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Catherine Howard
A strumpet in the finest tradition, Catherine Howard was a rather silly, vivacious girl of nineteen when her uncle the Duke of Norfolk tossed her into Henry's lap. Unlike her cousin Anne Boleyn before her, Catherine was apparently guilty of the "crimes" attributed to her, having galavanted about with some lad named Culpepper both before and after her marriage to Henry, for which she was tried and beheaded. The youngest and prettiest of Henry's brides, she was wedded at a buxom 19 to a fat, doting, cantankerous Henry. We can hardly blame her for seeking comfort and refuge elsewhere. What we can blame her for is for being daft enough to get caught.

On Sunday evening, 12 February 1542, she was told that she was to die the following day. She merely asked for the block to be brought to the apartment, so that she might rehearse the scene, so as not to falter or appear nervous at the crucial moment on the following day.

Anne Boleyn: The Midnight Crow, 1501-1536

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Anne Boleyn
18th Century
Anne Boleyn had the misfortune of being both bewitching (though not beautiful) and conspicuously intelligent, with a complex personality which brings to mind a sort of proto Scarlett O'Hara. For six years she dangled her prize in front of Henry, never fully surrendering until the crown was in clear view. In 1532 she gave Henry what he so dearly wished, and quickly became pregnant with the future Elizabeth I. In a secret ceremony, with only a couple witneses, Henry married her. Reason being, is that he was still married to his first wife, Katherine of Aragorn, his marriage to whom the Pope refused to annul (for political reasons, the Pope was being held political hostage at the time by Katherine's nephew, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor). But nevermind that, said Henry, and promptly cut all ties to Rome. After the birth of Elizabeth Anne miscarried two male children, and while was not the sole reason for his ultimate displeasure (Anne was not making friends at court), had she had a male heir it is highly doubtful he would have casted her off. In 1536 charges of adultery were trumped up against her, involving several of Henry's closest friends and even the Lord Rochford, Anne's own brother. In a court of her peers, she had no chance. After three years as queen, Anne was to die.

Henricus Rex

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Henry VIII
by Hans Holbein
A popular rhyme describing Henry's marital follies:

Divorced, Beheaded, Died
Divorced, Beheaded, Survived

La folie, indeed.

Beneath the Tudor Axe

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Anne Boleyn in The Tower
The sixteenth century women were entering the sphere of politics like never before. Queens would inherit, and consorts would rule. But hand in hand with the privilege of politics, are also the dangers. And in monarchial governments, where personal loyalties and frail egos steer the course of political intrigue, dissent and distrust can cost you your life.

Tudor England (1483 - 1603) saw two queens inherit the throne for the first time in four hundred years, and a parade of influential consorts slip in and out of Henry Tudor's bed. Unfortunately, the only way to get out of bed with Henry, was through your grave, all too often not by natural causes.

From the feisty Anne Boleyn, who ensared Henry's affection, and thus was the catalyst for the English Reformation, the rambunctiously silly Catherine Howard, the bookish & timid Jane Grey, to the final rose in our crown, the bright, witty, passionately compulsive, and ultimately fatal, Mary Stuart Queen of Scots, All marched to the scaffold with dignity, as custom and religion demanded (well, perhaps except for Catherine Howard), in the end thanking and praising their Sovereign and executioner for the privilege of dying.

Anne Boleyn was the first English queen to die under the axe, and Mary Stuart (though Queen of Scotland) was the last.

Fun Link: TudorHistory.org! Happy clicking. Bright and fun to read, wonderful pictures and good selection of portraits with lots of juicy tidbits. Awesome time-killer!

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