• A London Student

My Hatred of Henry VIII

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

Henry VIII may be a fascinating figure and not at all likeable at the best of times, but these are the reasons that my feelings for him have gone that bit further...

In this blog I have called Catherine of Aragon Catalina, as that is the name that she would've grown up with, but like so many young brides, had to change her name for marriage, and is something that I will be doing when talking about other medieval figures.


Henry VIII takes all the limelight away from Henry VII

Years ago, when I was doing the Tudors in school, one thing always annoyed me more than anything else, the fact that Henry VII had been missed of the curriculum as there was so much to get through about Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I and the reformation. I can't deny that Henry VIII was a relevant figure of the time (although I have tried to in the past!) but he was a horrible man. The largest monumental change that he brought in his reign was the reformation, which was one of the most important events in English history, however, his father won the Battle of Bosworth, usurped the throne from a usurper, established the Tudor dynasty and ended the Wars of the Roses (and any other political turmoil that Richard III started). He may not have been the nicest man, although he was much nicer than Henry VIII. Furthermore, he was ruthless to establish his dynasty and protect Arthur's inheritance, whereas Henry VIII was ruthless as he was desperate to get an heir (although there were plenty though his sisters including James V of Scotland and the Brandons).


The reformation often being taught from Henry VIII's perspective

I first became aware of this problem when a younger sibling of mine had come to visit one day and said that in school that day he had to write a diary extract as Henry VIII, pouring out thoughts about how sad he was that he didn't have an heir and saying that his wife couldn't give him a living child. This made me see red. Henry may have despaired about getting an heir, but many monarchs before him had died without a son as an heir, both in English and European history. William II, Henry I, Richard II (although the throne was usurped), Edward V, Richard III and he wouldn't have been the last monarch to die without an heir either, none of his children did, and more like Anne, William and Mary and George IV.


So the point is that it wouldn't have been the end of the world if he had died with only Mary as the heir, as she was very competent and may not have burned quite so many people at the stake without a reformation. Mary also had a fantastic education, as Catalina was one of the most learned women in Europe at the time (her mother, Isabel of Castile had made sure of that) and still we are expected to feel sorry for Henry VIII, unable to have a legitimate male heir (and be faithful to his wife!)

This is an example extract of what these children were learning and writing:

The bits in blue are my honest extra add ins!

Dear Diary,

I don't know what to do, I can't get an heir, although I already have a clever, beautiful little girl, and I can't get rid of my loving and faithful wife so I can't even remarry a younger woman and break my wife's heart that I have now fallen in love just like I did with Catalina 24 years ago with and could possibly get an heir with but that is only the excuse really.

Oops, I should probably stop writing now, as my wife is coming

Henry VIII

I found this so shocking as it was creating perceptions of Henry VIII as a good guy and Catalina as a bad person who couldn't do her one task in life and provide an heir.


Treatment of Catalina of Aragon

Despite the fact that Catalina of Aragon wasn't treated particularly well under Henry VII, living almost penniless in London while Ferdinand of Aragon and Henry quibbled over the case of her dowry once that Arthur had tragically died, she was even worse off with Henry VIII. When they married, Catalina was by now twenty-three-years-old and no longer the homesick girl that she had been eight years before to marry Arthur, but may not have had a very good grasp on the English language, as she was recorded begging to her father to send her a new Spanish confessor as she couldn't understand or speak English, showing just how isolated she was between Arthur's death and her second marriage. This marriage would've given her hope, that after many years alone, her life was going to turn out better, but that was before she was unable to give Henry a live heir.

This was under no circumstances Catalina's fault, but shaped her entire future. Henry had never been completely faithful to Catalina even when he had actually loved her early on, but this steadily grew worse until he fell in love with Anne Boleyn. Catalina, like a few before her, became abandoned, the old queen as the court flocked to be with the new favourite in her chambers. However, it was soon apparent that Henry VIII wanted more than to have Anne Boleyn as his mistress. Anne was clever, holding off Henry, and forcing him to marry her if they were to be together, while his faithful wife of twenty four years was abandoned.

Catalina was sent away to varying palaces away from court after 1531, she was forbidden from seeing her daughter and only surviving child who was very close to her, unless she said that Anne Boleyn was the new queen, which she and Mary both refused to do, placing them both in exile away from court. The young Infanta of Spain who'd come to England to be queen died alone in Kimbolton House, aged fifty.

When hearing about the rhyme 'Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived' as a child I had no idea of what it would've been like for Catalina, but realising this and how messy the divorce was in the end shocked me, how could Henry do that to another person who he had loved for many years?


Thank you for reading, coming soon are more blogs on the Tragedy of Arthur and Catalina of Aragon

#forgottenfigures #Catalinaofaragon

Source of information on Catalina of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon, Henry's Spanish Queen by Giles Tremlett

Image is courtesy of Wikipedia

By Hans Holbein - Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76791967