Married this week in 1509 to Catherine of Aragon, this would have been Henry’s 504th wedding anniversary. In reading G.J. Meyer’s recent book on the Tudor dynasty, I collected some lesser-known trivia that I thought worth sharing.
-Although wishing to break with Rome in order to annul his marriage to Catherine, Henry held deeply conservative Catholic beliefs (such as all 7 holy sacraments, transubstantiation – the literal transformation of the bread and wine into the blood and body of Christ during communion, having mass and the Bible available only in Latin as opposed to English, and the life-long vow of celibacy for all clergy, to name a few). This was someone who strictly adhered to all Catholic doctrines except the one that inconveniently locked him to the wife he no longer wanted.
-Despite these fervent beliefs, Henry’s most trusted and loyal servant, Archbishop Cranmer, was secretly married and held quite reformist beliefs which directly contradicted Henry’s own.
-Henry abhorred the reformist vision of Martin Luther and the “evangelicals”. Despite this, Henry virtually guaranteed that the evangelicals would capture and maintain power after his death by naming his evangelical brother-in-law, Edward Seymour, as regent for the young Edward VI.
-Like other Roman Catholics, Henry publicly spurned astrology as “superstition” and yet employed a court astrologer for most of his reign.
-For a man with an unprecedented ego, Henry was ironically vain and insecure, choosing to carefully craft an idealized version of himself in propaganda materials as opposed to the more realistic image one might expect from a man too powerful to fear anyone.
-Henry will always be tied to the picture of a lust-driven monarch, willing to execute a wife in order to move onto the next. However, history shows Henry had relatively few mistresses when compared to his royal ancestors and contemporaries.