To conclude my blog tour for my new book, “The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII,” I have been thinking about the key moments in the life of each of the six wives. If I were somehow able to travel through time and witness just one moment from the lives of each, these are the events I would choose. All you have to do to be in with a final chance to win a copy of the book is tell me which of these six you would like to have seen, as a fly on the wall. Enter your comment at the bottom of the blog and I’ll announce a winner on Monday November 3. Good Luck.
1. Catherine of Aragon. The Blackfriars Trial, 1529
I would have loved to see Catherine’s performance in 1529, when Henry summoned her to defend her marriage. She knelt on the floor before him, argued her case, then swept out of the hall, refusing to return. I think she would have mustered all her strength and experience as a Queen that day and it would have been almost her finest hour, although not her happiest one. It would have been wonderful to have seen the expression on Henry’s face as she spoke.
2. Anne Boleyn. The King’s Hall, Tower of London, 15 May 1536.
With all the different moments I could have selected for Anne, again I’ve gone for a sad one, but it is one that would allow me to listen to the evidence that was presented against her and witness her response. I wouldn’t just be watching her though, I’d be looking at all the faces in the room that day, as this process of condemning a Queen was unprecedented and it would be fascinating to see the reactions as her peers and friends lined up against her. We know that her former lover Henry Percy had to leave through “illness”; how many of those men were troubled by their consciences?
3. Jane Seymour. Greenwich, 4 June 1537.
Jane made her public debut as Queen less than a week after her marriage, which took place on May 30, 1536. Accompanied by a great train of ladies, she heard mass and dined in public at Greenwich Palace. It was on this occasion that Chapuys reported that she had to be “rescued” by Henry, whilst in discussion with the Ambassador, implying that she was overwhelmed or out of her depth. I would find it interesting to see just how Jane carried herself on this occasion, when she had the standards of Henry’s previous Queens to follow, and what stuff she was really made of.
4. Anne of Cleves. Rochester, 1 January 1540.
For Anne of Cleves, it would have to be that fateful moment when she was staying at Rochester overnight on the way to London. Henry arrived in her room unannounced, in disguise, and proceeded to embrace and kiss her. For Anne, it was a breach of dignity, from a large, uncouth man she did not know. Her reaction set Henry against her; it would be amusing to see exactly how she brushed him off, and the resulting embarrassment of the court. This was one dent to Henry’s ego he didn’t recover from.
5. Catherine Howard. Bishop’s Palace, Lincoln, August 1541.
At the risk of sounding like a peeping Tom, I would like to have witnessed the illicit meeting between Catherine Howard and Thomas Culpeper that took place on the royal progress of 1541. At the Bishop’s Palace, Lincoln, Lady Rochford helped smuggle Culpeper into Catherine’s chambers late at night via a set of stairs that led to an outside door. They both later claimed that they just talked for hours, and although they desired to consummate their love, had not actually done so. I would really like to know the truth of this secretive relationship.
6. Catherine Parr. The Proposal, 1543.
We don’t know exactly where or when Henry proposed to his sixth wife, but it certainly took place in the late spring or early summer of 1543. Catherine, recently widowed, had fallen in love with Thomas Seymour and was hoping to become his wife, when the King intervened, sent Seymour abroad and made his intentions plain. It would have been an incredible moment to witness, as Catherine struggled to reconcile her duty to the loss of her personal happiness. I wonder if she ever really considered the possibility of refusing the King. What exactly did she say to him? I would love to know.
Which of these six moments would you most like to have witnessed? Tell me below.