Monday, June 19, 2017

Question from Tanya - Henry regretting outcomes of marriages

I have become seriously interested in King Henry VIII and his relationships with his wives in the last year or so being confined to bedrest whilst I was pregnant. I have done quite a bit of research and haven't came across this question yet in anything I've read or listened to.

Were there any wives that Henry VIII regretted the outcome?

Also, did Lady Jane Rochford's confession on her execution day about her previous remarks upon the accusations of the incestuous relations between George and Anne ever get back to Henry and did it change Henry's thoughts towards his past relationships with his wives?


PhD Historian said...

This question highlights an issue that comes up often in relation to historical research and writing: the issue of personal thoughts and emotions. Historians are often asked what some historical person may have thought about an event, or how they “felt” in relation to a particular set of circumstances. The simple truth is that we very seldom know. It is exceedingly rare to find documentary evidence in the historical archives that might reveal a person’s thoughts or feelings. Such sentiments were never recorded in governmental and bureaucratic documents, yet those types of documents constitute a huge proportion of what has survived. But even when personal letters or journals have survived from the sixteenth century, they rarely contain explicit statements by their authors that might reveal their emotional state or internal thought processes. Direct prose expressions of emotion and internal thoughts were simply not part of sixteenth-century social or literary culture (art and literature were used instead to express oneself in a more indirect manner). And because those records are so exceedingly rare, I simply cannot imagine anyone from the period, much less someone like Henry VIII, having written, “I regret that” or “I thought x, y, and z.”

Instead, the best we can hope for is to attempt to piece together some kind of very tentative suggestion of a person’s emotional state based on their actions. And I think if we look carefully at Henry VIII’s actions in relation to each of his six marriages, we can find some evidence of regret among at least four of them: Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, and Katherine Howard. That he chose to be buried next to Jane Seymour suggests that he did *not* regret that marriage. And he seems not to have regretted marrying his last wife, Katherine Parr. In contrast, the circumstantial evidence indicates that he *did* regret marrying Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard, though in the former case regret seems to have evolved over time into a type of genuine affection. Henry’s later attitudes toward Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn are a little more complicated to assess.

Ally said...

The story about Lady Rochford confessing on the scaffold to perjury is apocryphal; nor is there any evidence that she had anything to do with the incest accusations against Anne and George. The myth of Lady Rochford being a snake in the grass came about due to George's statement at his trial, something like "on the basis of one woman's testimony, you are prepared to accuse me of such a crime". Popular history has made this "one woman" out to be his wife, but it's only supposition. Jane Rochford has been unfairly maligned for much of history, and it's only recently that historians are beginning to rehabilitate her image.

Unknown said...

Thank you!