Sunday, April 25, 2010

Question from Emily - Records of Catherine of Aragon's annulment trial

I was recently researching Catherine of Aragon, while preparing to audition with the "Sir, I desire you do me right and justice" monologue from Shakespeare's Henry VIII. I saw in several places (the infamous wikipedia being one of them) that the speech as it appears in Shakespeare's play is almost exactly what Queen Catherine said during the Legatine Trial. However, I have been unable to find the "historical records" alluded to in these references. Does anyone know if this is true, and if so, if these records are available?

A curious Shakespearean actress.


  1. I don't think that Shakespeare had it just right. I don't know if her speech was recorded so how could he have it totally right? I read somewhere ( I can't remember the exact location, too many Tudor related books LOL), that he changed some of the speech to make it seem more poignant. Again, don't know if this is right either.

  2. Katherine’s speech can be found in ‘The Life of Cardinal Wolsey’ by George Cavendish.

  3. There's also a description of the scene in a letter to Francis I (L&P IV iii 5702), but I'm guessing if Shakespeare was using a source, it was Cavendish. And if you're interested, you can get the Cavendish test at Google books.

  4. A research hint to you - Wikipedia is not a reliable resource. It's hard to verify documentation and people can access to edit it easily.

    Cavendish is a great source. Record keeping was very spotty. I think there's very few of her letters to Mary left in existence. It's sad really.

  5. Wikipedia actually is a reliable source for anything not to recent. I love Shakespeare too! I bet he is write about the trial because everywhere I look about the speech says so. He was too easy on Henry and Anne because they were Elizabeth's parents but he portrayed Catherine a lot more truthfully. The speech sounds like Catherine.

  6. @Katja
    I'm sorry but Wikipedia is simply not a reliable source, especially for "not too recent" events and people. I used to use Wikipedia as a simple skim page to absorb the basics, until I realized how many errors there were - and these were on historical pages! These include wrong dates, biased information, errors in quotes, uncited information, and simple foolishness by people who are adding in junk for the sake of it. If anything, the more recent information would be more reliable because (I believe, although I'm not 100% sure) Wikipedia officials oversee those pages - you'll usually see a caption on pages that are locked from public editing.

    In college I'd see too many of my peers relying on Wikipedia, and their papers would suffer as a result. I urge everyone to keep their distance, or at least to treat all information on Wikipedia with caution.

  7. Thanks for the tips and help, I'll try to track this down in my "spare time," whatever that is. lol

    And, I may note, that I do NOT use wikipedia as serious research - but it can be a good jumping-off place for curiosity. ;)


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