Monday, November 29, 2010

The Many Wives of Henry VIII

King Henry VIII of England is known for several things. He was the father of Queen Elizabeth I. He was also thought to have composed the tune 'Greensleeves'. Most people know it as 'What Child is This'. The things he is most famous for, however, are his six wives.

King Henry married his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, after his brother, Arthur, who was supposed to marry her, died. Unfortunately, they had to get special permission from the pope to get married since Catherine had been married to his brother. Even more unfortunately, she didn't have any boys during their marriage. She had a daughter named Mary, but no son showed up. King Henry decided that he needed a younger wife and asked the pope to say that his and Catherine's marriage had never been legal. The pope decided not to, as the two had been married for eighteen years. He also had Catherine's nephew telling him not to. This particular pope wasn't the best pope in the world. He was the pope of the reformation, who sold a lot of indulgences and spent a tenth of the papal reserve on his coronation party. He is reported to have said, upon becoming the pope, "Since God has given us the papacy, let's enjoy it!" Somehow, he doesn't strike me as a model pope.

This was the time that Martin Luther was telling everybody that the Catholic Church was wrong, so King Henry decided to break off from the Catholic Church and declare that his marriage had never been legal. He decided to marry a new wife who suited his tastes more. Her name was Ann Boleyn. Unfortunately for her, she didn't have any boys during their short marriage either. She had one little girl named Elizabeth, who later became Queen Elizabeth I. Henry became disenchanted with her and had her head chopped off, claiming she had been unfaithful. In all she was queen for a thousand days. (Her daughter was proclaimed illegitimate, as Mary had been.) After her, King Henry married Jane Seymour, who gave him a son, whom he named Edward. His wife died shortly after the baby was born. As if he needed to be unkind to yet another wife, he had painters from all over Europe paint pictures of princesses he could marry. He decided on Ann of Cleaves. As soon as he set eyes on her, though, he realized the artist wasn't too good at drawing realistically. He said that she resembled a horse, but married her anyway. He didn't want to anger her relatives. He divorced her later, though. What was she expecting, anyway? You'd think she would've been smart enough to avoid him after the demise of his other wives.

The next wife was Catherine Howard. The king married her three weeks after divorcing Ann, who wasn't heart broken to have been divorced. The king was extremely fat and much older. Of course, Catherine Howard met a nasty end too. She was executed, like Ann Boleyn. She had invited former boyfriends to the king's castle. Then came the last wife, Catherine Parr. She probably only lived because her husband was an old king when she married. She nursed him when he was ill and was good to his children. She convinced the king to pronounce his daughters legitimate, although Edward would remain heir to the throne. She outlived him. His son didn't live for long, and never married. Ironically, the king's daughters, whose mothers he had both been unkind to, became two of the most famous queens in England's history. The oldest, Mary, is known as Bloody Mary. She killed many Protestants while trying to make people to become Catholics. Elizabeth, on the other hand, was known for her fairness, and is remembered as one of the greatest queens in history. All in all, I'd say King Henry's youngest daughter was a better ruler than he was.

No comments:

Post a Comment