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”

David Starkey – Henry VIII: the First Brexiteer


Talk at Whitley Bay Playhouse on 6th May 2018

  • The first Brexit was the Break with Rome
  • England was a pariah state – an enemy of Europe
  • Henry VIII fortified the coastline which was the largest scheme of fortification
  • Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540
    Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540
  • Cartography and maps became important
  • Holbein’s image – the Whitehall mural shows Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour
  • When Jane Seymour died it was the “smartest career move in history”
  • Anne Boleyn was “brilliant as a mistress but catastrophic as a wife”
  • The words in the middle of the Whitehall mural say that Henry VII was a good king ending decades of civil war but Henry VIII was better as he released England from papal bondage
  • The mural was displayed in Henry VIII’s private rooms
  • Appetite for fame
  • Importance of Erasmus and education “virtue, glory, immorality”
  • Foreign influence – Henry VIII’s astronomer was French, his painter was German and his armour came from Italy
  • France = sex and sophistication, Anne Boleyn raised there
  • Media revolution – printing, books, Caxton’s printing press
  • In the early 16th century typography was introduced
  • Representational painting explains why we are so interested in the Tudors – we knew what they looked like
  • Images make things real
  • Henry VIII is at the centre of England’s history – England different after Henry VIII
  • The Reformation was the greatest change between the Norman conquest and the present day, Reformation partly undoes the conquest
  • English Channel not a barrier but a means of communication
  • Easy to invade England with her natural harbours
  • Henry VII sailed from Honfleur in 1485 – French invasion with tactics, ships, money and army Continue reading “David Starkey – Henry VIII: the First Brexiteer”

On This Day in History – 11 June – Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon


Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte
Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte

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.

Further Reading

  • 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)

The King is Dead: Royal Death and Succession under the Tudors


Talk by David Starkey @ Whitley Bay Playhouse 11/05/2016

A couple of months ago I went to hear a talk by David Starkey on the Tudor succession at my local theatre. These are the notes I took on the day:-


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

Similar to today?

Cromwell similar to David Cameron?

Death of a monarch – die publicly, semi-public, public proclamation.

Every Tudor death of a monarch is kept secret.

Intrigues, political struggles – characteristic over regime with autocratic rulers.

Henry VIII’s death replicates that of Henry VII.

Elizabeth I’s death = change of dynasty. Robert Carey rides to Edinburgh to tell James VI of Scotland he is now James I of England.

One smooth succession – death of Mary I, throne goes to Elizabeth I. Mary believed she was pregnant even on her deathbed.

English relations with Scots not good historically – Elizabeth militarily prepared over religion.

Henry VIII’s death – divided factional politics, like today – parties divided within themselves. Continue reading “The King is Dead: Royal Death and Succession under the Tudors”

Documentary Notes – ‘The Last Days of Anne Boleyn’


Anne Boleyn National Portrait Gallery.
Anne Boleyn National Portrait Gallery.

Framed? By whom? What reason?
Weir “Anne burst upon [the English court] with a certain brilliance.”
Gregory “sexiest girl at court.”
Mantel = too detached and intelligent to stake everything on love – did Anne ever love Henry?
Lipscomb “Anne as a usurper.”
Starkey = “Anne changes all the rules” but Henry is a failure without a son.
Mantel = Henry thinks of annulling his second marriage due to lack of consent.
Gregory – malformed foetus. Adultery, incest or witchcraft – Mantel disagrees, sees above as Catholic propaganda.
Mantel – Jane was Anne’s opposite.
Starkey – Jane was plain “she doesn’t really exist.”
Lipscomb – Henry didn’t want to annul his marriage, he saw Jane as a mistress.
Walker = Anne wasn’t like Katherine and was involved in politics – John Skip sermon “wonderful satirical sermon.”
Mantel – Cromwell was Henry’s first minister “clever as a bucket of snakes.” Continue reading “Documentary Notes – ‘The Last Days of Anne Boleyn’”

What Made the Tudor Dynasty Unique?


Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.
Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.

The Tudor dynasty was unique in several ways, not least that two of our most remembered monarchs were Tudors – Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Furthermore, the dynasty was unique in issues of marriage, succession, political unity, religion, and love. Read on to find out more.

Henry VIII is the only reigning monarch to have married more than twice. He was also only the second to have a wife who had already been married (the first was Edward IV whose Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, already had two sons when they married). He is also only the second King to have married a commoner (Edward IV was, again, the first). He is also the only monarch to have had one of his wives (let alone two!) executed. Even more shocking that the two executed were in fact cousins.[1]

Edward VI was the third reigning English monarch not to marry, the first two being William II and Edward V, the second of whom was too young to be married when he died, and the former appeared to have been too busy with wars and dissenters to think about a family. Continue reading “What Made the Tudor Dynasty Unique?”

Why Should Schools Teach History?


History in Words.
History in Words.

History is a very important subject. Although there has been debate over the years about whether or not to remove History as a core subject in high school, this has not yet happened. I hope it will not. History is inspirational. Personally, it has improved not just my knowledge of the past, but my analysis in general, and has honed my opinions about a wide range of subjects, including my knowledge of current affairs. However, according to a poll conducted on debate.org, only 53% of people believe that history should continue to be taught in schools.[i]

History is a subject that focuses on the past, but can also give us an insight into the present, and how to deal with circumstances that bear a significant resemblance to those of decades or centuries ago. For example, the current recession has been compared to the Great Depression beginning in 1929. The reign of Elizabeth II has also been compared to that of Elizabeth I in the late sixteenth-century as a Golden Age. Continue reading “Why Should Schools Teach History?”

Undergraduate Dissertation Chapter – Anne Boleyn’s Romantic Entanglements


Anne Boleyn’s Romantic Entanglements

“The Scandal of Christendom” – Katherine of Aragon

Anne Boleyn’s romantic entanglements were controversial – Henry Percy, the future Earl of Northumberland, the poet Sir Thomas Wyatt, and Henry VIII himself. The earlier two relationships ultimately affected her relationship with her future husband, the King, due to Henry’s suspicious nature. But ‘she touched their lives, as they did hers’ and each left lasting impressions on the other.[i] Essentially Anne’s public image was shaped by her romantic entanglements.

There is little surviving evidence of Anne Boleyn’s relationship with Henry Percy. There is still less from her relationship with Thomas Wyatt and we do not even know just how deeply Anne was involved with either of them. However, we can get a sense of Wyatt’s own feelings for Anne through his poetry, like Circa Regna Tonat and Whoso List to Hunt. Obviously, there is the most surviving evidence for Anne’s relationship with Henry VIII, as she rose to become royalty, though even this is lacking during their early courtship. Historians have interpreted what does survive in many different ways, affecting her public image according to their own bias. Continue reading “Undergraduate Dissertation Chapter – Anne Boleyn’s Romantic Entanglements”

Do I Think Henry VIII Deserves his Reputation as a Tyrant?


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

The short answer is no, I do not think Henry VIII deserves his reputation as a tyrant, at least not fully. Henry VIII was a victim of the court in which he lived. He was constantly manipulated; by his wives, particularly Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, his ministers like Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell, and even the clergy like Stephen Gardiner and Thomas Cranmer. Rarely any of the decisions he made were actually his own.[i] Although Henry VIII was in part manipulated, at least in his early years, he did gain some measure of control over the affairs of his country and himself later on in his life. This began with the issue of his lack of a male heir and divorce from his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. It was enhanced by his changing religious beliefs to enable him to get a divorce, and it was certainly developed in his quest to choose his own wife and to marry for love. Only two of his wives came from diplomatic pressure, his first and fourth (Anne of Cleves). The other five were born and bred in England, and whom he married for personal choice rather than diplomatic pressure.[ii] Continue reading “Do I Think Henry VIII Deserves his Reputation as a Tyrant?”