To tell the truth, Catherine Parr is a real admirable bitch. Ever since I read the Royal Dairies: Elizabeth I at age 10, and she was described as having a real good relationship with young Cate Blanchett, I was sold on the lady. She not only had a great relationship with all of Henry’s children, she had Henry restore Elizabeth and Mary back into succession in 1543, and also took a deep interest in educating Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey after Henry died. She was level-headed and politically savvy, successfully navigating accusations about her Protestant sympathies in later life, as well was ruling the country as regent while Henry was in France, and tactfully dealing with his erratic temperament brought on by tremendous pain in his last years. But, as is always the case with the chillest honies, she had some real tragic fucking times, a lot of haterz, and 4 husbands who ranked in various places on the dirtbag scale. Bear with me, cause there’s a lot of scandals wrapped into one quadruple-married woman’s life.
Born in 1512, her parents were exceptionally forward thinking, and despite the fact their child had a vagina, decided to educate her extensively. She was most likely the bestest learned of Henry’s wives, even surpassing dearest Anne Boleyn for smarts (also, she never got her head cut off- BOOM, CatherineParrRoasted.) Her dad died when she was but a wee bairn, and was close with her ma, but subsequently had to marry at the age of 17 to the (I’m guessing here) real hot, possibly gay, grandson of a real old dude who Mother Parr couldn’t actually pay a dowry too. Now if I know dem English Renaissances, Sir Edward Burgh the Elder wasn’t gonna take some dowryless little country bumpkin from the north of England (funny accent alert) into the family, even if she was fluent in several languages, widely read and able to play multiple instruments, ’cause talking in some deadass tongue like Latin isn’t going to turn your pansyboy grandson Sir Edward the Younger into a real man (IF YOU CATCH MY DRIFT). Oh yeah, and it’s also possible that Edward 2 had a violent mental illness, which ran in his family and whose afflicted members were all hid up in the attic Jane Eyre style. Great!!
But anyway, in her will, Maud Parr, Catherine’s mom, said she was “indebted” to Sir Thomas, E2’s dad, and E1’s son. To me, that spells bangin’. Certainly conjecture, but how else was Maud going to continue her daughter on the path her ancestors set in motion by marrying successfully and not pissing anyone off at court? THROUGH A GREAT EFFING MARRIAGE, NO MATTER WHAT, THAT’S HOW.
Her first marriage was not happy, successful or long (I know, I know, but I set it up to be so great, right?). Edward was weak and sickly, and his dad was a patriarchal control freak who made his own son live in constant fear of him, and perhaps caused Catherine to not be able to conceive a child due to stress. Catherine wrote to her mom like er’y day, but by 1533, after 3ish years of marriage, all her problems went away when Edward died from being a little bitch. She got a sweetass deal out it though, when her dad-in-law felt mad guilty/wanted her to get out of his life, and gave her the income of three of his estates as a dower. BOOM, CatherineParrRoasted (I’ll stop).
Husband numero 2 was Catherine’s somethingth cousin somethingtimes removed, John Neville. They met because after the Burgh family kicked her out since she was no longer riding their son, Catherine went to live with her cousin’s widow, Catherine Neville. She kicked around the Nevillle estate for like a year, then got hitched with John, who was twice her age (rawrrr), and you know that silver fox made her a lottt happier than poor Edward and his brow-beaten, boy-lovin’, mentally-unstable limp dick. She became Lady Latimer (well la-dee-da), and continued to climb the social ladder (if Edward had stayed alive long enough he would have become Baron, and Baroness outranks Lady, but still, woman is doing good by her own self at this point). A small problem arose however, because despite her second hubby’s good standing in the Pantheon of Assholes that is the English social hierarchy, he sort of kind of was a Catholic. Woops! Probs not the best ring to throw your that into in 16th century Britain there bud. In 1536, two years into that marriage, a mob came to their house and dragged John away. It gets real politically complex at this point, and people’s feelings get hurt. The dilemma arose from the fact that John’s 14 brothers and sisters (shutthefrontdoor) were being real assfucks about money, so John basically relied on the grace of Henry VIII to not get kicked off his estate, and if he was convicted of treason, Catherine and his two children from his first marriage would be up shit creek without a paddle.
Now, Catherine’s a smart bitch, and she’s not gonna sit by and watched her husband waste in prison while she quaked in boots and waited to be next on the chopping block. She got her brother and uncle, who were both close to the king, to fight against the rebellion and convince Henry to bring John back into favor. He survived, but there were several trying years where Catherine acted out Adrian Brody’s Academy Award winning role in 2002’s Holocaust masterpiece, The Pianist (And by that I mean she ran from safe house to safe house, barely surviving, and artfully playing the piano). John was blackmailed by Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s yesman, from 1537 to 1543, and it effectively killed him. She was once again a rich widow, and at the age of 31, she wasn’t exactly the hot new slice on the block, but she had the fatal trait that probably did the most to slay our boy Henry in his final, morbidly obese years: she wasn’t a dumb little shit. Catherine became part of Mary, Henry’s first daughter’s household, and not only caught the eye of Thomas Seymour, Jane Seymour’s scheming pile of horsepoop brother, but also Henry. Hmmmm, who’s she gonna pick???? (also, Henry shipped Seymour’s ass out to Brussels. He wasn’t taking chances with this one.)
I’ve already prior listed her accomplishments as queen, and if I haven’t lost y’all by this point, I’ll be amazed, but throughout this writing process, I’ve been distracted by the lifestyle porn that is It’s Complicated: horrible movie, but I was drawn to it after MRG’s recommendation since I look like Meryl Streep, and she said something way back in Bath about how it would be like looking in a mirror to my more successful, future life. ANYWAY, long story short, Catherine’s tenure was Henry’s last wife was plagued by the fact he was sort of going batshit over everything, including his health, the state of Europe as he had made it in his younger, more virile years (as also, speaking of, his new lack of virility, since he was too fat to even mount a horse without a special crane thing, let alone a lady), and his insane jealousy over whether Catherine was cheating on him (either with dudes, or with the Church, your pick). She managed to assuage his fears on both points though, and by all accounts they seemed to have had a lively and intellectual marriage. Probably since he couldn’t really continue in the ways of secular flesh, but hey, I’m betting she was cool with that.
After he died in 1547 and less than four years of marriage, Catherine got a boatload of money (this seemed to have happened a lot), had a few altercations with some hobag, the Duchess of Somerset about jewels and titles and crap, but mostly seemed like she could have cared less, and promptly went on to marry Thomas Seymour. Now you may go ‘Awwww, that’s so GD sweet! They really did love each other, and he waited for her! AWWWWWWW!!!!’ Wrong, shut up, let me finish.
They married in secret because it was like 6 months after Henry croaked and that’s kind of considered insensitively soon for a dowager queen—like ‘big slutty-slut’ soon. Eventually everything got uncovered and people were all betrayed and shit, including the new King Edward, and his sis, Mary, who forbid Ebeth from talking to Catherine, even though they were toight like toigers. Also, Seymour wasn’t helping too much by making a big deal out of this and begging everyone he could think of for help. Tasteless, Tom, tasteless.
Catherine dusted off that shoulder though, and did what she always did , which was be a strong black woman and figure things out on her own. She promised Elizabeth and her cousin Jane Grey education, so they lived with her for a while and got in good BUT, then fucking Thomas has to get all ‘obsessed’ with Elizabeth and kind of sort of try to rape her a bunch, so Catherine sent her away. At this point she was pregnant with her first child, so she couldn’t really kick Thomas’ ass to the curb (though I bet she would have). In August, 1548, she had her baby and named it Mary, after Mary Tudor (mayb’s a little desperate there, Cate…), and since she was 36, which was waaaaay past child bearing age at that point, she died six days later. Let’s all have a moment of silence for this great lady and her 4 unworthy husbands.
So Thomas continued to be a douchenozzle and was beheaded for treason less than a year later, probably because Catherine wasn’t there to keep his ass in line. Catherine’s daughter was taken into custody by Catherine’s biffle, the Duchess of Suffolk, but then she drops off the map and probably died. WHY IS THIS SHIT SO SAD??
So that was long, sorry bros. I feel as though I do not need to feel as though I should have a conclusion. You guys are smart, you know how sicknasty this bitch was. No, she wasn’t Henry’s number one lay, but neither was he for her. Yeah, she wanted social advancement, but no she wasn’t willing to sacrifice her dignity and backstab her way to the top. She was savvy, streetsmart, and some other ‘s’ word. She is the way Henry Week: Wives Portion should be concluded: with the greatest.
When first discussing Henry’s Bonetastic Adventure Week with MRG and LHB, I made the mistake of saying Jane Seymour was ‘sort of a pussy.’ This had been bred from many years believing that since Jane had a blipster marriage, and pooped out one weakass manbaby only to die shortly after, she was, well, you know, a pussy. A shitstorm ensued in which both of them said something to the tune of, “Woah woah WOAH, slow down bitch, Jane Seymour was awesome. Plus there’s that actress with her name.” Ok, I can take that, I can look into this more, I can try and do this kingbearing wench some justice.
A quick flip through the internets and my Starkey (which everyone should own, ’cause the man writes like academic salaciousness is going out of style… since it was never actually in style) told me that one Jane Seymour was actually quite scandalous in her own right. And now I will educate all you plebs; you with whom I used to keep company, but will now forever deny having connection. Be grateful.
Born most likely in 1508, Jane Seymour was distantly royal, but, more importantly, gifted with a family more misguidedly ambitious than Stalin’s Five Year Plan. She herself was mostly likely not too involved in climbing the ol’ social ladder, but she was certainly along for the ride. Educated in France at the same time, and in the same court as Anne Boleyn, it seems like a bit of a suckerpunch on Jane’s part since she was a lot of the reason Anne had her head chopped off, but hey, business is business. Jane’s sister had married Henry’s backstabbing secretary, Thomas Cromwell, and since pimping his own wife would be a little cheap, why not sneak that sister in instead! Jane was first made a lady-of-honor to Katherine, and then a lady-in-waiting to Anne, and her brothers coached in her in how to attract the king’s attention. Little things like good conversation (“Oh Henry, you’re so smart/funny/well-hung.”), being in the right place at the right time (as in around Henry 24/7), and how to effectively heave a bosom (that one’s self explanatory).
Say you’re Henry: you’ve got yourself a hotass wife, but she’s also crazy jealous as balls, and you sort of pushed your county to the brink of civil war for her, and now she’s not even doing her wifely duty and turning your magic juice into a viable heir! The nerve. So, when you see this nice little honey-dip with child-bearing hips by the name of Jane Seymour, the gears start to turn. Basically right after she was introduced at court in 1532, Henry started trying to seduce her. He supposedly gave her a necklace with his portrait inside, which Anne, as a good den mother to her ladies, took interest in and asked to see. Jane got all shy and shit, and Anne made her hand it over, like a teacher confiscating a dirty magazine disguised in a copy of The Scarlet Letter.
Now Jane was a little mousefuck of a person, and though she was attractive, she wasn’t sex on a stick like her predecessor; a better descriptor is maybe, ‘safe.’ I equate hers and Henry’s relationship to when you break up with a real crazy, but real hot bitch (Anne), and you just want somebody to take home to the parents who doesn’t give you a handy in the car before you go in, so you’re at half-mast when your mom opens the front door (Jane).
For about a YEAR AND A HALF before Anne passed on to the sweet bye-and-bye, Henry and Jane were basically doing it. PUBLICALLY. Bitch had balls, you gotta give her that. She wasn’t too good at ‘booklearnin,’ but she could sew and embroider, and was very well mannered, and could run a household with great aplomb, so that made her an outwardly good match after a woman who spent money faster than LHB at a unicorn store. Her court would be described as austere and formal, much like herself (Even though she was corrupt enough to bang his mistress’ husband, she still felt the need to impose Protestant strictness and moral superiority over e’ryone else). The wild coke parties and orgies were done; this was the dawning of an Age very unlike that of Aquarius.
After Anne had a second miscarriage in either late 1535 or early 1536, Henry moved Jane into a royally appointed shagpad, and shit started to get serious.
I’m 99% positive that while Henry was calling Anne a sorceress and incestuous and all sorts of nasty, nasty things, he lived a nice little domestic life with Jane, much like a 1950’s household. Their conversations would revolve around sales this week on canned corn, the linen rotation for the spring, and, oh yeah, Jane, I’ll make you my mothereffing queen if you be quiet and bear me a son. Yeah, that’s cool. Supposedly less than a day after Anne was executed, Henry married Jane, but didn’t announce it until nearly two weeks later. Well, he had to look like he cared.
Fun Fact: Jane was never actually crowned queen because of a plague at Westminster, and when it finally died down, she was already in the final days of her pregnancy and whoop! she died. BUT, she is also the only one of Henry’s wives to have been given a queen’s funeral (hmmm…), and is buried next to him. Too cute.
SUPER MEGA FOXY AWESOME FUN FACT: The Brits absolutely love reliving this relatively shameful period in their history with multiple cinematic versions of Henry’s poonicide. One of the best is the 1969 classic, Anne of the Thousand Days, in which Jane Seymour plays a relatively small role (BUT, in which Henry is played by Richard Burton, and Liz Taylor pops up for a brief cameo/conjugal on-set visit), but one in which she is portrayed as not particualrly all that great. This is kind of a big deal, since history has generally turned a very kind eye to Jane Seymour, even though she was a husband stealing shit-for-brains who weedled her way into the hearts of the British Isles by staring blankly and having that sexy, dead-fish palor.
Not that I’m trying to cast this woman as something less than smart, but Anne was a hard act to follow, cause it must be admitted, she was brilliant. Jane on the other hand… less so. I mean she was fine and everything, but she got the right side of the genetic cointoss when she had Edward VI, and before that she mostly had to just follow other people’s directions and put out. Who doesn’t want that life???
Thing was, after she got married in May, 1536, and became pregnant by early 1537, it had become clear that she was both sickly and weak, as well as kind of a drag, and nobody wants an unfun queen. She basically said and did nothing interesting to try and avoid Anne’s fate, and though she did get a baby in her belly pretty quick, it might not have been one of Henry’s favorite husbandly duties to do the nasty with a silent bangmaid.
Jane’s labor was difficult and lasted two days, and when Henry was asked if it got down to the wire, which one he wanted saved, he answered like the sly dog he was, “If you cannot save both, at least let the child live, for other wives are easily found.” After she did deliver Edward safe and sound, she was forced by Henry to take part in the lavish christening ceremony that lasted like five hours and only served to kill her faster. Within two weeks of Edward’s birth, Jane died from complications or infection or some science crap like that. It has been speculated that Henry sort of, you know, let Jane die. I’m not sure how he really could have helped her not die, considering that even with the might of the British empire behind him, the best medical advice that could be offered was to bleed her and keep her away from Jews, but still, he can’t have been all that sad when she offed it ’cause it was pretty clear she wasn’t going to push another watermelon-sized human out of her vajay any time soon.
All in all, Jane Seymour could either be regarded as a social-climbing numbskull who was pushed along by her male family members into the open and lustful arms of a rapidly expanding ginger, OR, as a victim of circumstances whose husband let her die when she proved that she could put a penis on the throne at least once. Either way, I’m still not her biggest fan, but she had enough gusto to shove Anne Boleyn off Henry’s lap, and that is certainly not something a pussy could do. …Well, no, actually, shit, whatever, you know that I meant.
Anne Boleyn. Anne Bullen. Anna Bolina. Six-fingered whore-bag. Home-wrecking witch. Brother-fucking traitor.
These are some of the names we call history’s most scandalous woman. What do I call her, you ask? My fucking IDOL is what. Last semester in Bath, I would often attempt to offer scholarly remarks on the aforementioned perp in class, and Ruth would look at me quizzically and say something like, “are you saying that because you read it in The Other Boleyn Girl.” The answer was always a sheepish, “yes.” But for the record, I’m currently reading David Starkey’s Six Wives of Henry VIII, which might not be scholarly, but it’s a step above historical Romance, ok?! The point is, I have reveled in this story for some time and have fallen very deeply in love.
Other than being the strongest Strong Black Woman we’ve written about to date, Anne Boleyn was the second wife of Henry VIII whose feminine power and intellectual prowess started the English Reformation and changed the course of western civilization, and perhaps most importantly, she was the mother of England’s greatest queen.
The story begins at a small estate called Hever, and ends exactly 475 years ago TODAY at Tower Green atop a charming little scaffold. But we have a while before things get grim, so let’s enjoy our heroine’s childhood while we can, am I right?!
Anne was the second daughter of Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard. They were a power couple if I’ve ever heard of one. They probably sat up in bed at night with their Macbooks and a copy of the wall street journal, moving little chess pieces that looked like their children around on a map, plotting world domination.
Their first daughter was a sassy little tart named Mary. Contrary to Phillipa Gregory’s entertaining but inaccurate portrayal of Mary, Anne’s older sister was probably kind of a dumb-dumb. She got kicked out of the French court in 1519 for boning too many dudes, namely the King. Let me repeat that. The FRENCH kicked HER out of court. For boning TOO MANY dudes. Not something the Frenchies are typically concerned with, so she must have been getting WAY too many D’s wet is all I’m saying.
See, while Mary was off learning how to give BJ’s and having two of King Henry’s illegitimate children (YUP!), Anne was sent off to the most elite educative households on the continent where she learned French and Latin, read Aristotle and Socrates, was exposed to the new Humanism of the English Renaissance, learned french fashion, dance, and music, theology and political theory and became quite the smarty pants along with her brother and best friend, George Boleyn. Aside from her excellent education, one of the most indelible marks on Anne’s adolescence was her sister’s affair with the King and how she never became anything other than the Other Woman. Savvy and sexy young woman that she was, girlfriend knew she was never going to spread her legs unless he put a ring on it (to quote another strong black woman I know.)
At the court of H.VIII, where she was a lady in waiting to wifey numero uno, she had an affair with a man named Henry Percy. They entered into a secret betrothal but then Percy’s dad found out and was like, “HA! No.” and Anne was sent off to the country to lay low for a while. She came back to court eventually and then might have had a little flirtation with the poet Thomas Wyatt. Or maybe he was just obsessed with her. We don’t really know. What we do know is that Wyatt wrote some beautiful poetry that was later used as evidence to condemn Anne to death on charges of adultery. WOOPSIES. But let’s not get aHEAD of ourselves (DO YOU GET IT?! It’s not a BJ joke this time! It’s an execution joke!! HA! Those are the best kind.)
In 1526, H.VIII fell in love with Anne and wanted to get what was his one way or another. He spent a year begging her to be his mistress — who would say no to that you ask? the answer is NO ONE which is why Anne was so incredible — she was like, “I’m a lady! I do lady things! And you’re going to have to marry me if you want to see what’s under these bloomers.” I want you to forget the image of Henry as a fatty right now because he didn’t put on those lbs for a few more years. When he met Anne, he was said to be the handsomest prince in Christendom. (And Anne, Catherine of Aragon said, was the “scandal of Christendom.”) So, reason number one why Anne was a badass, she refused to lay one of the hottest, most powerful men in Europe and he stayed real fucking interested for, like, 6 years! According to wiki, scholars maintain that they probably weren’t doing it for MOST of their relationship. I think we can all agree that Blue Balls champion of the world for the years 1526-1533 goes to King Henry VIII of England. Rock on, man. After a year, Anne coyly (I imagine) agreed to marry Henry. But OOPS, Henry was still married to Queen Kat.
We’ll skip over the next six years because MRG pretty much covered the basics in our last post. Here are the highlights:
- Bye bye Queen Catherine!
- Hello Act of Supremacy!
- Adios Catholicism!
- Shalom Church of England!
- Tata Thomas More!
- Bonjour Thomas Cromwell!
- Ciao checks and balances!
- Aloha absolute power!
After that delightfully linguistic summary, let’s conclude our story.
So Catherine was stripped of her title and sent to die in a very drafty castle built on a swamp, and on June 1, 1533, Anne’s coronation took place at Westminster. At the time of her coronation, she was pregnant with a baby that everyone was SURE was a boy. SO…FUN FACT courtesy of MRG…because everyone was so certain that she was pregnant with the future King o’ England, she was crowned using the crown that is only used for Kings. Pretty cool, huh?
But, SHOCKER, it wasn’t a boy! Anne gave birth to princess Elizabeth who later became my number two favorite historical figure ever, Elizabeth I of England. (Number One goes to Anne and a Number Three goes to early 20th century American attorney, Clarence Darrow.) Not to get all sappy, but I think you can tell the kind of woman Anne must have really been when you look at Elizabeth. She was brilliant and beautiful, with a terrible temper (that probably came from her father), fiercely outspoken, assertive, headstrong, and an inspiring leader with impeccable taste.
People were OK with the baby being a girl. This time. But pressure was ON for her next pregnancy. It HAD to be a boy. Or else. (Jeezuz, can you imagine carrying a baby to term under that kind of stress?! Yeah. Me neither.) She was pregnant again in 1535 and everyone was SURE it was going to be a boy. I mean, all of the best astrologists told them it would be. Early in 1536, Anne was watching Henry joust in a tournament when he was unhorsed and knocked unconscious for, like, 2 hours. Miscarriage 5 days later. Who can blame her?
Answer: a lot of people. Vicious court rumors about her started to flare up around the time of the miscarriage. People said she was a witch, some people blamed her for the Henry’s tyrannical government, others said that she had a secret miscarriage or stillborn early in 1534 and that the baby was a monster, and that she maybe kind of was having affairs with several other men and maybe kind of also her brother. Uh. Oh.
As she was recovering from the miscarriage after the tournament, Henry started to lose interest. What was the easiest way to get rid of your wife when you’ve already changed the religion of an entire country in order to get permission for a divorce from your first wife? Answer: Kill the bitch.
Anne was brought up on charges of adultery, incest and treason. George Boleyn and Mark Smeaton, a court musician that he was probably boning were brought up on charges of treason and sodomy (ie doing it in the butt.) After probably hours of torture, Smeaton admitted to being the Queen’s lover. The two perfectly coiffed men were executed on tower green outside Anne’s tower room window on the 16th of May, 1536.
Anne was originally sentenced to execution by burning, but loving husband that he was, Henry had it switched to a beheading. He also had a skilled swordsman sent from France to execute her with a sword rather than the typical axe. SO KIND! According to Showtime’s The Tudors (which is all about historical accuracy) Henry had her execution delayed several times to fuck with her mind. I don’t know how true that is, but it makes a good story. She saw Thomas Cranmer on the morning of her execution for her last confessions and swore that she was never unfaithful to the King.
On MAY 19 1536, Anne Boleyn’s head was chopped off by a French swordsman in a private execution in the Tower of London. And just like that, one of the most brilliant but fatally ambitious women in history was gone.
What do I think? Did she do her brother? Did she have any affairs? Was she a witch? WELL I’M GLAD YOU ASKED!
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet, but Anne Boleyn was brilliant. So no, she probably didn’t do any of it. She was too smart, too ambitious, too cautious, too aware of the system of the English Royal Court to make a wrong move. I think that she was the victim of an immature, resentful, and impatient King and a jealous court. And that’s it.
So let’s call this post what it is. A love letter to my historical idol. Let’s just make it official, shall we?
(Queen) Anne Boleyn,
I wish you hadn’t died when you did because it was probably really unfair, but your story has provided inspiration and material for countless artists, playwrights, novelists, Showtime producers, and college girls who write history blogs. So for that reason I’m not entirely upset about your untimely and probably unfair execution. I just have a really big historical boner for you and your sexploits, OK?! There, I said it. It’s true.
Just in case you haven’t heard, your daughter ended up leading England through its greatest years all by herself, no cray-cray king by her side.
In conclusion, you are super interesting and I love learning about you.
With an embarrassing amount of nerdthusiasm for your story,
PS — I love that necklace you always wear! I have one just like it!
Once upon a time in a little land called “Sixteenth-century Europe,” the lines of succession in England and Spain were all kinds of fucked up thanks to a few wars, intermarriage, and some big ol’ coups d’etat (not sure if that’s the plural, this is America, DAMMIT. Deal with me). Then the royal mommies and daddies in both countries boned, bringing Spain a sweet baby girl and England the heir presumptive to the throne. And faster than you can say “marriage by proxy,” Ferdinand and Isabella arranged that marriage right up and little Katherine of Aragon and strapping young Arthur of England were hitched.
SCREEEEEECHHHHHHHH. Wait, MRG, I thought this week was all about Henry’s wives…who’s this Aruthur motherfucker? Well I’m so glad you asked.
Dear Arthur was the eldest son of Henry VII, and due to the aforementioned European shitshow, Henry wanted to get his son betrothed real quick while simultaneously taking a huge shit on France. Literally (not literally). And the best way to do that was to secure a marital alliance with the other country who hated the Frenchies, Spain. It didn’t hurt that young Katherine had a lot of English royal blood in her due to
inbreeding similar arranged marriages, thus giving any offspring all kinds of legitimate claims to the throne.
On paper, the practice of arranged marriage seems sort of icky. But Katherine and Arthur really liked and respected each other. Sure, they were married by proxy when they were fifteen, but that was only after they exchanged letters in Latin for years and Arthur felt like he knew her well enough. Why Latin? Because they didn’t have any other language in common. And when they finally met in real life, they couldn’t even use the Latin because they’d learned different pronunciations. Anyway, I’m digressing, big-time. They met, they had an un-proxied wedding, they had a few months of marital bliss, and then they both got the sweating sickness in Wales. He died in April 1502, and she recovered only to find out her new hubby didn’t make it.
And that motherfucker Henry VII was like, “HELL NO. Not returning that sweet-ass dowry back to Spain. France probably had something to do with this. SON, GET THE FUCK OVER HERE.” So to avoid the “complications” of “reasonably allowing Katherine to return to her homeland with her stuff,” Henry VII decided that the seventeen-year-old widow would marry his TWELVE-year-old son, Henry VIII. Ostensibly, they would wait until Henry was a little older, but also until Katherine’s mom died and her inheritance fucking ballooned to include lots of Spanish lands.
OKAY. They finally got married on June 11, 1509. And they got right to the business of baby makin.’ But although poor sweet Katherine got knocked up six times, only her fifth child, Mary, survived to adulthood (and turned out to be a real bitch, but that’s another story). As a result, she became a lot more religious (in the Catholic persuasion, which will be important later) in a scholarly way as well as in practice. She was just a good, good woman, she was virtuous, well read, beautiful, smart, modest. The English people just loved her. And despite his numerous affairs, Henry loved her too. And they were very happy together for a long time.
UNTIL 1525, THAT IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
That’s when Katherine was like, “Hey, I need a new lady-in-waiting. LET ME CHOOSE THIS FOXY REDHEAD WHO’S SUPER SEXY AND SMART AND EVERYTHING MY HUSBAND COULD EVER WANT IN A SEXUAL/LIFE PARTNER.” And by this time, Katherine is 50. She’s really not looking her best. And she can’t have kids anymore, which means no legitimate male heirs for Henry. And that whole male heir thing was sort of a big deal for him, as you’ll see in the next few posts. Anne Boleyn was a very sassy, very fertile, first-class minx, and poor Katherine, although she was a strong, beautiful, moral, dignified woman, just didn’t stand a fucking chance once Anne Boleyn and her French hood hit Whitehall.
And seeing that Anne was smoking hot and that poor Katherine was as barren as Death Valley in August (there was a lot more going on, but I don’t want to prematurely steal LHB’s Boleyn-loving thurnder), Henry was like, “Hmmmm…how the fuck can I get out of this whole multiple-decade, formerly-loving, non-heir-producing marriage thing I got going on here?” So he skipped on over to his favorite Bible, found a passage that could kind of sort of be interpreted as proof that his marriage to Katherine was cursed because she had already boned his brother, and tried to get a good ol’ fashioned annulment from the Holy Roman Emperor.
EXCEPT said Holy Roman Emperor was Katherine’s nephew, and girlfriend swore up and down that she and Arthur had never ever done it. And they probably hadn’t, because 1) Arthur was mortally ill for like 80% of their marriage and 2) she was really really really Catholic, and apparently the lying is frowned upon in the whole Catholic theology.
Now, if you’ve been in a history class past the eighth grade level, you’ve probably heard of The King’s Great Matter or The Act of Supremacy. And guess what? BOTH of those things have to do with this sexy scandal. The sexiest scandal of all time, probably. Anyway, your education has come full circle. You’re welcome.
So no one wants to give Henry his annulment. And he’s like, “FUCKKKK I just wanna bone Anne but she won’t let me until she’s queen and I just want Katherine to go become a nun or something and get the fuck over herself and why is it so harddddd to rule a country and get laid at the same time?” And sneaky little Anne Boleyn’s like, “Hey boii, why don’t you read these Protestant texts that I like? They’re so hot. And they’re also your window out of this miserable situation and subsequently into my vagina.”
So Henry says, “Suck on this, Rome!” and writes up this little ditty called The Act of Supremacy that makes him the Supreme Head of the Protestant Church of England and forces everyone and their mom to swear by it. And as head of the Church he gives himself that annulment and said sayonara to poor Katherine. Well, that makes it sound like she died. She didn’t. Lots and lots and lots of other Catholics did, including Thomas More, the writer and theologian expertly played by Mr. Knightley in The Tudors. But no, Katherine was sent to live in Kimbolton Castle, where she pretty much confined herself in one room, prayed nonstop, and continued to refer to herself as the Queen. She and her daughter Mary weren’t allowed to see each other until they each acknowledged Anne Boleyn as the rightful Queen. To which both said “Hahahahaaaa NO.”
Katherine’s health deteriorated rapidly, and knowing she was going to die soon, she wrote this fucking tragic and beautiful letter to her ex:
My most dear lord, King and husband,
The hour of my death now drawing on, the tender love I ouge [owe] thou forceth me, my case being such, to commend myselv to thou, and to put thou in remembrance with a few words of the healthe and safeguard of thine allm [soul] which thou ougte to preferce before all worldley matters, and before the care and pampering of thy body, for the which thoust have cast me into many calamities and thineselv into many troubles. For my part, I pardon thou everything, and I desire to devoutly pray God that He will pardon thou also. For the rest, I commend unto thou our doughtere Mary, beseeching thou to be a good father unto her, as I have heretofore desired. I entreat thou also, on behalve of my maides, to give them marriage portions, which is not much, they being but three. For all mine other servants I solicit the wages due them, and a year more, lest they be unprovided for. Lastly, I makest this vouge [vow], that mine eyes desire thou aboufe all things.
Katharine the Quene
She was such a great bitch, right? A little delusional about the whole annulment thing, but I mean, just a really good person trying to do things the right way. She was literally royally screwed. Even though she only screwed one royal.
Moral of the story: don’t marry your dead husband’s brother, and don’t hire slampieces to work at your house.
Okay ladies and gents, it’s time to get our anniversary on. A sassy little lady by the name of Anne Boleyn was beheaded on May 19, 1536 on the orders of her caring husband, and as we’re coming up on the 475th deathday of one of history’s sexiest ladies, we thought we’d be remiss if we DIDN’T celebrate. Specifically by dedicating a week to the truly astounding sexual legacy of Anne’s husband and England’s undisputed fornication champion, Henry VIII. We’ll look at each of his six wives who were all scandalous in their own special way, and at the end of the week, we’ll examine his extramarital affairs (this will be a very long but exceptionally juicy post).
This theme week is perfect for several reasons, aside from its timeliness: JAF knows a shit ton about
everything the Renaissance in England, to say that LHB idolizes Anne Boleyn is the understatement of the millennium, and I’ve seen seasons 1-3 of The Tudors. Clearly we’re experts.
Look forward to posts dedicated to:
Wife 1 – Katherine of Aragon, who may or may not have boned Henry’s brother.
Wife 2 – Anne Boleyn, who literally lost her head over the guy.
Wife 3 – Jane Seymour, who wooed Henry with her seemingly pure feminine wiles.
Wife 4 – Anne of Cleves, who was quite unfortunate looking but lovely on the inside.
Wife 5 – Catherine Howard, who was an eighteen-year-old hoebag married to a 49-year-old rotting mound of flesh.
Wife 6 – Catherine Parr, who was married twice before Henry and once after.
The Mistresses – Bessie Blount, Mary Boleyn, Jane Popincourt, Anne Bassett, Elizabeth Carew, Margaret Shelton, Katherine Willoughby, and about a thousand more promiscuous Renaissance ladies.
Seriously, this is going to be a good week. I know LHB’s Anne Boleyn post will be her life’s opus. Enjoy!