Monday, August 8, 2011

The Fifth Bride

Gareth Russell supplies the back story to Henry VIII's fifth wedding.
With all legal impediments now removed, the forty-nine year-old king could proceed with his marriage to a girl who was almost young enough to be his granddaughter by contemporary standards. At the time of his fifth marriage, Henry VIII was grossly overweight, increasingly temperamental, secretive, paranoid and the ulcer on his leg that he had incurred during a riding accident in 1536 had never properly healed over. Physically, he could not be described as anything other than terrifying and, to the eyes of someone as young and looks-conscious as Catherine, quite possibly disgusting as well. Catherine, for her part, cannot have been much older than seventeen at the time she married him and was quite possibly as young as fifteen. The daughter of an impoverished younger son of the mighty Howard clan, she had spent her childhood at the whims of her father's financial mismanagement and then in the capricious and patchy care of her often-absent grandmother. Although she was not nearly as intellectually stupid as subsequent historians and novelists would claim, she lacked both common sense and any form of self-discipline. Although she was kind hearted and certainly moved by stories of suffering, she was also extravagant, prone to teenage temper tantrums and compulsively flirtatious. Most importantly from Henry's point of view, however, she was vivacious, fun-loving, sexually titillating and incredibly attractive. (Read entire post.)