Margaret Pole: The Countess in the Tower – Book Review

The character of Margaret Pole has risen in popularity recently since the likes of The King’s Curse novel and other fictional portrayals, however there are still few biographies on her. Many only know about Margaret’s execution in Henry VIII’s reign, not the rest of her life. Susan Higginbotham aims to remedy this and uses evidence well to piece together Margaret’s precarious life as the niece of Edward IV, a Yorkist and Henry VIII’s distant relative.

Higginbotham starts with a brief description of the Wars of the Roses and the events leading up to Margaret’s birth in a clear but concise way. She does not dwell on the subject too long but still provides the reader with enough background information in which to understand the world Margaret was born into.

‘It was against this backdrop that Isabel, Duchess of Clarence, gave birth to Margaret on 14 August 1473 at Farleigh Castle. Three years before, she had given birth aboard ship while fleeing with her parents and husband into an uncertain future. This time, whatever pains Isabel suffered in bringing her daughter into the world, she could take comfort in the fact that she was labouring in the comfort of her own bedchamber’

The author explains how Margaret’s early life was a tragic one, losing her mother and then her father in quick succession, her father’s memory now tarred with that of an attainted traitor. ‘Margaret’s status had abruptly changed from that of a duke’s daughter to a dependent orphan niece.’ Higginbotham examines the theory that Margaret’s father, George Duke of Clarence, drowned in a vat of malmsey wine. She uses one of the supposed portraits of Margaret to support her theory, as the woman in the portrait is wearing a bracelet with a charm of a barrel.

However, the death of Edward IV and the subsequent rulers significantly changed Margaret’s life. It has been proposed that Margaret and her younger brother, Edward, had better claims to the throne that Richard III, as they were the children of the second York brother (Richard was the third). Yet there have been other arguments, which state that they did not have a claim because they were the children of a traitor. Once again Higginbotham proposes a logical and thought provoking argument for why the children of George did have a claim and were a real obstacle to Richard’s plan:

‘There were two more obstacles to Richard’s taking the throne, however: Warwick [Edward] and young Margaret, his nephew and niece. Were the line of succession strictly followed, Warwick, as the son of Clarence, should have been king once Edward IV’s children were disqualified. Richard, however, claimed that due to Clarence’s attainder, his children were barred from taking the throne. In fact, as Hazel Pierce points out, the attainder did not mention the claims of Clarence’s children, and in any case Parliament could have obligingly reversed the attainder if Warwick were put on the throne.’ 

Higginbotham also proposes several reasons as to why Margaret’s brother Edward, Earl of Warwick, was treated differently to the Princes in the Tower. Whatever the reason, he would not be so lucky in Henry VII’s reign and Margaret would experience the first significant loss in her life (she would have been too young to remember her parents) with his execution.

Margaret’s marriage to Richard Pole and children are explored next, as well as her generally happy life during Henry VIII’s reign, which goes against the public’s stereotypical view of Henry disliking Margaret from the start. The author reminds us that:

 ‘In the wake of her tragic death, it is easy to forget, and is often forgotten, that at the outset of his reign Henry was well-disposed to her – as, indeed, he was to his other maternal relatives. As David Starkey points out, generosity towards his Yorkist relatives helped underscore the new king’s break with his father’s regime’

Unlike some other biographies of prominent men and women in Henry VIII’s reign, Higginbotham is careful not to dwell too much on the King’s Great Matter and his relationship with Anne Boleyn, noting that ‘if one woman in English history needs no introduction, it is Anne Boleyn’. It is easy to get sidetracked with events like that, but she manages to only refer to these events when it directly affects Margaret’s life. For example, Margaret was no longer allowed to be a part of Princess Mary’s household due to Mary’s change in status.

Higginbotham makes many interesting points when she examines the lives of Margaret’s children and their role in her fall, which I will leave for you to read for yourselves. Margaret Pole was a strong woman and deserves to finally have a biography that shows that. The amount of research the author has undertaken is shown by her scholarly analysis and use of every primary source available to her. For those interested, she has even included at the end of the book an appendix of over 30 pages of written evidence taken in the Exeter Conspiracy (which saw Margaret imprisoned for years before being executed). It is a fascinating and interesting read of a woman who needed her story to be told and this book does that.

Rating: 5/5


Book available from AmberleyAmazon and other online outlets and bookshops.

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Prince Arthur: The Tudor King Who Never Was – Book Review

Prince Arthur: The Tudor King Who Never Was is a newly released biography on the elder brother of Henry VIII and is written by Sean Cunningham (you can read his article on it which was part of the book tour here). Prince Arthur has often only been mentioned in regards to Henry VIII’s Great Matter, in which he argued that Katherine of Aragon and Arthur had consummated their marriage, making her subsequent marriage to Henry void. Cunningham is the first person to write a biography solely on Prince Arthur, a daunting task which he manages with remarkable ease.

Cunningham starts by discussing why the birth of Arthur was so important to the new king and queen, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, and putting it into the context of the time. He discusses the Wars of the Roses and Henry VII’s need to secure his new found dynasty. The birth of Arthur so soon after acquiring the throne was seen as a sign that God approved of the Tudor dynasty and favoured it, especially by providing a boy so early on.

The author then moves to compare Prince Arthur and his younger brother, Henry (the future Henry VIII). He shows how very different their lives were, due to the fact that Henry was essentially the ‘spare heir’ and not expected to be king. This can be seen in the differences in their households and upbringing:

‘Arthur was so important to the continuation of the Tudor dynasty that he had a power base created for him which was staffed by some of the king’s most loyal servants. Henry, on the other hand, remained in the royal nursery at Eltham Palace with his sisters Margaret and Mary and his infant brother Edmund. By the end of the 1490s it was obvious to Henry that he was the regime’s ‘spare prince’.’

After these two topics have been discussed, the book turns into a traditional biography, documenting Arthur’s life from birth to death. Cunningham’s attention to detail is superb and made me question why there has not been any other biographies on the young prince, especially with all this information to hand. He meticulously describes Henry VII’s plans for Arthur’s upbringing, giving many facts and figures:

‘In the first parliament of the reign that met from 7 November 1485, the Lords and Commons had voted £14,000 to the king for the annual expenses of his household. On 1 February 1487 the king ordered that 1,000 marks of this sum (£666 13s 4d) should be assigned for the expenses of Prince Arthur’s household. This was a staggering sum for an infant’s upbringing.’

Cunningham puts this into perspective by explaining how much this sum really was:

‘Even as an infant, Arthur’s income was equivalent to that of a middle-ranking lord, but without the responsibilities of land management, a wide network of followers and crown representation.’

Despite all this information, the author still manages to make his work readable and interesting, which isn’t always easy to do with non-fiction.

Cunningham’s views on Prince Arthur and Katherine of Aragon are arguably what most readers would be interested in, a detailed account of their marriage and whether they did or did not consummate the marriage. I will not spoil the details for anyone, but the author makes some sound and interesting arguments regarding their marriage. He, of course, has to mention Henry VIII’s later Great Matter, due to the fact they are debating that exact topic, and goes over the accounts by Arthur’s friends and servants over 20 years later:

‘When Arthur came out from his chamber he called Willoughby over with the words, “Willoughby, bring me a cup of ale, for I have been this night in the midst of Spain”; then to all of the others present, “masters, it is good pastime to have a wife”. Willoughby assumed that Arthur was telling the truth of the previous night’s intimacies.’

The author does the same with Arthur’s death, evaluating the evidence and even proposing some new theories as to what he died of. Once again, I will not spoil this, although one of the new theories is particularly interesting.

‘The prince died on Saturday 2 April 1502 at Ludlow, between six and seven o’clock in the evening. His chamberlain, Sir Richard Pole, assembled Arthur’s council and drafted letters to the king and court, then at Greenwich Palace. A rider managed to reach the king within two days – as impressive a feat as the transmission of the news of Catherine’s landfall from Plymouth to Richmond in October 1501.’

Prince Arthur: The Tudor King Who Never Was is a detailed yet readable account of the prince whose marriage caused much controversy in his younger brother’s reign. He was brought up to be king, yet never had the opportunity. He finally has a biography of his own, which I would recommend to anyone interested in Arthur’s life, Katherine of Aragon’s marriages and Henry VIII’s Great Matter. I look forward to reading more from Sean Cunningham.

Rating: 5/5


Book available from AmberleyAmazon and other online outlets and bookshops.

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Prince Arthur: The Tudor King Who Never Was – Guest Post by Sean Cunningham

I am delighted to be part of Sean Cunningham’s book tour, in which he will be visiting various blogs and discussing Henry VIII’s elder brother, Prince Arthur, for his new book Prince Arthur: The Tudor King Who Never Was.

Arthur and Henry: Two Tudor Brothers

Arthur and Henry, the two sons of King Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth, were alive together for only eleven years, between 1491 and 1502. They did not live near each other, and with an age gap of almost five years, could not have had much meaningful interaction until the end of the 1490s at the earliest. Yet the relationship of these two Tudor brothers was one of the most important in English history: not for the time they spent together but for the effect that Prince Arthur’s death had on the destiny of his younger brother Henry.

Arthur was the first Tudor Prince. From September 1486 he was the focus of his father’s hopes and expectations for the future. Arthur’s training was designed to create a king in all-but name. When the moment came for him to take the crown, the prince would have acquired all of the skills, experiences, servants and advisors needed to reign successfully. To reach that point of self-reliance and confidence, Henry VII decided that Arthur must be brought up away from the court and in a region he could come to rule as he grew through his teenage years.


Prince Arthur depicted in mid-Victorian stained glass in St Laurence Church, Ludlow.

Prince Henry’s place during his childhood, in contrast, was in the royal nursery with his sisters Margret, Mary and Elizabeth and brother Edmund; not all of whom survived beyond young childhood. As he got older, Henry received an excellent scholarly education and quickly learned to master the complexity of the court and royal household. Even as a child, he developed his sociability and emphasised his physical good looks. He was ideally suited to a world of display and charm. At his brother’s wedding in November 1501, the ten-year-old Henry drew everyone’s attention when he escorted his future-wife Princess Catherine. He continued to attract the eye during the entertainments when he flamboyantly threw off his very expensive jacket so that he could dance more energetically.


Payments of £13 6s 8d to Anne Uxbridge, nurse to the six-month-old Prince Henry, her team who also looked after Princess Margaret at Eltham Palace, 31 December 1491. In comparison, £46 was paid for the half-year wages of Prince Arthur’s nursery staff at Farnham in June 1487.

Prince Henry showed all the smooth skills of a politician and public figure, but he was not born to be king. For that reason, he was never given the opportunity to learn the weighty responsibilities of ruling, unlike his brother. Henry was about nine years old before we begin to see him learning how the strings of government worked, when he sat-in on sessions of the court of the royal household. By the time Arthur died in April 1502 Henry had barely begun this part of his development.

The training of Arthur and Henry was already so different by the end of the 1490s because Henry VII had already discounted any plan to create geographical power bases for each of his sons. The king might have looked ahead beyond his own death and seen a nightmare vision of his two princes competing as rivals in the same way that George, duke of Clarence and Richard, duke of Gloucester had done in destabilising Edward IV’s reign.


The fleur de Lys badge of Arthur and Henry as princes of Wales, from an Exchequer account of 1508.

That decision meant that Arthur and Henry might have spent very little private time in each other’s company. The brothers would have met at state occasions and probably at other unrecorded times, but their contact can only have been brief. Considering the mass of early Tudor documents that have survived, everyday details of life in the royal household are frustratingly scarce and similar records for Arthur’s life at Ludlow are not yet known.

The former geographical and intellectual distance between the princes heightened the crisis that faced Henry VII by March 1503. The loss of his heir and his wife within a year of each other pushed Henry’s level of confidence and control back to the levels seen in the troubled times of the late 1480s. Conspiracy and rebellion had thrived because the king did not appear consistently strong enough to face threats down. Arthur’s death obliged King Henry to look to his second son as part of a new strategy built around the regime’s survival rather than a thoroughly prepared and unopposed succession. These deaths, and those of other loyal friends in 1503-4, diminished the king’s strength and health too. A sense of rising panic becomes apparent within the Tudor regime, which in turn produced repressive and restrictive policies shaped by those circumstances.


The burial site of Prince Arthur’s heart and other organs in St Laurence Church, Ludlow.

At the age of eleven, Prince Henry was plucked out of his comfortable lifestyle and thrown into the spotlight as the future of everything that his father now hoped to achieve within England. He might have relished the attention but surely found the prolonged effort and expectation difficult to cope with as he became a teenager. By 1503-04, King Henry’s ill health and despondency obliged him to delegate large areas of government control to professional administrators like Edmund Dudley. Prince Henry’s own responsibilities were increasing as he began to take on some of the burden of personal rule that his brother had previously shouldered. The king’s demands for more effort from his son while he, the king, was unable to maintain his former level of involvement in the business of ruling might only have increased the prince’s sense of resentment.

Whether he blamed his brother Arthur for this rapid change in his circumstances cannot be known, but within the year 1502-03 Prince Henry’s life had changed dramatically. If disaster could be avoided for long enough, then Henry knew that he would become king at some point. His learning curve looked daunting. Although it is difficult to see how his former relationship with Arthur worked before that time, it does seem likely that Henry might have identified his brother’s death the origin of a startling transformation in his life.

More importantly, could Henry have blamed Arthur for the death of their mother, Queen Elizabeth? The herald’s account of how the king and queen bore the news of Arthur’s death in April 1502 indicates how Elizabeth tried to reassure her husband with the belief that they could still have more children. Within a few weeks she was pregnant once again. It was the birth of Princess Catherine in February 1503 that caused Elizabeth’s death and left Prince Henry utterly distraught.

A manuscript illustration recently identified in the Vaux Passional (National Library of Wales) shows the court in mourning for the queen with a young prince Henry sobbing in the background. Henry was clearly devoted to his mother. She had died only because Arthur’s fatal illness had forced King Henry and his wife into risking the birth of another child, with the queen aged thirty-seven. Blame would have served no direct purpose but it might have influenced how Henry related to his brother’s legacy more generally thereafter.


The top left of this image from the Vaux Passional (NLW Penarth, 482D, fool. 9), shows a sobbing Prince Henry near his sisters mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1503.

Henry VIII carried plenty of other emotional baggage as a result of his brother’s early demise. The age of eleven is a crucial time in any child’s life and severe emotional stress at that point can have unexpected and long-term effects. Trying to spot those with certainty in someone alive five hundred years ago is difficult and unwise, but it can be an interesting way of looking for patterns of evidence that allow us to think differently about what we know already.

Can we see the origins of Henry VIII’s adult personality in the events that emerged from the circumstances of Prince Arthur’s death? That might be taking the connection too far; but there clearly was a link between what happened in 1502-03 and the big changes that then occurred to the trajectory that Prince Henry’s life was on.

Unsurprisingly, Henry developed a lifelong mortal fear of infectious disease. Before he was ten years old, Prince Henry had seen his brother Edmund and sister Elizabeth die in the palace where he lived. By the time he was twelve, Henry was also without his mother and Prince Arthur. It is often easy to dismiss the impact that death had upon late medieval lives, since its presence was constant. Henry VIII’s anxiety over his vulnerability, however, seems almost obsessive until he was in his mid-forties and Prince Edward had been born (in October 1537).

The strength of that fear suggests a childhood origin that was later heightened by recurring outbreaks of disease. Some of that feeling of dread came from personal experience after 1509, but it might also have emerged from Catherine of Aragon’s intimate knowledge of the epidemic that struck down Prince Arthur in 1502. The longer Henry VIII reigned without a male heir, the more magnified this fear of sudden death became. His apprehension stood in contrast to the direct risks of violent injury on the tiltyard that Henry was happy to ignore.

In itself this contrast illustrates something about Henry VIII’s complex personality: he could project to the public a fearless and powerful impression of martial kingship at the same time as he held private terrors that were almost paralysing. That inner conflict progressed inexorably to the point that he was willing to contemplate the most massive changes to England’s social structure and political/religious status around Europe in order to reset his life on his own terms. Whereas providence had caused Henry’s life to alter after 1502, by the spring of 1527 he was willing to change everything else around him within the polity in order to marry again and produce a male heir who would secure the continuation of Tudor power as he required.


Henry VIII in later life from the Plea Roll of King’s Bench.

When he was young, Henry had tried to deal with his status as a second-son through the cultivation and projection of a beaming personality. Henry got on well by working out how to deal with people directly. Arthur must have had many of those skills too, but he was also expected to know how to rule through institutions, processes and mechanisms. Henry’s focus on the gloss and not the substance of kingship led him to delegate easily. Here he took the lead from Henry VII’s promotion of Edmund Dudley after 1504. Henry’s unwillingness to engage with the detail of government allowed Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell to develop Tudor bureaucracy to even greater heights than were likely under King Arthur. So one of the benefits of Henry VIII’s ruling style was the quicker emergence of the smooth-running Tudor civil service.

Henry seems to have loved his brother deeply, but more as an ideal image of princely virtue than as an elder sibling with whom he had shared childhood rough-and-tumble. Their separate households must have prevented regular contact of that type. Henry kept some of Arthur’s clothes. He acquired Arthur’s books, like the copy of Cicero’s De Officiis (On Duties) that Henry added his name to. Arthur’s portrait and altered copies of it were in the royal collection during Henry’s reign. There is enough evidence that Arthur was regularly in Henry’s thoughts long before the details of his brother’s sexual relationship with Catherine of Aragon commanded the king’s full attention at the end of the 1520s.

It seems that Arthur was a constant point of reference for Henry’s adult life. Henry had followed in Arthur’s footsteps as second son, second Prince of Wales, and second husband to Catherine of Aragon. Arthur probably remained mysterious and distant to his brother. Henry may have learned more about his brother’s character through second-hand conversations after 1509 with Queen Catherine and others who had known Arthur at Ludlow, than he drew from his own memories. If this had led to Henry developing a sense of personal inferiority to Arthur it was soon overturned by the momentous and bold decisions made by the king in the 1530s. Throughout his reign until his own Prince of Wales was born, Henry VIII might have had a constant need to relate his own capacity as king to the achievements denied to Arthur by his premature death. We remember Henry because he lived to reign and change Britain’s national identity. Henry probably remembered Arthur because, by the 1540s, he had proved that he could rule in a way that Arthur might have recognised and been proud of.



Dr Sean Cunningham, is Head of Medieval Records at the UK National Archives. He main interest is in British history in the period c.1450-1558. Sean has published many studies of politics, society and warfare, especially in the early Tudor period, including Henry VII in the Routledge Historical Biographies series and his new book, Prince Arthur: The Tudor King Who Never Was, for Amberley. Sean is about to start researching the private spending accounts of the royal chamber under Henry VII and Henry VIII for a new project with Winchester and Sheffield Universities. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and co-convenor of the Late Medieval Seminar at London’s Institute of Historical Research.


Book available from Amberley, Amazon and other online outlets and bookshops.



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In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII – Guest Post by Natalie Grueninger


I am delighted to be part of Sarah Morris and Natalie Grueninger’s book tour, in which they will be visiting various blogs and discussing Henry VIII and his wives for their new book In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII.

A Royal Procession and the Frozen Thames by Natalie Grueninger

On Friday, 22 December 1536, Londoners were treated to a magnificent spectacle. Henry VIII, together with his wife of six months, Jane Seymour, the king’s eldest daughter, Mary, and a number of great lords and ladies, processed through the richly decorated streets of the City. The court was on its way from Westminster to Greenwich Palace, where it would remain for the Christmas festivities.


A reconstruction of Westminster, as it would have appeared during the reign of Henry VIII

The people of London braved the biting cold to watch the procession ride by, greeting their monarchs with blessings and well wishes. Perhaps they also reflected on how quickly—and often brutally— the fortunes of those around the throne could change. Just the previous year, Queen Anne Boleyn had reigned over the Christmas celebrations alongside King Henry, a son and heir to the Tudor throne cradled deep in her belly, and the fiery-haired Princess Elizabeth the apple of her father’s eye. But now, all that had changed and Anne lay rotting in a hastily dug grave at the Tower of London, while her former lady-in-waiting Jane, stood in her place. The Lady Mary, whose obstinacy had earned her father’s wrath, was now welcomed back into his good graces after finally being persuaded to swear the Oath of Supremacy recognising the king as supreme head of the church in England, and her own illegitimacy.

While it was usual for the court to travel from Westminster to Greenwich by barge, on this occasion the weather made it impossible. It was a particularly bitter winter and the Thames had frozen over, (partially attributed to the structure of the old bridge and the closely spaced piers that supported it, which slowed down the flow of the river), leaving the royal party no choice but to ride.

According to the sixteenth century historian Edward Hall,

This yere in Decembre was the Thamis of London all frozen ouer, wherefore the kynges Maiestie with his beautifull spouse quene Jane, roade throughout the citie of London to Grenewich.

The Chronicler and Windsor Herald, Charles Wriothesley, writing about the same event, furnishes us with greater detail. After knighting the Lord Mayor of London, ‘Mr Ralfe Waren’, in his ‘great Chamber of Presence at Westminster’:

… the Kinge’s Grace, the Queen’s Grace, and my ladye Marye, the kings daughter, tooke their horses at the sayde Pallase of Westmynster accompanied with a goodlye company of lords, ladyes, and gentellmen, and so roode from thense through the cittye of London to Grenwych, the mayre rydinge afore the kinge with a mase in his hand, as his livetanante of his greate Chamber of London, with all the aldermen in their order, the Cittye of London beinge caste with gravel in the streets from Temple Barr to the bridg-foote in Southwarke, and all the streets richlye behangd with riche gold and arras; the 4 orders of fryars standing in Flett Streete in coopes of gold with crosses and candlesticks and sensers to sense the kinge and queene as they rode by them; the Bishop of London, the Abbott of Waltham, the Abbott of Towre Hill, beinge mytherd, with all Powles quier standing at the west doore of Powles in rich coopes sensing the kinge and queene as they passed by them, and from the north doore of Powles churchyard next Cheep to the bridge-foote, 2 preistes of everye parishe churche in London standing in coopes with the best crosse of everye parishe churche and candylshickes and sensers, and all the craftes of the cittie standing in their best liveryes with hoodes on their sholders, which was a goodlye sight to beholde. The cause of the kings rydinge through London was because the Tames was so frosynne that there might no boots [boats] go there on for yse [ice].


A twentieth century engraving of Old St Paul’s as it appeared before 1561

From this account, we know that Henry, Jane and Mary rode from Westminster Palace to old St Paul’s Cathedral, via Temple Bar and Fleet Street. They would have entered the churchyard via Ludgate in the west, passing by the great west doors of the cathedral, where the choir and others awaited them. From there, they exited through Paul’s gate to the north and continued onto Cheapside. Although not recorded, it’s likely that the royal party then took the common processional route, and continued along Cornhill and Gracechurch Street, and then down Fish Street Hill and across the London Bridge to the bridge-foot in Southwark, which Wriothesley does specifically mention. Another possibility is that they used Lombard Street rather than Cornhill, as this would have been faster. Once across the Thames, the party would then have made their way to Greenwich.


Nineteenth century copy of Wyngaerde’s “Panorama of London in 1543”

While neither of the aforementioned accounts specifies how the royal party got across the Thames, some historians have speculated that rather than use the bridge, they may have ridden across the frozen surface of the river. This was certainly not the first time the river had turned to ice, although it appears this was the only time it occurred during the reign of Henry VIII. In the winter of 1281-2,

King Edward kept his feast of Christmas at Worcester. From this Christmas till the purification of Our Lady, there was such a frost and snow, as no man living could remember the like, where through, five arches of London Bridge, and all Rochester Bridge were borne downe, and carried away with the streame, and the like happened to many bridges in England. And not long after men passed over the Thamis between Westminster and Lambeth, and likewise over the river of Medway… (Stow’s Annales)

So there appears to have already been a tradition of traversing the ice during these freezes, it certainly became popular from the seventeenth century onwards, with a number of fairs known as ‘Frost Fairs’ taking place on the river’s icy surface between 1607 and 1814. The English writer and diarist John Evelyn described the 1683-84 fair in some detail. He wrote:

Coaches plied from Westminster to the Temple, and from several other staires to and fro, as in the streetes, sliding with skeetes, a bull-baiting, horse and coach races, puppet plays and interludes, cookes, tipling and other lewd places, so that it seemed a bacchanalian triumph or carnival on the water, whilst it was a severe judgement on the land, the trees not onely splitting as if lightning-struck, but men and cattle perishing in divers[e] places, and the very seas so lock’d up with ice, that no vessels could stir out or come in.


Thames Frost Fair, 1683-84, by Thomas Wyke

While it sounds jovial, these great spectacles could also clearly be very dangerous. Ben Johnson in his article The Thames Frost Fairs, writes of how ‘during the fair of 1739 a whole swathe of ice gave away and swallowed up tents and businesses as well as people.’

One imagines that King Henry VIII and his court might have preferred the relative stability of the medieval London Bridge to the precarious frozen river. Furthermore, Hall and Wriothesley make no mention of it in their accounts—it seems likely they would have, had the entire court galloped across the ice—and in a letter written by John Husee to Lady Lisle on Christmas Day 1536, he reports that ‘the King and Queen rode through London on Friday, very merry and triumphantly,’ but nothing further.

In Volume 3 of The Lives of the Queens of England by Agnes and Elizabeth Strickland, published in the late 19th century, the authors state that Jane Seymour, ‘crossed the frozen Thames to Greenwich-Palace in the severe January of 1536-7, on horseback, with the king, attended by the whole court.’ Unfortunately, the authors do not cite the source of this information, regardless, we find this story repeated online and in various history books. It seems to me unlikely that this could have taken place, especially when we consider that the court travelled to Greenwich on 22 December, not in January, and remained at Greenwich until the middle of February, only then returning to Westminster.

And so, while it’s a wonderful story and certainly fun to imagine Henry and Jane clad in furs, riding across the frozen Thames, trailed by their courtiers, the fact that Wriothesley specifically mentions the ‘bridg-foote in Southwarke’, I think suggests they used London Bridge to cross from London on the north bank, to Southwark on the south side of the Thames. At peak times it could take more than an hour to cross the bridge, as there was only one narrow lane going north and one south, shared by pedestrians, horses and carts, however, the royal entourage’s crossing would have been much swifter.

While researching this post, I also came across several online articles and websites that claim that Henry VIII, rather than ride across the frozen river, travelled from London to Greenwich by sleigh! Again, they do not cite their source… but if you know where this story originated, I’d love to hear from you!

PS. Thank you to author Zoe Bramley for giving up her time to chat with me about the royal party’s possible route through London.


Online Sources

Hall’s Chronicle – Pg. 323

Wriothesley Chronicle – Pg. 59

Stow’s ‘Annales’

Old and New London Volume 3

Virtual Paul’s Cross Project

The Thames Frost Fairs by Ben Johnson

December 22, 1536 – The Thames Freezes Over

The Frozen Thames and the Little Ice Age


Norton, E. Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s True Love, Stroud: Amberley 2009.

Weir, A. Henry VIII King & Court, London: Vintage 2008.


About the authors:


Natalie Grueninger

Natalie Grueninger is a researcher, writer and educator, who lives in Sydney with her husband and two children.

She graduated from The University of NSW in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts, with majors in English and Spanish and Latin American Studies and received her Bachelor of Teaching from The University of Sydney in 2006.

Natalie has been working in public education since 2006 and is passionate about making learning engaging and accessible for all children.

In 2009 she created On the Tudor Trail (, a website dedicated to documenting historic sites and buildings associated with Anne Boleyn and sharing information about the life and times of Henry VIII’s second wife. Natalie is fascinated by all aspects of life in Tudor England and has spent many years researching this period.

Her first non-fiction book, co-authored with Sarah Morris, In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn, was published by Amberley Publishing and released in the UK in late 2013. Natalie and Sarah have just finished the second book in the series, In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII, due for publication in the UK on 15 March 2016 and on Amazon US on 19 May 2016.

You’ll find Natalie on Facebook (, Twitter ( and Instagram (themosthappy78).



Dr Sarah A. Morris

Sarah is a creative soul, as well as an eternal optimist who generally prepares for the worst! She is an advocate of following the heart’s deepest desire as a means to finding peace and happiness. To this end, her writing is a creative expression of her joy of both learning and educating.

Drawn by an inexplicable need to write down the story of Anne Boleyn’s innocence, she published the first volume of her debut novel, Le Temps Viendra: a novel of Anne Boleyn in 2012; the second volume followed in 2013. That same year, her first non-fiction book, co-authored with Natalie Grueninger called, In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn, was also published. Hopelessly swept away by an enduring passion for Tudor history and its buildings, her latest book, the second of the In the Footsteps series entitled, In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII, is due to be published by Amberley Publishing in the UK on 15th March 2016 and in the US on 19th May.

She lives in rural Oxfordshire with her beloved dog and travelling companion, Milly.

You’ll find Sarah at, or via her blog, This Sceptred Isle:


Buy In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII from:

Amazon UK

Amazon US (Released on 19 May 2016)

The Book Depository (Free worldwide shipping)

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Between Two Kings – Guest Post by Olivia Longueville

I am delighted to be part of Olivia Longueville’s book tour, in which she will be visiting various blogs and discussing Anne Boleyn for her new book Between Two Kings. For your chance to win a paperback copy of her book, simply leave a comment after this post between now and 16th January 2016. The giveaway is open internationally and don’t forget to leave your name and a contact email. A winner will randomly be selected and contacted by email shortly after the competition closes.


Anne Boleyn is accused of adultery and imprisoned in the Tower. The very next day she is due to be executed at the hand of a swordsman. Nothing can change the tragic outcome. England will have a new queen before the month is out. And yet…

What if events conspired against Henry VIII and his plans to take a new wife? What if there were things that even Thomas Cromwell couldn’t control, things which would make it impossible for history to go to plan?

The year is 1536.
History is about to be changed forever.
The old Anne Boleyn is dead.
The new Anne is a cold and calculating woman.
Between Two Kings.

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About the author:

Olivia Longueville, author of Between Two Kings, has degrees in finance and general management from London Business School and currently helps her father run the family business.
Olivia loves historical fiction and is passionate about historical research, genealogy, and art. She has undertaken in-depth research into the history of the Valois dynasty, the French Renaissance and the Tudors and Plantagenets.

As an amateur historian, Olivia has chosen to explore her interests through fiction. Her most cherished dream has always been to re-imagine Anne Boleyn’s life, leading her to recreate the story of Anne with a twist – Anne taking revenge against those who wronged her and caused her downfall.


The Doomed Romance of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII

Passion. Promises. Marriage. Betrayal. Heartbreak. Murder. A doomed romance that has captivated historians and everyday people across centuries and around the globe. The tragic story of Anne Boleyn and her romance with King Henry VIII continue to fascinate and shock us today, nearly five hundred years later.

Perhaps if Anne had lived a full life and had a happy marriage with Henry, her story wouldn’t have been so utterly captivating, and it wouldn’t have fascinated so many generations with its tremendous intensity and vehement passion, its unparalleled challenge to the conventional traditions of Tudor England, and its gruesome and unfair end that to us appears inevitable but shocking nevertheless.

In the brightest hours of Anne’s youth, when she had just returned from France and was shining like a diamond in the splendour of the English court, Henry met her at the Château Vert pageant.


A lovely young lady curtsies. A handsome, virile king briefly acknowledges her. A small and seemingly meaningless moment, like so many others, as the powerful Henry surely met many young women at such pageants. Yet, it was this meeting which altered English history forever. Apparently, several years passed before Henry took a serious interest in Anne and began his pursuit of her, at first thinking that she would be just another amorous conquest, and he would be able to charm her with rich and extravagant gifts.

I’ve never believed that Anne was so ambitious and avaricious that she played a crafty and guileful game of an unavailable, virtuous young woman, trying to entice and seduce Henry into leaving Catherine of Aragon. There is no evidence that she was a great mastermind who planned on attempting to usurp the crown from the outset; contemporary sources also suggest that her father, Thomas Boleyn, and her uncle, Thomas Howard, were not very keen on her marriage to the king.

Instead, Anne left the court in 1527, when Henry’s unwavering interest in her might have tarnished, if not ruined, her reputation. She didn’t forget that her elder sister, Mary Boleyn, had once been a royal mistress, who had been discarded and evicted from the Boleyn family, and she didn’t want to follow Mary’s path.

Anne wasn’t going to surrender her virtue to the king, and Henry wasn’t going to stop hunting her. He desperately coveted Anne; a stirring of madness took over the king who was burning with desire, suffering from unrequited love, and was distraught that she was refusing him again and again. I think that Anne was charmed by Henry, flattered by his attentions to her humble persona, and awed by his insistence, which was slowly pushing her to the threshold of surrender. Passion flared between the two, bright and hot like a freshly lit torch, and eventually they succumbed to their desires and began a romantic relationship.


We often ask ourselves whether Anne and Henry could have had a happy ending. I think that the answer is a , not only because Anne failed to birth a healthy son, but also because Henry wasn’t capable of making any woman happy.

When Anne decided to begin her quest for queenship, which, in my opinion, happened after Henry’s proposal to marry her, she predestined her own greatness – to become one of the most tragic queens who ever lived. A queen who changed the course of history and gave birth to one of the greatest monarchs to ever sit on the throne of England – Elizabeth I. However, her choice doomed her to a terrible, early death, although she couldn’t know about that.

In his youth, Henry was a glorious Tudor prince who married Catherine, the widow of his elder brother. Henry was so devoted to Catherine that he jousted in her honour as “Sir Loyal Heart” and laid trophies at her feet at tournaments. Years were passing, and Catherine was pregnant many times, but she failed to produce a male heir. Henry’s eye began to wander towards young maidens, and when Elizabeth Blount, one of his mistresses, gave him a son, he became assured that he was capable of fathering healthy sons, blaming Catherine for her failure to bear a son.

After meeting Anne, Henry became enamoured of her and resolved to have his marriage to Catherine annulled, stating that his ageing and barren wife had never been truly married to him because she was his brother’s widow.

To vindicate his opinion about the invalidity of his first marriage, he referred to the passage in chapter 20 of the Book of Leviticus: “And if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.” [Leviticus 20: 21] Anne and Henry were in love and wanted to marry, but Catherine stood in the way of their plans for a long time as the Great Matter (the efforts to secure a divorce from Catherine) dragged on and on. In the end, the king broke from Rome and married Anne.

When he was proclaimed Supreme Head of the Church of England, Henry became the most powerful man in England, as his authority extended beyond the political realm and into the spiritual. A tapestry of his future with Anne emerged in the brightest colours as he hoped to have his Tudor prince soon.

He was still enamoured with Anne, but, strictly speaking, his love for her wasn’t a pure, unselfish feeling – it was conditional upon Anne’s promise to give him a son. In some ways, Henry’s relationship with Anne might be considered a bargain: he craved to make Anne belong to him both carnally and legally as his queen, because he “loved” her and because she probably promised him a son, and if she fell short of his expectation, she had to suffer the consequences.

Anne gave birth to Elizabeth in September 1533, which disappointed Henry a lot, but it seems that he still hoped they were young enough and would have sons later. But fate had different plans for the royal couple: Anne suffered several miscarriages, Henry renewed the practice of keeping mistresses, and soon he began to lust for Jane Seymour.

The ageing king’s obsession with sons predetermined that Anne wouldn’t be given as much time as Catherine. The longer the Great Matter dragged on, the more frustrated he was becoming and the higher his expectations of Anne became. When he married her, he was already running out of patience. Anne tried hard to fulfil her promise, and she was pregnant at least three times (including Elizabeth), if not more, but she still failed to produce a living son.


Henry was losing hope that Anne would produce a son. The king wasn’t the same man who had once fallen for young Anne: he had become a callous, hedonistic, and egotistical monarch, who tasted absolute power and who began to consider himself God’s incarnation on earth. The worst aspect of this situation was that Anne herself helped him obtain this absolute power, which eventually destroyed any chance that she may have had to sustain her marriage until a son could be born and to live out her natural lifespan.

Anne’s final miscarriage, which she suffered in January 1536, led to Henry’s irrevocable disenchantment with their marriage. In retrospect, he was embarrassed over the turmoil he had caused in England in his quest to marry her. He began to believe that his second marriage hadn’t been blessed by God. Henry wanted Jane as his wife, and, probably, he had already entertained thoughts of ending his marriage to Anne.

At this point, everything went downhill for Anne: seizing their chance, Anne’s enemies conspired against her and orchestrated her downfall, maybe at Henry’s own order, and she was executed.


In my opinion, Henry was a narcissistic and selfish man. In mythology, Aphrodite was appalled by Narcissus’ rude behaviour, and she cursed him as a punishment, making him fall in love with himself. Narcissus was doomed to spend eternity sitting at the edge of a pond, contemplating his own reflection in the water in dazed fascination.

I wonder who placed a curse of narcissism on Henry? As a favourite of Elizabeth of York and Margaret Beaufort among Henry VII’s children, he received much fawning attention as a boy and young man. However, as a second son, he was originally the “spare heir,” so perhaps his narcissism was an inborn trait. At the height of his power, Henry became a malignant narcissist who assumed a God-like status in England.

Truth be told, I cannot see Henry happy with Anne or any of his other five wives. Although in his youth, he seems to have loved Catherine genuinely. I don’t think that Anne would have been happy with the king in the long term even if she had remained Queen of England and succeeded in placing a healthy Tudor prince in the royal cradle.

Henry’s feelings for his wives are more accurately described as lust, not love. The king loved too many women and his love always faded like a rainbow after a storm, like a word whispered into darkness, if their “love” failed him by not giving him the heir that he desired above all else.

What would have happened if Anne had given Henry a son before May 1536? Henry would have had to keep her as his wife, but he wouldn’t have been a caring and faithful husband to her. He had been engaged in extramarital affairs before her final miscarriage, and he wouldn’t have changed his behaviour.

In Henry’s view, God had ordained him to be King of England and Head of the Church of England, and he was subject only to God’s judgement. Over the course of time, Anne would have aged, and Henry would have wanted younger lovers: his eye would have strayed from her more and more often, focusing instead on the seemingly endless supply of exquisite belles who were paraded before him, flaunting their youth and beauty and wrapped in silks and fineries.

Most likely, Anne would have eventually learnt a lesson and turned a blind eye to Henry’s amorous escapades, just as Catherine had throughout the many years of her marriage to Henry.

Anne would have watched her husband’s betrayals with her head held high, plastering a fake smile on her face. Her resentment towards the king would have been growing, and she would have begun to question closely, in her own heart, the shadowy motive that lay behind the lack of her affection for him. She would have laughed and smiled in public, but she would have been dreaming of a happier life. Eventually, Anne’s heart would have stopped lighting with fires of emotion and passion when Henry lavished her with affections and came to her bed, and she would have fallen out of love with him.

If Anne and Henry had only one son, the probability that he might have died in childhood was high because the child mortality rate was high in the Middle Ages and in the Tudor period. If Anne’s son had died, Henry would have turned berserk with rage and would have blamed her for the tragedy: he always put the blame for his misfortunes and afflictions on others, as his self-enamoured and vainglorious nature prevented him from blaming himself. Anne would have lost Henry’s favour, and he would have started hating her and would have eventually gotten rid of her.

Regardless of her ability to bear a son, Anne would have been miserable with Henry. She was doomed to sustain many heavy afflictions with fortitude in her marriage even if she had survived. The romance of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII was tragic and doomed from the beginning.


The king’s chronic inability to make Anne happy pushed me to invent an alternative scenario where Anne survives, is no longer married to Henry, takes revenge against those who brought her down, and finds her happiness with another powerful king – King François I of France. That’s the premise behind my new novel, Between Two Kings.

I write poetry when I want to convey a wealth of emotions that cannot be easily relayed in even my lyrical prose. This poem is about Anne’s doomed love for Henry VIII.


Doomed Love

I, the innocent Queen, sit alone in the Tower,

Death waits for me at the foot of the Tower.

I hear the cannon, be silent, I pray,    

Otherwise I would feel much more betrayed.


Oh, Henry! Your love for me was fake and doomed.

You fell in love with me, but love soon perished.

I never thought you would break my heart,

I guess I should never believe you from the start.


You were my world, my Henry, my beloved,

You were my present and my past, my life.

The future seemed a marvel and delight,

But your betrayal did lay siege to our love.


You talked about love with that look in your eye,

And that was all a stupid, empty lie,

Because you can love nobody but yourself,

A bleeding heart you gave me, not yourself.


Tears of blood are falling from my heart.

I have been wretched and condemned by your love.

That doomed love had broken me and my friends.

That love had stripped me of all my dreams.


Had I never loved you deeply and madly,

Had I never trusted your promises blindly,

Never met and never fell in love with you myself,

I would have never doomed myself to death.


You made me tremble and swoon in shiver,

You sent me, innocent, to shameful death.

You, mad from your obsession for a male heir,

Deprived me of my sleep and left me only breath.


At the Tower window, I sit and wait for death,

Delighted that French steel, not English axe,

Is doomed to take my life and breath,


As a final act of your fake mercy to me. 

Sweet and cherished death, I feel you in the air,

But all my pain is gone, and I feel no despair.

I look into the sky and see the sun, the light of Heaven.

Death is not scary at all – it is oblivion.


I feel tears fall down, and I whisper good-bye,

Glad to death’s mystery and to be gone from this life.

Words spoken and wasted, hearts broken, love gone,

But you will remember me long after I am gone.

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Henry VIII’s Health – Guest Post by Kyra Kramer

I am delighted to be part of Kyra Kramer’s book tour, in which she has been visiting various blogs and discussing Henry VIII’s health for her new book Henry VIII’s Health in a Nutshell. For your chance to win a paperback copy of her book, simply leave a comment after this post between now and 21st December 2015. The giveaway is open internationally and don’t forget to leave your name and a contact email. A winner will randomly be selected and contacted by email shortly after the competition closes.

About the author:

Kyra Cornelius Kramer is a freelance academic with BS degrees in both biology and anthropology from the University of Kentucky, as well as a MA in medical anthropology from Southern Methodist University. She is the author of Blood Will Tell: A Medical Explanation of the Tyranny of Henry VIII, The Jezebel Effect: Why the Slut Shaming of Famous Queens Still Matters, and Henry VIII’s Health in a Nutshell. Her essays on the agency of the Female Gothic heroine and women’s bodies as feminist texts in the works of Jennifer Crusie have been published in peer-reviewed journals . She has also co-authored two works; one with Dr. Laura Vivanco on the way in which the bodies of romance heroes and heroines act as the sites of reinforcement of, and resistance to, enculturated sexualities and gender ideologies, and another with Dr. Catrina Banks Whitley on Henry VIII.

Ms. Kramer lives in Bloomington, IN with her cute geeky husband, three amazing young daughters,  and assorted small yappy dogs garnered from re-homing and rescues. When not working she reads voraciously, plays video games with her family, does cross-stitch, and invents excuses to procrastinate about doing routine house cleaning.

You can read her blog at, or follow Kyra Cornelius Kramer on her Facebook page or Twitter.

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The Mental Aberrations of Henry VIII

Henry VIII spent the last half of his reign becoming increasing paranoid and irrational, and he was acting as crazy as a bedbug by time the 1540’s rolled around. Historians, however, have been traditionally been reluctant to actually call Henry mentally ill. As I point out in my book, Henry VIII’s Health in a Nutshell, both lay historians and academics have danced around the issue of the king’s deteriorating behavior:

“… he has been described as “villainously quixotic” (Erickson, 1980:267) or as “an imperious and dangerous autocrat who [was] mesmerized by his own legend” (Weir, 2001:349). The descriptors of Henry’s inconstancies have always left the impression that he was somehow in charge of his own fickleness, and that there was more method than madness in his actions. Some historians postulate that Henry began his “significant shift in personality “because he was “taking on the lineaments of mature kingship” (Erickson, 1980:253), with others maintaining that Henry’s eventual tyranny can be best explained by the fact he grew older and more aware of his power (Scarisbrick, 1970; Smith, 1982). Alternatively, scholars argue that it was a change in circumstances and threats to his rule which pushed him into becoming a more ruthless monarch, possibly exacerbated by a blow to the head (Lipscomb, 2009). Some assert that the monster had always been present, but before his attempt to end his marriage to Katherina of Aragon no one had ever really challenged his will on anything important, and thus his true malevolence had lain dormant (Lindsey, 1995).

Nonetheless, there is a general consensus that Henry’s moodiness, paranoia, and erratic behavior became more extreme, and therefore more noticeable, in his later middle age.

Certainly the king’s contemporaries noticed that all was not well with the king. Historical documentation is rife with complaints about the Henry’s volatile temper and dangerous impulses.

One of the French ambassadors to the English court warned that Henry suffered from the “plague” of “distrust and fear. This King, knowing how many changes he has made, and what tragedies and scandals he has created, would fain keep in favor with everybody, but does not trust a single man, expecting to see them all offended, and he will not cease to dip his hand in blood as long as he doubts his people. Hence every day edicts are published so sanguinary that with a thousand guards one would scarce be safe. Hence too it is that now with us, as affairs incline, he makes alliances which last as long as it makes for him to keep them” (CPS Vol.15:481-488). Everyone was aware that Henry had become as irrational and suspicious as he was dangerous. Lord Montague, a member of Henry’s court, warned his fellow courtiers that the king would “be out of his wits one day … for when he came into his chamber he would look angrily, and after fall to fighting” (Erickson, 1980:288).

As of late, some historians and scholars have actually broached the topic of Henry’s possible mental illness (or illnesses). Among these theories are that he was a psychopath, a sociopath, had narcissistic personality disorder, suffered from bipolar disorder, or was afflicted with clinical depression. Was Henry an autocratic ruler, a psychotic monster, or a man in the grip of unaccountable brain chemistry that undermined his decision making capabilities?

There are two problems in diagnosing Henry’s mental illness at a distance. One is the displacement of the king from his context.

A significant flaw in any theory about Henry’s mental condition is that psychological theories are based largely on “weird” people, i.e the subject of psychology experiments are usually Western, Educated, from Industrialized and relatively Rich societies which are usually in Democratic countries. The king was more royal “we” than royal weird. He was Western and … that is about it. He was educated as possible for his era, but his education assured him that the planets affected his ‘humors’ and that the sun revolved around the earth. England was not particularly industrialized, or comparatively rich, and beyond contestation it was not a democracy. Trying to measure Henry against a modern person may mean that psychologists are using a yardstick to try to measure cubic liters.

The second biggest issue is timing. Henry undoubtedly displayed the signs of narcissism, and therefore psychopathology and sociopathology as well, in addition to some classic tell-tales of bipolar disorder and clinical depression … but he did not manifest any of these symptoms until after 1531. That is peculiar to say the least. It is rare to the point of impossibility for some of the more acute mental illnesses, like narcissism, sociopathy, and psychopathy, to suddenly present in adults – let alone adults in their forties. These problems develop in childhood, and although diagnosis may not occur until later in life the indicia are present prior to adulthood.

For example, psychopaths and sociopaths (which include narcissists) are charming. Henry was indisputably charming, but unlike most psychopaths the king seemed to be an actual “people-person” when young and became less able to charm people as he grew older. There is no evidence before the 1530’s that Henry’s charm was ‘superficial’, rather than the genuine charisma of someone who is not a psychopath. Moreover, psychopaths/sociopaths have a lifelong ability to keep supporters (or make new ones) even at their most counterfactual and in the most egregious circumstances. The reason psychopaths/sociopaths are so good at keeping people in thrall is because they are so good at ‘gaslighting’, a form of emotional abuse in which the abuser tries to convince the abused that he or she is at fault or in the wrong by denying abusive incidents occurred or altering the account of incidents so skillfully that the abused becomes uncertain of reality and/or even convinced the abuser did nothing untoward. When Henry was an older king he lost most of his ability to inspire people to see him as kind or heroic in spite of his actions to the contrary. If he were a true psychopath/sociopath, then he could have been able to pull the wool over the eyes of most people in court.

Additionally, the king was unlikely to be bipolar because his depressive episodes were not accompanied by the “manic” phase of a bipolar disorder. He may have developed depression as an older adult, but his “blues” only started after he had lost his health and youth and most of his wives. What looks like depression may only be legitimate sorrow. That’s why depression diagnoses within a year of the loss of a close loved one are suspect; they cannot usually be differentiated from non-pathological grief.

There is one theory regarding Henry’s personality change after midlife takes the timing of his mental illness into account. If the king has McLeod syndrome, he would not have shown any sign of it until the 1530s. Patients with McLeod syndrome are typically healthy during their infancy and childhood, with the disease starting to put in an appearance around a person’s fortieth birthday and then growing progressively worse over time.

There are many different kinds of psychopathology exhibited by patients with McLeod syndrome, including deterioration of memory and executive functions, paranoia, depression, radical alteration in personality, and socially inappropriate conduct. This mental deterioration can become severe. In one notable case, a previously healthy man with a high degree of intelligence was hospitalized at the age of 39 with an initial schizophrenic episode, and it was determined that the patient’s “schizophrenia” was actually a symptom of his worsening McLeod syndrome. There is certainly substantial evidence to suggest that Henry underwent a significant personality change after his fortieth birthday, in a manner consistent with the “schizophrenia-like” and other mental problems that are often linked to McLeod syndrome.

What do you think? Was Henry a monster, a madman, or a little of both? Leave a comment and get a chance to win a free copy of Henry VIII’s Health in a Nutshell!






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Wolf Hall – Episode 6 Review

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (book cover)

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (book cover)

The episode starts with Cromwell imagining/hallucinating Anne being dragged across the table and looking at him. It is a strange scene and I know he is thinking about how to get rid of her, but seems odd anyway. Afterwards, Cromwell talks to Anne. She complains about him sending for Lady Mary when he found out the King was dead. She asks about her and her daughter and tells him that whoever has been made can be unmade. She is referring to getting rid of Cromwell, yet we know Henry has charged him to get rid of her. Ironic.

Anne Boleyn warning Cromwell

Anne Boleyn warning Cromwell

We later see a scene that isn’t mentioned much yet has been recorded. Apparently Anne had noticed that Mark Smeaton was sad and asked him why, but he wouldn’t tell her. She said he was lucky for her to speak to him at all as he was an inferior person. This soon escalates into her talking about him to Henry Norris and saying that he looks for dead men’s shoes and if anything happened to the King he would look to have her. Another recorded incident. However, it does not seem as playful as its been portrayed in other shows and movies. She just seems spiteful and hate-filled.

The worst part is when Jane Boleyn goes to Cromwell and confesses all of this, as well as talking about George and Anne being together. Recent historians have proved this old stereotype of Jane the hated wife wrong and so it seems out dated for them to be using it still and to such an extent. They even made Anne slap Jane, hardly something that Anne would do. She was better than that and, if she had anything against her, wouldn’t have resorted to physical violence. This has no basis as well, we know Anne confided in Jane and planned against one of Henry’s mistresses with her.

Jane Boleyn describing George and Anne's 'affair'

Jane Boleyn describing George and Anne’s ‘affair’

Later on, Mark Smeaton confesses his and Anne’s love to Cromwell. Everyone seems to suddenly be confessing to him, a weird coincidence. Mark is obviously hurt by Anne’s words and Cromwell seems like the innocent party in this for a while. I could hardly believe this, that Mark would tell him just like that. This soon turns into threats to Mark when he starts to change his mind. I believe that Cromwell made him say untrue words first instead of Mark randomly confessing to him. Even with Cromwell making Mark stay, he tells people not too torture him too much, still making him seem like the innocent one.

Henry soon gets told of these developments and sets off to talk with Henry Norris, abandoning Anne. It then goes back to Cromwell and he watches Anne eat her supper in silence. It is strangely moving from a character that we have been made to hate and that is so outspoken to just sit in silence, almost in tears.

Anne sitting in silence

Anne sitting in silence

After several interviews with the different men, Cromwell goes to see Anne. She talks about how her ladies are spies for him and how the King has to be testing her. She asks to see her brother but is just teased by one of her ladies, them saying that it is ‘hardly appropriate under the circumstances’. She confides in Cromwell and hopes that he will speak to the King for her, before saying the famous line ‘I only have a little neck’.

Anne speaking to Cromwell in the Tower

Anne speaking to Cromwell in the Tower

I am so glad we saw Anne Boleyn and George’s trials, especially George’s. It wasn’t shown on the tv show The Tudors and only briefly in other movies like The Other Boleyn Girl. I also think I’ve never seen George’s before on any show or movie. We see him read the note he was told not to and then condemn himself before quickly moving on to Anne’s execution. For a moment, I actually like this Anne. The last few scenes have almost redeemed her and we can see her struggling to contain and compose herself while she does her speech. Thinking back, Cromwell remembers talking to the executioner about how he’d behead Anne. He mentions not using a block. Between Anne’s actual execution and Cromwell remembering talking to the executioner, they talk about whether she would be steady or not. The crowd gasp when he takes the sword out and she tries to look with the blindfold on. Luckily, the executioner shouts and she looks away. Then it is over. Her women sadly take her away as Cromwell watches, almost remorsefully.

Anne being blindfolded before she is executed

Anne being blindfolded before she is executed

Speaking of remorse, Henry shows none when Cromwell sees him at the end and brings him the news. He joyfully hugs him and, despite no words being exchanged, is probably thinking about Jane Seymour.

Rating: 3.5/5

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