, Anne Boleyn


Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait

Anne Boleyn was the most notorious mistress in English history

Intelligent, sophisticated, ambitious

Captivated Henry VIII

Together Henry and Anne destroyed Katherine of Aragon

Anne became too confident and paid for the crown with her life

1529 Henry VIII in love with Anne for 3 years

Was lady in waiting to Katherine of Aragon – tired of being mistress

Anne promised Henry a living son – the one thing Katherine had failed to give him – but she wouldn’t sleep with Henry until he left his wife

Katherine refused to step aside – loyal wife for 2 decades

Katherine wouldn’t give up Henry without a fight – Katherine asked Henry to allow marriage to be judged in public court

Katherine had chance to save marriage and crown

Katherine had been preparing for this her whole life – not to be crushed by any man

All or nothing

21 June 1529 great hall at Blackfriars priory – struggle made public

Henry and Katherine faced each other in the divorce court in front of public audience

Continue reading “Documentary Notes – ‘Henry VIII and his Six Wives’ with Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 2, Anne Boleyn”

Elizabeth I Episode 2 Starring Lily Cole


Episode 2 – The Enemy Within, aired 16.05.2017

Elizabeth I c.1563 Hampden portrait by Steven van der Meulen
Elizabeth I c.1563 Hampden portrait by Steven van der Meulen

Aged 25 Elizabeth is queen but not safe

1559 Elizabeth crowned queen, but her path to power had been a long battle

She had survived but could never drop her guard

War was raging across Europe as Catholics and Protestants tore each other apart – Elizabeth was plunged into the middle of the battle

Elizabeth most powerful protestant monarch surrounded by catholic enemies

 

Privy council believed Elizabeth needed to marry

Elizabeth declared she was already married to England – sounded great, but just words

Queen had a good reason for not wanting to wed – would reduce her power, wanted to be a real queen not queen in name only

Understandable but left a huge problem – who would rule if she suddenly died?

Continue reading “Elizabeth I Episode 2 Starring Lily Cole”

Elizabeth I Episode 1 Starring Lily Cole


Episode 1 – Battle for the Throne, aired 09.05.2017

Elizabeth I coronation portrait c.1610 copy of a lost original
Elizabeth I coronation portrait c.1610 copy of a lost original

Elizabeth I was England’s greatest queen – strong-willed, passionate and brave

Vulnerable woman surrounded by danger

Enemies scheming for her crown and plotting against her life

Would never know a moment’s peace

From the minute of her birth she was thrust into a bloody game – life and death

Never knew who to trust and who to fear

Hopes, fears, enemies who stalked her at every turn

What drove her enemies? Risks? Plots? How close they came to destroying Elizabeth

Elizabeth fell prey to a ruthless lord, sister’s love turns murderous

Continue reading “Elizabeth I Episode 1 Starring Lily Cole”

Errors in The Tudors Season 4


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Tamsin Merchant as Katherine Howard and Torrance Coombs as Thomas Culpeper

Episode 1 – Moment of Nostalgia

  • Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and his wife, Katherine, are separated – later on in the series he has an affair. In reality, there is no evidence that the marriage of the Brandons was unstable, it seems to have been relatively happy.
  • On screen, Henry Howard, is shown as being in his mid-forties and calls Katherine Howard his niece. In reality, Henry and Katherine were cousins, and he was actually only in his mid-twenties at this time.
  • When Princess Elizabeth meets Katherine Howard she looks around 13/14 years old, but in reality she would only have been around 6/7.
  • Henry VIII speaks of the death of the French dauphin just after his marriage to Katherine in 1540, but the dauphin died in 1536.
  • Henry VIII is shown condemning Viscount Lisle to death, but he actually died in 1542 when being given news of his release.
  • A marriage between Princess Mary and the Duke of Orleans is proposed on screen, but the duke was already married in reality by this point.
  • There is no evidence that Anne Stanhope cheated on her husband, the Earl of Hertford, let alone with his brother. This perhaps parallels the supposed affair of Hertford’s first wife with his own father.

Continue reading “Errors in The Tudors Season 4”

Historical Inaccuracies in ‘The Tudors’ Season 3


Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540
Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540

Episode 1 – Civil Unrest

  • Henry VIII introduces Ambassador Chapuys to Jane Seymour, like it was her first time meeting him – she had been at court for some years serving both Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, so would have met the ambassador before.
  • Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, served as Jane’s principal lady-in-waiting – Jane Boleyn did serve under Jane Seymour, but the latter’s principal lady-in-waiting was actually her sister, Elizabeth Seymour.
  • Francis Bryan first appears in season 3 – he was actually active at court from 1528, and was instrumental in helping Cromwell to bring about the fall of Anne Boleyn, although this isn’t shown.
  • Francis Bryan threatening to beat Mary’s head against the wall until it was as soft as a boiled apple – these words were spoken to Mary, but it was before her mother had even died (season 2) and it wasn’t by Francis Bryan, but by either George Talbot or Thomas Howard, both staunch Boleyn supporters.
  • The women at the Tudor court all seems to wear crowns and tiaras – all women in the Tudor court would have worn hoods rather than these, even queens.

Continue reading “Historical Inaccuracies in ‘The Tudors’ Season 3”