Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Question from Michelle - Views of Katherine of Aragon in Elizabeth I's reign

Just curious... how did people during Elizabeth I's reign view Katherine of Aragon and her marriage to Henry VIII? Obviously there would be major reasons to view the marriage as invalid (to ensure the legitimacy of Anne's marriage and Elizabeth's birthright), but I'd love to know how people saw or portrayed KoA herself: a wounded party, too proud/stubborn/Spanish/Catholic for her own good, or somewhere inbetween?

The only text I know of offhand that deals with KoA around that time is Shakespeare's play of Henry VIII; I haven't read it myself, but I gather Katherine is portrayed extremely sympathetically and that the whole divorce thing comes over as a wicked plot of Wolsey's or something. Of course, that's but one source, and it's generally held to be a Stuart rather than Elizabethan play, so that may also color her portrayal. Any other thoughts or sources on how Katherine was seen by Elizabeth's courtiers and subjects (or Elizabeth herself)?


Foose said...

You might consult Judith Richards' recent book on Elizabeth I. She discusses this issue in some depth, pointing out that despite modern-day perceptions that "the Virgin Queen" was universally revered in the late sixteenth century to the exclusion of all other queen-figures, there seems to have co-existed among her subjects a fairly open sympathetic regard for and recollection of Katherine.

While I don't think Richards' book on Elizabeth is quite as good as the one she did on Mary Tudor, it's still a welcome "alternative" viewpoint to the saturating modern adoration of Elizabeth. She has some trenchant remarks on the question of "What if Anne Boleyn had survived into her daughter's reign?"; where others wallow in could-a-been sentimentality, Richards takes a delightfully dispassionate view of the Boleyn mother from hell.

Anonymous said...

Mother from hell? Now you got me curious! What did Ms. Richards think she would be like?

I always thought that Anne would have been a distant but loving mother. However, my view has probably been formed by books/movies I have seen which always have a sympathic view of her.

Foose said...

Well, while scholarly opinion is divided as to whether Anne was an adulterous whore, it's pretty much unanimous that she was an attention whore - and so was Elizabeth. She seems also to have regarded an active role in state policy as her right.

Richards pictures an uneasy court where mother and daughter are aggressively competing for courtly compliments from handsome gallants, vying for fulsome diplomatic flattery, quarrelling over costumes and jewels, and inevitably elbowing each other for dominance in domestic and foreign policy, probably most in regard to Elizabeth's marriage.

I don't want to give the impression this is a huge part of the book, it's just a couple of paragraphs, but an enjoyably sharp corrective to a lot of the blather out there.

tudor princess said...

Ha, ha, Foose - your reply has given me the giggles!

Yes, I can just see Anne lapping up praise and flattery from Christopher Hatton, Henry Lee etc whilst dissing Robert Dudley ("Not good enough for you, my girl!")

Also interfering with foreign policy (favouring France over Spain) and finally, going head to head with Elizabeth over who would acquire the fabulous black pearls of Mary, Queen of Scots!

Given that Anne's Butler grandmother was around for most of her life, I think it's a credible assumption for Anne to have survived into her daughter's reign.

Anonymous said...

While it would have been better for this world, had Anne B. never set foot into the English Court, at least she was not able to spend a long life inflcting on the British people what she did to poor Queen Katharine!