Thursday, December 07, 2006

Hello, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. I apologize for not posting last week – I had originally made plans to, but circumstances here made it absolutely impossible for me to sit down and write out an entire episode. With that, here we are this week, embarking on our next adventure into the mists of Britain – the life, reign, and death of one of England’s greatest kings.
“In the wet summer of 1491, on the eve of St. Peter’s Day, 28 June, Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Edward IV, the sister of the ‘princes in the Tower,’ the wife and Queen of Henry VII, gave birth to her third child, who became King Henry VIII.”
This line, from Jasper Ridley’s Henry VIII, states simply what would come to change England forever. The birth of this monarch signified a new era in royal power – an era in which Henry would enjoy absolute and unquestioned authority. The son of Henry VII was baptised a few days later in the church of the Franciscan Observants at Greenwich (the location of the Palace of Placentia, where the child was born) by Richard Foxe, bishop of Exeter, in a baptismal font brought to Greenwich from Canterbury. Two years later, young Henry was appointed Constable of Dover Castle and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports in Kent and Sussex. In the following year, 1494, Henry was made Duke of York, and later Earl Marshal of England and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
In 1501, Henry found himself attending a wedding that would prove to be a foreshadowing of his own future. His father, Henry VII, had long desired an alliance with Spain before even his son Henry’s birth. As such, he had arranged a marriage between Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain’s daughter Catherine of Aragon and his son Arthur. The agreement to marry the two upon reaching an appropriate age was signed in 1488, three years before the future Duke of York’s birth. It was thus that at the age of 10 or 11 Henry was at his brother Arthur’s wedding at London’s St. Paul’s cathedral. This wedding, already important enough to the Tudor dynasty which Henry VII had founded in that it forged a type of alliance with Spain, would be the cause of a world-changing religious upheaval in later years. For now, however, Henry simply had a 16-year-old sister-in-law, the wife of his 15-year-old brother Arthur.
Arthur and his new Spanish wife headed off to Wales after the wedding in an attempt to quiet trouble in the area. Arthur‘s time there would be short lived – he died in 1502 of an illness that some of his contemporaries called consumption.
With Arthur’s death, his brother Henry took his title Duke of Cornwall, and was created Prince of Wales on 18 February 1503 – a week after his mother Elizabeth’s death on her 38th birthday. Plans were immediately put into place for Henry’s marriage to the new widow Catherine – Henry VII may have lost a son, but he still needed an alliance with Spain. However, there was one problem in this situation; that problem is called affinity. Historically, affinity was a concept in the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church (and, to some extent, still is today) defined by the New Advent Catholic Encyclopaedia as “A relationship arising from the carnal intercourse of a man and a woman, sufficient for the generation of children, whereby the man becomes related to the woman's blood-relatives and the woman to the man's. If this intercourse is between husband and wife, this relationship extends to the fourth degree of consanguinity, and the degree of affinity coincides with that of blood relationship.” If Arthur consummated his marriage to Catherine, a dispensation from the pope would be necessary to allow Henry to marry his brother’s widow. The interesting thing here is that Catherine vehemently denied that she ever committed the carnal act with Arthur – according to her, the marriage was never consummated. Even if affinity wasn’t an issue, there was still the lesser problem of “public honesty.”
On 23 June 1503, the agreement between Henry VII and Ferdinand and Isabella, rulers of Spain, that his son the Prince of Wales was to marry their daughter, Catherine of Aragon, was signed. Ferdinand and Isabella were to pay a sum of 100,000 scudos, in addition to the 100,000 already paid for the marriage to Arthur, as Catherine’s dowry. The agreement further assumed that Arthur and Catherine’s marriage had been consummated, and therefore asked the pope for a dispensation. From Ridley’s book, we read “When Ferdinand heard about this, he was surprised, for he said it was well-known in England that the marriage had not been consummated and that Catherine was still a virgin. But he did not alter the wording of the marriage treaty, and ordered that his ambassador in Rome to ask the pope for a dispensation on the assumption that the marriage had been consummated.” The newly elected Pope Julius II granted the dispensation on 26 December 1503 and sent the papal bull containing his dispensation the following October. Henry, Prince of Wales, was now free to marry Catherine of Aragon.
Now is where the story gets really interesting. I know that I for one have a bit of trouble following genealogies, and I thought I’d warn you because that’s exactly what we’re about to get into. Keep in mind the transcript of this is on my blog so you can go back and check the details later; for now, “go with the flow,” as it were. I’ve already borrowed quite a bit from Ripley’s book on Henry; I believe he puts the situation best, and so he writes, “But there was a hitch in the negotiations for Henry’s marriage to Catherine. In November 1504 Queen Isabella died. The throne of Castile passed to the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, Joanna, who was on the verge of becoming insane. Ferdinand continued to act as ruler of Castile as well as of Aragon as Regent for his mad daughter; but her husband, Duke Philip of Habsburg, who was the son of the Emperor Maximilian and his regent in the Netherlands, claimed the throne of Castile for him and her. The quarrel between Philip and Ferdinand made Henry VII reluctant to marry his son to Ferdinand’s daughter; for he began to consider the possibility of making an alliance with Maximilian and the Habsburgs by marrying his daughter Mary to the infant son of Philip and Joanna, Prince Charles of Castile, who later became the Emperor Charles V. The trade between England and the Netherlands made any ruler of Burgundy a more desirable ally than the King of Aragon.”
Basically, all this mess boils down to this: Henry VII began to rethink the wisdom of marrying his son off to Catherine – perhaps a Tudor alliance with Maximilian would be more beneficial. The King of England thus orchestrated a technical move in an attempt to get himself out of the contract uniting his son and Catherine – the Prince of Wales went before the Bishop of Winchester and the King’s Council, declaring that the marriage contract had been made while he was underage. Making his protest on the day before his 14th birthday, he refused to ratify the contract upon reaching the appropriate age and therefore the contract was worthless.
January of 1506 saw Philip and his wife Joanna sail for Spain from the Netherlands with 3,000 German mercenaries. They were blown ashore by storms onto the English coast, and Philip soon found himself being entertained by King Henry, with whom he made a treaty of alliance. This would later anger Ferdinand of Spain so much that he would decide to stop even trying to marry his daughter to Prince Henry; however, when he requested that the King of England send his daughter back, Henry refused.
The King of England’s later years were riddled with health scares. He became almost fatally ill in the spring of 1507, recovering only to fall ill again in February 1508. He seemed to rally but again lost his health in July of the same year. The final blow would be dealt on 24 March 1509, when Henry VII collapsed. He made his will on 31 March; on 20 April, the Prince of Wales rushed to his dying father’s bedside. England’s king would live only for another 27 hours, during which time his son would later claim his father had asked him to go ahead and marry Catherine of Aragon. It was in such a condition that Henry VII died on 21 April 1509. The crown immediately passed to his son, the Prince of Wales, who became King Henry VIII, King of England, King of France, and Lord of Ireland.
This is where we’ll stop for this week. I’m treating Henry VIII in the same style as the Battle of Hastings; that is, there’s so much material that it’d be much easier to digest if we split it up into several parts. Anyone with a bit of familiarity with British history knows that Henry VIII caused quite the turmoil between his many wives, and therefore we will start on that band of the king’s women next week.
I have a huge thank you to send out with this episode. Last Monday, I received an email from Mr. John Lu. John has been a webmaster for several different employers, and after hearing about my URL woes with the British History 101 blog, he has VERY graciously bought the domain name and forwarded it to the blog! From here on out, if you would like to check out the transcripts for each episode, you need only type in, and it will direct you straight to my blog. Thank you so much, John – I was very dissatisfied with the way I had to address the blog, and this solves many problems for me. Again, thank you!
That’s it for this week. If you’d like to check out a transcript of this and past episodes of my podcast, I am proud to say you can now head over to for current and archived content. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to Our music tonight is “Cominciamento di Gloia,” performed by Shira Kammen and available on Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. I very much appreciate everyone taking time out of their week to learn with me, and my best to you all. Thanks again, and we’ll meet again soon.

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