Event– Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon Year– 1509 Location– Greenwich Palace, England
The wedding of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon isn’t as well-known as their very public divorce. Katherine was the widow of Henry’s older brother, Arthur, who had died in 1502. Henry would later allege that this was an impediment from which the Pope couldn’t dispense.
Katherine and Henry had been betrothed for 6 years by the time that they married, and it wasn’t certain that they would marry even after the betrothal. When Katherine’s mother, Isabella of Castile, died Katherine was seen as less valuable on the marriage market as she was no longer the product of a united Spain. Henry VII began to look elsewhere for a bride for his son.
When Henry VII died in 1509 Katherine’s fortunes changed overnight and the marriage negotiations were successfully brought to an end in May 1509. The marriage licence was issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham, on 8 June 1509.
The marriage was a private ceremony in the queen’s closet at Greenwich Palace on 11 June 1509 with just a couple of witnesses in attendance. Katherine was aged 23 and Henry just 18 – she was beautiful still and he was in his prime. The marriage wasn’t only a love match (it was rumoured that Henry wanted Katherine when she was married to Arthur), but a political one as well.
As soon as the wedding itself was over, preparations were made for their joint coronation which happened just a couple of weeks later.
Amy Licence, Catherine of Aragon: an Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife (2016)
Garrett Mattingley, Catherine of Aragon (1960)
David Starkey, Six Wives: the Queens of Henry VIII (2004)
Giles Tremlett, Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen (2011)
Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991)
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.
There are several similarities between the 16th century Reformation and the present-day Brexit. The main one seems to be that we British don’t like being told what to do by an organisation that isn’t even based in our country i.e. 16th century Pope in Rome and 21st century European Union in Brussels. As an island, we are separated from mainland Europe by the Channel, and have different concerns to the mainland. It seems prophetic that the British parliament will activate article 50 this year, the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany.
The main difference between the Reformation and Brexit is that the Reformation in England happened on the whim of Henry VIII because he wanted a divorce from Katherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. However, Brexit was voted for by the British people in a democratic election. However, both seem to have ignited similar battles between the people – Catholic vs. Protestant in the 16th century and Leave vs. Remain in the 21st century. Continue reading →
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.
Portcullis, greyhound, crowned Tudor rose, crowned hawthorn bush, red dragon
The portcullis is currently the symbol for parliament, an institution of justice and law, which Henry VII did revolutionise during his reign. The portcullis was also representative of his royal blood through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, as it was the symbol of her house.
Red is typically the colour that represents both military strength and magnanimity. The dragon represents valour and protection, and appears on the Welsh flag. This is possibly to demonstrate Henry’s Welsh roots (he was born in Wales, and the Tudor name is Welsh).
The greyhound represents courage, loyalty and vigilance. Henry VII courageously took the crown on the battlefield, and was vigilant for anyone looking to take it away from him. He appears to have been loyal to his wife, and we don’t know for sure of any illegitimate children he may have had, or even any mistresses. Continue reading →
The aims of the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions were to replace Henry VII on the English throne with what the people saw as the “true heir”. Henry VII was a usurper, and the only Lancastrian claimant left since the death of Henry VI in 1471.
The cause of the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions was the fact that Henry VII was a usurper with no real claim to the throne. He had taken the throne from the Yorkist Richard III, who had usurped it from the rightful heir, the son of Edward IV – Edward V – and supposedly then had Edward and his younger brother, Richard, killed in the Tower of London. Henry’s claim to the throne came through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, who was descended from the illegitimate line of John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine Swynford. The Beaufort line had been legitimised but barred from succeeding to the throne. The people of England weren’t entirely convinced that the Princes in the Tower were dead and, even if they were, the Earl of Warwick was another contender with a claim to the throne. Simnel pretended to be the Earl of Warwick, the son of Richard III’s elder brother, George Duke of Clarence. Warbeck pretended to be Richard Duke of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower. Neither were entirely convincing. Continue reading →
What reasons do Jane Boleyn, Katherine Howard, and Anne of Cleves each have for seeking a place in Henry VIII’s court? Do any of them believe it might be dangerous to be a part of the royal circle, or is it a risk they’re willing to take? Does your opinion of each woman change over the course of the novel?
I don’t think Anne of Cleves had much of a choice in the end. She was a pawn in the arena of international politics. I don’t think she sought it; so much as it was thrust on her by her father and brother. No doubt she was excited about the prospect of becoming queen, but she must have also heard the stories about Henry VIII’s treatment of his previous wives, which no doubt made her a bit nervous. I think that Katherine Howard sought a place at court because it was expected of her. She was brought up to know that, as a Howard, she was important. I think she wanted the pretty dresses and jewels and the male attention. I don’t believe she had any deigns on being the king’s wife. Jane Boleyn was more complicated. She had been at court in the years when Henry VIII was still a golden prince with his whole reign ahead of him. She saw the divorce and the break with Rome – she was at court because it was expected for a noble lady. I think Katherine and Anne must have known that it was dangerous to be around the king from the start, but I don’t think Jane truly knew it until Henry VIII executed her sister-in-law and husband. After that point, I think Jane saw it as a risk she was willing to take. I actually grew to like Jane less and less over the course of the novel. She made her own fate.I liked Anne more and more, as she survived and came out of her marriage well-off. My opinion of Katherine didn’t really change – she was silly and naive but ultimately a victim. For me, she was the character that didn’t really come fully to life – she was a shadow compared to Jane and Anne. Continue reading →
Throughout the book, Alison Weir shows how Katherine was raised to confirm to contemporary cultural and religious norms, and how this influenced her thinking and her actions. What impression did this make on you, and did it aid your understanding of her dilemmas and conflicts? Did this take on her story allow you to empathise more closely with Katherine’s choices?
I think that the standards and norms of 16th century England were very different to today. People believed very strongly in God and in the existence of heaven and hell and purgatory. They saw their lives on earth as a prelude to the afterlife. I think my background in history really helps me to understand the cultural and religious norms of the 16th century. I think that the understanding of the dilemmas and conflicts that Katherine faces in the novel depend on the contemporary culture and standards. You can’t understand Katherine’s motivations and feelings without understanding the context of the 16th century. I think that the emphasis on her religious devotions and the wellbeing of her soul were the central considerations for Katherine and understanding this made me understand more about what drove her to make the choices she did – she wasn’t being stubborn on purpose, she really believed she was saving her soul, and that of her husband. Continue reading →