Documentary Notes – ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ with David Starkey – Part 2, Anne Boleyn


These notes are from part 2 of ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ documentary with David Starkey. For part 1 on Katherine of Aragon, click here.

Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
  • 1529 Henry VIII in love but not with his wife Katherine of Aragon but with Anne Boleyn
  • Henry’s determination to divorce Katherine and marry Anne plunges England into turmoil
  • What kind of woman who can inspire a king to commit bigamy?
  • Anne’s enemies called her a shrew, whore, and bigamist
  • Remarkable woman who risked everything, including her life, to get the man and crown
  • Anne grew up in Kent, highly intelligent daughter of a courtier and diplomat
  • Her father, Thomas Boleyn, was ambitious
  • Anne left Hever Castle for the court of the Archduchess Margaret in the Netherlands
  • Anne’s first letter home written in French
  • Had been expected to learn French and courtly ways and expected to be a rising star at the English court on her return
  • Plenty of opportunity to perfect her French when she moved to the French court
  • More French than English on her return to the English court
  • Anne began a lady-in-waiting to the English queen
  • Not beautiful by the standards of the day but was witty, confident, intelligent and an excellent dancer
  • Court regulation required that the queen’s ladies should be good-looking
  • Court entertainment was all about love – it was the theme of pageants, plays and poetry
  • Lord Percy was soon head over heels in love with Anne – she aimed high and scored
  • Percy’s family blocked the match
  • 1525 Anne was being serenaded by the poet Thomas Wyatt – tantalising and untouchable, as he withdrew when he realised Anne had another admirer in the king
  • King couldn’t command the love of a woman like Anne Boleyn
  • Anne had her own plans – Henry’s marriage to Katherine had lost its passion and it hadn’t provided a son
  • She tried to get the throne, learning from the experience of her sister, Mary, and held out
  • Mary gave the king her favours and was discarded
  • When Anne was away from court Henry wrote love letters to her – she gave him the tough treatment and didn’t answer his letters
  • She deliberately stayed away from court
  • When Anne did write to the king, she gave him mixed signals
  • 1526 Henry was driven wild by Anne’s behaviour while she was at Hever
  • In December Henry asked Anne for a straight answer and she replied on New Year’s Day 1527 with a jewel of a storm-tossed maiden
  • Anne surrendered to Henry, but only as his wife and not as his mistress
  • Henry thus had to divorce Katherine, his wife of 18 years
  • Anne was asking Henry to take on Katherine, her friends and supporters, and the universal Catholic church
Continue reading “Documentary Notes – ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ with David Starkey – Part 2, Anne Boleyn”

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”
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