Part II

Handling Henry VIII

In this part . . .

Think Tudors, think Bluff King Hal. Think Hal, think wives. After all these years, he still conjures up a larger-than-life image. Everything about Henry VIII was big - his body, his ambition, his ego, his palaces, his appetites. He dominated England like few kings had before and his word was law.

We meet them indoors (his better halves), his advisers, his enemies. We nod to his courtiers, kneel to his churchmen, hunt with his falconers and fight with his halberdiers. We don’t cross him, though. Henry VIII wasn’t the monster he sometimes appears but he didn’t suffer fools gladly. Best to bow pretty low and smile a lot. Oh - and don’t play cards with him.

Chapter 3

Being Bluff King Hal: Henry VIII

In This Chapter

● Following Henry from the cradle to the grave

● Walking the corridors of power

● Living like a king

● Playing at home and away: the royal wives and mistresses

Because he wasn’t the eldest son, Henry VIII should never have become king. Rumours suggested he was destined for a career in the church, but the death of his elder brother Arthur in 1502 changed all that and meant that he reached pole position by accident. Henry began his reign promisingly enough as a handsome, talented Renaissance prince with a 19-inch waist, but he became a bloated monster who terrified his subjects and whose soul the pope sent to hell.

This chapter gets to the bottom of Henry’s transformation, piecing together the man behind the gossipy stories and famous portraits. Unlike Henry VII, who presented a mask to the outside world, his son wore his heart on his sleeve, so we have loads of information about his inner feelings.

Getting to Know Prince Henry

As the only son of Henry VII left standing when Arthur died, it was important that every care was taken with the little boy. This section looks at the kind of upbringing Henry had.

Rocking round the cradle

Only two children in five lived to see their first birthday in the 15th century and mothers and the newly born faced a huge risk. Even among royals death was a constant visitor, so it was just as well that the heir (Arthur) had a spare (Henry).

The boy who would be king was born at Greenwich, east of London on 28 June 1491. In a superstitious age he was baptised quickly by Richard Fox, bishop of Exeter, because had the boy died before being ‘churched’ his soul couldn’t go to heaven. Henry was brought up as a royal prince, loved by his doting parents, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York (see Chapter 2 for more on Henry VII).

Henry had his own servants and rockers employed to rock his cradle and lull him to sleep. For the first five years of his life he would have worn smocks and petticoats like his sisters, Mary and Margaret.

Queens didn’t breastfeed their own babies so the search was on for a wet nurse, a local woman who’d just given birth herself. Her name was Anne Luke, and when Henry became king in 1508 he gave her a grant of £20 a year, a nice little earner and living proof that breast is best.

Educating Henry: Tutors for Tudors

Renaissance princes had to be Renaissance Men: that is, good all-rounders. For six years (1496-1502) Henry’s tutor was the Cambridge University scholar John Skelton, who taught him the all-important Classics - Latin and Greek - which were the essentials of a sophisticated education for centuries. Henry learned chunks of text by long-dead authors like Homer, Thucydides, Vergil and Livy, because all Renaissance men looked back on these works as the high point of culture and civilisation.

Honours galore

Anybody called Henry in sixteenth century England was likely to be called Harry, or Hal, as an affectionate version of the name but, like any male royal of the day, Henry was also given a series of titles. He wasn't quite 2 when he became constable (governor) of Dover Castle in Kent and lord warden of the Cinq Ports along the south coast. At 3 he was made earl marshall of England and lieutenant of Ireland. He was duke of York by October 1494 and a knight of the bath. He was still only 4 when his father made him warden of the Scottish marches and, top of the tree in the elite stakes, knight of the Garter.

What was all this about? Well, it meant that the Tudors had a future stake in many dodgy parts of their kingdom - Ireland (under constant threat of rebellion), the Scottish Border (under constant threat of invasion), the vulnerable south coast (under constant threat) - and it meant that no over-mighty subject from among the barons could get his greedy hands on any of these parts. It was Tudor policy, of course, to maintain power by employing lesser men whom they could easily control. Keeping key posts in the family was another effective way of doing this.

Henry’s theological education almost certainly came from his second tutor, William Hone, and such knowledge was virtually unique in a royal prince. He had a first rate grasp of the most important book of the day, the Bible (still only available then in Latin at all good bookshops). The prince also learned French, Spanish and Italian, vital in the world of power-politics he was to enter later.

As if all that knowledge wasn’t enough, Henry was also an excellent horseman, huntsman, jouster, composer, musician, dancer - don’t you just hate him already? Henry’s dancing first came to the fore when he was 10 at Arthur’s wedding in November 1501, when he won the hearts of all spectators. For more on dancing, that vital social accomplishment, see Chapter 1.

Moving up after Arthur's death

Henry’s older brother Arthur, the original heir to the throne, had only been married to the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon for five months when he died of tuberculosis. Arthur’s mother Elizabeth comforted her husband by reminding him that ‘God had left him yet a fair prince, two fair princesses’ and that ‘God is where he was’. Henry was now catapulted into the limelight as the duke of Cornwall, and he was made prince of Wales in 1503. He was 11. For the next six years he cooled his heels with plenty of time for his favourite pastimes - hunting, jousting, eating - but he had no real work to do.

Castles in Spain were important to the Tudors. Now that Arthur was dead, Catherine should have gone home to Aragon and Mummy and Daddy (Isabella and Ferdinand), and taken her dowry and the all-important Spanish Alliance with her. But Henry VII’s idea was to keep it all in the family by betrothing Prince Henry to his dead brother’s wife. Oh dear - he should have read Leviticus (see Chapter 5).

Seeking Riches and Power

In Chapter 2 we explain that Henry VII’s reputation of being a miserly skinflint isn’t quite fair, but the new king on the block, still only 18 when he was crowned after his father’s death, spent money like water and had personality and courage as big as the great outdoors. Despite everything that was to happen during his reign, Henry remained amazingly popular with most of his subjects, even though they believed they were going to burn in hell’s fire because of him.

Like his father, Henry VIII saw that he had two basic ways to make his kingdom rich and powerful:

● Go to war and grab somebody’s territory (that usually meant the French at the time - everybody hated them).

● Arrange a Big Fat Spanish Wedding - which is exactly what Henry VII had done with Arthur and Catherine.

Henry did his duty by carrying out his father’s original wish and marrying Catherine of Aragon, keeping her massive dowry and the Spanish Alliance. Now take a look at the map (see Chapter 9). He could hit France from two directions - by sea across the Channel from the North and by land, taking an army out of Spain over the Pyrenees mountain range.

Taking on the French

One of the key things that Henry did was to renew the conflict with France which had lasted for over a hundred years. In this respect, Henry was quite backward-looking and his role model was Henry V, the all-action hero who’d trounced the French at Agincourt in 1415. Henry was clever enough to join the Holy League, a military alliance Pope Julius II had put together, so he didn’t have to risk going it alone.

The only bit of France that England still owned was the town of Calais. To increase his territory, Henry sent the marquis of Dorset to grab Guyenne in south-west France. But there was no support from Henry’s fellow League member and father-in-law, Ferdinand of Aragon, so the whole campaign was a disaster.

The first wife: Catherine of Aragon

You've got to feel sorry for Catherine. The daughter of pushy parents who ruled what would become the superpower of the 16th century, she was a political pawn, bullied by Henry VII, deserted (although that was hardly his fault!) by Arthur and married on the real politik rebound to Henry, who eventually divorced her. She was six years older than Henry and produced four children in four years, all of them dying in infancy. The fifth was Mary, who was to remain staunchly loyal to her mother's religion for the rest of her life. Unable to give Henry his much-wanted son, Catherine had to step down in favour of Anne Boleyn, maintaining a dignified silence throughout. She wasn't quite such a goodie twoshoes, however, because she had an affair with a disreputable Franciscan monk who may have given her syphilis. She refused the title of princess dowager (which means pretty well my ex) and died in retirement in Huntingdonshire in 1536. Next time you're in Peterborough, visit her tomb and pay your respects. For more on Catherine, see Chapter 6.

The Field of the Cloth of Gold: 1520

This was a summit conference held near Calais between Henry and Francis. The whole thing was organised by Henry's lord chancellor, Wolsey, and was a chance for both kings to show off their money, weapons and jousting ability. Mock castles were built for war games, fountains ran with wine, tents glittered in gold fabric. Both kings fought five combats on each of ten days, surprise, surprise, beating all combaters. The ostentatious declarations of affection between the two kings was only a veneer, however, and war was soon resumed.

Henry did rather better in 1513, capturing a couple of French towns and winning the Battle of the Spurs (actually, more of a skirmish). This led to a truce and Henry got the city of Tournai to keep him quiet. In exchange, he gave the elderly French king, Louis XII, his 18-year-old sister Mary in marriage. Within months Louis was dead - draw your own conclusions as to why - and Henry was faced with a far more dangerous enemy, Francis I.

Fencing with Francis I

The new French king invaded Italy (then just a collection of states rather than a united country) and the death of Henry’s father-in-law, Ferdinand of Aragon, meant that the Spanish Alliance, which Henry might previously have counted on, would be useless against Francis.

So Henry took the advice of Thomas Wolsey, his lord chancellor and right-hand man and this led to the Treaty of London of 1518, which:

● Gave Tournai back to France

● Saved everybody’s face by agreeing universal peace

The treaty was blown out of the water the following year when the top job of holy Roman emperor was up for grabs after the death of Maximilian of Austria. The three contenders were:

● Charles V of Spain (of the Habsburg family)

● Francis I of France (of the Valois family)

● Henry VIII of England (of the Tudor family)

Charles was elected because of his family connections and the fact that he had more cash than anybody else. The title gave him huge chunks of Europe and, as it turned out, bits of America. Now Charles surrounded France on three sides; Henry controlled the fourth.

The sinking of the Mary Rose

The Mary Rose was a state-of-the-art warship but it sank in the Solent - the narrow waterway between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight - in July 1545. We still don't know why. The French claimed (of course!) to have sunk her, but this seems unlikely given the facts. The ship's captain, just before he went down, called to another ship that his crew were 'the sort of knaves I cannot rule'. Perhaps there was some kind of mutiny on board. We know from DNA evidence from the bodies of the crew who drowned that most of them were Spanish. Henry saw it all happen, riding along the beach and muttering, 'Oh, my pretty men. Drowned like rattens!'

Check out the hull and artefacts of the Mary Rose in the Historic Docks in Portsmouth. The ship was raised from the sea in 1982.

Putting on a sideshow

Linking with Charles V, Henry sent the duke of Suffolk to attack Paris. Charles was busy in Italy, the weather was awful and Suffolk’s army became a rabble.

There was better news from Italy, where Francis I was defeated and captured by Charles’s army. Even so, broke and unable to capitalise on the opportunity, Henry had to sign a humiliating peace with France in August 1525.

For a while, everything in the Tudor garden was lovely. Henry gave his 11-year-old daughter Mary (by Catherine of Aragon) as a prospective bride to Francis’s son, also (confusingly!) Francis, but by 1529 Charles V and the French king were negotiating a new treaty and it looked as if Henry would find himself in a potential war with both France and Spain. It didn’t help, of course, that this was the year that Henry began divorce proceedings against Catherine and she was the aunt of Charles V, whose army was surrounding the pope in Rome. The ‘Ladies’ Peace’ was signed in the French city of Cambrai to avoid outright war.

Fighting the French (again!)

With Charles and Francis cosying up to each other, Henry put the country on invasion alert. He built forts like Pendennis and Cowes along the south coast, demanded that local troops be mobilised and hiked taxation to pay for all his preparations.

European politics change like the wind and Charles and Francis soon fell out, so that there was now another two pronged attack by the emperor and Henry on France. This time - the summer of 1544 - Henry besieged Boulogne and took it, blowing up part of the town walls. Charles felt betrayed by this posturing - it wasn’t part of the joint plan - and promptly defected to Francis.

The French king now launched his own two-pronged attack. One of his armies hit Boulogne and the other arrived off the south coast of England, firing on Henry’s fleet off Portsmouth and attacking the Isle of Wight before being driven off.

The war ended tamely with the Treaty of Camp. Henry would keep Boulogne for a fixed period and Francis would then buy it off him.

Making Politics Personal

One of the biggest problems that Henry faced throughout his reign was his ‘great matter’ - his determination to have a son to continue the Tudor line. Inevitably, this involved finding a suitable wife who would provide a male heir for him. We cover Henry’s wives in more detail in Chapter 5, but we’ll introduce them here, in order of their marriage to the king:

● Catherine of Aragon (married Henry June 1509, aged 24, separated 1531, annulled May 1533): See the earlier sidebar ‘The first wife: Catherine of Aragon’ for the lowdown on this sad princess.

● Anne Boleyn (married Henry secretly January 1533, aged 26, beheaded May 1536): Henry certainly fell for Anne, the daughter of a Kentish knight, longing, in his own words, to ‘kiss her pretty dukkys’ (breasts), but she was playing hard to get. Not for her was her sister’s role of royal mistress (see the following section ‘Playing Away from Home’); Anne wanted to be Henry’s wife - oh, and queen of England too. Various foreign ministers thought her neck was too long, her mouth too wide and her ‘bosom not much raised’, but her long black hair was to die for and Henry was captivated. Think Genevieve Bujold in Anne of the Thousand Days. She bore Henry his second daughter, Elizabeth.

● Jane Seymour (married Henry 30 May 1536, aged 27, died October 1537): Even before Henry had officially tired of Anne he started flirting with Jane Seymour, who was a lady-in-waiting to both the king’s first two wives. The marriage took place only 11 days after Anne’s execution and Jane gave birth to Henry’s much wanted son, Edward, at Hampton Court on 12 October 1537. Twelve days later she was dead from the all-too-common childbed fever and Henry, broken-hearted of course, was on the lookout for a replacement.

● Anne of Cleves (married Henry January 1540, aged 25, annulled June 1540). So far, home-grown wives like Anne and Jane hadn’t proved a great success, so Henry let Thomas Cromwell suggest Anne of Cleves. This was a purely political marriage because her father John was an opponent of Charles V, the Catholic king of Spain. Cromwell and others hoped that Anne would have some influence on Henry, but they got it hopelessly wrong. She was homely to say the least - Henry called her his ‘Flanders Mare’ only partially because she came from that part of Europe. She had pock-marked skin and spoke virtually no English. In the Private Lives of Henry VIII all Charles Laughton’s Henry does in bed with Anne is play cards! Henry annulled his marriage to Anne after six months.

● Catherine Howard (married Henry secretly November 1540, aged 17, beheaded 13 February 1542). Henry’s fifth wife was well connected, the grand-daughter and niece of two powerful dukes of Norfolk, and she herself was a clever woman and a shrewd politician. We don’t know if this marriage was ever consummated but Henry became doubtful of Catherine’s fidelity and found a way to remove her for good.

● Catherine Parr (married Henry 12 July 1543, aged 31; she outlived Henry). Most of the time she acted as Henry’s nurse - so, see later in this chapter.

Playing Away from Home

The number of his wives and the size of his codpiece have led to the reputation of Henry as a stud. In 30 years he made four women pregnant and three of them were queens of England and his wives at the time.

Although Henry certainly had mistresses - it was expected of a king - he wasn’t the sex god of legend and certainly nothing like the drooling Sid James in Carry On Henry!

During the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, the nobility were obsessed with the idea of courtly love, in which men wrote poetry, women sighed and accepted presents and everybody flirted for England. In reality, marriages were dynastic, arranged by greedy fathers (like Henry VII himself) to make strong alliances and build huge power bases. What’s love got to do with it?

Playing away I - the other Boleyn girl

Mary was the elder daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn of Hever Castle in Kent. The memorial brass of this social climber is still on show at St Peter’s Church there, so check it out. It must be something of a record to have a king bedding both your daughters. The fact that Mary was already married to William Carey didn’t bother Henry unduly - after all, the man was only a gentleman of the king’s Chamber. Mary may have become pregnant by Henry, but if so it ended in a miscarriage, and the king passed on, with potentially disastrous results, to her feisty little sister Anne.

Playing away II - Bessie Blount

Henry may have turned to Bessie Blount (pronounced Blunt) after disappointment when Catherine gave birth to Mary in 1516. Elizabeth Blount was related to the queen’s chamberlain and Court gossips noted the pair together at a torchlight masque. By 1518 Bessie was pregnant and Henry Fitzroy was born at Blackmore Abbey in Essex in the spring of 1519.

Bastard sons were normally called fitz from the old Norman word, and even had their own badge, a bend sinister, on their coats of arms. Being illegitimate carried no shame, but a fitz couldn’t legally inherit the throne. Henry Fitzroy was kept away from Court, probably because the issue of the king siring a legitimate heir became so acute in the early 1530s (see Chapter 5), and he ended up as duke of Richmond and lieutenant of the north.

Leading an Active Life: Henry’s Hobbies

Henry was between 6 foot and 6 foot 4 depending on which account you read, with powerful shoulders and legs. A typical day for him was to hunt early in the morning, often wearing out three horses in chasing stags for 30 miles. He outshot most of his bowmen at the butts (target range) and played cards and dice into the early hours. He also ate and drank an enormous amount, but still found time to attend mass five times a day.

Jousting for boys and men

As he got older and heavier, Henry needed slower, larger horses to carry him. He was a good judge of horseflesh, even referring to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, as his ‘Flanders Mare’.

Jousts took place in the lists, which were open spaces split by a wooden barrier. In tournaments two armoured knights rode at each other armed with shields and blunted lances. This was practice for actual warfare, but the object in a tournament was to unhorse your opponent by hitting his shield. This was exciting and colourful entertainment for the crowd, but it could be very dangerous. Henri II of France was killed in 1559 when a lance hit him in the sights of his visor and smashed into his brain.

Henry’s first tournament as king lasted several days and he won various prizes. After all, who’s going to be brave enough to knock a king off his horse? In 1524 at Greenwich tilt yard Henry took part in a war game, a mock siege of the temporary Castle of Loyaltie; his head was hit by the duke of Suffolk and his helmet was filled with lance splinters.

Many of Henry’s suits of armour still survive - check them out at the Royal Armouries, Leeds and the Tower of London - and you can measure his body from them. The first suits have a 19-inch waist measurement, the later ones 54 inches. There were all sorts of sniggering comments on the size of his codpiece (iron jockstrap) - boasting again!

A-hunting he Would go

After the lists hunting was tame stuff, but the king and his courtiers took it very seriously, covering miles in a day with hawks and dogs. They rode palfreys (saddle horses) and chased deer and wild boar in the huge royal parks like Greenwich and Hampton Court (see Figure 3-1). Henry also set up hunting lodges at Langley in Oxfordshire and Sunninghill in Berkshire. The king had a reputation for being in good humour in the hunt, so if you wanted to get anything out of him, like a title, job or piece of land, raising the question while trotting alongside him was a good time to do it.

Hunting with the king was a huge honour and it was almost the last sport Henry gave up shortly before his death.

I'll see your three castles and raise you!

Henry enjoyed many games that he made illegal for his subjects - cards and dice among them. One of the most popular card games was Cent, later called Piquet, and we know the king liked to play with Richard Hill, the sergeant of the royal cellar. Above all, Henry liked to gamble - the English vice - and, like his father, he sometimes lost heavily. Whether Hill got rich isn’t recorded.

Figure 3-1: Locations of the principal Tudor palaces.

'Who but my lady greensteeves

Like all Renaissance princes, Henry was taught to play various instruments as a child and he had a good singing voice. He played the lute and wrote melodies as well as solemn dirges for the mass. Okay, so he probably didn’t write Greensleeves, but his love letters to Anne Boleyn suggest he had all the talents of a born lyricist.

His Court orchestra, made up largely of French and Italian performers, played at masques, balls and public feasts. The Bassano family provided his best singers, and because Francis I, the king of France, was tone deaf, he couldn’t compete with Henry on that score.

Henry set up the Chapel Royal Choir - 30 men and 20 boys - who followed the king around as he visited his various palaces - Greenwich, Nonsuch, Whitehall, Hampton Court. The king and his chief minister, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, vied with each other in their choirs, sending scouts all over the country to see whether Britain Had Talent. Dionysius Memo, the organist of St Mark’s in Venice whom Henry employed, was reckoned to be the best performer in Europe.

Did you hear the one about . . . ?

It was a brave man who didn’t laugh at the king’s jokes, but for entertainment value Henry hired professionals. Top of the stand-ups was Patch, Wolsey’s jester or fool, who was well paid by the king in the 1530s; but Will Somers is better known, perhaps because his glasses can still be found on the ram’s horn helmet given to Henry by Maximilian I of Austria. Somers openly criticised the king’s appointments and his over-eating, either of which would’ve sent other men to the block.

Growing Old (Not So) Gracefully: The Ageing Henry VIII

The years 1527-1533 were dominated by the king’s ‘great matter’ - his need for a son. Getting rid of Catherine, marrying Anne and clashing with the pope all led to the dissolution of the monasteries (see Chapter 6).

The 1530s didn’t go too well for Henry; this was his decadus horribilis (horrible decade). All right, many of his misfortunes were of his own making, but they turned him into an increasingly morose and bitter old man. Anne Boleyn betrayed him, he believed, by producing a daughter (Elizabeth) when what he’d prayed for was a son. Revolting peasants in Lincolnshire objected to Henry’s hike in taxation, and in the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 thousands of ordinary people had problems accepting Henry, not the pope, as head of the Church (see Chapter 4).

Above all, Henry felt lost. God hadn’t given him a son and the pope had excommunicated him. He was halfway to hell already.

Tennis, anyone?

No, not everyone. Jousting and hunting on horseback were noble pursuits - who else had the time and money? - and tennis followed suit. Henry played the game at Baynard's Castle in London and many of the nobility had tennis courts in their houses. This was 'real' or 'royal' tennis, played on semi-covered courts and

using the walls rather like modern squash. You used your hands as racquets and the balls had no bounce. In 1522 Henry played doubles with Charles V against the prince of Orange and the marquis of Brandenburg. The result was a draw - 'you can't be serious' - after 11 games.

Come dine with me

Henry's first meal of the day was dinner, which began at 10 a.m. or earlier. He was fond of beef, mutton, capons and pigeons. He ate wheat and rye bread and loved oysters. He was also partial to sticky puddings, pastries and biscuits, and spread honey on many of his meals. No sign of five-a-day here, even though apples, pears, strawberries, cherries, damsons, peaches, oranges, figs and grapes were available and popular.

Climb up on my knee, sonny boy!

At last Henry’s prayers were answered and on 12 October 1537 Jane Seymour gave birth to a boy, Edward. The sting in the tale was that she died of complications 12 days later. The boy showed promise - he was clever and bookish, inheriting the old man’s academic abilities, and Henry had plans to marry the lad off to Mary, the daughter of James V of Scotland.

Unwieldy lies the body that wears the crown

Henry VIII is often listed as one of many famous people who died of syphilis. Medical experts have studied the records carefully and we can now carry out a virtual autopsy on the king.

No one had any idea about balanced diets in the 16th century and Henry enjoyed his food and drink. Banquets were huge and frequent, and meals, often taken late at night, placed a great emphasis on red wine and meat. It was treason (punishable by death) to speculate on the king’s health - who’d be a royal physician?

Here’s a breakdown of Henry’s health over the years:

● He showed no signs of the tuberculosis that killed his father, brother and both sons.

● He had a skin rash for two months in 1514 (aged 23). He may have had secondary syphilis, but other facts imply he didn’t have it - for instance, his daughter Mary, his mistress Bessie Blount and his son Henry showed no symptoms.

● He picked up malaria in 1521 (aged 30) and suffered intermittently for the rest of his life.

● He got several potentially serious knocks jousting, hunting and wrestling, one of which allegedly made Anne Boleyn miscarry from worry.

● He packed on the weight and took less exercise from about 1535 (aged 46 - middle-aged spread!).

● One of his legs (we don’t know which one) became ulcerated and caused great pain and fever. This may have been caused by a jousting accident or was a sign of osteitis (bone infection), which later affects other organs.

● His mood swings increased from 1540 (aged 49 - male menopause!) and he suffered occasional lapses of memory.

● By 1546, with less than a year left, the king’s servants had to move him from room to room or onto his horse using a lifting apparatus (even in the winter, in the last year of his life, he sat in the saddle of his horse, wrapped up against the cold, watching others chase the stags he’d once hunted). His eyesight was failing.

The king is dead - long live the king

In the end, you have to feel sorry for Henry. He had no friends and a string of ghastly relationships behind him. Both his sons were to die young and he had no faith at all in daughters to carry on his dynasty. The last time a woman ruled England (Matilda in the 12th century) a civil war to get rid of her ensued.

Henry died in his own bed on 28 January 1547, probably of renal and hepatic failure. He was 56 and had reigned for 37 years.

The sixth wife: Catherine Parr

Nursing the king through his last years was no job for the faint-hearted. Henry could be extreme in his temper tantrums, screaming at people with his high, reedy voice, and his ulcers smelt horrible. Catherine was a widow and the daughter of Thomas Parr of Kendal. She was intelligent and cultured and dared to talk politics to Henry in a way that no one else did. It may have been because of her that Henry's will organised the succession to the throne to include his daughters Mary and Elizabeth should Edward die childless. Prophetic or what? Catherine married again after Henry, but died in childbirth at Sudeley Castle in 1548.

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