Posts Tagged ‘Henry VIII’

On May 13, 1515, Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor, Queen of France, were officially married at Greenwich Palace, more than two months after marrying in secret in France following the death of Mary’s first husband, the French King Louis XII.

Mary, who was extremely close to her elder brother, Henry VIII, was reputed to be one of the most beautiful princesses in Europe. Her marriage to 52-year-old Louis was brokered by Cardinal Wolsey, Henry’s right-hand man, and she was not happy about it at all. Nonetheless, she married the king in October 1514, when she was 18 years old. One of her maids of honor was Anne Boleyn, her future sister-in-law. The marriage lasted all of three months; Louis died on January 1, 1515, allegedly worn out from his exertions in the bedchamber.

Mary had been in love with Charles Brandon, the first Duke of Suffolk, since before her marriage to Louis took place. Henry allegedly knew of her true feelings but wanted her marriage to be politically advantageous to her. He nevertheless sent Brandon to France to fetch Mary home in late January 1515, making the duke promise not to propose to her. Charles ignored his promise and married Mary on March 3, technically committing treason by marrying a royal princess without the king’s consent. Henry was outraged when he received the news, and only Wolsey’s interference saved Brandon’s head. Instead of being arrested or executed, Brandon was made to pay a hefty fine.

The Brandons had four children, and she spent most of her time in the country, especially after she and Henry fell out in the 1520s over his decision to annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. She died in 1533 at the age of 37, and her husband went on to marry 14-year-old Catherine Willoughby. Her two sons died young as well, but one of her daughters, Frances, married Henry Grey, 3rd Marquess of Dorset, and was mother to the unfortunate Lady Jane Grey.

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This Week’s Question:

Aside from palace and prison, what other roles has the Tower of London played?

Last Week’s Question:

Katherine Parr, who married Henry VIII on this day in 1543, enjoys a certain distinction amongst English queens. What is it?

Answer: As several readers noted, Katherine Parr was the wife who outlived Henry, but she wasn’t the only one of Henry’s six wives to do so—Anne of Cleves, whose marriage was quickly annulled, was also alive at the time of the king’s death. What sets Katherine apart not only from the other wives but also from other English queens is that she was the most-married queen in English history, having had four husbands in her lifetime. Fairly impressive, considering she only lived to be about 36 years old.

Her first husband is thought to be Sir Edward Borough, whom she married in 1529 when she was about 17 years old. After his death in 1533, she married John Neville, 3rd Baron Latymer (or Latimer), who, at 40, was twice her age. The match made Katherine one of only two women in her family to marry into the peerage. She was a good wife and stepmother to Latymer’s children, and she was genuinely fond of her family. Their marriage lasted until her husband’s death in 1543.

As a widow, Katherine joined the household of The Lady Mary, daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon. It was here she caught the king’s eye, though Katherine was more interested in the dashing Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen Jane and uncle to the future Edward VI. Seymour was sent abroad and Henry and Katherine were married on 12 July 1543 at Hampton Court Palace. As she had with Latimer, Katherine set out to care for her ailing husband and nurture her stepchildren, creating, for many of them, a true family for the first time. She was a highly respected queen, and despite one major incident she managed to get herself out of, Henry loved her and showed his appreciation by declaring she should be accorded the dignity of a Queen of England after his death.

As a widow once more, Katherine largely retired from court and took up her relationship with Thomas Seymour again. The two scandalously married without the regency council’s permission only a few months after Henry’s death. She became pregnant for the first time a year later and gave birth to a daughter, Mary, on 30 August 1548. Sadly, like Queen Jane before her, Katherine died just a few days later of puerperal fever. Her husband, who appears to have had none of his wife’s control or sense, was executed for treason after attempting to kidnap the king a year later. It’s unknown what happened to Katherine and Thomas’s daughter, but it’s likely she died at a young age, probably around 1550.

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Halfway there! On May 30, 1536, Henry VIII married his third wife, Jane Seymour, a mere 13 days after the execution of Anne Boleyn on trumped-up charges of adultery, treason, and incest. Oh, Henry. You were such an asshole.

Jane was no stranger to the court, having served as a maid-of-honour to both Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. Henry began paying her attention when she was serving Anne, which brought the volatile queen’s wrath down on the young woman’s head. Probably why Jane didn’t have any problem marrying Anne’s husband so soon after her death

Henry and Jane were married at the Palace of Whitehall and she was proclaimed queen on the 4 June. She was strict, formal, and adhered to the notions of good housewifery of the day, adopting the motto “Bound to obey and serve.” Jane only attempted to meddle in affairs of state once, when she asked Henry to pardon the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace. Henry refused and, classy guy that he was, reminded her of the fate of her two predecessors. Message received; Jane stayed silent and instead applied herself to bringing Henry’s eldest daughter, Princess Mary, back into favor.

Early in 1537, Jane became pregnant and gave birth to the son Henry wanted so badly on 12 October. Sadly, she died 12 days later of a fever brought on by an infection. She was buried in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, with Mary acting as chief mourner at the funeral. Henry refused to remarry for three years and when he died, he was buried beside her.

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Poor Thomas Cranmer. He thought he’d been doing a good thing, establishing the Anglican church, instituting all sorts of reforms, and clawing his way up to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury. But all you need to screw it up was one slightly crazed Catholic with an axe to grind and suddenly you find yourself strapped to a pyre on a fine spring morning.

Cranmer was born into a well-to-do family in Nottinghamshire in 1489. As he was a younger son, he couldn’t expect to inherit much, so he was put on the path to a clerical career. He spent eight years studying at Jesus COllege, Cambridge, focusing on the work of the humanists for his master’s degree, which he received in 1515. Eventually he studied theology and was ordained.

Cranmer was dragged into Henry VIII’s annulment proceedings in 1529 by Cardinal Wolsey. Cranmer was the one who suggested canvassing university theologians throughout Europe to get their thoughts on the validity of Henry’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Henry liked the idea and Cranmer was appointed a member of the team sent to gather said opinions. Many of the scholars agreed that Henry had the right, as king, to exercise supreme jurisdiction in his realm, so Rome had no say in the case.

Early in 1532, Cranmer was appointed ambassador at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor (Katherine’s nephew, so…awkward). While on the Continent, Cranmer had ample time to see the effects of the Reformation, and he met and became friends with the leading architect of the Nuremberg Reforms. By the summer, Cranmer had begun to shift towards decidedly Lutheran ideals.

Under the guidance of Anne Boleyn, Henry appointed Cranmer Archbishop of Canterbury in October 1532, so Cranmer left the Emperor’s court and returned home. He was consecrated on March 30, 1533, while he was in the midst of the annulment proceedings, which were now rushed due to Anne’s pregnancy and her secret marriage to Henry in January. By May, Cranmer pronounced judgment that Henry had never been married to Katherine, and he validated Henry’s and Anne’s marriage. In September, he baptized their daughter, Elizabeth.

Cranmer’s next task was to set about creating a new church for England, a project that was sadly interrupted when he was forced to hear Anne Boleyn’s last confession and pronounce her marriage null and void shortly before her execution in 1536. Cranmer acted as a go-between with the Lutheran princes, attempting to form both a political and religious alliance, but certain aspects of the new Anglican church struck the Lutherans as being too Catholic, and talks broke down.

Cromwell’s execution left Cranmer pretty much as Henry’s most trusted advisor for the remainder of his life. He even acted on behalf of the king when Henry left London on a progress in 1541. Unfortunately, being in such a prominent position has its hazards, and before long several conservative clergymen started gathering evidence to use against Cranmer. They eventually denounced him to the king, who refused to act against him. He eventually clued Cranmer in on the conspiracy against him, and although Cranmer took the opportunity to humiliate those involved, he did eventually forgive them and even continued to use their services.

Throughout the 1540s, Cranmer quietly instituted minor reforms in the church, but after Henry’s death in 1547 and the accession of his devoutly Protestant son, Edward, all caution was thrown to the wind. Cranmer began attacking monasticism and the worship of theological images, and he started moving away from the notion of transubstantiation. Under his leadership, the English church adopted the Book of Common Prayer, rejected transubstantiation, and accepted clerical marriage. He developed the liturgy for the ordination of priests, revised canon law, and formed a statement of doctrine that would eventually become the Forty-Two Articles.

Things probably would have continued apace, but then Edward died in 1553, and his half-sister Mary came to the throne. Mary was devoutly Catholic and the daughter of Katherine of Aragon, the very woman whose marriage Cranmer had dissolved. Needless to say, she wasn’t a fan. After Mary’s accession, Cranmer warned many of his friends to flee the country, though he chose to stay and publicly stuck to his Protestant guns. He was eventually put on trial for treason in 1553, found guilty, and condemned to death. He cooled his heels until March 8, 1554, when he and other leading reformers were sent to Oxford to await a second trial for heresy. They were left there until SEptember 12, 1555. The other reformers were tried and burnt at the stake on OCtober 16, as Cranmer was forced to watch.

In his final months, Cranmer was removed from prison and placed in the house of the Dean of Christ CHurch, where he was treated as a guest and given the opportunity to debate theology with a Dominican friar. Cranmer eventually accepted the authority of the queen and recognized the pope as head of the church. It was not enough to save him. His execution was set for March 7, prompting Cranmer to start issuing a whole bunch of Catholicism, yay!-style recantations, which did not satisfy Mary. In his last days, Cranmer realized how pointless all this was and recanted his recantations, publicly reaffirming his belief in Protestant ideology and basically calling the pope a con man. He was burned at the stake on March 21. Although he didn’t make it, his church eventually did, under Elizabeth I, who restored the Church of England’s independence from Rome and adopted Cranmer’s prayer book.

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The fourth time was not a charm for Henry VIII, who annulled his marriage to Anne of Cleves on July 9, 1540 on the grounds of non-consummation.

Even as royal arranged marriages go, this one is famous for being a disaster. Henry agreed to the marriage before even meeting Anne face-to-face, instead relying on a portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger. Although popularly thought to have been hideously ugly (Henry cruelly referred to her as his “Flanders mare”), it’s more likely that her lack of education and sophistication was what turned Henry off. Plus, there may have been some personal hygiene issues. Although Henry reluctantly went through with the marriage on January 6, 1540, he was unable to consummate it. By June the marriage was over, and Anne was commanded to leave court on the 24. On July 6, she was told her husband was “reconsidering” the marriage.

Anne received a generous settlement that included Richmond Palace and Hever Castle (creepily, the childhood home of her doomed predecessor, Anne Boleyn). She accepted her situation docily, and her good behavior earned her a place in Henry’s esteem. They became very good friends and she was honored at court as a member of the royal family, being referred to as “the King’s beloved sister”. She visited often and had good relationships with Henry’s children as well.

Less fortunate was the man who brokered the marriage: Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s Chancellor, who wanted to ally England with one of the German protestant powers. Henry was so enraged at being forced by Cromwell to marry Anne that he had him arrested on trumped-up charges of treason on June 10, 1540. He was beheaded on Tower Hill in a hideously botched execution on July 28, the same day Henry married Katherine Howard.


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On June 1, 1533, England got a new queen: Anne Boleyn. Anne was crowned in a spectacular ceremony at Westminster Abbey just four days after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, declared her marriage to Henry VIII valid.

Anne and Henry were married in secret shortly after returning from a meeting with the King of France in Calais in late 1532. Shortly after, she became pregnant, and she and Henry had a second marriage ceremony in London on January 25, 1533. The problem was, Henry was still legally married to his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, who was fighting tooth and nail to preserve her marriage. On May 23, the recently elevated Cranmer convened a special court at Dunstable Priory to rule on the validity of Henry’s marriage to Katherine. Naturally, they declared the marriage null and void, and on May 28 Cranmer also declared Anne’s and Henry’s marriage to be valid.

Katherine was stripped of her title of queen, and Anne’s coronation went forward. It was not quite the great celebration she was hoping for, however. The people of London, who loved Queen Katherine, gave her a lukewarm response (to say the least). Many in the crowd, catching sight of Henry’s and Anne’s intertwined initials on the decorations, yelled “Ha! Ha!” at her as she passed. Nonetheless, she was crowned (unusually) with St. Edward’s crown, which previously had only been used for a reigning monarch.

After the ceremony, Anne processed through the city on a litter covered with white cloth of gold, carried by two palfreys draped in white damask. The barons of the Cinque Ports held a cloth of gold canopy over her head. The procession was followed by a sumptuous banquet.

As we all know, the marriage didn’t last. The hoped-for heir Anne was carrying at the time of her coronation turned out to be a girl, Elizabeth, and subsequent pregnancies ended in miscarriages and stillbirths. Meanwhile, the pope declared Henry’s marriage to Katherine lawful, and his marriage to Anne invalid, thus throwing her daughter’s legitimacy into question (a situation that would haunt Elizabeth her entire life). Katherine’s death in January 1536 put an end to the question of valid and invalid marriages, but by that time Henry’s and Anne’s relationship was in serious trouble. She miscarried another baby in early 1536, and Henry decided it was time to get rid of her. Anne and several courtiers, including her brother, were arrested and accused of adultery and treason. All but one, the poet Thomas Wyatt, were executed. Anne was the last to go: she was beheaded by a swordsman brought over from France just shy of the three year anniversary of her coronation.


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May 15 was the beginning of the end for a pair of 16th century queens. First, in 1536, Anne Boleyn was brought to trial on (almost certainly) bogus charges of adultery and incest and found guilty. Her brother, George Boleyn, who was accused of having a sexual relationship with her, was tried separately the same day and also found guilty. The trials came a day after Archbishop Cranmer had declared Anne’s marriage to Henry null and void, and three days after the other men accused of adultery with Anne—Henry Norris, William Brereton, Mark Smeaton, and Francis Weston—were tried and found guilty as well. Norris, Brereton, and Weston all maintained their innocence at trial, but Smeaton, who’d been tortured and may have been hoping to save his life, confessed.

George Boleyn and the other accused men were executed on May 17. Anne was forced to wait a little longer, though she was reported to be at peace with her fate. Henry commuted her sentence from burning to beheading and granted her a swordsman instead of an axman for the execution—a move that was considered a mercy, since swordsmen were typically more accurate. Anne was executed on May 19, after swearing on her soul that she’d never been unfaithful to her husband. Unlike the others, she was executed on the north side of the White Tower, instead of on Tower Green. Her body was placed in an empty arrow chest (Henry hadn’t bothered to get a coffin for her), and she was buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, where her grave can still be seen today.

Thirty one years later, another queen with Tudor ties, Mary, Queen of Scots, married her third husband, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. The marriage was not a popular one, and hastened the end of her troubled reign. Bothwell was unpopular with both the nobles and the people of Scotland, and he was widely believed to have had a hand in the murder of Mary’s second husband, Henry, Lord Darnley, in February 1567. In April, Mary was abducted (or she may have gone willingly—nobody really knows) by Bothwell, to force their marriage. The ceremony, conducted according to Protestant rites, was carried out on May 15 at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, only 12 days after Bothwell divorced his first wife.

Bothwell quickly made enemies of his fellow nobles, and they banded together to raise an army against him and the queen. The two sides met at Carberry Hill on June 15, and Mary gave herself into the Lords’ keeping on the understanding that Bothwell would go free. The Lords imprisoned her in Loch Leven Castle, where she was forced to abdicate the throne on July 24. She escaped Loch Leven in May 1568 and raised a small army, which was then defeated at the Battle of Langside on May 13. After that, she fled to England, where her cousin, Elizabeth, had her imprisoned until her execution in 1587. Bothwell, meanwhile, attempted to raise an army in Scandinavia, but he wound up being thrown into prison by the King of Denmark. The appalling conditions he was held in apparently drove him insane. He died in 1578.

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On April 24, 1558, Mary, Queen of Scots married Francois, Dauphin of France in a glittering ceremony that put her on the road to a brief reign as Queen of France.

Like most noble marriages of the time, this one was arranged for political reasons. The death of Mary’s father within just a few days of her birth left Scotland vulnerable, a situation Henry VIII was only too happy to take advantage of. He proposed a marriage between Mary and his son, Edward, and although the match was initially agreed to, the people of Scotland changed their minds and those in power began to favor a French match. Enraged, Henry began the “Rough Wooing,” which basically consisted of him sending his brother-in-law, Edward Seymour, north to trash Scotland. Despite losing battle after battle (and many lives) the Scots wouldn’t give, and Mary’s French mother called on France for help. Remaining true to the Auld Alliance, which dates back to 1295, France obliged, and in return for their assistance, the Scottish Parliament agreed to betroth five-year-old Mary to the three-year-old Dauphin.

To keep her daughter safe, Marie de Guise sent Mary to France, where she lived with the other royal children (including her future husband) at the French court. Mary was much admired for her beauty, cleverness, and vivacity. She was well educated in languages, music, poetry, horsemanship, and needlework, and she forged strong relationships with her mother’s powerful family, in particular her grandmother, Antoinette de Bourbon. She and Francois were especially close, which boded well for a long and happy marriage.

Mary and Francois were married when she was 15 and he a year younger. He took the title King of Scots upon their marriage. A little more than a year later, King Henry died after a jousting accident, making Mary and Francois King and Queen of France. A year later, Francois too, died, making Mary a widow at the age of 17. The following summer, she left France and returned to Scotland, where as we know, things didn’t end up going so well for her.

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Previously on The Tudors: Henry married and got rid of a lot of women, had three kids, changed England’s religion (kind of), and got old. Bishop Gardiner tried to nail Queen Katherine for heresy, and Henry had Surrey tried and found guilty of treason.

Hey, Natalie Dormer, Maria Doyle Kennedy, and Annabelle Wallis are back in the opening credits! Welcome back, dead wives! I guess we’re pretending Katherine Howard didn’t exist.


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One last round of bloopers, before we bid farewell to the Tudors and welcome the Borgias:

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