Q What would Henry V111 make of his reputation today?
A Although I think he would be very happy to be remembered five hundred years on in a way that he is a household name, he wouldn’t like to be thought of as a slight figure of fun. He was a very proud man, very careful to do the ‘right thing’ and as far as he was concerned, marrying six times was the sacrifice he was prepared to make for his country. The idea of him sitting at the high table, swinging a chicken leg, slurping his drink and belching, is so far removed from the truth, he might find that amusing.
Q Did he ever show any remorse for what he’d done to Anne?
A Her name was never mentioned again. It must have been unbearable for their daughter, Elizabeth, to gradually realize what fate her own father had ordered for her mother. The irony is that Henry, as a heartbroken little ten-year-old, losing his own mother, was left, on May 19th, 1536, the father of two motherless children, and by October, 1537, that number had risen to three. Only Edward, his heir, had the satisfaction of thinking his father had loved his mother. As for Mary and Elizabeth, they were only too aware of his feelings towards their mothers. As a rather nice postscript, Elizabeth wore a locket containing an image of her mother for all her days.
Q What about the theory that Henry suffered brain damage after a serious fall at a tournament in Greenwich in 1536 which Anne claimed caused her to miscarry, and altered his personality?
A Although this has been dismissed by many historians, for me, it might have a grain of truth. We’ll never know because reports from the time differ. According to those sent to the French King, Henry was unconscious for two hours and onlookers feared for his life. On the other hand, the Imperial ambassador, Chapuys reported that the King was unhurt.
Q What was it like being part of a large, powerful like the Howards?
A During the reign of Henry VIII, certain families such as the Howards, Percys, Staffords, Seymours etc; all jockeyed for prime position at court. It wasn’t an even playing field, however, because some were still recovering from backing the wrong horse at Bosworth Field, supporting Richard III and not Henry Tudor. This was the case with the Howards. At their head, was a remarkable old man, Thomas Howard, who slowly led his family back to the pinnacle of wealth and power. But it came at a high price. Two of the ‘Howard’ girls, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were sacrificed on the altar of ambition.
Q What would a 21st century therapist make of Henry VIII?
A I think it would be as if all their Christmases had come at once. A young orphaned teenage boy of 17 inherits the throne of England, giving him power and wealth beyond his wildest dreams. He has no surviving uncles to help and guide him, and a domineering grandmother who only survived long enough to see him come to the throne. Her story ended after choking on a piece of swan. Henry immediately marries his dead brother’s widow in the hope that her father, Ferdinand of Spain, will help him recapture France. He also knew Catherine very well because she remained in England after Arthur’s death.
From the day, Henry first came to the throne, he was constantly praised, feted and petted. No wonder he developed such a huge ego. He had far-reaching powers and ultimately what he said, counted. But he was also highly intelligent and very well-educated so navigated a careful and cautious path, using advisors from his father’s old regime. If only Catherine had given him a healthy brood of sons and daughters, he would have been a happy, fulfilled man. But she didn’t and, as they say…the rest is history.