The [Secretive] Death of Henry VIII

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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.

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After Mary: Charles Brandon & Katherine Willoughby

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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.

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What Henry VIII Wanted From Women

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The simplest answer as to what Henry wanted from women may be the most obvious: a son. But a rational response to desiring and not receiving a legitimate male heir, even in the 16th century, wasn’t to form your own religion or behead your wife. Furthermore, Henry went through three more wives after his son, the future Edward VI, was born in 1537. Clearly “a son” wasn’t the only factor at play in Henry’s motivations for taking and discarding wives. So, what was going on?

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When the King’s Sixth Wife Took Her Fourth Husband

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In addition to being the only wife to survive Henry VIII, Katherine Parr was also the only one to come anywhere near the King in number of spouses. All told, she would marry four times, her marriage to Henry being her third. Yesterday, we took a look at the relationship between Thomas Seymour, her fourth husband, and Elizabeth Tudor, her stepdaughter, but how – and when – she came to marry Thomas is well-worth examining.

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The Second Man in Elizabeth I’s Life

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For some figures in extended royal history, it’s easy to capture them in a single post. With others that’s less true simply because of the wealth of information out there. I’m never going to write a post that’s a straight up and down summary of the life of Henry VIII, for example, or really any monarch. Instead, aspects of their life will be written about over time…unless I suddenly find myself able to knock out 20,000 words in a sitting.

This is certainly true of Elizabeth I as well, which is why she hasn’t been written about too much here so far. But she will be, little by little, and today we’re going to take a beat to consider her relationship with Thomas Seymour.

I refer to him as the second man in Elizabeth’s life since the first would obviously be her father, Henry VIII. But perhaps a more accurate summation would be that Thomas was the second man in Elizabeth’s life that makes it seem less unusual that she never married, because let’s be honest, these really weren’t top notch examples of men were they?

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Lady Jane Grey, the 9-Days Queen

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ICYMI, England once had a queen for only nine days in the summer of 1553. Slipped between Edward VI and Mary I, Jane’s brief reign speaks to the gender, religious and dynastic issues the Tudors faced from the last years of Henry VIII to the first years of Elizabeth I. Her actions were at the direction of others and her intentions likely quite benign; still a teenager when she died, it’s not difficult to grasp why she has captured the public’s imagination and sympathy since her execution on February 12, 1554.

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