Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, SURVIVED!

Apparently Henry learned a lesson from the debacle of his marriage to Cathy. It wasn't moot for ginormous (he was said to weigh approx 21 stone, that's 300 lbs for the US peeps, & being 6 ft tall wasn't gonna camouflage THAT), old kings w/ pus running down the leg to be chasing after hot teenaged chicks & expecting them to play nicely.

Henry VIII
in his old age

So Henry thunk mayhap he should go back to his original plan from after Queen Jane's demise & find himself a nice older widow who was still within childbearing age. If he was really looking for a spare then his choice was a peculiar one.

Catherine Parr, Lady Latimer was around 30 & she'd already been widowed twice over.

Catherine Parr

Her last DH was much older than she, so maybe Henry thunk that was a pt in his favor. There had been a small prob during the Pilgrimage of Grace b/c Lord Latimer was involved in it, but they held their breaths & he didn't get clapped in the Tower or sent to the mass executions at York where ringleader Robert Aske was hung up over York's main gate (where previously Henry's great-grandpa's crowned head had sat) & left to die. Cat was around the same age as her Latimer stepchildren & they liked her. But she hadn't conceived a child w/ either of her husbands, both of whom had kidlets from previous marriages, so twas a crap shoot if she could manage to give Henry his spare w/ no proof of fecundity handy.

Cat's parents were demised, she was left very comfortably well-off on her widow's jointures (this is when you got a pension from your demised hubby's estate), & her bro William, who despised his own wife, was not a fan of the arranged marriages their parents had set up, so he had no interest in telling Cat what to do & he could've b/c men ruled the families even if their sibs were older. Accordingly, whilst at court Cat looked around for a guy closer to her own age & more to her liking.

And whom did her eye light upon but Queen Jane's bro, Thomas Seymour.

Thomas Seymour

Lots is said about Tom Seymour & most of it falls into the category of if you ain't got nothing nice to say about anybody, come sit by me. At the time he was only about 5 yrs older than Cat, which was certainly better than the 30 yrs older she was used to. He was supposed to be smokin' hot but Scarlet ain't fussed w/ his portrait b/c now long icky beards were fashionable & he just looks trailer trashy w/ it LOL Tom was irked b/c whilst bro Edward had been made Earl of Somerset (that traditional Lancastrian title), all he got for prestige was being Lord High Admiral of England.

This was actually a good job b/c Henry was quite interested in ships & is credited w/ expanding England's pitiful little navy; his flagships were the Great Harry, named for his good self, & the Mary Rose, named for his demised sis (that one literally keeled over & sunk for no apparent reason & they're in the process of dredging it out of the Channel as we speak). Once there was even a ship called the Mary Boleyn HA HA but none named after the wives.

But I digress on giving Henry his credit for being considered the Father of the English Navy. Tom Seymour was just a jealous, greedy little snotgobbler who thunk as the uncle of the heir he ought to have more & better toys to play w/ & a real title like his bro. And a nice rich wife like his bro had, too. Cat had money AND no interfering rellies, really, as there was just her bro & a sister, Anne. Plus Tom thunk she was hot. So they started giving each other the eye & then Two-Ton Henry beckoned.

Cat was an advocate of the New Learning & hence knew a lot about theology, a subject that faskinated Henry despite his dumping the Pope. Her mistake was having a convo w/ Henry about it btwn dancing & flirting w/ Tom. Henry was all come over unnecessary at the notion of a wife who was not only younger & pretty but could also TALK intelligently. Likely Cathy couldn't & Anne of Cleves was still learning English. And Henry had pretty much axed all his BFFs by this pt, so he was prolly getting lonesome. You could only say so much to the dude who was designated to wipe the royal bum. So Henry hmmm'd.

Marriage was proposed to Cat by the king. Cat was all NOOOOOO & instead she told Henry she would gladly be his mistress instead LOL For all his misadventures w/ women Henry was kinda prissy & he was shocked at this counter-proposal, insisting Cat become his queen b/c he could not dishonor a lady of her stature. Cat sighed & sent Tom a lingering glance b4 grudgingly acquiescing. Henry summoned his offspring to Hampton Court for the usual small, quiet wedding. For a dude who liked to party, isn't it odd that none of his weddings were huge public affairs like when Cath married Art? At this time Edward was going on 6, Elizabeth was going on 10, but Mary was already 27, just 4 yrs younger than the bride. Well, it prolly seemed an improvement after Cathy, whom Mary had never gotten along w/, & Henry made Mary apologize to Cathy once for sassing her young stepmother.

Mary, still a devout Catholic, wasn't amused w/ Cat's Protestant leanings, but as long as they didn't talk religion they got on OK. Cat convinced Henry to let all the kids remain at court & play happy family w/ them. She engaged John Cheke & Roger Ascham as tutors for the younger Tudors & encouraged Elizabeth to learn stuff girls normally didn't.

Little Elizabeth
detail from the Whitehall Portrait

Elizabeth was all excited to have a nice step take an interest in her & she became devoted to her studies & to Cat. In fact, in some British museum there is a prayer book cover of Cat's that Elizabeth embroidered as a gift to her. Don't nobody sew for peeps they don't like LOL

prayer book cover embroidered by
Elizabeth for Catherine Parr

Elizabeth started learning Greek & often gifted Cat w/ her translations of stuff. Despite the rumors about her mother there was no doubt that Elizabeth was Henry's brat, as she had his red hair & Tudor temper along w/ Anne Boleyn's dark eyes. Ya gotta wonder if Henry flinched when he looked at her. He never did say a word about her maybe not being his kid. When Elizabeth got old she looked a lot like Grandpa Tudor IMHO. Anyway, the Tudors played happy families for quite a while. Everyone got along swimmingly, even Cat & Henry. Peeps was amazed. There seemed to be no trouble w/ this queen even if she wasn't breeding up little Tudors.

Then Henry waddled off to France after getting into a tiff w/ Francis, of a mind to start taking back the lost Plantagenet empire. Henry's armor is in the Tower on display & WOW is there a difference btwn the set he wore on this campaign at age 52 & his jousting suit from when he was in his 20s. The waistline alone expanded from 32 to 48! Can ya picture Henry so slim & fit that he had a 32 in waist? Cath got the best of him, that's for sure. He might've even been smokin' hot b4 he commenced waving around turkey legs. Anyway, Henry got along so well w/ Cat that he proclaimed her regent of the realm in his absence. Peeps was gobsmacked. Tho really, who was he gonna pick? Mary or the bros Seymour would've taken on airs & he had no competent BFFs left save for old Norfolk, who'd managed to cleverly survive the executions of 2 nieces & still stay on Henry's good side. And Norfolk was wanted in France b/c, if you recall, he was the hero of Flodden Field & the Pilgrimage of Grace so a decent military peep.

Calais was the sole English outpost in French territory & Henry didn't do much to increase it. He managed to take a couple of towns & then he & Francis decided to buddy up again, so he went home to play happy families some more. There was partying & dancing (tho Henry, who had once been a very good dancer & at age 11 stole the show at Cath & Art's wedding along w/ sis Margaret, couldn't do the high-stepping jumping stuff of his youth anymore) & do you know there's even a record of Cat having ordered black satin nightdresses? Yup, I'm just as amazed. The logistics alone here are staggering.  Apparently men have had a thing for black lingerie since time immemorial & Henry was no exception.  Whatever it takes to get the little soldier to salute the queen ROFL

Anyway, y'all knew the happy families thing wasn't gonna last 4ever when we're discussing Henry VIII, didn't ya? The problem was.....

Nobody really knew where Henry stood on religion. He'd dumped the Pope but kept all the Catholic stuff in churches, so being Anglican wasn't all that different. But he was always bellowing about real Catholics (frowning at Mary b/c he suspected her submission was the fake it was). And he was the Defender of the Faith, so he was always bellowing about those darn Protestants, too. Anyone who leaned too far in one direction or the other was sure to incur kingly wrath.

This was aided by Wriothesley, who was a religious conservative & wanted to get rid of the heretics. Nobody even knew who the heretics WERE b/c of Henry's flip-flopping, but soon W enlightened the peeps w/ the arrest of Anne Askew.

Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton
Holbein sketch

Anne Askew was known as a reformist, which meant she was too far over in her Protestant leanings. W & his minion Richard Rich (he was in charge of overseeing all that monasterial dissolution Cromwell had begun) personally saw to her torture in the Tower, trying to get names of important peeps who may have supported her out of her. They got nothing & then had her burnt at the stake. Cat was horrified & promptly purged her own library so that no one could see she'd been reading the same sort of reformist literature that had gotten Anne Askew crisped.

Henry's leg started acting up, making him more cranky than usual. He was confined to his giant chair getting all bored & Cat was tapped to amuse him. They got into a theological discussion & Henry got peeved at stuff she said & muttered about uppity chicks to W. This was taken as a green light to investigate the queen's religious leanings.

Legend has it that some careless minion dropped a copy of Cat's arrest warrant & it was picked up by one of her ladies. Natch Cat was in a panic, as ya would be stuck married to a grumpy fat old peep who'd knocked off 2 of his wives already. So when Henry craftily lured her into more theological discourse, Cat was clever enough to nod & smile & agree w/ everything he said. Henry was all HUH? that ain't whatcha said last wk, missy! So Cat said she was only giving him argument for the sake of distracting him from the pain in his leg, & didn't he have to admit it had worked? Besides, she flattered, Henry knew so much more about this sort of stuff than she did, & by asking him questions & occasionally disagreeing w/ him she was able to learn lots from the master of theology. Henry got all chuffed & decided to forgive her for her earlier impertinence. It never hurt to appeal to his vanity.

However, he forgot the salient detail of notifying Wriothesley that he'd changed his mind. The next day Henry & Cat were lollygagging in the gardens & W came in w/ warrant in fist & a troop of guards to whisk the queen to the Tower. Henry was outraged & beat the living daylights out of the Lord Chancellor w/ his cane & told him where he could stuff his warrants ROFL Henry was LARGE & IN CHARGE. Then he bought Cat lots of jewels to make up for Ws impertinence.

He did rather insult Cat b/c this was the time the famous Whitehall portrait was painted. Henry & his 3 kids were in it. He had Elizabeth & Mary off to the side & Edward sitting next to him, but the queen in the other throne wasn't Cat Parr, but Jane Seymour. Hmph. I suppose Cat found it a fair trade-off for not going to the Tower.

the Whitehall Portrait

Henry had been in reasonably good health most of his life. He had a mild case of smallpox at age 22, but other than that, he was in pretty good shape. Around 30 he contracted what they called tertian fever, which we now know as malaria. Alas they had not yet discovered quinine, so there was naught to do but suffer thru it & once a peep has had malaria they can have recurring attacks of it, which Henry did once in a while. Then he had that jousting accident that knocked him out cold for like an hr, which almost certainly meant at the very least he suffered from concussion. Twas after that when he started getting really weird, so ya gotta wonder if maybe that smack in the noggin didn't cause a bit of brain damage. That wound in his leg would heal & burst in cycles, leading historians to think Henry might've had a touch of diabetes, esp considering how fat he was in later yrs. Once he got into his 40s he was plagued by migraines, insomnia, & recurrent sore throats (strep? gonorrhea?), & grew an unsightly lump on the side of his nose (which the painters were wise enough to ignore LOL). After he married Cat he grew so fat & infirm from putting his great bulk's weight on that bad leg that he gave up riding & walking entirely & was carried about in a sedan chair. OMG can you imagine the poor peeps who had to heft him & how many it took? He also is credited w/ inventing the stair lift! He couldn't climb them anymore, so he told peeps to rig up a seat that could slide up the wall whilst being hauled by ropes & pulleys. Those of you who may use such can thank Henry for the idea.

After his last happy families Christmas Henry began getting rather absentminded & lollygagging even MORE. The last 8 days of his life were spent in bed surrounded by anxious doctors, clerics, & courtiers, but not his rellies. When it was obvs that he was on his way out there was quite the dilemma, for twas treason to speak of the king's death, & what if he rallied & recovered & remembered that? So they tapped the main privy chamber dude, Sir Anthony Denny, to lean over the bed & inform the king he was dying. Henry was pretty out of it so maybe he didn't take notice. He lost the ability to speak (bet peeps were pleased LOL) & couldn't make his last confession to Cranmer, but Cranmer reported that the king was able to squeeze his hand when asked stuff & that he was officially absolved of his many sins. Twas reported the room reeked b/c of the great ooze of his leg.

Henry finally demised on Jan 27, 1547, on what would've been his father's 90th BD. The best guess is probably from complications of diabetes, for which there was no insulin at the time. He was 55 yrs old.

3 yrs earlier Henry has revised his Act of Succession. It stated of course that Edward, now 9, would succeed him, & ever the optimist, any offspring by Cat were to come next regardless of gender. What surprised peeps is that he put in that if Edward died w/o heirs then the throne was to go to Mary, & if the same happened to Mary, then it went to Elizabeth. The Act didn't legit them, but since his matrimonial history was such a mess & at the time each daughter was born it was presumed to be legal wedlock, nobody objected. Nobody thunk it would come to a queen regnant, anyway. Edward seemed perfectly healthy & there was no reason to think that he wouldn't grow up & sow his own crop of little Tudors. What was interesting further in the Act was that Henry bypassed the heirs of his elder sister Margaret entirely b/c they were Scots. Should Elizabeth die sans issue, then the throne was to go to the heirs of his younger sister Mary. No Scots allowed. Let em eat haggis.

Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived became the way peeps recollected the order of Henry's many wives. He was the most-married King of England ever. And now that he was demised & had left a Queen Dowager behind, Cat turned her gaze back in Tom Seymour's direction.....

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