Tuesday, 2 February 2010

ABC Wednesday Round 6 C

C is for Catherine, Catherine and Catherine, variously spelt among others as Catharine, Katharine, Katherine, Katheryn – spelling wasn't standardised in Tudor times . . .
Henry VIII had six wives, three of whom were called Catherine. British children learning about the Tudors are taught a mnemonic to remember the order, names and fates of the unfortunate women chosen to be taken in marriage by the ever-fascinating King of England who reigned from 1509 until his death in 1547 at the age of 55, an advanced age for that time. The mnemonic runs, 'Divorced, beheaded, survived, divorced, beheaded, survived.' Of the three Catherines, one was divorced, one beheaded and the last survived.
Catherine of Aragon, the Spanish princess, was first married to Henry's older brother and after his death to Henry. After 24 years of marriage and only one surviving child, a daughter, Henry, desperate to father a living son and heir, sought to annul the union and, refused permission by the Pope, effectively founded the Church of England over which he assumed supremacy. Anglicans are commonly known as Protestants. To this day the reigning sovereign is recognised as Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
Catherine of Aragon refused to accept the annulment and considered herself the King's rightful wife and Queen until she died in 1535.

This Royal Doulton figurine of Catherine of Aragon was designed by P Parsons and issued in 1990 in the series 'Six Wives of Henry VIII'
Henry's second Catherine, his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, was probably in her early twenties when Henry noticed her at court and became enamoured. They were married in 1540 when Henry was around 48, corpulent and increasingly afflicted by various ailments, including a festering ulcer on his leg. Henry's frantic urge to produce a son who might be stronger than poor Edward had led him to suppose that a young woman could have a better chance of delivering a healthy boy. Catherine Howard was repelled by her husband's marital advances and sought light relief with the younger male courtier Thomas Culpeper. Ultimately, she was accused of treason – meaning adultery, which she never admitted – and was beheaded in 1542.
Catherine Howard, issued in 1992
The last Catherine, Catherine Parr, had already been married and widowed twice by the time she caught Henry's eye. Although she had wished to continue a relationship with Sir Thomas Seymour it was impossible to refuse the King's will and Henry married her in 1543. When he died in 1547 she married for the fourth and last time to her chosen love, Lord Seymour of Sudeley, the former Sir Thomas Seymour. She died of puerperal fever a year later aged 36, six days after giving birth to a daughter.
Catherine Parr, also issued in 1992
Who would be a King's wife?

Thank you to the organisers of this meme for hosting this meme. To see more Cs please click here.


  1. Very informative. Our royalty has a most colourful past.
    You'll find mine here.

  2. Terrific post! Love the history! Old Henry was a busy guy! Beautiful Royal Doulton figures and your photos are lovely! Have a lovely evening!


  3. I could never keep the Catherines straight.
    Unfortunately, I think the creation of the Church of England in that manner tended to create a certain antipathy towards faith, because it's too tied to state, not unlike more modern theocracies.

    On behalf of the ABC Wednesday team, thank you!

  4. A wonderful post! I read much of that particular history when I was younger but had forgotten some pertinent pieces. This is a concise narrative and the photographs of the figurines are superb!

  5. Thanks for the history lesson, and the figurines. Catherine is a wonderful name!

  6. Who indeed would be a king's wife. Will Camilla regret it?

  7. OOh, does Catherine Parr have a little greyhound? Looks like it could be!

    I would have thought it was a thing to be dreaded in those days, to catch the king's eye.

  8. The Catherine Parr figure is very natural, love the red. She probably thought she had a lucky escape, shame she only lived another year. Thank goodness for modern hospitals.

  9. Very original C choice, and an interesting overview of the history of Henry's wives. I'd forgotten that there were 3 Catherines!

  10. Even though they were married to a king, their lives were hard. I'm glad I live NOW!

  11. A wonderful history lesson and a great refresher course. Thanks for the very interesting post. I like those figurines very much too.


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