Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Question from Jenna - Ruthlessness of Henry VIII

After watching "The Tudors" I have been wondering if King Henry VIII was as ruthless as I am now feeling that he was or if it was just how life was in the 16th Century. It seems like to me there were an awful lot of heads being cropped and not neccessarily for substanciated reasons. It seems that if they wanted you gone they just made up stories and then tortured you into confessions. So does anyone know how many people were beheaded or killed during his reign? And does anyone know if any of the stories of Anne Boylen were true? Did those men die for no reason other than what seems somewhat like a coup de ta to get rid of Anne?


BurtonReview said...

According to Holinshed, who wrote 25 years after Henry's death, 72, 000 thieves and vagabonds were hanged during his reign.
And as far as Anne Boelyn and rumors, I do not believe she had affairs and it has not been proven. She was married before Henry though, so that caused her problems. And I do not beleive and witchcraft stories either. She believed in Protestantism. See more on her

Anonymous said...

King Henry VIII was a greedy and bloodthirsty man.I am not too sure how many people had their heads chopped off during the reign of King Henry VIII.But I think it would amount to a lot.You are right when you say if the king didn't like any member of his household he would make up a story between himself and his cheif minister and ministers.Namely his cheif minister at the time.But even some of the court could and would make up stories about other people in the court circle and edventually might or could end up reaching the king.The majority of the king's victims were innocent of all the charges brought against them.Henry could be all nice to a person one minute or a day and then he would be signing his or her death warrant the next.This is a proven fact.I think that all the rumours and allegations about Anne Boleyn were false her only crime was not being able to produce a living son.Anne and her co-accused including her brother were innocent and didn't deserve what happened to them.Anne was only married once. She was only betrothed once and that was before the king to a man named Henry Percy but they were never to marry because wolsey on the king's orders tried to keep Lord Percy and Anne apart so the king could be free to marry her.But Anne never realised this at the time.
The only man Anne Boleyn married was Henry Tudor.Fact.

Anonymous said...

If Anne Boleyn was not guilty then why didn't Henry just simply divorce her, end their marriage, or make up some reason to annul their it? Afterall by then he was the head of the Church of England and answered to no one other than God. He ruled supreme.

Also it would have been most ruthless not even to mention time comsuming and seems a bit odd to fabricate stories, believable lies to kill 4 completely innocent men and a woman just to be rid of her. He could have simply poisoned her or had a little hunting accident.

Anonymous said...

Henry had a nacissitic personality. Partly because he came to power at a relatively young age and was denied nothing. He was also emotionally immature. His love of dressing like a beggar or common man, then "suprising" his queen by revealing it was he the KING, is also an indication of an immature personality.
I believe Henry was more in love with the Idea of love,,, than the actual love itself. As soon as the "new love" (more like lust) feelings started to fade, he started to look around to find a new "love".

As for ruthless. Of course he was. He was a king with almost absolute power. He got what he wanted.

His feelings for Anne were, I believe very mixed. His passion for her, his hatred of her for making him wait for years, his blaming her for his break with Rome, etc. caused in him something almost like a madness. And when she did not produce the desired male child like she promised she could,, well,, his rage at her brought to the forefront his many other rages and hates of her, (including his hate and rage for beheading some close and trusted men for her sake BEFORE they ever got married). He even disowned his first daughter Mary for her sake. Oh yes,, he had lots of things to blame her for in his own mind. Because remember, in his own mind he could do no wrong,, so someone else had to take the blame.

Besides he had to prove that the infertility problem could not possibly be his. Hence,, it was best to get rid of her permanently. He may have had quite a bit of the "I may not want her anymore,, but I don't want anyone else to have her either" mentality. Also,, it took 7 years for him to divorce Katherine and he just didn't have that kind of time or patience anymore. Anne would have fought him tooth and nail against a divorce. And he knew that. Much quicker to kill her. Also, because of his divorce to Katherine, doubts were thrown on the legitimacy on Elizabeth. He learned from his past, and he would not have wanted that kind of doubt thrown again on a son.

And Anne was not a meek personality. She was quite outspoken, strong willed, clever, spiteful, revengeful and probably smater than Henry was. She would NOT have lanquished in the country quietly like Katherine of Aragonne did. In truth he was probably scared to divorce her, and therefore set her free to say and act how she wanted.

I could imagine if she had been set free Anne being a royal pain in the rear! Maybe even to the point of starting a revelution in the name of her daughter Elizabeth.

If you will notice, Anne was the last queen he had a coronation for. Was it because of lack of funds, or that he was waiting for the birth of a boy? Maybe he just never felt such extreme passion again as he did for Anne.

I do not believe he would have turned the world upside down for his later queens as he did for Anne.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting Anonymous. It is very plausiable that he feared Anne Boleyn, but the ruthlessness of a man to kill 4 innocent men just to kill her just doesn't make sense to me.

Also, I have always heard that he really loved Jane Seymour and that she was his "true love". Whatever that means in the life of Henry VIII. Maybe it was because she is the only one who gave him a son. And that would mean that all he ever cared about in this world was having a son and trying to make sure that a woman did not rule England.

I know that this is probably totally off topic but I thought I would ask. Even though the movie mini-series "The Tudors" was not totally historically accurate does anyone know what the symbolism of the swans after Anne's death might have meant?

Anonymous said...

Marie Burton thank you for your answer to my question and for your knowledge, thoughts and ideas.

72,000 people is overwhelming to my mind even though he reigned for 38 years. I am sure a lot of those who died, did so for "real" lawbreaking reasons. However, it seems as though people in the 16th century were either an aristocrat or very, very poor so I am sure that theft was prevalent if for no other reason to be able to eat. I don't know how often alms to the poor were given out but who could say if it was enough. Also, even though the number of people who were put to death under his 38 year rule seems exorbitant, I don't know how this compares with other rulers of the same period. With my personality, I can't help but to try to put it in all in a neat little basket even though that is impossible 500 years later. I would like for it all to make sense, to be able to understand it, to agree or disagree with his actions, however, I would have to know more about protocol in the 16th century as well as economics, laws and the normal way of life of the times. Historically we might have some answers but do we have a definitive documented analysis of his mindset at the time that he lived? We hear a lot of people say that he was mad in his later years but do we know that for sure? And even if it is true what was going on in his younger years when he was very sexually active, athletic and competitive in sport and seemed to be full of life and happiness? Did he behead/hang as many then for reasons that were questionable as in his later years? There seemed to be a lot of people in Henry's counsel that were crooked and deceitful. It's like who could he trust, who could he believe? And then of course we have the make up of his own personality traits, which is what I am trying to understand. No doubt he has some real issues but were his issues a sign of the times or his inner circle? Based on today's standards, it appears that he had no respect for women and was probably abusive, both mentally and physically but was he any different than other men? With all the trusted men (wink, wink) and one very bold woman he had counseling him and provoking him so as to get their own agendas fulfilled how can we know that everything that happened was his fault? Maybe some of these things worked towards his eventual madness. I tend to think that he was sorrowful of the death of Thomas More and maybe even Cardinal Wolsey yet there doesn't seem to be any mention of him regretting or being sorrowful for Anne's beheading.

It may sound like I am defending his actions, but really I am simply wondering how many might have died due to people misleading the King or betraying his confidence in them so that they could move on up the aristocratic bread chain so to speak. It seems to me that pushing agendas and deceiving the King was a way that some people made a living back then. Even Anne Boleyn doesn't appear to me to be a clever woman as much as she was deceitful, a liar and someone not to trust and perhaps she deserved to die. Not for what she was accused of but more for sabotage and lack of loyalty to the King. He also may have held her accountable for some of the executions that he later regretted.

While I have always loved the stories about the royals, I haven't always been as enthusiastic as I am now and wanting to know as much truth as possible or even the thoughts and ideas of other people on this subject. Thank you all for contributing to this discussion.

Anonymous said...

I think that poor Anne Boleyn's life was a classic case of "What goes around, comes around". She saw how ruthless Henry was when he disssolved his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. She could not have been to surprised to see what he was capable of doing to her when she did not bear him a son.

kb said...

Jenna -
As fate would have it I just saw again the final episode of the Tudors and remembered your query about the swans. Here's a possible interpretation of the film makers' intentions.

Swans mate for life. In the show, before Anne's execution Henry looks at the 2 swans multiple times. He is still married. He can not yet mate with Jane. In the final scene of the episode, Anne is dead. Henry is served, with great fanfare, a swan with a meat pie set in it's body. He rips a feathered wing off and digs into the pastry, eating, with gravy dripping down his chin while the courtiers applaud. This might symbolize that he is 'ruthless' killing his mate and then eating her; proving his royal power and expecting applause or recognition for it. He is no longer mated.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Katherine of Aragon had lived longer, if Henry would have executed Anne? I think the populace would have expected him to take Katherine back, instead of marrying Jane.
Katherine dying did not help Anne's cause any. With Katherine dead and Anne dead there was no doubt that he was truly married to Jane, and that Edward was the rightful heir.

Oh, the what if's!!

Anonymous said...

He needed to go to all that, killing innocent men etc because he wanted to disgrace her, his pride was hurt and he needed to destroy hers. Poisoning her simply would not of flown, he honestly believed that she was having affairs and hated her for it.

B said...

I realize I'm late to the party, but I believe the answer to the swan question is this:

Yes they mate for life, a fact Henry was well aware of when he gave them to Anne as a gift, symbolizing his devotion to making her his wife. I believe it was he who made it illegal to kill and eat swans unless the diner is royalty.

Puff the Magic Dragon said...

In your post you use the phrase coup de ta

The phrase is actually

coup d'etat

it is french form coup of (for) the state

Anonymous said...

Many great questions here and I am still reading, however I wanted to make a correction, that being that Anne Boleyn was not in fact married; she was supposedly in love with one Henry Percy, who would one day inherit the title, Earl of Northumberland-it may have been a precontract. She was reprimanded by among others Cardinal Wolsey, who on Henry's orders did not allow her to marry Percy. Anyone interested in Tudor history should read books by respected Tudor historians such as Alison Weir, Antonia Fraser, David Starkey and Eric Ives to name but a few. Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser are very thorough in their research research and I suspect that the others are, also.

Anonymous said...

You cannot make a man do anything a man does not want to do. But Henry's ego would never allow him to blame himself openly...instead he would feel it inside and then blame someone else....because it is easy..because hes a King. If Henry really truly had nothing to do with her downfall he would have arranged for her to have a proper court and proper judgement and not trust Cromwell to torture people into a false confession and then report it as valid one to the kind....and then they say that he told him she had 100 lovers.? Do you honestly think that the Queen of England..who is followed everywhere, monitored for her own well being and living mostly in her chambers could have 100 affairs gone unnoticed? Look at Katherine howard..she had 1 affair and that was discovered so quickly. Anne was always around people, her maids, guards, the king, her family..there was NO way for her to even sneak have an affair even if she wanted to ..PEOPLE WOULD SEE it or find out and fast. Because everyone had their eyes on her already waiting for her to slip up.....but she did not..because she was innocent....she loved Henry...Seriously how do u have sex with someone under security that is this close to you? its absurd! Nonetheless, Henry believed it you know why? BECAUSE it was convenient for his to believe it...because he had already passed on Anne in his mind out of desperation for an heir.....also because to simply demote and send away the Boleyn family would ave been impossible as they were a powerful family and could cause trouble....I also believe that Henry would not been able to live freely while knowing that Anne- his great love is alive and belongs to someone else. So Henry really tricked himself into believing that she was a whore.....because that would ease his conscious for getting rid of her and his mind it would explain why she could not give him a his mind....its not HIS fault that he could not create a boy....but a woman's and by believing that a woman is a whore that therefore removes all the blame and responsibility and humiliation of a thought that it could have been Henry's fault too.......Do not forget that one of Anne's miscarriages which was a boy by the way happened supposedly because she caught him with Jane Seymour......that put great stress on her...and Henry knew that .....but once again.....had to blame someone else......i hope this shed's some light on your understanding of Anne.....and I hope I never have to read another negative comment about her again. The woman has been through ENOUGH in her time..give her the respect and courtesy please in her rest...i am sure if that was you in her place you would have gone it is a very hard task she was facing..and she as a very strong woman.
Do not forget that back then women had pretty much no voice...Anne showed us that it inst so...She also is the reason England has become free of the corruption and it is her daughter that was one of the greatest rulers on Earth.

Anonymous said... is is well known by now that Anne was innocent....she was loyal....but she was outspoken, tempered and witty and that did not go well with Henry considering he was an egotistical person...Anne also became very jealous in the last years of their union and that did not go well for her. As for her downfall, she had enemies..those people were supporters of Katherine, they were supporters of Mary....and supporters of the Englangd's union with the Emperor and Mary being reinstated to succession. Obviously with Anne being alive that would not the king grew impatient with all the miscarriages......Cwomwel land other Lords used that to frame her and put her up against Henry as a cheating achieve their political goals and personal gain. its not Annes fault that henry chose her, she actually loved someone else before it is not Annes fault that Henry chose to fight for her and separate from the "Church" which was and is a total scam btw that feeds people with guilt and fear. It is also not Anne's fault that her life as a queen was stressful and filled with pressure so she miscarried so many times...and it is definitely not her fault that the King felt so much guilt over killing off Thomas Moore, and others that he had the need to blame someone and not take responsibility for his own actions.

Unknown said...

What you've said about this so called King being deceived. You might as well say the se thing about Hitler being deceived by his generals to slaughter 6 million innocent people during the holocaust .... Bottom line he gave himself authority and power of God with his Church of Enand and abused in the form of tyranny and murder. I have no sympathy for him and the degree of evil and wickedness he set on so many lives. The maggots did their job on his body centuries ago... let the flames of hell burn the rest of his worthless soul

Anonymous said...

KB - I think that is the best answer that I've heard so far, about the symbolism of the swan.

Anonymous said...

KB - thank you - that is the best interpretation of the symbolism of the swan that I have found yet.

kb said...

Rosie - You're welcome!