The Six Wives of Henry VIII

The Six Wives of Henry VIII

by Gladys Malvern


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504030212
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media LLC
Publication date: 01/28/2016
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 5.51(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.37(d)
Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

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The Six Wives of Henry VIII

By Gladys Malvern


Copyright © 2013 Gladys Malvern estate
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-2885-1


On December 15, 1485, the church bells of Spain rang out proclaiming the birth of a daughter to Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon. They named the Infanta Catalina. She was three years old when the first of a series of proxy marriages took place with Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of England's King, Henry Tudor. Arthur had been born on September 26, 1486, which made him nine months younger than the Infanta.

Catalina's future was already settled, and except for the fact that she would eventually have to leave her beloved country and her fond family, she must be content with this fate.

Elizabeth of York, Queen of England, and Isabella, Queen of Castile, had decided to permit the young people to correspond so they could become better acquainted. Since Arthur knew no Spanish and Catalina no English, their letters were written in Latin. These stilted missives, carefully scrutinized by tutors and bishops, served no purpose except to improve the Latin of the writers. The children had been reared to do their duty to the state, and they corresponded because they had been told to do so, just as one day they would marry for the simple reason that their parents had decided such an alliance would be beneficial to both countries.

Meanwhile, for Catalina there were lessons and lessons, since Isabella firmly believed in education. The little Infanta was taught to embroider; to read and speak Spanish, Greek, and Latin; to have excellent manners; to walk with grace; to be devout. But, oddly, the study of English was omitted.

As preparations for Catalina's departure progressed, she was relieved to learn that she would not have to face her new country and new relatives alone. Her mother had carefully chosen the suite that would decorously group around her at that first meeting. Among them was her governess, Doña Elvira de Manuel, and the Queen's own trusted lady-in-waiting, Anna Maria de Salazar, who, devoted to the Infanta, would serve her loyally.

"My Princess must get accustomed to being called Catherine," said Doña Elvira one day when the preparations were nearing an end, "for that is the English translation of your name."

The Princess sighed. "England seems so far away. The people will have strange ways, and besides, I cannot speak the language."

"You will soon learn it. We shall probably like England. Elizabeth of York, your future mother-in-law, is said to be a good and gentle lady. It is also said that Prince Arthur is well liked. There is nothing to fear."

Finally the exciting day came when, with elaborate ceremony, the court at Granada received the ambassadors who had been delegated by the English King to escort the Princess to England. If Catalina — now called Catherine — and her beloved mother sobbed when the time came to say farewell, their tears were shed in private.

Catherine left Spain and all that was dear to her on May 21, 1501 — a lovely girl of sixteen with long, lustrous russet hair and fair skin.

Because of the violent winds and blinding rains, the journey seemed endless, for again and again the ship was driven back toward Spain. It was as if all the elements had conspired to prevent Catherine from reaching her destination. Not until October did her party arrive at Plymouth.

Compared to colorful Granada, the English countryside seemed drab. The skies were dour and the rain — chill, fall rain now — continued to pelt the earth and the weary voyagers mercilessly. Nevertheless, the people of Plymouth had prepared feasts and jousts to welcome their future queen.

It rained constantly. The roads were seas of mire as the party left Plymouth on its way to London. Catherine, longing for home, was sure she would never like England.

Arthur, a pale, shy, spindly youth, was at the palace in East Hampstead, bent over his books as was usual for him. His father, having braved the rain to come from the castle of Shene, burst into the room with the announcement that the boy's fiancée had arrived.

Arthur, always somber, was not much moved. Would he have to go and welcome her in all this rain? Couldn't he wait until the roads dried up? His father frowned, annoyed at the boy's obvious lack of interest in his bride-to-be.

There was a singular lack of warmth in the appearance of Henry VII. He was a thin-faced man with a sharp nose and a tall, lean body. His mouth was a cold, thin line, tightly compressed, and his small gray eyes had a glint of greed in them.

"Of course we must go and welcome her," he declared firmly. "Change your clothes and we'll be off. Why do you frown? Have you no interest in this matter?"

Always obedient, Arthur merely shrugged, gave a low bow, and left the room. He had but recently passed his fifteenth birthday and had no wish to marry.

Finally, dressed for the journey, he and his father, with a large retinue, rode full speed through the rain. Reaching the village of Dogmersfield, they were told that the Princess and her suite had arrived from Plymouth only a few hours before. Catherine had gone to bed.

"Awake, my Princess," called Doña Elvira excitedly. "His Majesty is here!"

Aching with fatigue, Catherine rose and had herself dressed in clothes that, though elaborate, were creased from their long confinement and the dampness that had seeped into everything. Meanwhile her attendants had respectfully informed the King that in Spain it was not customary for a bride to meet her husband-to-be prior to the wedding.

"She's in England now," Henry retorted. "I rule here!"

Finally he agreed that Arthur should be absent from the first interview.

He was delighted with his future daughter-in-law, although his greeting was characteristically cool. Because he could not boast of being a Latin scholar and did not speak Spanish, the two could speak only through an interpreter.

"Sire," asked Arthur when the King had returned from that first interview, "are you satisfied with her?"

"Decidedly. She is extremely pretty. You are to meet her in an hour."

When the two young people were presented to each other, they smiled, bowed, and spoke a few sentences in Latin. The King and numerous attendants standing by beamed approvingly.

Carefully Catherine masked her disappointment. True, Arthur was handsome in a way, but he was ill-at-ease with her and was unsmiling. Could she ever love this stiff and solemn prince who obviously found no pleasure in meeting her?

But there was little time for such private thoughts. The minstrels were summoned, and the King, determined that this should be a gala occasion, ordered dancing. But Catherine knew only Spanish dances, so with a fixed smile she sat beside the King.

Next morning the young people parted. Catherine and her party went to Lambeth, where she was met by various dignitaries who, with their men-at-arms, had come to give her an impressive greeting and escort her to Kensington Palace.

Here she met the rest of her future in-laws — Margaret and Mary, Arthur's sisters; his mother, Queen Elizabeth, who, though they spoke through an interpreter, showed a sincere fondness for her; and Henry, Arthur's handsome younger brother.

Henry, Duke of York, was only ten, but he was tall and gay, and appeared to be much older than his brother. He made no attempt to conceal his admiration for Catherine.

The court ladies, while criticizing her Spanish clothes, agreed that she was a handsome princess. They especially admired her eyes — lovely, expressive eyes — and wondered how Arthur could remain so blind to her obvious qualities.

As preparations for the wedding advanced, Arthur became more and more listless. The magnificence of his own marriage garments left him unmoved — jewels worth fifteen thousand pounds had been imported from France; his shirts were embroidered in fine Spanish needlework. Unenthusiastic, he obeyed his father like an automaton, forcing himself to smile when smiles were called for, but pointedly avoiding his fiancée, even when he attended the various pageants given in her honor.

On the wedding day, young Henry, "Prince Hal," escorted Catherine to St. Paul's Cathedral. To him, she made a lovely picture in her gold-and-white Spanish costume. On her head was a white silk coif from which hung a scarf bordered with gold and pearls. Her white gown was extended at the hips by hoops, in the Spanish fashion. English ladies called it a farthingale, and so many of them copied it that it soon became the style.

Arthur, in white satin, facing his bride glumly, put his cold, thin hand in hers and, surrounded by the nobility, the pair of strangers was pronounced man and wife.

The ceremony over, everyone attended Mass, after which the groom took leave of his bride. Gallant young Henry escorted her to the banquet room.

When the long day was finally over and the company had gone, the newlyweds found themselves alone. Even now they had nothing to say to each other. They were unspeakably weary, and tomorrow they would be forced to take part in more pageantry.

Alone, Catherine knelt before her private shrine and implored her patron saint to help her love this sickly-looking youth, to let her be a good wife to him — to let her feel at home in this England!

Watching the newlyweds during that lengthy round of celebrations following the wedding, King Henry and Queen Elizabeth were troubled.

At last the pageants ended and Catherine took leave of her in-laws. The Prince and Princess of Wales, attended by their large suite, left on horseback for Wales and Ludlow Castle. It was a long journey, and coming on top of all the arduous pageants, it was too much for frail, anemic Arthur.

It was said that he had caught the plague on the way, and for a while there was hope he might recover. But when her attendants came to her one morning and announced that she was a widow, Catherine had been married less than six months.

On a cold, windy day when the roads were deep in mud, the funeral cavalcade set off for Windsor. Catherine wondered what would become of her. Would the King give up her dowry and send her back to Spain? Or would he retain the dowry and keep her in England? If only he would send her back!

But she had no right to insist upon being sent back to Spain. She had no right to insist upon anything. She had to obey the will of the English King.

In the towns through which she passed, she was frequently confronted by the Tudor emblem, its primary motif a dragon. A monstrous creature, grotesque and fabulous, a huge, fierce thing with sharp, cruel claws, it seemed to her to have a sinister significance. She remembered that it was supposed to spout fire. St. George, she recalled, had set out to kill the merciless beast. In the Bible it was the symbol of Satan, venomous and terrible. Anyone in the grip of the dragon must expect to be crushed.


England was shocked at the death of its young Prince. His family grieved sincerely, especially his mother. The Queen, a beautiful woman in her thirties, aged rapidly after the death of her best-loved child. Despite the intensity of her own sorrow, she exerted herself to comfort Arthur's widow. The bereavement brought the two closer together, and Catherine did all she could to console this woman whom she regarded as a true friend. But a year after Arthur's death, the Queen died.

Catherine felt truly bereft now. Homesick for Spain, she was too familiar with court procedure to believe that her personal desires would be consulted. She would have to do as she was told. Fortunately she found a friend in the Duke of Buckingham, who took a fatherly interest in her and guided her gently through the mazes of unfamiliar etiquette in this strange, cold land.

With the death of her husband, Catherine had become a problem to the King. What to do with her? Henry weighed the matter shrewdly. No fault had been found in the girl's deportment. She had conducted herself well. She was not only sincerely religious, but obviously not the sort to interfere in matters that did not concern her. So far she had made no enemies, and, young as she was, she had demonstrated the ability to direct her household wisely. She was given the many-turreted castle of Croydon, not far from London. The King had heard that young Henry had gone to visit her there several times. Perhaps he could affiance her to Henry; it seemed an excellent solution.

The King summoned his secretary. Before him, on the table, lay a letter he had recently received from Isabella and Ferdinand. They had not yet finished paying Catherine's large dowry, and the letter stated that since Arthur was dead, they saw no reason why they should complete the payments. They wished their daughter to return home.

A slow smile crept over King Henry's lean, sallow face. Give up the rest of the marriage portion? Not he. The letter he dictated to the rulers of Spain proposed an alliance between his son Henry and Catherine. True, the boy was now only eleven and this would mean a long engagement. True, she was the boy's sister-in-law, but they could easily obtain a dispensation from the Pope.

When all the details had been arranged, the King acquainted the young people with his plan. Young Henry was delighted. Catherine received the news with reserve.

She enjoyed the boy's society. He was tall and seemed older than he actually was. He was already handsome, full of fun, excelled in sports, had a deep love of poetry, and composed creditable verse. They shared an appreciation for music, but she liked him, above all, because he was deeply religious and could discuss theology with the understanding of an adult.

With the arrival of the dispensation, Henry Tudor and Catherine of Aragon became officially betrothed. By this time he was twelve — manly, robust, showing promise of being even taller than his father. His eyes, though small, were bold and bright. He was alive with energy.

Catherine was not yet nineteen and lovelier than when she had first stepped on English soil. Not long after that June day in 1504 when she became officially engaged to the Prince of Wales, she was forced to don mourning garments again. Her beloved mother had died.

Now that it was settled that England would be her home for the rest of her life, she began to follow the English fashions in dress and attempted to learn the language. It was not for her to say when the marriage would take place. The King would make that decision.

Henry VII was becoming more grasping and less kindly. Catherine had her own establishment. Closest to her were her two faithful ladies, Doña Anna Maria and Doña Elvira, who often voiced their resentment at Henry's unfairness. He allowed Catherine so little money that often she was unable to pay her servants. Her ladies in waiting, even Catherine herself, were beginning to look shabby. Doña Elvira had lost the sight of one eye for want of sufficient money to be sent to Flanders, where there was a physician who might have cured her.

So rigid was the economy Catherine was compelled to practice that she, usually of equable disposition, became depressed and actually ill. Her Spanish entourage was discontented and vexed at the stinginess of the King, but as bad as the situation was, the new year of 1506 brought additional anxieties.

Ferdinand was King of Aragon; Isabella had been Queen of Castile; so at her death Catherine's sister, Joanna, became Queen of Castile. Joanna was married to Philip of Austria, where she had been living until recalled to Spain by her mother's death.

Contrary winds had driven Philip and Joanna's ship to England's shore, and King Henry, now host to such distinguished guests, entertained them at Windsor. They would have preferred to continue their journey, for Philip was seriously ill and Joanna frantic with worry, but courtesy forced them to accede to the King's hospitality.

Naturally, Catherine was delighted to see her sister again, but an informal meeting was impossible. Along with her ladies, the King's daughter Mary and her suite, and the King and the Prince of Wales with their numerous retinues, Catherine stood for the initial ceremonial greeting. There followed days of dining and dancing as Philip grew weaker and weaker.

At last the sisters were permitted a single, brief, private interview. "I beg you, Joanna, if you possibly can," whispered Catherine, afraid of being overheard, "beseech Father to arrange that I return to Spain. If you knew how I live! I cannot pay my servants. I am worried about debts, and I'm not sure I should marry Prince Henry."

"Debts? Why, the King, who has spent so much money entertaining Philip and me ..."

"That was for show, to make an impression on an ally. He is a stingy, callous man. I was finally forced to appeal to him about my debts. He answered gruffly that he was not committed to give me anything; even the food he provides is of his good will, because my father has not kept his promise in regard to the marriage portion. Those were his very words. I've been forced to sell some bracelets in order to buy a decent gown for court occasions. I'm in need of undergarments, too."


Excerpted from The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Gladys Malvern. Copyright © 2013 Gladys Malvern estate. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Table of Contents


The Saint: Catherine of Aragon,
The Egotist: Anne Boleyn,
The Diplomat: Jane Seymour,
The Housewife: Anne of Cleves,
The Coquette: Catherine Howard,
The Mother: Catherine Parr,

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