Friday, July 31, 2015

Did Henry VIII Love All or Any of His Wives? An Opinion In Six Parts. Part I:



Did Henry VIII love all, or any, of his wives?
  • He loved one.
  • He was unhealthily obsessed by one.
  • He felt cleansed by one.
  • He rejected one.
  • He was infatuated with one.
  • He relied on one.
The One He Loved:  Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon, gentle wife of a guy who turned out to be real ass. 
Henry VIII's first wife, whom he married when he was just on the edge of the age of eighteen. 
This lovely princess dropped into Henry VIII’s life when Henry was a ten year old royal 'spare' to his older brother Arthur's 'heir." 
Henry had two sisters and had spent a large part of his childhood in a feminine-dominant household. He was familiar with females, but to him, the Princess Catherine of Aragon was an entirely different matter.
Catherine was his brother Arthur’s betrothed; an arranged marriage between an auburn-haired Spanish princess whose delicate beauty enchanted, but belied the stern stuff of which she was made. 
Catherine left her home in Spain in May, 1501, fifteen years old (Sophomore in high school age. !!!) and hopped aboard a ship bound for England, where Prince Arthur, now her husband of two years (!) since a1499 proxy marriage had been held in England, waited to finally meet his bride. 
The fiance to the next in line to the throne was just as interesting to the English people in the sixteenth century as it is today: 
twee twee twee
It wouldn't be unusual to think of her as a perpetual first-wife victim of hubby's wandering eye when hubby spotted a potential Trophy Wife. 
That would be a mistake. 

Her marriage to Prince Arthur, the 'heir,' took place on November 14, 1501. 
Five months later, Arthur died of some kind of respiratory sickness, leaving Catherine a widow.
All she had in her strange new homeland was her new title of Princess Dowager.

The young widow was truly without a country as her own father and King Henry VII parried back and forth over her still only half-paid dowry. 
Henry VIII's father, King Henry VII, held her hostage in order to avoid re-payment of her dowry.
Henry VII was notoriously skinflint and had deep trust issues. 
Poor Catherine's poignant letters to her father explaining her living conditions are very sad indeed - she had to feed herself and all her servants on whatever she could scrounge financially by selling off things she'd brought from Spain.
Her mother, appalled and heartbroken over her daughter's shit treatment, wore all black all day all the time to display her grief over her little girl, unofficially locked up for who knew how long?

Seven years later, in 1509, Henry VII died.
Prince Henry, former spare, ascended the throne and became Henry VIII. 
He immediately freed Catherine from her genteel prison and Henry wasted no time charging up to the altar with her.
They were married, despite a small religious hiccough (which would rear its ugly head later) involving Catherine’s having been married to Henry’s brother. 
While she insisted she and Prince Arthur had never ‘done the deed', due to Arthur's young age, and because if a married couple was youngyoungyoung, it really wasn't that uncommon for them to wait until they felt ready to consummate the marriage. 

(Catherine was a very pious Catholic girl, so later, during the ugly divorce case after Henry VIII wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, when Catherine testified she was still virgin on her wedding night to Henry VIII, it's believable.)

Over the twenty-plus years they were married, Catherine behaved as she’d been brought up to do; she acted as a charitable, loving Queen to the English people.
In 1513, when Henry VIII was in France with his army, James IV of Scotland thought with England's King out of the country, it would be a dandy time to invade. 
Catherine, who was pregnant at the time, rallied the English to battle and beat the crap out of the Scots. 
James IV went down most harshly; but, in the tradition of war back then, his face was left unmarked. 
His bloody coat Catherine sent by courier to France to Henry VIII; she would have sent his body, but ‘the hearts of Englishmen would not suffer it.’
What. A. Boss.

In Tudor times, the queen was expected to know her place (either the birthing chamber or, alternately, rallying the troops in absence of her husband) always quietly, and without opinion of her own, to keep to that place. 
Catherine of Aragon held up her end of the deal.
When Henry VIII slept around, she pretended it didn't involve her.
She sewed his shirts.
She acted like a lady.
Henry VIII, on the other hand, did not keep his end of the deal.
He flew like a moth directly into the flame that was Anne Boleyn, and Catherine was shipped off to England's equivalent of Siberia - a series of cold, drafty castles in colder and colder locations until she died of poor health and, I believe, exhaustion from putting up with Henry's shit.

Did Henry VIII love Catherine of Aragon?
Like anyone taken for granted, he didn't realize how much until he was faced with her replacement, a smart-mouthed, sarcastic beauty who didn't know enough to shut it once she'd won the crown and the wedding ring.

Next time: Anne Boleyn - First English Queen to Lose Her Head To A Very Sharp Blade.