The Jewels of the Tudors – Part One (Guest Post)

Written by Lissa Bryan

Tudor nobles were taught from birth that God had chosen them to fill a particular station in life as a part of the Great Chain of Being. Part of their duty to their station was dressing appropriately for their rank. From the linen they wore to the jewels that adorned their person, every aspect of their attire had to properly reflect their position in life.

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Catherine of Aragon and Elizabeth I (Guest Post)

Guest article by Samantha K Cohen

Catherine of Aragon was born on December 16th 1485, the year Henry VII established the Tudor dynasty. Elizabeth I died March 24th 1603, the year James VI of Scotland became James I of England.  

As a child of three, Catherine of Aragon, the youngest daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile was betrothed to Henry VII’s heir, three year old Prince Arthur. In 1501, Catherine and Arthur both fifteen, were married. In 1502 Arthur died. The marriage lasted less than six months.

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“Divers Children,” The Many Pregnancies of Katharine of Aragon

Guest article by Lissa Bryan

On June 21, 1529 Katharine of Aragon entered a courtroom at Blackfriars. A hearing had been convened by papal agents to rule on the question of the legitimacy of her marriage to King Henry VIII. Henry claimed he had sinned by marrying his brother’s widow and was enduring the curse in Leviticus 20:21:  And if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.

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Coat of Arms, Badge and Signature of the Six Tudor Queens




Katherine of Aragon


Katherine of Aragon, NPG


Katherine of Aragon’s Signature


By Coat_of_Arms_of_Catherine_of_Aragon.svg: SodacanThis W3C-unspecified vector image was created with Inkscape.derivative work: Sodacan (talk) – Coat_of_Arms_of_Catherine_of_Aragon.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Katherine’s Badge

Anne Boleyn


National Portrait Gallery, London


Anne Boleyn’s Signature


By Coat_of_Arms_of_Anne_Boleyn.svg: SodacanThis W3C-unspecified vector image was created with Inkscape.derivative work: Sodacan (talk) – Coat_of_Arms_of_Anne_Boleyn.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Anne’s Badge


Jane Seymour



Jane Seymour’s Signature


By Coat_of_Arms_of_Jane_Seymour.svg: SodacanThis W3C-unspecified vector image was created with Inkscape.derivative work: Sodacan (talk) – Coat_of_Arms_of_Jane_Seymour.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Jane’s Badge


Anne of Cleves


Anna, Duchess of Cleves (1539): Anon. Rosenbach Museum, Philadelphia, USA.



Anne of Cleves Signature


By Coat_of_Arms_of_Anne_of_Cleves.svg: SodacanThis W3C-unspecified vector image was created with Inkscape.derivative work: Sodacan (talk) – Coat_of_Arms_of_Anne_of_Cleves.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Anne’s Badge


Katheryn Howard



Katheryn Howard’s Signature


By Coat_of_Arms_of_Catherine_Howard.svg: SodacanThis W3C-unspecified vector image was created with Inkscape.derivative work: Sodacan (talk) – Coat_of_Arms_of_Catherine_Howard.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Katheryn’s Badge


Kateryn Parr



Kateryn Parr’s Signature


By Coat_of_Arms_of_Catherine_Parr.svg: SodacanThis W3C-unspecified vector image was created with Inkscape.derivative work: Sodacan (talk) – Coat_of_Arms_of_Catherine_Parr.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Kateryn’s Badge

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Understanding the Man: Henry VIII (Part One)

As many of you may already know, King Henry VIII is my favorite monarch of the Tudor dynasty. If it wasn’t for his reign I do not believe the Tudors would be as popular as they are today.

With the creation of Showtime’s THE TUDORS, many of us were aware of the name Henry VIII but really didn’t know much about him. In the show we were able to see that there was more to the man than the execution of two of his six wives. While I understand that THE TUDORS tv program had a bunch of historical inaccuracies, it also got people (like myself) to look deeper into the history by reading and absorbing as much as we possibly could. Over a decade later I feel like I have a fairly good grasp on the infamous king and would like to share my understanding of him with you all. Henry VIII was a man, well…maybe a man-child, but he wasn’t just the tyrannical ruler that many see him as today. There was much more to him than most understand. I hope with this series on his life that you will look at Henry in through new eyes.

Understanding the Man: Henry VIII

As stated previously, many of you may already know that Henry VIII is my favorite of the Tudor monarchs. My opinion isn’t always in the majority and I’m okay with that. Henry ruled England from 1509 until his death on the 28th of January 1547 and has helped to make the Tudors as popular as they are today.

As the second son of King Henry VII, young Henry was not expected to become King of England and so he was sent to Eltham Palace to be raised with his sisters. While at Eltham, Henry would have most likely had constant contact with his mother, Elizabeth of York.

When you consider Henry’s relationship with women in his life one must wonder if he was constantly on the search for a woman like his own mother. Elizabeth of York had a great influence on her son and may have helped educate her children during her lifetime.

Born at Greenwich Palace on the 28th of June 1491, Henry Tudor was the third child and second son of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. His parents marriage had put an end to decades of fighting between the Yorks and Lancasters in what we know as the Wars of the Roses.

For the most part, Henry’s childhood would have been idyllic, but not without occasional bits of drama. The fact that Henry’s father claimed the throne on the battlefield against Richard III did not sit well with supporters of the Lancasters…and for that matter the Yorks were not pleased either.

In 1487, a young man named Lambert Simnel was coerced to play the part of Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick to raise arms against the new Tudor king, Henry VII. At the same time, the real Edward Plantagenet was sitting in the Tower of London. It did not take long before Simnel was discovered as a pretender.

At some point around 1494, Perkin Warbeck came on the scene. The reason I say 1494 is because in 1494, young Prince Henry was given (by his father) the title of Lieutenant of Ireland.

This would not be the last time that Henry VII gave a title to his second son in an attempt to show control.

In July 1495, Warbeck took fourteen ships, funded by his supposed aunt, Margaret of York, along with 6000 men across the channel to England in hope that he could claim the throne of England. Things didn’t quite turn out the way he had planned and he and his men fled to Ireland. Before long they had moved to Scotland where Warbeck gained the assistance of King James IV of Scotland.

Warbeck was claiming to be one of the lost princes in the Tower, the younger of the two brothers, Richard, Duke of York. Many believed he was truly the young prince and that the throne of England should be his by right.

Henry VII would not have another pretender using a title that was meant for his son, and in 1494, three-year old Prince Henry was titled as Duke of York. There could not be two and Henry, at the moment, was the true title holder, not Warbeck.

At a young age Henry would have known that a monarch’s throne is never 100% secure. It also must have been a bit confusing for him and his sisters to understand that some of their mother’s family wanted to remove their father.

Everything changed in April 1502 when Henry’s older brother, Arthur, died unexpectedly at Ludlow Castle. Henry went from a mostly carefree childhood to a life that led to him being overly protected as sole heir to the throne of England. Gone were the days when he could run “freely” and have unrestricted fun – to feeling like a prisoner of his father’s.

Henry had been betrothed to Katherine Aragon in 1503, he was twelve years old. As stated previously, Henry’s life, once Prince of Wales, was thoroughly controlled by his father, the King. The betrothal to the dowager princess of Wales was something that would evolve with the ever-changing politics of the day.

While his brother Arthur had been, practically from birth, trained in the ways of kingship, Henry’s training did not begin until he was eleven years old. The young Prince of Wales was not used to the rigorous training he received to prepare him for the throne and he only had seven-year to cram for the biggest role of his life.

At Richmond Palace, on the 21st of April 1509, King Henry VII died. He was fifty-two years old. His son, who was only eighteen years old was now King of England.

When he came to the throne, Henry VIII was described as exceptionally tall, well-proportioned, had the features of a Greek god and moved gracefully. His complexion was fair, had auburn hair and a rounded face with the features so delicately formed that they ‘would become a pretty woman’. This new, young king naturally commanded attention and authority by appearance alone.

Henry had always been fascinated by Katherine. She was beautiful and he was enchanted by her. After the death of his father, Henry decided that he would marry Katherine of Aragon. And he would claim it was his father’s wish, on his deathbed. The couple was married six weeks after Henry accession at the chapel of the Franciscan Observants at Greenwich. Henry would also be quoted as writing to her father, Ferdinand of Aragon that, “If I were still free, I would still choose her for wife before all other”. They would have a double coronation, or crowning, thirteen days later, on Midsummer Day, 24th of June 1509.

It was the coronation that set the tone for Henry’s reign – it was the beginning of the Renaissance period in England. It had also been a long time since a King came to throne with such approval and adoration. It was a new era – one of education, music, jousting and overall fun. The court was full of young people, which was the opposite of the reign of his father. Henry was eager to open his father’s coffers (which were overflowing) to celebrate his new role.

Lord Mountjoy wrote to Erasmus only weeks after Henry’s accession and had this to say:

If you could see how everyone here rejoices in having so great a prince, how his life is all their desire, you would not contain yourself for sheer joy. Extortion is put down, liberality scatters riches with a bountiful hand, yet our King does not set his heart on gold or jewels, but on virtue, glory and immortality. The other day he told me ‘I wish I were more learned’. ‘But learning is not what we expect of a King’, I answered, ‘merely that he should encourage scholars’. ‘Most certainly’, he rejoined, ‘as without them we should scarcely live at all’. Now what more splendid remark could a prince make?

William Roper, the son-in-law of Thomas More also remembered how the young King was eager to learn. He recalled how More and the King would discuss astronomy, geometry, divinity and other worldly affairs all hours of the night. Henry truly enjoyed conversing with More and enjoyed learning from him and having discussions with him as well.

Henry VIII wasn’t always the tyrannical monarch who would execute you if you looked at him wrong – at the beginning of his reign he relented to public outcry against his father’s tax collector, Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley. While the public wanted to see the men put away Henry was eager to spend the fruits of their labor.

The mood at Tudor court had changed drastically since the changing of the guard – now there was laughter in the corridors at court and continuous festivals to enjoy. Under the new administration both high-born and low-born men had the same opportunities. While Henry understood the importance of having men of noble birth and experience in key positions he also appreciated men of ambition, like Thomas Wolsey – a man who would soon become pseudo king.

That’s where we’ll end Part One of this series on Henry VIII – next we will continue you on with the story of the life of Henry VIII and understanding him a bit better in Part Two.

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Six Ways Shakespeare Impacted the History of the Last Medieval Queen (Guest Post)

Guest article by Cassidy Cash

But, I beseech you, what’s become of Katharine,
The princess dowager? how goes her business?
William Shakespeare, Henry VIII, Act IV, Scene I

When it came time to write his play, Henry VIII, Shakespeare painted a picture of Katharine of Aragon, one of the most famous figures of history and the first wife to Henry VIII. We recognize that truth is often stranger than fiction, but when it comes to historical fiction, we often take the fiction for granted.

Let’s take a look at what influence Shakespeare had on our understanding of The Last Medieval Queen, Katherine of Aragon, by comparing Shakespeare’s account with that of actual history.

One: Spelling

Shakespeare spells her name the exact way it is spelled on her tomb, Katharine. That seems to be a point of confusion for many historians who continually spell her name either Catherine, Katherine, or Katharine. Anne Boleyn is spelled Anne Bullen. Those are petty differences, perhaps, but notable.

Two: Divorce

In the play, Henry VIII divorced Katharine. In reality, he had the marriage annulled. Perhaps to Elizabethans that is the same thing. In the play, Katharine blames Cardinal Wolsey for Henry seeking to divorce her, thinking he drove that wedge in between them. In historical accounts of Henry, however, Henry was driven obsessive by the want of a male heir, which Katharine had not given him, so despite her tremendous loyalty and even love he may have felt towards her, he was decided he needed a male heir. Katharine being beyond child-bearing years, he sought to have a male child by Anne Boleyn, but in order for that child to be King one day, he would have to be born legitimate. So the King sought to marry Anne legally, by consent of the church. Cardinal Wolsey would actually be the one to deny the King his annulment. In the play, Cardinal Wolsey fights for the divorce, and appears to achieve it by manipulating the King. So reasons and motives get a little fuzzy in Shakespeare’s version.

Three: Katharine isn’t murdered

That’s true! Significantly in history, Katharine is not murdered as was the right of the King. Instead, he goes to great lengths to annul or divorce her. The amount of honor, power, and I believe, love, the King gave to Katharine spared her life. That perspective on Henry’s opinion of Katharine is echoed in the play, though she does die alone. In the play, as well as history, Katharine is removed to Kimbolton, where she falls ill. It’s significant that the King goes to such great lengths to keep her alive, to have her removed to an estate, instead of just finding her guilty of some sham offense so that she can be killed and replaced. The actions of the King both in the play, as well as historical accounts, indicate that even if he did not love her (and there’s ample evidence to suggest he did), he certainly cared for her and powerfully respected her for her contributions to his reign. Henry VIII known as someone who was more into games and sport than politics, likely would not have held his reign for the 20 years of his marriage to Katharine without her strong political knowledge and guidance. His choice to not murder her is strong evidence of the King’s affection for her personally.

Four: Shakespeare carries her reputation as a strong woman into perpetuity

In responding before nobles Katharine says,

“You know I am a woman, lacking wit
To make a seemly answer to such persons.”
(Act III, Scene I)

Later in the play during her trial she again reiterates her weakness as a woman, her state as a stranger, having not been born in England, and appeals to the nobles and the King as a woman who is inferior. Even in reading the words she is speaking, it’s never doubted that she actually held any belief that she was inferior to these men there present. Not only had seen been acting regent during any absence of the King himself, but the act of appealing to the expectations of the nobles and King in order to preserve her life while she shares unwelcome news, is vividly painted by Shakespeare as shrewdness from Katharine. Historical accounts echo this opinion of Katharine as someone who was very strong and opinionated. We even have records of Katharine leading a battle against the Scottish when the then King James IV himself, was killed, while King Henry VIII was away. So ever how wise and shrewd, she wasn’t demur or self deprecating. In the play, she walks out of the court in defiance of what she considered truly a stupid exhibition of male domination trying to falsely accuse her (she wasn’t wrong), and Shakespeare’s artistic depiction of her forever solidifies her reputation as a strong, elegant, woman of power.

Five: Her story is embellished for the sake of tragedy

Her first entrance is to be received, kissed, and honored by the King.

“Arise, and take place by us: half your suit
Never name to us; you have half our power;
The other moiety, ere you ask, is given;
Repeat your will and take it.”
(Act I, Scene II)

Then later, at her trial where they attempt to find her guilty of anything worth divorcing her from the King, she not only defends herself beautifully, but the King himself honors her and tells the court she has the right to leave, that her actions are honorable, and that she is a “queen’s queen.” His compliment to her, and expression of admiration and love make her eventual death even more tragic. as I believe, Shakespeare intended. Was King Henry VIII quite so loving? Was he, a man often labeled as harsh, cynical, and selfish, able to love someone as the King in the play so plainly loves Katharine? History debates this fact, and without personal testimony we can’t know for sure, but such is the power of the theater. You can paint the picture you most want to see.

Six: The timeline is off

In the pay, Katharine is informed of Wolsey’s death from her own deathbed, when in fact, Wolsey died years before Katharine. Additionally, in the 17th century babies were christened within days of their birth (which is how we are able to estimate Shakespeare’s birthday, incidentally) but in the play, Elizabeth is christened right after Katharine’s death. Elizabeth was three years old when her mother died, so that fact is a little off in the play.

While Shakespeare plays around with the timeline, that can be attributed to the actual theater convention common to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, where when writing about history, you have to condense it a bit and fit the entire story into a play. That often necessitates rather ignoring the actual time between key events. Overall, the play paints a beautiful and honorable portrait of Katharine, such a tragic heroine throughout the play. By sheer cause of their shock value, the scandal of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s general appetites would take center stage in our minds of this time in history without Shakespeare calling our attention to her story. By painting such an elegant picture of the human nature of the players involved, Shakespeare, as he is so good at doing, causes us to ask complicated questions about the true nature of what happened so long ago. Can we rely merely on facts to know the past, or must we also consider the humanity of long ago?

This particular play is considered perhaps one of Shakespeare’s worst history plays (I know, I don’t understand that either) but it’s interesting to me that it is also one that does not veer too far from actual historical record. Shakespeare takes what’s known about Katharine of Aragon and breathes life into what is our image, or mental statue, of who she might have been. He asks us to get to know her when he paints this picture of her, without bringing up any significant controversy of the historical record.

If you’re now as intrigued to read the entire play as I hoped you would be, you can check out a full an unabridged copy of Henry VIII at this website. (not affiliated, just enthusiastic)

About the Author:

Cassidy Cash is a Shakespearean, writer, and artist. Cassidy believes that if you want to successfully master Shakespeare’s plays, then understanding the history of William Shakespeare the man is essential. She produces weekly youtube episodes asking “Did Shakespeare?” and is the host of “That Shakespeare Life” the podcast that peaks behind the curtain of the plays to look inside the life of William Shakespeare. (Launches April 23, 2018). Connect with Cassidy at her website or on Twitter @ThatShakespeare

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