The Six Wives of Henry VIII Series (1970) Review – Catherine of Aragon Episode

I was very surprised by this episode, most movies and series on Henry VIII’s wives start with Henry and Catherine’s marriage failing and Henry soon after meeting Anne Boleyn. For once, this started when Catherine first arrived in England and met Henry’s brother, Arthur. Straight after that meeting it went to his burial and Catherine being a widow, not showing any of their wedding or marriage. They could have shown a little (even if the marriage was short) but at least Arthur got a mention. Another unexplored part of Catherine’s life was her struggles as a widow with money and trying to marry Henry. Again I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of this they had shown, after all she was a widow for 6 years, and how we got to see Henry first meeting Catherine and even quite a bit of Henry’s father, Henry VII.

After the death of Henry VII, Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon finally marry. This episode shows them happy and positive about having a son, which of course they were at the start. It does not show any births but does mention their son and we see how devastated the couple are at his death. It only mentions Mary and we later see her quite a few years old, just after the introduction of Anne Boleyn. They make Anne seem quite wicked by laughing at the lack of a male heir and the fact that Henry no longer goes to Catherine’s bed. The only problem I have with this is that the first impression we get of her is of this mean-spirited girl and not any of the good sides of Anne (unlike the movie where we see Henry chasing after her in the gardens).

Another problem with this episode is that they mention that Catherine doesn’t know about his new ‘mistress’ Anne Boleyn. Of course she knew, it was happening right under her nose but she sensibly chose not to speak about it. When Henry tells her that he has problems with the marriage, the acting of Catherine’s reaction is almost scary. This is one thing in which I favour the recent series The Tudors. In that series Catherine just fell to her knees and cried, in this series Catherine looks up and starts crying and shouting. I cannot imagine Catherine doing that, she was very calm and resolved in real life, even when fighting for her marriage.

The trial to discuss their marriage was then done very well, taking parts from primary sources of the actual trial. Catherine’s famous line: “By you I have had many children, though it has pleased God to take them from this world.” was also used and I’m glad that they use it in so many movies and tv series. She then walks out and they even mention Bishop Fisher denying ever signing his approval.

I am glad that they don’t show too much of Anne Boleyn in this and instead just focus on Catherine, however I think this may mean that they don’t show too much of Anne and Henry being happy together in the next episode. I will wait and see.

Also, I liked seeing Henry (well one of Henry’s men) asking Catherine for the christening gown and her refusing. She still calls herself queen and even wrote on the documents she had to sign, crossing out ‘Dowager Princess of Wales’ and putting ‘Queen’ instead. She then dies with dignity and we see Henry reading the last letter that she wrote to him, with her voiceover in the background.

It was an amazing episode, showing more about Catherine than any other series or movie has (out of the ones I’ve watched anyway, comment if there is another with a lot of information on Catherine in). I would recommend it and am looking forward, but partly dreading, Anne Boleyn’s episode. I will review each episode as I watch them and on the last episode will review the series as a whole.

Rating: 5/5

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My edit of the Catherine of Aragon episode.

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