“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.

Read More

Understanding the Man: Henry VIII (Part Two)

As many of you may already know, King Henry VIII is my favorite monarch of the Tudor dynasty. If it wasnt for his reign I do not believe the Tudors would be as popular as they are today. In this episode I continue on my journey to explain the Henry I have learned to love…and hate.

With the creation of Showtimes “THE TUDORS”, many of us were aware of the name Henry VIII but really didnt 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 wasnt 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.

If you missed the first part of the series you can read it here: Understanding the Man: Henry VIII (Part One)

If you’d prefer to listen to the podcast on the subject you can find that here:

Understanding the Man: Henry VIII (Part Two)

Henry VIII was a great lover of music, he had been described as having a great singing voice as well as being a good composer. During his summer progress of 1510, Henry entertained himself (and presumably others) by playing the flute, recorder and virginals. While some believe the King wrote Greensleeves there is no definitive evidence to confirm, however, we do know that he wrote “Pastime with Good Company”.


Henry and his boon companions not only enjoyed music and dance but were known to dress in disguise and play games as well. Weeks after Katherine of Aragon had given birth to a prince, the King and a dozen companions “invaded” the Queen’s chambers one morning with hoods on their heads and with bows and arrows, swords and such to make them look like outlaws. The Queen and her ladies were bewildered by the site and after sometime it was revealed to them who the “outlaws” were.

We see this again later on in life when Henry was preparing to wed Anne of Cleves, another time when he dressed in disguise – unfortunately things did not turn out as well for him that time…probably because Anne spoke little English and didn’t understand that this was something the king liked to do.

Birth of a Prince

From the beginning of his reign King Henry VIII understood the importance of having a male heir – he had known of the pretenders from his father’s reign and he began his own rule with a healthy paranoia.

Good for the King it didn’t take long before his queen gave birth to a prince. Henry, Duke of Cornwall was born on New Year’s Day 1511. The excitement and joy of having a surviving child, let alone a son, less than a year after the queen’s first child (which was a stillborn daughter) was palpable. In celebration bonfires were lit and wine was given freely around the streets of London. It wasn’t only King Henry that was joyous over the birth of a son but all of England breathed a sigh of relief that the succession was settled so soon into the new king’s reign.

In gratitude of the birth of a son, King Henry rode to the shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham on a pilgrimage of thanks. While there he made an offer of gratitude – what it was exactly I do not know.

Unfortunately, the little prince lived for only fifty-two days. Katherine of Aragon was overwhelmed with sorrow, as was her husband. One can assume that Henry used his parents behavior after the death of Arthur as example by concealing his own feelings to comfort and be the strength for his grieving wife. The infant Duke of Cornwall was given a lavish funeral at Westminster Palace.

Recovering from the Prince’s Death

Henry’s idea of grieving and moving past this awful loss was by keeping himself busy. As with any of us we grieve differently – this does not mean that he did not shed a tear for his lost son either. Many times people look at Henry as cool and calculating, with ice running through his veins. This is definitely not true. I’ve always seen Henry as sensitive and emotional.

Here is an example: In a letter to Erasmus, sixteen year old Henry accounts for his great sadness at the loss of a man he idolized – King Philip of Castile who was Katherine of Aragons brother in law.

For never since the death of my most dear mother has a less welcome message come to me. And to speak the truth, I was not so ready to attend to your letter as its singular elegance demanded, because it appeared to reopen a wound which time had begun to heal. But those events that are determined by heaven, must be so received by mortals. Meantime pray proceed, and signify to us by letter any news you have, but let your news be of a pleasanter kind; and may God bring to a good event whatever may happen worth telling. Farewell.

Henry also grieved for the loss of his children. When Katherine of Aragon had a stillbirth or miscarriage, Henry was as saddened by the event as his queen.

Faithful Husband

We all know that Henry VIII had affairs, however, one thing we will give the man is that for the most part he was discreet about them – with the exception of Anne Boleyn during his marriage to Katherine of Aragon.

Unlike the French king, Francois I, Henry’s infidelities were kept to the time when his wife was pregnant or was recovering from pregnancy and he did not have an “official mistress”. We can look back at the twenty plus years he was married to Katherine of Aragon to see that most of his mistresses were during Katherine’s pregnancies – possibly with the exception of Bessie Blount who also gave him a son and was then “set aside” so to speak.

Katherine of Aragon, like many English and Europeon queens before her “accepted such passing sexual adventures as one of the facts of life in a man’s world” – she did not need to look any further than her own father for an example of this behavior.

Did Henry’s father have a mistress or mistresses? The only speculation that I have read would be his possible relationship with Katherine Gordon, wife of Perkin Warbeck, but again we don’t know for certain.

The True Renaissance Man

Henry was a true Renaissance man – he enjoyed the arts and set out to attract as many artists and musician from abroad that he could. A Florentine sculptor by the name of Pietro Torrigianowas one of the first to arrive. Torrigiano was commissioned by Henry to execute the tomb of his father at Westminster Abbey. It appears that this talented artist had much in common with King Henry – some anger issues: “Pietro had permanently disfigured famous artist Michelangelo by a boxer’s blow on the nose; ‘I felt bone and cartilage go down like biscuit under my knuckles’, he said.

The most well-known artist of Henry’s time was by far Hans Holbein the Younger:

Holbein was born in Augsburg in southern Germany in the winter of 1497-8. He was taught by his father, Hans Holbein the Elder. Holbein first traveled to England in 1526 with a recommendation to Thomas More from the scholar Erasmus. In 1532 he settled in England, dying of the plague in London in 1543.

Holbein was a highly versatile and technically accomplished artist who worked in different media. He also designed jewelry and metalwork. The National Gallery

When we look at musicians during Henry’s reign the first that comes to mind in my head is Thomas Tallis. Tallis was an English composer and by 1543 was composing for Henry VIII.

Grew the Navy

When we think about the legacy of Henry VIII we must not forget that he established the Royal Navy and encouraged both shipbuilding and and dockyards. Henry’s father and predecessor, King Henry VII had started building warships but had only completed five by the time of his death in 1509. His son on the other hand had built 47 ships during his 38 year reign, as well as another 35 which had been acquired by ‘purchase or as prizes’.*

Two of the most well-known war ships of his time were the Mary Rose and the Henry Grace a Dieu. There were obviously many others and I thought I would name a few for you now:

The Mary Imperial, the Falcon in the Fetterlock, Portcullis and Peter Pomegranate, in honor of the Yorkist, Beaufort and the badges of Aragon.


Henry’s military campaigns began in 1511 when he joined the Pope’s Holy League against France. How predictable, right? Henry seemed to crave war and the notoriety that came with it – apparently winning a battle made him a more virile man, or something like that. While Henry was off claiming land in France his wife, Queen Katherine of Aragon (who by the way was pregnant at the time) was put in charge as Regent in her husband’s absence. This was the perfect opportunity (or so they thought) for King James IV to invade England. I often wonder if James IV had any idea of who Katherine’s mother was – or her father for that matter. One would believe that he would have known that she would not sit quietly and allow him to invade England under her watch. He paid for that mistake with his life.

Henry wasnt always successful in his military escapades and because of them he quickly depleted the royal coffers. The Dissolution of the Monasteries during Thomas Cromwells tenure helped to rebuild them for a short amount of time before he (yet again) went to war with France.

Prolific Builder

Henry was quite the builder as well Im not sure of the exact number (may have been at least a dozen) but his builds compare to the most prolific monarch builder, King Edward I. The difference between the two men was that Henrys building was done quickly often making his men work overnight by candlelight and fires and so, because of this, many of his buildings no longer stand today.

Here are some of the palaces or castles that Henry VIII built from the earth up or that he built major additions to making them part of his Tudor legacy (in no particular order):

Pendennis Castle

Pendennis Castle, located in Falmouth, Cornwall, England was built by King Henry VIII between 1539 and 1545 to guard and defend from the perceived French and Spanish threat. During the time that Pendennis Castle was being built Henry VIII married and divorced Anne of Cleves (1540), married and beheaded Katherine Howard (1540-1541) and married Catherine Parr (1543). He was a busy guy with building AND wives.

St. James Palace

St. James Palace was constructed between 1531 and 1536 and was secondary in Henrys interest to Whitehall Palace. It was a smaller residence to help escape formal court life.

Mainly built with red-brick, the palaces architecture is primarily in the Tudor style. The most recognizable feature is north gatehouse; It is decorated with the initials H.A. for Henry and his second wife, Anne Boleyn.

St. James Palace was remodeled in 1544 (some time after Henry VIII married Catherine Parr) and the ceilings were painted by Hans Holbein; St. James was described as a pleasant royal house.[1]

Interesting side notes: Henrys son, Henry FitzRoy, died at St. James Palace as did his daughter Queen Mary I. It is said that his other daughter Queen Elizabeth I spent the night in St. James Palace while awaiting the Spanish Armada.

Oatlands Palace

In 1538, Henry VIII acquired Oatlands and rebuilt it for Anne of Cleves. In 1540 he married his fifth wife, Katherine Howard there.

Oatlands Palace is where Queen Mary I retreated after her phantom pregnancy. It is when she moved from Hampton Court (which housed the nursery and nursery staff) that her subjects knew there would be no child.

Little remains of Oatlands Palace, near Weybridge in Surrey, where Henry VIII loved to go hunting.

The birth of Henry VIIIs legitimate son, Prince Edward, led directly to the destruction of the manor of Cuddington. To celebrate both the securing of the succession and the arrival of the 30th year of his reign, Henry decided to build a palace which would have no equal hence the name, Nonsuch. None such palace would compare. It was said to be quite beautiful, and honestly like nothing England had seen before.

Building for Nonsuch began in 1538. It was the greatest of Henry VIIIs building enterprises it took nine years to build and was completed at a cost of at least 24,000, a phenomenal amount for that time. Henry died before the palace was completed.

York Place/Whitehall Palace

In the 15th century, the Archbishops of York built as their London base a palace named York Place, which stood on the site of Inigo Jones Banqueting House. When Cardinal Wolsey became Archbishop of York in 1514, he extended the palace, which, like Hampton Court, another of Wolseys splendid residences, attracted the covetous eye of Henry VIII. In the late 1520s his reputation failing and desperately trying to retain the Kings favour, Wolsey gave York Place to Henry. Renamed Whitehall Palace it became Henry VIIIs principal royal residence. Quoted from The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain

Henry VIII further improved the building to his liking by adding a Privy Gallery, a bowling alley, a tiltyard, a cockpit and real tennis courts. Hans Holbein painted many of the ceilings there as well.

As per the book, London, Volume 1 (Page 339, Edited by Charles Knight), Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII were married at Whitehall Palace on 25 January 1533.

Beaulieu Palace

Beaulieu Palace was the first palace Henry VIII built as King of England. In 1516, just a month before the birth of his daughter Mary, Henry ordered construction to begin.

Beaulieu Palace was a favorite for Queen Mary I her father, Henry VIII granted Mary the palace in his will. Beaulieu Palace is also where Mary I declared (before the sacrament) that she would marry Philip.

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace, from the beginning, was not built by Henry VIII Henry received it from Wolsey in 1528. Once Henry owned Hampton Court Palace he began expanding to house his large court. He might as well have built it because the additions were major Henry VIII spent 62,000 (approximately 18 million today) on Hampton Court in just ten years!

Deal Castle

Henry Vlll built the low-lying artillery fort of Deal Castle, in Kent, as one of a string of coastal fortifications built around Englands south coast in the later 1530s and early 1540s. Following his break with the Church of Rome, he feared invasion by the armies of a Franco-Spanish Catholic alliance brokered by the Pope. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.360)

In 18 months, Henry built three forts one at Sandown, one at Deal and one at Walmer to cover that part of the English coast. They were built using press-ganged labor and stone from local religious houses that were suppressed by Henrys Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Notice how from above Deal Castle looks like the Tudor Rose. Henry VIII was in his late 40s when he build these forts. Anne of Cleves is said to have stayed at Deal Castle after her long voyage from Europe on her way to London to meet her future husband.

Completed in 1539, Sandsfoot Castle, historically as Weymouth Castle was built by Henry VIII to provide in conjunction with Portland Castle a defence for shipping in the safe anchorage of Portland Roads (Portland Harbour). http://www.sandsfootcastle.org.uk/

This castle had two storeys plus a basement. It was built to protect against invasion from France and the Holy Roman Empire


Lets start by looking at the contradiction that is Henry VIII:

On 17 October 1521, Pope Leo X declared King Henry VIII the Fidei Defensor or Defender of the Faith. This title was given to honor Henry for his book Defense of the Seven Sacraments which attacked the theology of Martin Luther and was dedicated to Leo.

Henry gladly took the honor and added it to his royal title, becoming: Henry the Eighth, by the Grace of God, King of England and France, Defender of the Faith and Lord of Ireland.

After Henry VIII broke with Rome, Pope Paul III excommunicated Henry and rescinded the grant of the title Defender of the Faith in 1538. Of course, Parliament (or quite possibly Henry himself) would not acknowledge the ruling and the title remained.

As the reform was spreading through Europe Henry fought against it, that is until his conscience got the best of him. After two decades of marriage and no surviving male sons he became convinced that his marriage was not favorable with God.

While reading Sarah Gristwoods book, Game of Queens she discusses two different debates regarding Henrys concern with his first marriage.

In the book of Leviticus, the Bible says, If a man shall take his brothers wife, it is an unclean thing: he has uncovered his brothers nakedness. Thy shall be childless. In Henrys mind this meant not without child, but without male heir. Clearly he interpreted things the way that would benefit him. However, in the book of Deuteronomy it contradicts Leviticus saying that a man has a duty to marry his deceased brothers widow and to raise up seed for his brother. Sowhich was it? Was Henry supposed to marry his brothers widow or was he not?

This is a topic I am always torn on – Henry was a deeply religious man…he was raised for the church and study theology feverishly. Maybe he truly believed that God frowned on this marriage. Its easy for us to look at from the standards of today and say, What a pig – he just wanted Katherine out of the way to wed Anne Boleyn! Did he? He could have just as easily tired of Anne and moved on to a more willing mistress, right?

Okay, I got off track there – lets get back to it:

In England, the Reformation began with Henry VIIIs quest for a male heir. When Pope Clement VII refused to accept a divorce or annul Henrys marriage to Katherine of Aragon, Henry declared that he alone should be the final authority in matters relating to the English church. It has been suggested that Anne Boleyn provided the king with books that were banned in England due to heresy to convince him that she should not have to answer to Rome – he was anointed by God.

Henry dissolved Englands monasteries to confiscate their wealth and worked to place the Bible in the hands of the people. Beginning in 1536, every parish was required to have a copy.

Wikipedia explains it as The Great Bible:

The Great Bible of 1539 was the first authorized edition of the Bible in English, authorized by King Henry VIII of England to be read aloud in the church services of the Church of England. The Great Bible was prepared by Myles Coverdale, working under commission of Thomas, Lord Cromwell, Secretary to Henry VIII and Vicar General. In 1538, Cromwell directed the clergy to provide “one book of the bible of the largest volume in English, and the same set up in some convenient place within the said church that ye have care of, whereas your parishioners may most commodiously resort to the same and read it.”

After Henrys death, England tilted toward Calvinist-infused Protestantism during Edward VIs six-year reign and then endured five years of reactionary Catholicism under Mary I. In 1559 Elizabeth I took the throne and, during her 44-year reign, cast the Church of England as a middle way between Calvinism and Catholicism, with vernacular worship and a revised Book of Common Prayer.

Imprisonment of Those Who Were a Threat

Nowwhen we look at the not so flattering side of King Henry we quickly recall that he married six times and that he executed two of his wives. It wasnt only his wives that he executed but he also executed friends, like Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell both deaths he regretted deeply afterward. Oh, and if you had any claim in your bloodline to the throne of England hed also execute you.

I have read that Henry VIII was responsible for possibly 72,000 executions during his nearly four decade reign. That number, in my opinion, is highly over exaggerated. If you consider the population of England during the reign of King Henry was 2.5 million people, that would mean that Henry executed about 2.8 percent of the population of England. Then wed have to take into account how many people died of the plague and the sweating sickness as well as battles.there would be like.two people left. Okay, maybe a few more but you get where Im going with this.

There is, however, a list on Wikipedia of Protestants executed under Henry VIIIthat lists totals sixty-three victims from 1530-1546. So while King Henry executed a lot of people, I definitely question the 72,000 number that has been floating around.

Lets go back to those with a bloodline that threatened Henrys throne. Its easy for us to look at his actions by the standards of this century, however, one must remember that Henry was only the second Tudor king to sit on the historically unstable throne of England. If there was any indication that someone was plotting to overthrow him Henry reacted quickly and decisively – lets be honest, with Englands history with the Wars of the Roses he truly had to. I believe the first person who posed a threat to his reign was Edmund de la Pole. Edmund was the son of John de la Pole and Elizabeth Plantagenet, Edmund was nephew to Edward IV and future Richard III.

After the execution of Edward Plantagenent, Earl of Warwick in 1499, Edmund de la Pole was the next Yorkist with a claim to the throne.

Outwardly, de la Pole appeared loyal, however, he was upset when Henry refused him the dukedom after his fathers death. He was eventually executed in 1513.

Then there was Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham – Henry had him beheaded. Stafford was charged with imagining and compassing the death of the king, through seeking out prophecy from a monk named Nicholas Hopkins regarding the chances of the king having a male heir. The evidence to back this up was supposedly obtained from disgruntled former members of the Dukes household. Did he deserve to be executed? I dont know, but at the time he was seen as a real threat and so Henry had to act.

One of the executions that Henry regretted the most was Sir Thomas Mores. In my honest opinion I think Henry felt cornered on the matter and had to use More as an example to others who were refusing to sign the Oath of Supremacy and would not acknowledge Henry as supreme head of the Church of England. More stood by his convictions and lost his head for it.

Lastly, another person whose heritage threatened the stability of Henrys reign was Margaret Pole and her sons. Margarets life was marred by death – her father was executed by her uncle King Edward IV, her mother died when she was just a child and her uncle was Richard III – the king that died to make way for the Tudors. I believe, she is the oldest person to be executed at the Tower of London. Salisburys execution was private but that doesnt mean there were not witnesses, it just means the number of spectators were far fewer than a public execution. Poles execution was wholly unnecessary and I believe it was used as a way to punish her son Reginald Pole for siding with the Pope during the Reformation.

Of course those are only a few examples of notable executions during Henrys reign – there were also family members like the Kings sister Mary who secretly wed Charles Brandon after the death of the her husband, King Louis XII – both she and Brandon were spared. Unfortunately, his niece Margaret Douglas (daughter of his sister Margaret and Archibald Douglas) was not as safe from the wrath of her uncle…but to be quite honest Margaret brought her imprisonment in the Tower on herself. Margaret took matters into her own hands and made a pre-contract for marriage with Lord Thomas Howard, younger brother of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk. As the niece of the King of England she was not allowed to choose her own husband. It was the right of the King to arrange a marriage that would be beneficial for the kingdom. She and Howard were sent to the Tower – Howard would eventually died there after Margaret was released. The fear was that Howard only wished to wed Margaret because he knew was the only legitimate member of the family in the line of succession.


So to summarize the positive things that came from the reign of Henry VIII (in my opinion):

  • Henry allowed the bible to be translated into English this, for the sixteenth century was quite controversial.
  • In his Act of Succession he allowed his two daughters to follow his son. His daughter Mary became the first queen regnant in English history quite magnificent actually.
  • Henry VIII was considered the founder of the English Royal Navy and helped to grow the number of ships within it exponentially.
  • He built or added on to several castles

In my mind its easy to justify Henry VIIIs actions. As King of England he was responsible for all those who resided there – the choices he made were not only for him but for an entire country. Its easy to make judgement on a man for his actions, but I dont believe its fair to judge him by todays standards. If we take a step back and situations and looks at what was going on during the time it should help us understand a little better why he did what he did. We must also remember the constant pain he was in from the festering and smelling ulcers on his leg. I know I would be quite cranky and moody if I was in constant pain. I agree, not all his actions were justified – but lets be fair…the main reason so many know his name is because he married six times and had signed the death warrants to have two of his wives executed.


Want to hear more podcast episodes? Click the image!

Get Notified

Facebook no longer shows our posts to a majority of our followers - Don't want to miss out on new articles? Get notified! Subscribe to email updates from Tudors Dynasty.

Join 5,011 subscribers.

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.

Get Notified

Facebook no longer shows our posts to a majority of our followers - Don't want to miss out on new articles? Get notified! Subscribe to email updates from Tudors Dynasty.

Join 5,011 subscribers.

Book Review: “La Reine Blanche” by Sarah Bryson

Of the two surviving sisters of Henry VIII, his younger sister Mary was by far his favorite. Nothing shows that more than when he forgave her for secretly marrying Charles Brandon before returning from France after the death of her first husband, King Louis XII of France.

When I heard that author Sarah Bryson was releasing a book about Mary Tudor I was excited to learn more about the Tudor princess and French queen. She has fascinated me since her amalgamation in Showtime’s “The Tudors”. I say amalgamation because the character on the series was a combination of both Mary and Margaret Tudor. If you’re not familiar with the actual history of Mary Tudor the show’s story line will utterly confuse you. The biggest fictionalization (in my opinion) was when Mary, at eighteen years old married the King of Portugal. I’m really not sure why the writers of the series chose Portugal and not the King of France. In all the reading I do on the Tudor dynasty I have never come across any mention of Manuel I of Portugal. What we didn’t learn from that series is what an amazing person Mary Tudor was.

With all this in mind I was eager to learn more facts about the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of France.

Description of book:

Mary Tudors childhood was overshadowed by the men in her life: her father, Henry VII, and her brothers Arthur, heir to the Tudor throne, and Henry VIII. These men and the beliefs held about women at the time helped to shape Marys life. She was trained to be a dutiful wife and at the age of eighteen Mary married the French king, Louis XII, thirty-four years her senior. When her husband died three months after the marriage, Mary took charge of her life and shaped her own destiny. As a young widow, Mary blossomed. This was the opportunity to show the world the strong, self-willed, determined woman she always had been. She remarried for love and at great personal risk to herself. She loved and respected Katherine of Aragon and despised Anne Boleyn again, a dangerous position to take. Author Sarah Bryson has returned to primary sources, state papers and letters, to unearth the truth about this intelligent and passionate woman. This is the story of Mary Tudor, told through her own words for the first time.

I ordered this book directly through Amberley Publishing in England because it is not released in the U.S. until June 2018.


Sarah Bryson did a phenomenal job bringing to life one of the lesser written about women of Tudor court, Mary Tudor. While many of us are aware of who Mary Tudor was we might not know very much about her life. Mary was beautiful, well-liked and smart.

La Reine Blanche: Mary Tudor, A Life in Letters is just that, a book about the life of Mary Tudor (sister of Henry VIII) supplemented by letters. Bryson did a lot of research to be able to show us the most comprehensive look at the beautiful English princess to date.

Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII, Francis I, Cardinal Wolsey, Charles Brandon and a plethora of other Tudor figures make an appearance in this book. It’s interesting to see how they all interacted with Mary throughout her life. It’s also interesting to see how close Mary had become with the children of her husband’s from his marriage with Anne Browne – she was indeed a kind stepmother.

Mary’s life wasn’t without adversity and Bryson did a brilliant job bringing it all to life for the reader. I was moved at the loss of her son with Brandon. As a mother, my heart breaks every time a parent loses a child.

I was pleasantly surprised by Mary’s relationship with her first husband, King Louis XII of France. I had previously known that she went into the marriage with an open mind but had no idea of her feelings for the King until reading this book.

If you’re as obsessed with the Tudor period as I am then you’ll love this book. It’s also a great book to read if you’re interested in French traditions.

Interested in learning more? Here is Sarah Bryson’s guest post for my site: The Princess and the Knight

Buy This Book

Amazon.com (available June 1, 2018 – Pre-order today!)

Amazon.co.uk (available now)

Book Depository (available now)

Author Bio:

Sarah Bryson is a researcher, writer and educator who has a Bachelor of Early Childhood
Education with Honours. She currently works with children with disabilities. She is
passionate about Tudor history and has a deep interest in Mary Tudor, Charles Brandon,
Duke of Suffolk and the reign of Henry VIII and the people of his court. She has run a
website dedicated to Tudor history for many years and has written for various websites
including On the Tudor Trail and QueenAnneBoleyn. She has been studying primary
sources to tell the story of Mary Tudor for a decade. Sarah lives in Australia, enjoys reading,
writing and Tudor costume enactment.





Facebook no longer shows our posts to a majority of our followers - Don't want to miss out on new articles? Get notified! Subscribe to email updates from Tudors Dynasty.

Join 5,011 subscribers.

Get Out of Jail Free Cards: The Many Annulments of Henry VIII (Guest Post)

By Jillianne Hamilton

Everyone knows Henry VIII was unlucky in love. Not nearly as unlucky as many of his wives, of course, but Henry would certainly have considered himself the most unfortunate man in England when it came to his married life.

The excuses he used to get out of his marriage varied from wife to wife. But he and his advisors were able to come up with excuses that never put the king at fault. Ever.

His first marriage was the most complicated to end because of a few factors. Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, daughter to Fernando and Isabel of Spain, was permitted in the first place because of a special dispensation written up by Pope Julius II. Catherine had previously been married to Henry’s older brother, Prince Arthur, the young man everyone assumed would be the next king of England. However, fate intervened and he died of illness a few months into the marriage.

So what was the problem? The Bible states that if a man marries his brother’s widow, it is sinful, bordering on incest. The punishment of this union would be childless. Julius II, God’s spokesperson on earth at the time, said it was fine so Catherine’s marriage to the newly created King Henry went on as planned. However, after years of unsuccessful pregnancies, no male heir showed up and Henry decided Julius had been wrong to allow the marriage to go further. God was not pleased with his choice of wife and this was his punishment.

After years of fighting with papal delegates sent from Rome, and with the new pope, Clement VII, Henry took matters into his own hands and cut ties with the traditional Catholic Church, making himself Supreme Head of the Church of England. Finally, with this move, Henry’s marriage to Catherine was decreed to be invalid and his marriage to his second wife was named valid.

Of course, we all know his second wife, Anne Boleyn, was not meant long for this world. Henry, once again, had his marriage dissolved quickly and easily. Days before Anne’s sad end, her marriage to the king was ended but the reason for it was not given on official court documents but it was likely because of Anne’s pre-contract to Henry Percy or because of the king’s relationship with Mary, Anne’s older sister.

The pope had previously given a dispensation stating that Henry could marry Anne (once Catherine had passed away, of course), even though Henry admitted to having a sexual relationship with Anne’s sister. It was basically the exact same situation as Catherine and Arthur except there was no marriage. Again, it was probably decided the pope was wrong to give that dispensation in the first place. Again, God was displeased with his marriage and was punishing him by not giving him a son. Again, the marriage wasn’t ended by divorce, it was annulled. It was like it had never happened. Again, Henry was free to take another wife.

New reasons for dissolving marriages came into play for Henry’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. Henry and Anne slept in the same bed at least a few times but never had sex. Henry tried, but it just didn’t happen. Again, Henry and his advisors found ways out of the marriage without calling into question Henry’s manhood. The marriage was eventually ended on the grounds of non-consummation (because Henry found Anne so unattractive) and pre-contract. Anne had previously been betrothed to Francis, the son and heir of the Duke of Lorraine back in Germany. However, the pre-contract had ended years before Anne’s arrival in England.

The annulment of Henry’s union to Anne of Cleves as not the last time pre-contract would be used as a way of saying a marriage had never happened because it wasn’t legal. During the catastrophic downfall of Katheryn Howard, Henry’s fifth wife, whispers and rumors about the young, vivacious queen reached the ears of Archbishop Cranmer. Cranmer investigated these rumors and interviewed Francis Dereham, a former lover of Katheryn’s. Dereham claimed they had agreed to marry but there is little evidence that suggests Katheryn made such an agreement. Still, pre-contract was once again used to annul the marriage, soon before Katheryn was sent to the executioner’s block.

However, if she really was pre-contracted to Dereham, then Katheryn hadn’t actually been unfaithful to the king with Thomas Culpepper. She’d been unfaithful to Dereham. But reason and logic weren’t really part of the equation at that point, as Henry was so heartbroken and angry, he considered ending Katheryn’s life by his own hand.

Getting rid of wives became infinitely easier for Henry once he named himself Supreme Head of the Church even though many of his excuses weren’t religion based at all. If pre-contract, non-consummation and Bible passages weren’t available excuses, I’m sure Henry’s advisors would have come up with other ways of getting Henry out of his unfortunate situation.

Jillianne Hamilton is the author of The Lazy Historian’s Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII, now available on paperback and ebook. Check out her blog, The Lazy Historian, for more information.




Get Notified

Facebook no longer shows our posts to a majority of our followers - Don't want to miss out on new articles? Get notified! Subscribe to email updates from Tudors Dynasty.

Join 5,011 subscribers.

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) http://shakespeare.mit.edu/henryviii/full.html

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 http://www.cassidycash.com or on Twitter @ThatShakespeare

Facebook no longer shows our posts to a majority of our followers - Don't want to miss out on new articles? Get notified! Subscribe to email updates from Tudors Dynasty.

Join 5,011 subscribers.