Okay, we’re picking up where we left off with Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon in 1527, so if you haven’t read that post yet, I recommend doing so first. With that, let’s get back into it!
Over the next couple of weeks and months we’re going to dig into Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon, moving through the laborious process year by year. We have covered in the past when it was that Henry fell in love with Anne Boleyn, and we have also covered the six-month period between Anne’s private wedding with Henry at the end of 1532 and her presentation at court as queen in the spring of 1533. These posts will essentially cover the years in-between, taking a look at the legal, theological and diplomatic issues prompted by, well, Henry’s personal life.
Margaret Beaufort is arguably the great winner of the Wars of the Roses. Certainly she is one of the few to have lived through the war in its entirety and, as such, became the matriarch of the House of the Tudor. Mother to Henry VII, she is an ancestor to every English/British monarch since Henry VIII (as well as Scotland’s James V and Mary Stuart). But though she existed in the same world as Marguerite of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville and Anne Neville, she is rarely seen as exciting as them – she never wore a crown and by the time she held substantial power, she was a woman in 50s. Instead, she is usually depicted as the mother-in-law from hell, a meddler and a jarring mix of pious and power-hungry.
To some, she is even a contender as the true killer of the Princes of the Tower.
Henry VIII died on January 28, 1547, some 37 years after he ascended the throne at just 17. It would be another three days before England was made aware. From within the halls of his court at Westminster, Henry’s death remained a closely guarded secret even as food was dutifully carried in to his private chambers at meal times with all expected fanfare.
Henry’s death ushered in the reign of his nine-year-old son, Edward VI, whose age necessitated a minority government the strength of which was premised on the loyalty of Tudor courtiers – the same men who had spent over a decade working for a king who increasingly resembled a tyrant.
At some point I realized that despite having written at least five posts on Anne Boleyn, I’ve written maybe two that were solely dedicated to Katherine of Aragon. Despite her coming up on a regular basis when we cover Tudor history and having posted about all of her successors, I’ve neglected the OG of Henry VIII’s wives and we’re definitely going to rectify that over the next few weeks and months. Today, admittedly, we will still not cover Katherine as queen, but that’s because I’d like to start at the beginning and Katherine had an eventful and significant childhood in Spain as the daughter of the rather famous Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile.
We’ve covered before how Henry VIII’s younger and favorite sister, Princess Mary, married his best friend, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, shortly after the death of her first husband, King Louis XII of France, without her brother’s permission. Henry was livid, but was eventually brought around after levying a hefty fine on the couple. The marriage was cut short by Mary’s premature death in 1533 at the age of 37, and just three months later, Charles married again, this time to his adolescent ward, Katherine Willoughby.
Katherine could very well have faded into oblivion – after all, Charles’s two wives prior to Mary certainly have. Instead, Katherine is a fascinating figure from the Tudor court. Like Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond, her name was put forth as a possible seventh wife for Henry, she had strong opinions on the reformation and her longevity positioned her as consistently relevant well into the reign of Elizabeth I.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. It felt appropriate to mark the holiday here with a post on one of the most famous – if debatable – love stories from royal history: Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Fans of the 1998 film and/or readers of any of dozens of historical novels on the subject may well have a sense for the general trajectory, but while the real story is certainly bittersweet, it is decidedly less neat and tidy.
About a year ago we covered the early Howards, including John, 1st Duke of Norfolk who saw his rise through the Yorkist kings, and his son, Thomas, Earl of Surrey, who managed to work his way into the favor of Henry VII. The family’s ascent was solidified by the 1495 marriage of Thomas’s eldest son and heir to Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister, Anne. Unfortunately the only product of the marriage was a short-lived son who passed away around the age of 10. Anne herself died of unknown causes in 1511 and her widower found himself in need of another wife.
The life of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury is likely familiar to those who enjoy studying the Tudors, but for those who haven’t heard of her, it is a story that perfectly exemplifies several realities of life outside the very center of the Royal Family. Margaret was born a niece of a king and ended up the daughter of a traitor, the wife of an unknown entity and the mother of a papist in the middle of the reformation. She managed to survive until the third act of Henry VIII’s reign, but by then she stood for something else entirely as one of the last Plantagenets to have made it that far in Tudor England.
Finally, we get back to some history! The last few weeks have been a little heavy on William, Kate and Harry, I know, but I’ve decided to treat it as a balancing act for August when news was sparse and there was plenty of time for back-to-back historical posts. I prefer a balance, so before more engagements are scheduled, I’m going to try and fit in a bit more about, you know, the Plantagenets and the Tudors.
So, let’s get to it: back in July we covered the unfortunate marriage of Mary I and Philip II of Spain, which took us to Mary’s final months as a disenchanted wife and thwarted would-be mother. In April of 1558, Mary once again held out hope that she was pregnant, but unfortunately the symptoms were only signs that her health was on the decline. By the end of spring, it was widely understood that her 25-year-old half-sister, Elizabeth, was her heir, a young woman whose religion was up in the air and whose politics were untested.