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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Henry VIII, Sadistic Killer, Nutjob, or Your Average Every Day King?

  This post is about Henry and Anne.  I think we look at their situation and many of us see the same old story, he got tired of her, he beheaded her, blah blah blah.  There are funny songs written about it, parodies done by musicians at Ren faires, but who really stops to think about this?  I think many times even historians look at it from a purely historical perspective and stick to the facts, speculation is left out and left to novelists, and even they fail to capture the raw emotion and the confusing events that surround the death of this woman, for that's what she was, not just a queen, not a living embodiment of evil, not a martyr, she was a person, a girl who grew to womanhood in a swirl of intrigue and rivalry.  Who was Henry?  I read a comment in a USA Today article on "The Tudors" that said that Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were not the great people we think they were, they were vicious killers.  True, they were, and so were most world leaders, and are they not today?  Do they not hide behind agencies like the KGB or the CIA, or not hide at all like Saddam Hussein?  The question I asked my husband this morning was "Do you think power corrupts or do you think that the only people crazy enough to take power, to fight for it, were nuts to begin with?  Interesting question isn't it?  Though I am sure that Anne Boleyn would not have liked to think of her daughter as a vicious killer.  Some would say that to be a ruler you must make hard choices, and this is true.  All potential competitors to the throne had to be eliminated, especially in times of unrest.  Hundreds of years before Henry ruled England the real MacBeth did not kill Duncan's children, he allowed them to escape to England.  He realized his mistake when Duncan's son came for him, killed him, and took the throne of Scotland.  Pity and mercy could mean the downfall of a ruler in this time so it's hard to say if kings and queens regretted killing or not. 
 What could possibly make Henry hate Anne so much?  Hate her enough to have her executed?  He fought to marry her for ten years, changed the religion of his country, had some of his closest friends killed or disgraced.  Poor Wolsey, his chief advisor, disgraced because he could not convince the church to grant Henry a divorce so that he could marry Anne.  Thomas More executed because he would not recognize Henry as head of the church.  Is this part of it?  Did the killing of his friends somehow make him think that it was nothing to see his wife executed as well?  Did he blame her for these deaths when really, it was his choice?  Wolsey died a natural death, although it was no doubt hurried along by his being banished from court.  At the end of his life Henry had executed so many people, including two of his wives.  He had signed an arrest warrent for his last wife, Katherine Parr, but it was dropped and was picked up by one of her ladies who quickly brought it to her.  She was able to change Henry's mind, something no other woman had managed to do.  Was he tired of killing?  Was he mad by then?  I think he was mad for much of his life, maybe not when he was younger, but certainly by the time he had Anne executed.  When his third wife Jane died he stayed in mourning and even went crazy enough during this time to think that he could rewrite the ten commandments, a fact that Michael Hirst, screenwriter for "The Tudors" put into the show.  Henry is buried beside his third wife Jane, I've stood on top of their graves.  A pity the great passion of his life Anne was stuffed into an arrow box and buried beneath the chapel floor in the tower.

But the question remains, why did he have Anne put to death?  Their relationship is known to have been stormy, Chapuys wrote that "sunshine followed storm, followed sunshine," if this is true then how great were the storms?  How much rage was spewed out between them?  What was said that could not be forgotten or taken back?  His treatment of her after her last miscarriage was terrible, when, not bothering to hide his rage and disappointment he stalked out of her room telling her he would "speak to her when she was up."  Her failure to bare a son surely contributed to the downfall of their relationship, but it's not enough reason to kill someone.  Did he believe the charges against her?  Such hatred is often borne of intense love gone wrong.  Perhaps his hurt turned to rage.  Really, we'll never know.  This post has gone on long enough.  I got a little off track.  More tomorrow I think.  Enjoy this video and decide was he crazy or not after all that blood was spilled?  I love these videos and the music, so I can't resist posting them!

Anne Boleyn by Joanna Denny
The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir


  1. That video was really well done!

  2. Yeah, whoever made it did an amazing job.