I’ve been watching The Tudors for the last few days. I actually own the entire series on DVD but haven’t finished watching it. The reason being that this show is both awesome and the bane of my existence. I love the show, itself. The very content is so fascinating and I love that they made a show based on one of the greatest reigns in English history. However, the reason I have a hard time sitting down and just watching it is because the historical inaccuracy drives me absolutely buggers. One of the time periods that my historically obsessed mind is all about is the reign of the Tudors, from Henry VIII through to Elizabeth I. So, watching this show and seeing the horribly huge-eye-normace and gross inaccuracies sets my teeth on edge. However, I know that the writer of the series was not asked for a historically accurate show but a kind of sex-filled melodrama, of which this time period is rife with it. Still, I can appreciate the sexy bodies as much as the next woman, but I still find myself ranting and raving (quite often) about how this didn’t happen then and how Henry doesn’t look fat and gross like he did in life and and and. I actually had a couple of blog entries in an old journal discussing the historical inaccuracies. But, really, as I’m watching this one thing comes to mind:
Why the fuck didn’t he just bide his fucking time?
Now, I completely understand what Henry was after. He was after a living, breathing son to continue the family line. This was one of the most important things a man could do with his life back then. (Sometimes, it still is as Chinese abhorrence of female children comes to mind.) It was his immortality. The King felt that he needed a son.
The English realm didn’t necessarily have the female inheritance issues from Salic law. This particular little law comes from the Frankish kings. In effect, it said that if you had an XY genetic code, then you could inherit lands. And if you had more than one living son at the time of your death, then your land was cut up into portions to be handed out to each of the male children in the line. The female children were given a tithe, if anything, at the death of their fathers. Sometimes, if they were unmarried, then money would be set aside for dowries and land dowries could be added to this, but primarily, female children were considered less than men in Frankish law. In England, a woman could inherit. A woman could rule. This was born out in the fact that Empress Matilda was the sole heir of Henry I of England. However, her rule was overshadowed by The Anarchy, a civil war between her and Stephen of Blois, who had himself crowned as king of England. It seems to be the fact that war broke out during the last woman’s reign that made the English so nervous.
And an Englishman knows and remembers his history!
So, I can understand why he was so pressed “by his conscience.” The thing is that Katharine of Aragon ended up dying in 1536, the year he had Anne beheaded for “treason.” She died of what current physicians believe was a heart tumor. “The rumours were born after the apparent discovery during her embalming that there was a black growth on her heart…” (Source: Wiki.) Now, I know that it was a long time coming for him to finally have a living breathing son, but his sole heir was born the next year and ended up dying young anyway. I honestly believe that his lack of children was probably due to a genetic incompatibility – a theory that I’ve been harboring considering my lack of pregnancy with my ex-husband (thankfully). In effect, men and women can get together but their genetics aren’t compatible enough to actually formulate a viable pregnancy. Sometimes, men and women can get together and actually begin to have children, but the whole thing ends in miscarriages or children that do not live long. (Both of which are rife in the married lives of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon.) The two were supremely lucky in having any child survive.
But there’s a general thing that all of Henry’s children have in common – ill health. Edward was small and sickly. Elizabeth was the heartiest of the three, possibly because of who her mother was. It’s possible that Elizabeth inherited both of her parents’ iron wills. Mary was also small and sickly. It’s possible that the Tudor genetic line was not as hale as it was made out to be. (We’ll never know since Henry VII was the only child of Margaret of Beaufort by her Tudor husband, who ended up dying during one of the numerous battles during the War of the Roses.) So, it’s possible that he wasn’t really supposed to have healthy children to begin with. (I harbor the secret belief that if Elizabeth had gotten married and had children, she probably would have died in child bed.)
But say that he had bided his time until Katherine died. I often think that he probably would have been given a brood of children after that fact. Perhaps he would have had to find another wife since, if he had chosen Anne then, her fertility was rapidly approaching an end. Besides, I strongly believe that the sole reason they had the one living child was because of the RH factor that they didn’t know about back then. (Come on! They had one living child and two or three miscarriages immediately thereafter? It makes more sense than Anne being a harlot and a witch.) Perhaps he would have gone straight for Jane Seymour. A theory as to why he found her so alluring was because she reminded him of Katherine of Aragon with her kindness and piety. And the English sure did love her as their queen, more than Anne Boleyn. She probably still would have died with child bed fever anyway. But mayhap, he would have found another to take her place who was hearty and hale. And had his brood.
The thing is that when I think of this particular historical enigma, I tend to think of it in terms of “fated.” While the whole matter is so engrossing and titillating in its constant mystery, I have to think that what came about was what was fated to come about. The reason being because of the inevitable reformation of the English church. It may have been Henry’s son who did the whole reformation process (and went about it incorrectly because his devotion to his beliefs were as strict as his sister, Mary’s to Catholicism), but I think that was something that was bound to happen. I think it was supposed to happen. Prior to Henry’s reformation, the only peoples in the whole of Europe who were following the Calvinist and Lutheran ideals were from Germanic states… the Netherlands, Hungary, Switzerland, Scandinavia, etc. And I think that the schism in the beliefs and spiritual practices of the major religious players in Europe was fated to happen.
But really. What do I know?
I’m just a girl that’s obsessed with history.