Saturday, March 14, 2009

Question from The Rose Crowned - What Henry VIII was attracted to in women

What do you think King Henry went for in a woman?
Do you think he was a philanderer who couldn't help himself.Or just someone wanting love an attention.? david starkey mentions that he thinks henry was just looking for happiness but I think that it is more than that.What does thee all think who gais entry to this board?lords ladies?


Anonymous said...

I was just recently thinking of this very question.

To begin with, I think the underlying theme with all of the marriages was (of course) to wed someone who would produce male heirs. The possible exception to this might be Catherine Parr. I say this because Henry's state of health at that time may not have allowed him to father children.

My theory on what attracted him to all his wives is that in many ways his choices were a reaction to the previous wife. (The exception being Catherine of Aragon as no one preceded her.)

1) Catherine of Aragon - I think Henry found her attractive and respected her. There was also the factor of any possible benefits from an alliance with Spain.

2) Anne Boleyn- Young(er), fertile (hopefully), lively, English(with a French influence), exciting

3) Jane Seymour- English(no more of those French notions), modest, submissive

4) Anne of Cleves- Why not go with an alliance type marriage this time?-also found her portrait attractive

5) Katherine Howard- Very young and very attractive in Henry's opinion (essential after the Anne of Cleves disappointment)

6) Katherine Parr- Mature, respected, and stable (Didn't seem likely to exercise poor judgment or be unfaithful- no desire to go there again)

I think with each marriage, Henry was trying to "get it right" this time and would choose a wife that did not have the shortcomings of her predecessor.

As for the mistresses, I would say it was physical attractiveness and fun. (Although at least one of them made it more complicated by producing a boy.)

Anonymous said...

All of Henry's women were vastly different from each other in both personality, and looks.

The only thing I have noticed is a recurring "short of stature" in most of the descriptions of all of his wives. And by the portraits, not much in the way of bust either.

Of course,, portraits are a poor way to judge.

And any woman standing next to Henry would have seemed petite.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely with Joan's assessments. I will add though that I also believe there are aspects of the Starkey comments, which I've also read, that I believe from my readings of Henry. I don't think Henry was a philanderer. I think that at his very core, Henry wanted from a spouse what anyone does, to love and be loved. I don't mean that to sound trite by any means, just a basic desire/need. The problem with this 'romantic' (for lack of a better word) notion for a 16th century King, is that love was never a consideration when it came to royal marriage. If you put yourself in Henry's shoes, it must have been unimaginably hard for him to know who his true friends (if any) were. He was constantly surrounded by people whose only reason for befriending him was for their own personal gain. He was never valued solely for himself, even by his parents, and I think he longed to find that in a wife. Of course, that union would also be "approved" by God with the birth of a son.
While I agree that Henry's choice of wives was usually very reactionary, I think he saw the potential for true love in each of the wives (with the possible exception of Anne of Cleves - but even with her I think he felt hopeful). I think that in each, especially Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, Henry really felt that they loved him, and was tragically disappointed. I think his love for Jane was more retrospective in nature - she gave him a son and was his only chaste/virginal wife, according to him (excluding Anne of Cleves).
I think Henry's humanity gets lost a bit through a 500 year old lens. But in reality, he was never alone, but seems to have been horribly lonely. And on top of that, he had to be suspicious of the motives of just about every person he encountered, all while carrying the burden of being God's choice to absolutely rule England and its people; alone. Of course, Henry was also violent, mercurial, etc. but I think he was incredibly multi-faceted, and his choice in wives reflects that.

djd said...

Perhaps Henry VIII was in love with being in love or courtly love. The feeling one gets in a new a drug. I think there is a word for it...Limmerance. We will never know what went through Henry's head, but it is fun to speculate. It think above all that Henry was in love with himself and lived a very self-centered life - and probably was unhappy for most of it.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with Michelle's statement that Jane was the only chaste/virginal wife.

I think the reason he refers to Jane so lovingly is because she died. He was not even with her for very long. Even though she produced a son, Eventually Henry would have most likely gotten tired of her too!

Anonymous said...

I'll clarify/expand on my Jane comment. What I mean is chaste/virginal/unblemished or unquestioned 'maidenhood' according to Henry (retrospectively) , not necessarily in reality. So, to Henry:
Catherine of Aragon - Whether Henry actually believed it or not, his public position was her 'questionable' virginity.
Anne B - adultery/questionable virginity
Jane - really the only one whose maidenhood and faithfulness were unquestioned.
Anne of Cleves - while the marriage with Henry was not consummated, he still tried to use a past broken betrothal against her.
Catherine Howard - adultery/questionable virginity
Katherine Parr - nothing to taint her reputation/nothing "unlawful", but still, as she was twice widowed, she was not a maid.

So, what I mean is more from Henry's spin on things. Maybe 'sentimental' is a better word than 'retrospective' regarding his love for her. To him she was pure, gave him a son, and died bearing that son. I agree - Henry probably would have moved on from Jane too given the chance!

Anonymous said...

I thought that Jane was the only Queen that Henry said that he ever loved. However, I do beleive that Henry loved Catherine of Aragon.