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Catherine_Aragon_Henri_VIII_Wikipedia

R.I.P. – 16 December 1485 – 7 January 1536

I will light a candle for this dear lady tonight. She was a descendant of John of Gaunt – as are we.

Most queens were glorified breeders; prince mills. This princess’ parents raised their girl with love and honor. They were the power couple of their time – Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain.

Katherine was Catholic, pious and fully prepared to do all that her new Tudor family asked. She had a terrifying journey from Spain to England – and then Prince Arthur died within months of the wedding. His father the king had promised her parents he would treat her as his own child – but he began to treat her as a bargaining chip.

She didn’t fit in on her own. She wore funny clothes and didn’t know how to dance and laugh. Her fate in that strange new land was in his hands and he wasn’t certain she was the best bride for his spare heir. Best bride, of course, meant whichever alliance would yield the most money and power.

Katherine was on the short list because she had already been shipped in by her parents, Henry wouldn’t have to pay her travel expenses. On the downside, if he found a better bride, he would have to return her dowry.

Yes, he was that cheap.

When her parents’ stars began to fade, he sent her to live “in rags” over the stables with not enough money for food nor funds to pay her servants.

When Henry died of tuberculosis, not many mourned. In Cassell’s Illustrated History of England, William Howitt states: “While his father [Henry VII] had strengthened the throne, he had made himself extremely unpopular. The longer he lived the more the selfish meanness and the avarice of his character had become conspicuous and excited the disgust of his subjects.”

After the king’s death, his mother – Lady Margaret Beaufort – chose counselors for her grandson, including our Henry Wyatt; and Katherine found her first (and last) years of true happiness. Henry VIII was a kind and loving husband for a time; but she was older than Henry. Through all the miscarriages she was only able to produce one living princess – not a prince. Henry could barely conceal his disappointment.

Menopause came early in those days. When it was obvious Katherine could not produce a son, the king set his sights on Anne Boleyn. Note that while Queen Katherine was losing Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas was losing Anne Boleyn to his friend Henry VIII. At least our Sir Tom had the good sense to step aside.

He wrote …

Whoso List to Hunt

Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, hélas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
Sithens in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I may spend his time in vain.
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am
,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.

Katherine’s days as wife and queen were numbered. Towards the end of 1527 she commanded Wyatt to translate Petrarch’s “remedy of yll ‘fortune’ – or Book II of De remediis utriusque fortunae. It was a massive undertaking that contained 132 dialogues. He completed some of it before deciding to substitute Plutarch’s short essay The Quiet of Mind instead. This would be his holiday gift to the queen.

His signature states that with her encouragement this work might lead “this hande / towarde better enterprises.” He dated it “the last day of Decembre. M.D. XXVII” and presented it to her as a New Year’s gift.

According to Patricia Thomson, author of Sir Thomas Wyatt and His Background, “This was indeed a poignant moment in Catherine’s life, to which both the work she commissioned of Wyatt and the one she got are appropriate.”

Thompson also suggests that “it is quite possible that, coming at this moment, Wyatt’s learned offering marks his swift revulsion of feeling against Anne’s values and in favour of those for which Catherine stood.”

Sir Thomas fell in love with Katherine’s servant, Mistress Elizabeth Darrell. They would be together until his end.

Henry VIII wanted a divorce so he could marry Anne. He hoped Katherine would be compliant – he needed her to be accepting because he feared angering her nephew, Emperor Charles VI. When Katherine stood her ground, Henry viciously destroyed her from within. He prevented her from seeing her only child and sent her to ever distant, colder, damper castles. Katherine wrote her nephew the Emperor:

‘My tribulations are so great, my life so disturbed by the plans daily invented to further the king’s wicked intention, the surprises which the king gives me, with certain persons of his council, are so mortal, and my treatment is what God knows, that it is enough to shorten ten lives, much more mine.’

In May of 1534 Katherine was sent to Kimbolton Castle, where she became a prisoner in the southwest corner. She spent most of her time in prayer and was attended by a few loyal servants – including Lady Darrell; Katherine left her £200 for her marriage, “though none was in prospect.”

(Henry VIII was malicious in preventing Lady Darrell from receiving the funds; she finally received them from Queen Mary after his death.)

“When Catherine’s body was cut open for embalming, the undertakers discovered that her heart had turned black, with a hideous growth on the outside. De la Sa was certain she had been poisoned and the accusation was later used against Anne Boleyn. But no one had access to the queen except for her most faithful ladies. Modern medical historians are certain she died of cancer. Its’ interesting in the light of current ‘new age’ thinking about the relationship between illnesses people get and their emotional condition: Catherine of Aragon died of something very close to a broken heart.” From Karen Lindsey’s Divorced Beheaded Survived; a feminist reinterpretation of the wives of Henry VIII

Henry found Anne Boleyn was more willful than Katherine – and just as unlikely to produce a male heir. I’ve read that Anne thought her life was in danger so long as Katherine was alive; the opposite was probably true. He couldn’t discard her because the emperor would
expect him to take his aunt back.

When Katherine died, Anne was condemned (through treachery) and Henry had already found her replacement. She was waiting in the wings. He nearly slipped the ring on her finger as the French swordsman sliced Anne’s head off her little neck.

Henry arrogantly assumed he was in a favorable position to reopen the lines of communication with the emperor. So guess who he sent as ambassador. Can you imagine calling upon the Holy Roman Emperor on behalf of the monster who killed his aunt?

I can’t.

Please join us on Facebook – Sir Thomas Wyatt the Poet

(This was mostly from memory – and opinion – so please write if you note errors.)

 

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