Sunday, June 19, 2011

Question from Mary - Henry VIII and Oedipus complex

Does anyone besides me think that Henry VIII might have suffered from an Oedipus complex? Incidentally, I always thought Oedipus got a bad rap on that. It's not like he knew that Jocasta was his mother :)


  1. Henry VIII and his father had a troubled relationship. Henry VII put his own mother, Margaret Beaufort, in charge of the education and upbringing of the Tudor children (and just about everything else in the royal household, as well).I wondered if Henry VIII felt that his father was keeping him from his mother and that she needed rescuing? Henry seemed unnaturally afraid of sin. He was a wrestler and his greatest opponent seemed to be his conscience.He usually beat it,too! Mary

  2. When I took a Tudor history class in college many moons ago, our professor discussed an Oedipal theory of why Henry married so many times and why he chose the ones he did. I glanced through my notes and it doesn't look like I wrote down much in detail. It basically boiled down to mother-substitutes and how he was related to all of his wives which lent an "incest" aspect.

    From what I recall, it wasn't the prof's theory, but he was presenting it as part of a discussion of the trend of psychoanalyzing Henry (and historical figures in general). I remember it was an interesting discussion, but no one really bought in to the theory much.

  3. He could have. If he had the nerve to marry women that were all related to him, then that could be true. That's a good thought.

  4. Weren't most of the nobility related to each other in some way or another? After all, nobility only married nobility for the most part; and there just weren't all that many of them. Wouldn't incest (by blood or by Bible) have been pretty hard to avoid?

  5. Yeah, they were, which is why I don't put a whole lot of stock in that part of the argument. If that was Oedipal incest, what does that say about the Hapsburgs?!

  6. Hmm...Aside from Katherine of Aragon, none of his wives were older than the king. I really doubt Henry VIII was marrying women to rescue them. I am pretty convinced he was marrying women to use them - for son-making (Anne B & Jane), policy (Katherine of Aragon & Anne of Cleves), endorphin rush (Katherine Howard), and nursing (Katherine Parr). Clearly I am over-simplifying here however, I don't think the concept of oedipal relationships would hold up under scrutiny.

    Regarding incest - yes, as Lara says, everyone was related to everyone in some degree of affinity. That was a normal state of affairs. Hence the issue of dispensations applied for when the bride and groom were related within the forbidden degree of affinity. Although the relationship between Henry and Anne Boleyn or Jane Seymour seems practically-speaking non-existent.


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