Soap Operas of the Tudors

"You Know Whom I Hate? That Anne Boleyn."

Apparently she was not popular with the ladies of late-Tudor England.

Many years of happy marriage to Henry followed, more than he would enjoy with any of his subsequent wives. But Catherine failed to give Henry the healthy son he wanted. Contrary to myth, the king had male heirs (his nephews). As Anne Boleyn's biographer Eric Ives once observed to me, with Henry the desire for a son was all about his codpiece, and what lay behind it, rather than the Tudor succession and national stability. A male heir from his own loins was a symbol of his manhood, and when Catherine passed childbearing age without giving him one, he was determined to have their marriage annulled. He insisted that he had broken a biblical injunction in marrying his brother's wife, and that the papal dispensation was invalid. Henry did not approve of divorce and would never do so.

Tremlett's account of the subsequent battle of wills between the spouses is gripping. Catherine emerges as an extraordinary character, well deserving of a full-length biography. There is something fascinating and chilling in the detail that even as Henry humiliated Catherine and moved to have their daughter made a bastard, she was always seen smiling and was exquisitely polite to Henry. They would dine together, and at times he even visited her private rooms. With formidable discipline she continued to show him the comfortable familiarity of the affectionate partnership they had once enjoyed, while absolutely refusing to give him the annulment he wanted. In this she had public support.

Henry's mistress Anne Boleyn was the Camilla Parker Bowles to Catherine's People's Princess. Women in particular were vociferous in their hatred....
That seems reasonable, doesn't it? The pair must have seemed the very emblem of a husband discarding a long-time faithful wife for a younger woman. Since expressing disgust with the King was treason... well, that really left one option.

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