Are we too quick to blame Henry VIII?

There are so many amazing women in Tudor England, especially in Henry VIII’s time, many of whom were severely mistreated. Certainly, I can’t find any way of blaming other remarkable woman for another’s mistreatment, so I tend to automatically blame Henry. And I know I’m not the only one… But are we too quick to judge him?

For a lot of people, Catherine of Aragon and the Princess/Lady Mary’s treatment could easily be blamed on Anne Boleyn. However, there is no denying that Anne was a truly astounding woman and what then for fans of Anne Boleyn who also admire Catherine and Mary? It seems there is no winning, so many will just give up and blame Henry as one of the only other logical alternatives is to find yourself on a Team Catherine/Anne/Jane debate and thus a Mary/Elizabeth debate, which annoys a ridiculous amount of people. I think for the mistreatment of Catherine and Mary we have to remove Anne from the situation first and think of what may have happened. Would Henry still go to the extremes of the Reformation? Would he have ever stumbled accross that passage in Leviticus without Anne’s guidance? Next, did Catherine accidently bring parts of her own dismay? We move Anne back in now and assume that Catherine has agreed to enter a nunnery. It would hurt her pride, but her daughter would still be legitamate and rightful heir until Anne or any future wife had a son. And would Henry have broken from Rome? Catherine had tried to defend her faith and ironically, her resistance was probably a key factor in the Henrican Reformation.

Then there is Anne’s own fall… I know this one isn’t always blamed on Henry as Cromwell is often seen as the culprit, but I think many hate Henry for it still. Henry murdered his wife, the woman he spend years persuing and had torn his country appart for. Then three years after marriage he kills her… Doesn’t make perfect sense somehow but still a great story. Was Henry too quick to believe Cromwell? And do we blame Henry too much for all the women he hurt in the process of his quest for a son? Hmm…

Later on he drags Anne of Cleves to England only to call her the ‘flanders mare’ and annul the marriage after a few months and know her as his ‘sister’ and execute all those who encouraged the marriage. Nice…  Then of course there is Katherine Howard. Generally known for being the ignorant and flirtatious one on Henry’s wives and exected at a very young age for aldultery. I think Kitty Howard is a particually difficult one as although she is often seen as a victim of Henry being the teen bride of the fat old King, I know many people think she deserved what she got. She was given the opportunity to save herself which she ignored, after all. I think it all depends on how you see her character as to decide between victim and silly girl.

Generally, I think that if one sees Henry is the blood-thirsty tyrant, then automatically people do blame him for the mistreatment of many of the women in his life (those are a very small amount of examples). But was he doing it consciously or are there even more reasons for Henry VIII and his women..? Okay, I’ll stop now. But do we blame Henry too much because we admire his women? It’s quite an interesting thing to think about.


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Filed under Henry VIII, Mistreatment of women, Six Wives, Tudor

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