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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Whiskey Lullaby and My Favorite Couple-I'll Love Her Til I Die

I came upon this video yesterday (scroll to bottom to watch video first)  while I was looking for something for a forth coming blog entry but I couldn't pass this up.  It was too beautiful not to mention.  The video goes through the lives of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and tells the story of the end of their marriage and the subsequent consequences for Henry.  My favorite scene is where they mention that Henry spent his whole life trying to forget and you get a flash of all of his wives.  Just perfect, absolute magnificence, that's all I can say.  These videos are not the easiest things to make either, I have made one.  My hat is off to those who do this so well.

But, it brings up the theory that Henry did not in fact know that Anne was not guilty, that he was totally destroyed by the idea that she had been unfaithful to him.  That perhaps he did spend his whole life trying to forget and find happiness again.  But I do not think he ever again met his equal, at least until Catherine Parr came along.  But the difference was that Catherine Parr did not want to be there and Anne did.  At least I like to believe that she did.  It would be a horrible thing to endure the life that Anne endured for a man that you did not love.

I don't claim to be a historian, in fact I want to be a fiction writer because I love the romance of the period, but my theory is that Henry was made to believe Anne had been unfaithful to her.  I think that Anne's downfall was plotted by Cromwell because Anne was getting in the way of his "reformation" of the abbeys and monasteries and all the money he was getting from these religious houses.  I think that Cromwell set it up and once the words are out, once the seed is planted in the mind, suspicion is always there.  It is true of all couples, if someone tells you that your husband or wife has been unfaithful, and that person is a trusted friend, would you not believe them or at least wonder and look into it? 

In her book "1536; The Year That Changed Henry VIII" Suzannah Lipscombe argues that this one horrible year changed Henry forever and it is a theory that I very much agree with.  In this one year Henry lost his first wife Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn lost a child, Anne herself was executed and Henry's son, Henry Fitzroy died of consumption.  All of this between January and July of that one fateful year. So much death, not to mention the commoners were getting riled up about the destruction of religious houses and about to launch the Pilgrimage of Grace, which would force Henry to execute hundreds of his people. That's a lot to deal with for one person, King or not!

I think (and this is just my personal opinion and theory) perhaps Cromwell saw that Henry was emotionally vulnerable after the death of Catherine of Aragon and the loss of Anne Boleyn's premature son.  He used this as an opportunity to plant the seeds of doubt in Henry's mind concerning Anne's love and faithfulness to him.  When Smeaton was tortured into a confession and Henry Norris confessed under duress and most likely threat of torture it was as if the evidence had been thrown right in front of him.  It was right there, undeniable, no matter what Anne claimed.  I'm sure Cromwell did not mention exactly how he got these confessions.  Anne of course denied the accusations, but there was no way Henry would believe her, especially after the Norris confession (which was later recanted) because Norris was a close friend of Henry's.  He was after all the groom of the stool, which means he got to wipe the King's behind, but it was an "honor" reserved for king's intimates alone.  It's not a job I would want, and maybe it was Henry's way of embarrassing Norris, it is rather demeaning to be honest.  But, times were different back then.  Also, Anne had had strange conversations and confrontations with both Norris and Smeaton in the days before she was arrested and I am sure that this was further evidence against her in Henry's mind.

So, Henry believes Anne has lied to him and has been unfaithful.  His Anne, the woman he broke with the church for, the woman he exiled his daughter for, the woman he alienated himself from his people for, this woman had cuckolded him?  Oh hell no!  In that instant, when he realized how humiliated he was going to be his love for Anne turned into a white-hot hatred.  That is the only way I can understand passionate love turning to violent hatred so quickly.  They had been arguing and things were not great between them, but Henry still loved her. He even forced Chapuys to acknowledge her only the week before her arrest.  Why would he do that if he was not planning on keeping her around? 

We all know the rest of the story, Anne is arrested and executed.  But what about the aftermath?  I don't care how hard Henry tried to hide it there had to be emotional fallout.  He had killed his one great love, his intellectual equal, his soul mate.  Her supposed betrayal of him had to wreak some sort of havoc in his head.  That sort of thing does not leave a person, it festers.  I am sure that for the rest of his life he looked upon his wives with an unyielding suspicion.  Katherine Howard gave him good reason to and I am sure it got even worse after that.  His paranoia and tyranny in his later years is well known.  He would have had Catherine Parr arrested if she had not intercepted a message about the plot and gotten to Henry first.  If Anne had infiltrated Cromwell's coup would it have made a difference?  Probably, after all, his accusations against her were false and easily proven so and Anne was a woman who seemed to hold sway over people, especially her husband. 

At this point in their marriage though, she was afraid she was losing her grip on him.  She had caught him cheating with Jane Seymour and had become so hysterical that she miscarried the child she was carrying only hours later.  If she found out that Cromwell was trying to get rid of her after this I can only imagine the scene that would have ensued between Anne and Henry.  It would have been explosive and who knows, Henry might have been angry enough to let Cromwell go about his business.  But I doubt it.  Henry loved Anne, even at the end.  His hiring of a French swordsman for her execution instead of using an English headsman was, to me, his last gesture of love and mercy.  He even delayed the execution when the swordsman was stuck in Calais overnight.  He could have just had the tower executioner go forward and been done with it.  But he didn't.  Perhaps he didn't hate her as much as he claimed.
Henry had all evidence of Anne obliterated after her death, as if he did not want to remember anything about her because if he did, he would have to face what he had done.  Even if he did believe her guilty of infidelity he did not just exile her, he killed her.  I think all of the other heartbreaks, on top of this one just caused him to flip his wig.  But no matter how badly he wanted to forget her, I don't think he ever did.  Elisabeth looked just like her, he had to have seen it.  We see him seeing it in "The Tudors" and I am sure that scene was repeated many times in his life.  I hope thoughts of Anne followed him and tormented him for the rest of his life.  I would bet big money that they did, too bad we can't prove it!

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