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Monday, May 17, 2010

When You're 15, or 17, or 22...

In my last post I discussed the death of Katherine Howard, Henry VIII's 17 year-old fifth queen.  I think, in previous posts I have been rather hard on the girl, calling her frivolous, which she was, and undignified.  I think though, I have been guilty of the sin I railed against my own mother for, forgetting what it's like to be young.  Although this girl was totally unfit to be queen at 17, she was just that, only 17.  She was a young girl coming into what was not a young court.  Perhaps if she had been Henry's first queen, when he was but 17 himself it would have been different.  Henry filled his court with young and interesting people.  He patronized musicians and entertainers and spent loads of money on lavish feasts and dances.  How I think Katherine would have loved being his wife at that time and how I think she would have enjoyed this court much more than the one she presided over.  Instead she was the wife of an aging, fat man with a festering leg in a court that was not so bright as it once was.  I think it was still a magical and malicious place but it no longer held the glimmer of youth.

So many monarchs came to the throne at a young age, Juana of Castile married Felipe the Fair at the age of 16, he was all of 17.  How can a girl so young approach marriage to a young handsome man without falling totally in love with him?  She fell a little too in love and went mad after his death but, so did her grandmother.  When I think back to myself at 17 what did I know?  I thought I knew everything and I got into loads of trouble but if I had been queen would it have been different?  The answer is no, I don't think so, not so much.  Youth does not bypass someone just because they are slated to be a monarch, or are thrust into the situation as Katherine Howard was.  She thrived on the thrill of meeting Culpepper in private, she loved keeping secrets and she loved being in love.  When young girls fall in love they do so wholeheartedly, their entire world revolves around the object of their affection, there is no one else.  This I remember.  Poor Katherine Howard, her love was forbidden to her, and like most teenagers, whatever is forbidden only becomes more attractive.  Most of us, however, don't have to pay the ultimate price for it.  It's like the song says "When you're 15, and somebody tells you they love you, you're gonna believe them.  I didn't know who I was supposed to be at 15."  Or at 17, or at 22, that's why young monarchs make so many mistakes.  Henry VIII executed many of his father's advisers, why?  Because he could mostly.   He married a woman several years older than himself never thinking of the future, not such a great idea in the end.  Poor Katherine Howard believed Culpepper loved her, and maybe he did, we'll really never know.  She didn't know who she was supposed to be either, she was a lonely girl left to her own devices for much of her life, suddenly told she was to be queen.  She had no idea what that really meant or what was expected of her.  She was much deceived I do believe.

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