The Wives

The Wives collection springs from my fascination with the Tudor period. Obviously, it is one that so many of us share. The life and loves of King Henry VIII has spawned countless books, films and series. What I wanted to focus on here was The Wives. Not just for being the women who were married to him, but for being women. Women who lived complicated, manipulated lives. Women who were controlled and maneuvered by their countries, by politicians, and in many instances their own fathers and brothers.

I had intended to write a blog post for each of them, but life gets in the way of our plans sometimes. So I will have to settle for this, written on the eve before their release.

Katherine of Aragon survived a long and arduous road to the throne. Once she and Henry were finally wed,  she suffered the deaths of 6 babies, having only one who lived. But alas, Princess Mary was not the hoped for male heir. Katherine was deeply religious and highly intelligent. When Henry began to seek a divorce, she fought for her marriage. In the end she was put away most shamefully for the young Anne Boleyn.

Anne calculated her way to the throne, seducing and holding Henry in thrall for 7 years as he clamored for her. Once married, Anne proved unable to provide a male heir, her only living child being Princess Elizabeth. The very traits that had enticed Henry, her allure and fieriness evolved into temperamental and opinionated management of him. Earning her an arrest for treason and an eventual beheading. Anne was not loved by her subjects, but weeks after her death ballads sprang up painting her as the wronged heroine we still see her as.

Jane Seymour was her very opposite. She was kind and gentle, she was compliant and quiet. She brought Henry's daughter Princess Mary back into his heart and home. She birthed his only living male heir, Prince Edward, and died of infection 10 days later. Henry grieved her deeply, as theirs had been the most successful of his marriages. But one wonders if she had lived, how long it would have lasted.

Henry fell in love with Anne of Cleves' portrait. She was intelligent, pious, and innocent, she read and wrote her native language of High Dutch (but no other). Henry had greatly anticipated their meeting, and imagined she would recognize him and fall in love with him immediately. He surprised her on the road as she came to court, but she was grieved by the strange mans assault and presumption. Henry's meet-cute ruined, he later declared 'I like her not'. He married her, grudgingly. After 6 months, he annulled the marriage having never consummated it. Anne navigated her way through the end of her marriage with her keen intelligence, and found herself with an estate, an allowance, her freedom and her life. In fact, Anne would go on to outlive them all.

Katherine Howard was a child of 15 when Henry married her. He was completely smitten, doting on her and catering to her every whim. Katherine, being just a girl, proved boisterous, playful and by most standards, vacuous. She cared only for dancing, dresses and jewels. When her infidelities came to light, a shocked and heartbroken Henry had her put away until he could prove her innocence. When the truth came out that 'she hath done wondrous naughty'. Henry had her beheaded at just 17.

No woman in court wanted to marry him at this point, because it was well known that Henry either 'killeth or putteth away' his wives. In fact, Katherine Parr, who was twice widowed, had her heart and mind set on the villainous Thomas Seymour when Henry proposed to her. She was dismayed at the proposal, but feeling she had no choice, she married him. Katherine was steady and capable, having lived a long life at just 31. She'd first been married at 13, and had buried two husbands. She was fiercely intelligent, and challenged Henry on religious matters, but overall he felt he finally had a wife he could respect and call a companion. She was loyal and caring toward Henry until his death. She married Thomas Seymour after just 4 months, but died less than two years later.

These women endured so much. Many of them mourned dead babies, lost chances, and their own brief lives. They suffered at the wills of countries and men, moved about by politicians and fathers. But they have endured in our minds. Their unique qualities and arduous paths have held our hearts. We love them, mourn them, and here, in poppet form, we get to celebrate them.

1 comment

  • I’m not sure what enthralled me more…your exquisite “poppets” or your eloquence in telling a story❤️ I find both captivating!

    Susan Esposito

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