Tuesday, April 30, 2019

What Elizabeth Learned from Mary

Queen Elizabeth I
Mention the name of Elizabeth I and visions of a glorious queen with red-gold hair immediately come to mind. She shepherds her people and stands firm against the Spanish Armada. Her devotion to her subjects is so complete that she cannot even bring herself to find a spouse. Long after her death, Queen Elizabeth I is adored, almost certainly more so than she was during her lifetime.

In contrast, her older sister, Queen Mary I, is remembered as ‘Bloody Mary’ when she is remembered at all. The sisters shared the auburn hair that they inherited from their father, Henry VIII, but that is not all they had in common. A closer look reveals that Elizabeth learned much about ruling as queen regnant from the example of her sister.

The role modelling that Mary provided for Elizabeth began long before either of them became queen. The girls were often part of the same household when Elizabeth was young, beginning with Mary’s forced servitude in the infant Elizabeth’s household as part of Henry’s striving to emphasize that it was Elizabeth who, at that time, was princess while Mary was a bastard. By the time both girls were brought to court by stepmother Katherine Parr, both were bastardized princesses.

Queen Mary I
Mary’s early roles in Elizabeth’s life would have demonstrated how to be pious and submissive in the face of adversity. Elizabeth would get a different view of what positions a woman could fulfill when her father went to war in France, leaving Katherine as regent with Mary at her side. Katherine Parr was an important person in the lives of these motherless girls. She showed that a woman could order a kingdom just as well as a household, and both girls took note.

Both Katherine and Mary offered Elizabeth examples on the effects that the wrong marriage could have on a woman’s life. If she were not haunted by the fact that her mother had been executed by her father, Elizabeth need look no further than Katherine and Mary for further reasons to remain single. Thomas Seymour, Katherine’s fourth husband, gave Elizabeth an early lesson in flirtation, if not more, and was executed for treason shortly after Katherine’s death in childbirth. Mary’s marriage to Prince Philip caused an uproar of rebellion as the efforts to restore Catholicism became fused with England’s marriage to Spain in the minds of Englishmen.

However, Elizabeth took note of the finer details of Mary’s reign and used them to her advantage when her turn came. While the lack of a husband caused its own problems, not the least of which was the end of her family’s dynasty, Elizabeth had learned from her father’s marital scandals and the repercussions of her sister’s choice that it was safer to remain alone. Elizabeth is famous for stating, “I have already joined myself in marriage to a husband, namely the kingdom of England.” What is not so widely remembered, is that Mary said almost the same thing.

Wyatt's Rebellion
In 1554, with Wyatt’s Rebellion underway, Mary decided to address the people of London and encourage them to rise up in her defense. She said, in part, “What I am loving subjects, ye know your Queen, to whom, at my coronation, ye promised allegiance and obedience, I was then wedded to the realm, and to the laws of the same, the spousal ring whereof I wear here on my finger, and it never has and never shall be left off. . . . I cannot tell how naturally a mother loveth her children, for I never had any, but if the subjects may be loved as a mother doth her child, then assure yourselves that I, your sovereign lady and your Queen, do earnestly love and favour you. I cannot but think you love me in return.”

Elizabeth was a clever woman, better at reading political situations than Mary ever was. She was quick to use language and strategies that had worked for her sister, but also eager to put distance between herself and the memory of the aged, childless queen and learn from Mary’s mistakes.

Hanging, drawing, & quartering
Where Mary had seen herself as the spiritual leader of her people, Elizabeth understood that changing times made Head of the Church of England a difficult title to bear. Mary had believed that it was her duty to reconcile her kingdom to Rome and her people to God, but Elizabeth was careful to keep her faith more private than any previous ruler of England had. She saw, as few monarchs of her day did, that religion was becoming an issue that people were no longer united in. She cleverly executed Catholic priests for treason rather than heresy.

Elizabeth used this difference between herself and her sister to bolster her position. In turn, Mary’s name was blackened. The harsh sobriquet ‘Bloody Mary’ was never applied to the devout queen during her lifetime, but the sister who benefited from her example also found that she appeared more glorious if her predecessor seemed evil in comparison. Instead of receiving credit for demonstrating that a woman could reign, Mary became the enemy whom Elizabeth triumphed over. Yet, Elizabeth would not have been the success that she was without the sister who paved the way for her.

Additional Reading

Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock

The First Queen of England by Linda Porter

The Children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

This post originally appeared on the blog of author Judith Arnopp in April 2017.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Charming Side of Charles V

I am excited to introduce you to my guest today! Heather Darsie has written an in-depth biography on Anna of Cleves that explores all the questions Tudor enthusiasts have about the wife who became known as the King's Beloved Sister. Katherine Parr may often take the title of the wife who survived, but Anna also outlived Henry VIII and was close to Queen Mary, despite their differences in faith. This excerpt will leave you wanting to read more about this Tudor queen who is often left in the background of Henry's scandalous life. Anna Duchess of Cleves: The King's 'Beloved Sister' is available now in the UK and can be pre-ordered in the US. Welcome, Heather!

~ Samantha


Guest Post by Heather Darsie

While researching for Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’, I came across a couple anecdotes about Charles V’s character. I envisioned him before I started writing Anna, Duchess of Cleves as someone who was very stiff and did not relate well to his sisters. During the negotiations which led to the Truce of Nice between France and the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V had the chance to meet with his older sister Eleanor. Eleanor married Francis I of France on 4 July 1530 as part of The Ladies’ Peace of 1529. I was charmed to learn of the very human meeting between Charles and Eleanor in June 1538. Enjoy!

Excerpt from Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’

“Charles V set out from Spain to Nice in April 1538…Francis arrived a few days later, bringing Queen Eleanor, Charles’s sister, with him….The displays of wealth and grandeur shown by these envoys and their hosts are reminiscent of the gorgeous festivities at the Field of Cloth of Gold, the meeting between Francis I and Henry VIII in 1520….. For a time, French envoys went to the Imperial court, Imperial envoys went to the French court, and both went to the Papal court.… Queen Eleanor herself went to visit the Pope on 7 June. Charles returned to the Pope on 8 June…. Queen Eleanor went to visit her brother Charles on 10 June. She was received in as grand a fashion as the Emperor could muster. Linen awnings were set up outside the palace to protect his sister and her court from the late-spring Nice sunlight. Eleanor was arriving by ship, with both the French and Spanish-Imperial ships saluting each other and discharging celebratory rounds from their guns.
Once Eleanor and her court landed, Charles ‘advanced a few steps, stretched his hand to his sister, and when on the pier embraced and kissed her most affectionately, his countenance beaming with joy’. Charles and Eleanor spent such a long while there that a great crowd gathered on the pier, which ‘suddenly gave way and all were precipitated into the sea, though in very shallow water, so that no one received any injury’. Charles himself fell into the water, grabbing his sister’s hand and causing her to fall in. The sea carried away Charles’s cap. Charles and Eleanor recovered themselves and laughed about their dip, and how ridiculous the ladies looked in their wet gowns. Once at the palace, Charles ordered that a new gown be provided for Eleanor, but some of her ladies were faced with the prospect of wearing breeches, as that was the only dry clothing available.” 
- Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’, pages 58-59.

Connect with Heather and get the book!

Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’ is available now at Amazon UK and available for pre-order on Amazon US. Connect with Heather on Twitter or at Maidens and Manuscripts. For most great posts on Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’ check out the blog schedule below.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Tudor Marriage: Scandal - Edward Seymour and Katherine Grey

After the execution of Jane Grey, her sisters knew that they must tread carefully. Queen Mary had only reluctantly sent Jane to her death due to the continued scheming and rebellion of her father and pressure from the Spanish, but those who remained wished to be free of the stain of treason.

By the end of 1558, Queen Mary had died and was replaced with Queen Elizabeth. Their father had not expected either of his daughters to rule and their brother had attempted to revise his will to avoid it, but these Tudor sisters proved that they would not be denied. For the remaining Grey sisters, and anyone else with a bloodline that placed them close to the crown, Elizabeth’s accession was the end of marrying according to one’s own wishes.

Elizabeth is famous for remaining single during her four decades as queen, despite leading many men to believe that they might be lucky enough to win her hand. Although she made the decision not to bear her own heirs, she also did not want any of her extended family raising up sons who might threaten her. In a quest no less maniacal than her father’s obsession with bearing sons, Elizabeth tried to keep everyone around her from having them.

Katherine Grey was Elizabeth’s cousin, and her family had already made one grasp for the throne, but she was also a sensual young woman who desired a husband and family more than a crown. Her hopes for the future had already been crushed once. In a double wedding with her older sister, Jane, Katherine had been wed to the son of the Earl of Arundel. However, with Jane’s fall, he quickly decided that she was not as profitable of a match as originally thought. The marriage was annulled, and Katherine was left alone. She was also fatherless after Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, was executed for treason.

Before long, Katherine was in love again and begging her mother to write to the queen, with whom she was first cousins, to request her approval. Frances Grey died before she could finish the letter to Elizabeth, but her death proved to Katherine, as if she had not already had reason to learn it, that life was fleeting. She and her lover decided to marry in secret and hope that Elizabeth would be forgiving.

Queen Elizabeth I is known for many things. Being forgiving is not one of them, but her treatment of Katherine Grey is one of the darkest stains upon her character.

Katherine Grey and her son Lord Edward Beauchamp
Edward and Katherine were young and in love, but they were no match for their queen when it came to cleverness. Since the ceremony had been performed in secret, it was easy for Elizabeth to claim it had never happened. The only witness had been Edward’s sister, who had since died, and the priest who had performed the sacred act could no longer be located.

Katherine fell pregnant but was uncertain that she was with child until Edward was already far away in France, a plot to keep the young lovers apart that was enacted a bit too late. In her ninth month of pregnancy and alone, Katherine was tossed into the Tower by a very angry Queen Elizabeth. Edward was summoned home as those closest to them tried to distance themselves in the eyes of the queen.

When Edward landed in Dover, he was also arrested and taken to the prison that had been the final home of Katherine’s sister and both of the young people’s fathers. Remembering their fate could not have been an encouragement as they underwent numerous interrogations.

Elizabeth had two goals in questioning the couple. She sought to discover who had aided and abetted the young lovers behind her back, that they, too, might be punished. It was also vital to demonstrate that there was no valid marriage between Edward and Katherine, bastardizing their coming child. She was already battling with those who pressured her to name Mary Queen of Scots as her heir. The last thing Elizabeth needed was a male heir born to a branch of the royal family to further threaten her position.

In the Tower, Katherine gave birth to a son, further infuriating Elizabeth. A child with combined Tudor and Seymour blood was too much of a threat. Based upon the Act of Succession put in place by Henry VIII and still law, the child was Elizabeth’s heir. She took great pleasure in deeming him illegitimate. The queen further disgraced the names of the Grey sisters by claiming that they were unfit for consideration in the succession due to their father’s treason. Elizabeth, who continued to refuse to name or bear an heir, was obsessed with proving that there was no one worthy of inheriting her crown.

White Tower of the Tower of London
While Elizabeth raged against them, Edward and Katherine were as happy as inhabitants of the Tower could be. They had their little son and were housed in rooms just steps away from each other. Of course, they were only allowed to pass messages rather than spend time together, but it must have given each comfort to know that the other was near and that friends on the outside fought for their son’s rights as heir to the kingdom. Certainly, they hoped for a better outcome than their ancestors whose graves could be found nearby.

Even the young couple’s guards took pity on their situation, allowing them visits that were irrefutably prohibited by the queen’s orders. Before long, Katherine was pregnant again. She could not have made Elizabeth angrier had she attempted to physically swipe the crown from her golden-red head.

Since Edward and Katherine had declared their marriage to several interrogators by the time their second child was conceived, it was difficult for the queen to have this child illegitimatized. To make matters worse for Elizabeth, she fell ill with what was feared to be a fatal case of smallpox, and the council pressed for Katherine to be named her heir as set forth in King Henry’s will. They had no intentions of honoring Elizabeth’s wish that Robert Dudley be named Lord Protector.

Surprising everyone, herself included, Elizabeth recovered. However, the need for her to settle upon an heir had been placed under a spotlight. This did not open the queen’s heart to her cousin’s son. In fact, as more people pleaded the case of Edward and Katherine, Elizabeth fought harder to deny them. She had the Lieutenant of the Tower arrested for allowing Katherine to fall pregnant the second time.

On February 10, 1563, almost a year and a half after the birth of her first child, Katherine gave birth to another son. While Edward continued to fight for their rights, Katherine cared for the two boys in the Tower, likely trying not to think about the number of royal sons who had never left its precincts. When a plague hit London that summer, only the pleading of Katherine’s faithful supporters convinced the queen to allow the family to be removed from the Tower to house arrest in separate and more healthful parts of the country.

This may have initially been construed as a positive sign, but Elizabeth was not relenting. Edward and Katherine continued to fight for their right to be together, but the pressure from others to name Katherine or her son as Elizabeth’s heir made the queen unsympathetic toward them. When the youngest Grey sister, Mary, also secretly married in 1565, hope was lost.

Mary and her husband were quickly arrested and separated. Katherine, who had already suffered bouts of depression due to the separation from her husband and oldest son, would not recover. On January 26, 1568, she died at age twenty-seven, crushed by the jealous Queen Elizabeth. Katherine and Edward had broken the barriers to marriage but suffered severely in payment.

Don't miss the rest of the Tudor Marriage Blog Series!


Additional Reading:

De Lisle, Leanda. The Sisters Who Would Be Queen. New York: Ballantine Books, 2009.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Notre Dame Cathedral

I knew that I was blessed when I had the opportunity to visit Notre Dame Cathedral with my family in 2017, but I did not realize how amazing of a gift I had received until I watched that historic building burn in 2019. My heart broke and my stomach twisted as I watched the famous spire fall. I was watching a news broadcast from thousands of miles away, but I could almost hear the crash and smell the ash blowing through the air as 850 years of history went up in flame.

Even now, I struggle to find the words that adequately capture the devastation of losing so much priceless history. Yes, Notre Dame will rebuild, and I am encouraged by the generous donations that have already been offered. A tragedy like this unites people and gives them a common purpose. However, any positives wrought from this situation cannot change the fact that medieval craftsmanship is gone forever.

When visiting medieval cathedrals, I feel more than the weight of history and wonder about more than the engineering marvels that enabled people with far less technology to build something so amazing. I think about the individuals who carved out each stone and imagine what their life was like. I feel the cloud of witnesses surround me. I can almost hear the prayers that have been whispered there through the centuries and am eager to add my own to the cacophony, knowing that God hears them all. That is what makes something like the Notre Dame fire so crushing. Some things simply can never be replaced.

My children always say I take too many pictures - at historic sites, during basketball games, and throughout everyday life. I'm always saving those memories to look back on. Our trip to Notre Dame tested my family's patience with me! But now I wish I had looked closer, spent more time, and, yes, taken more pictures. Here are a few of my favorites.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Tudor Marriage: Scandal - Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor

Henry VIII was not the only one to make up his own rules when it came to marriage. His sister, Mary, infuriated him when she demonstrated that she, too, would wed where she found love and desire rather than where she was told her duty lie.

Like many princesses before her, Mary Tudor was pledged to marry for the purposes of international relations and treaty arrangements. She was eighteen to her husband’s fifty-two, but that mattered little in these types of arrangements. Her brief marriage to Louis XII left her with the title “The French Queen” for as long as she lived, though she was married to her second husband for much more of her life.

King Henry’s closest friend was Charles Brandon. The two had grown up together after Brandon’s father died defending Henry’s at the Battle of Bosworth where the Tudor dynasty was born. They habitually enjoyed the same sports and activities and were known to joust in matching armor. Despite this close connection, Brandon could not have anticipated the wrath of his king when he dared to marry Henry’s sister.

Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon
Brandon was no stranger to marriage scandal, though Henry had not created any of his own at that time. Seven years older than his king, Brandon had revealed his ambitions and willingness to use and dispose of women in his treatment of his first wife, Anne Browne. Attempting to annul their marriage and marry the girl’s affluent aunt, Brandon was forced to accept Anne after she birthed him a daughter and people refused to accept the so-called annulment. However, Anne died in 1512, and Brandon betrothed himself to his eight-year-old ward, Elizabeth Grey.

While he waited for her to be old enough for marriage, Brandon flirted with other women and marriage plans, including an embarrassing incident with Margaret of the Netherlands. She would not think of accepting the upstart’s hand, but things were still looking up for Brandon. In 1514, he was given the illustrious title of Duke of Suffolk, and the king’s beautiful younger sister was in love with him.

Henry knew of the feelings that his sister and best friend had for one another, but he trusted both to respect and honor his command that they marry elsewhere. Initially, Mary did. She made the best of her betrothal to the aged King of France, despite her own wishes, but the marriage lasted less than three months. Brandon was sent to retrieve Mary from France when her elderly husband died, supposedly from too much physical activity in bed with his frisky teenage bride. One might wonder if Henry was purposefully testing his friend and sister, putting them in this position. If he was, they failed the test. When they next presented themselves to Henry, it was as man and wife after a private ceremony in France.

Already contemplating where Mary could next be wed to give Henry the greatest advantage, he was furious to see her wasted on Brandon, regardless of how much he treasured the friendship. The new French king, Francios, had also suggested new matches to Mary after her enforced seclusion of forty days to ensure that she was not with child by the late king. However, she was able to gain the French king’s sympathy and support for her marriage to Brandon and hoped that she would be able to do the same with her brother. Mary reminded Henry that he had promised that she could choose her next husband if she went along with the French match, but, of course, Henry had only said that to make her submissive. He had never expected her to act upon it, and so quickly!

The couple was sent away from court and fined heavily, but Henry eventually relented. The marriage between Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon would provide the fuel for future Tudor scandals. Their daughter, Frances, would become the mother of England’s “nine day queen” Lady Jane Grey. Her sisters did not fare much better.

All of that was far in the future though, in 1515, when the spirited Tudor princess got to marry the man she loved. Some members of the king’s council, who already thought that Brandon wielded too much power over the king, lobbied for Brandon’s execution since marrying the princess without royal consent amounted to treason. However, as angry as Henry was, he loved Charles and Mary and eventually forgave them.

It was not until a decade later when Henry pursued an annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon that his relationship with his sister soured. Mary did not support her brother’s setting aside of his formerly beloved wife. This may be in part due to her deep dislike of Anne Boleyn, the woman queued up as the queen’s replacement. Even then, Henry did not punish Mary the way he did others. Even those close to him, such as Thomas Moore, paid the ultimate price for disagreeing with the king. From his sister, Henry tolerated what he would not from any other quarter. While Henry pursued divorce from Katherine and a new marriage to Anne, Mary had little to say about it. Her own health was failing, and she kept to her private estates.

Mary did not survive to witness the full drama of her brother’s quest for a son. She could not have foreseen that it would be her own children eventually named in his will, second only to his own three children who each were born of a different mother. Besides Frances, who would become the couple’s most famous offspring, Mary bore two sons and another daughter for Charles. The boys, both named Henry, died young. Eleanor, went on to marry Henry Clifford. When Mary died in 1533, her husband married his fourteen-year-old ward, Catherine Willoughby, who was betrothed to his son, again proving that barriers to marriage meant little to Charles Brandon.

Don't miss the rest of the Tudor Marriage Blog Series!


Additional Reading:

De Lisle, Leanda. Tudor: Passion. Manipulation. Murder. The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family. New York: PublicAffairs, 2013.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Let's talk about Elizabeth of York

Check out my guest appearance at the Tudors Dynasty podcast! Listen to me talk about Elizabeth of York and pronounce British names in a disappointingly American way.

Tudors Dynasty Podcast

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Tudor Marriage: Scandal - Henry VIII

Henry VIII is a man well-known for breaking any and all barriers surrounding marriage. When one is king, it is possible to create new rules to suit one’s purpose, and no one understood this better than the second Henry Tudor. He is one of the reasons that the Tudor dynasty continues to captivate people to this day. The scandal of all those wives is magnetic in its drama and unprecedented rebellion against the Catholic Church.

Henry surmounted barriers to marry and then rid himself of his succession of six wives. The Anglican Church thrives to this day due to Henry’s inability to allow anyone to have any authority over him. Rome had provided him with the dispensation he desired in order to clear the way for his first marriage, but when they would not give him the annulment that he wanted twenty years later, the Church of England was born.

Divorce, as we know it today, did not exist at Henry’s time. A couple might have their marriage annulled, but that dissolved the union as if it never existed. Children were bastardized and any betrothal contract agreements over division of property were void. Couples might separate in cases of adultery or abuse, but they were still married according to ecclesiastical law and could not remarry. Clearly this would not work in Henry’s case.

The Family of Henry VIII and
Allegory of the Tudor Succession
Claiming sinful consanguinity, Henry set Katherine aside by annulling their twenty year marriage, but he had issues to deal with before he could marry Anne Boleyn. She had been betrothed to Henry Percy, she was far below the king’s status, and those who did not support Henry’s annulment believed him to still be married to Katherine. The king handily set this all aside by founding his own church to back up everything he decided to do.

Splitting the Church of England from Rome allowed Henry to not only marry where he wished, but it brought his empty coffers the riches of the offerings that had once gone to the Pope. With the Dissolution of the Monasteries, he was able to enrich himself and reward others by plundering ancient religious houses.

It did not take long for Henry to tire of Anne, her high-strung demeanor had been tempting compared to the matronly Katherine but was wearying in a wife. More importantly, she had not provided him with the male heir he needed. A more dastardly path was taken to rid himself of his second wife.

Anne was not offered the opportunity to retire to a convent as Katherine had been. With no patience remaining for another long battle for single status, Henry’s most devoted men, Bishop Cranmer and Baron Cromwell, made it their priority to take care of the Boleyn problem.

They could have pointed to the long ignored precontract, but that would not satiate Henry’s desire to be rid of Anne immediately and for good. Therefore, a plot was hatched to accuse Anne of adultery, a treasonous offense for a queen since it put the succession of the crown into question. One of the men accused was Anne’s own brother, George. Whatever one thinks of Anne Boleyn, and she is a controversial character to this day, she and the five men who died with her did not deserve their fate.

With Anne dispatched by a Frenchman’s sword, Henry was free to marry again, and he did so only ten days later. Jane Seymour was probably the least troublesome of Henry’s wives, and that is likely the reason she was chosen. Calm and submissive where Anne had been fiery and tempestuous, Jane came to the crown with little protest.

Had she survived, the story of Henry’s scandals might have been much shorter, but poor Jane died less than two years after becoming queen. To her credit, she did so after providing the long awaited male heir.

Henry was content to wait a few years before marrying again, though one boy in the cradle was a risky foundation for the succession. He did not consider his two girls worthy of his crown, and he himself was only king because his older brother had predeceased him. Henry knew he needed more sons.

His break from the Catholic Church had fanned the flames of reformation in England, and there were some who were eager for Henry to make even more changes in how the English worshiped. They pressed the suit of Anne of Cleves, a German Lutheran princess. After unsuccessfully pursuing a couple of other ladies, including Christina of Denmark who famously quipped, “If I had two heads, I would happily put one at the disposal of the King of England,” Henry accepted Anne.

It seems that as soon as Henry laid eyes upon Anne of Cleves, he was disappointed in her. For her own part, she submitted to his desire to annul their marriage after six months. Lack of consummation of the union was given as grounds for dissolving their union. Anne went on to live “as the king’s sister” in England for the rest of her life, but Henry went on looking for love.

His fifth wife was one to be pitied for her youth and inability to navigate the murky waters she had been tossed into. Katherine Howard was a sensuous cousin of Anne Boleyn, and maybe the aging Henry believed that she would be able to arouse him in a way that Anne of Cleves had not. While she is more likely guilty of the adultery charge that led to her death as a traitor, it is difficult to feel less sympathetic toward her than Henry’s previously executed spouse.

Single again, Henry looked once more for a woman who might give him a second son. With his health problems making it necessary for Henry to frequently be carried about in a large chair to save him from the painful task of walking, his mortality was undeniable. A third Katherine was selected to be Henry’s sixth and final bride.

Katherine Parr was a widow in her early thirties. She had not borne any children, which makes her a somewhat unusual choice for the king who was obsessed with the idea of bearing sons. However, her first husband had been very young when he died and her second very old, so Henry might have believed that Katherine would be fruitful enough if given the right seed.

There was no particular barrier to marrying Katherine Parr. She was a widow and her lack of status was something that Henry had habitually ignored in his choice of wives. While it had been a scandal for his grandfather, Edward IV, to marry one of his own subjects, Henry had made the practice commonplace. He had also normalized annulment and divorce, practices that were rarely performed before Henry made such extensive use of them. Katherine was in love with Thomas Seymour, but she knew her duty and accepted the king’s proposal.

Katherine was clever and devout. While she failed to provide Henry with another son, he trusted her enough to make her regent when he attempted to make war on France. Had she borne him a child, she may have enjoyed that position again when Henry died while Prince Edward was only nine years old. Instead, Edward VI was surrounded by a council of men who fought for eminence and Katherine was free to marry Thomas Seymour, as had always been her will.

Don't miss the rest of the Tudor Marriage Blog Series!


Additional Reading:

De Lisle, Leanda. Tudor: Passion. Manipulation. Murder. The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family. New York: PublicAffairs, 2013.