Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Question from Kelly - Henry VIII's private marriages

How come henry VIII's marriages were done in private? When his father married Elizabeth of York, it was done in public.


Anonymous said...

The answer depends on how one defines "private." Certainly none of his several marriages were solemnized in lavish public spectacles on the scale of modern Charles-and-Diana-esque royal weddings, but neither were they secret or hidden entirely from public view. That Henry VII's marriage to Elizabeth of York was perhaps more public than any of his son's weddings is undoubtedly a reflection of the elder Henry's need to legitimize his new dynasty in the public eye and to broaden his base of support. His marriage to Elizabeth, the surviving first heiress of the previous dynasty, was a calculated one intended to solidify his claims and those of his own potential heirs. Henry VII thus needed a bit of public display to enhance the symbolism of the marriage.

Henry VIII was less concerned with legitimizing his own reign and thus less in need of the symbolism of a public wedding display. His marriages were solemnized in the chapel of whatever royal palace he was residing in at the time. They were nonetheless "the event of the season" at court and accompanied by some level of semi-public merrymaking. Even his last marriage, to Katherine Parr, was witnessed by at least 18 people (canon law required only two witnesses) and followed by banquets.

But where Henry preferred a more intimate setting for the wedding itself, he in turn provided the first two of his wives with lavish public coronation ceremonies. These were necessary to establish symbolically the respective wife as potential mother of a male heir to Henry's crown. Perhaps having learned a lesson about frustrated expectations, however, Henry did not hold a coronation for Jane Seymour, the one wife who did give him the much-desired son, nor any of his subsequent wives.

Tamise said...

Wasn't Jane Seymour going to have a coronation but it was delayed because of the plague and then her pregnancy?

Anonymous said...

yes temise that was excactly right.