Risky Regencies

The Dating Life, 2008 vs 1543

Happy Saturday, everyone! I’m very excited, because after a few weeks of work the New Look of my website is ready to go. Check it out here! (It’s still a WIP, so any comments/suggestions are most welcome)

And so, last week was the finale of The Bachelorette. I admit I don’t usually watch a whole series of Bachelor/Bachelorette. I go on enough boring dates in real life to not want to sit through it on TV! (Plus it’s Monday, Gossip Girl is on!) Yet there is something about the finale that pulls me in. The cheesy, faux-romantic sets! The tears and angst! The copious picking up and twirling around! Despite the Bachelorette DeAnna’s slightly surprising choice of the “shredding” snowboarder Jesse over predictable Jason, it was kinda sweet and enjoyable.

But I’m always struck by the difference in tone between the Bachelor and Bachelorette, aka the difference between what happens when the men have to chase the woman vs. when the women chase the man. The Bachelor tends to end with awkward hugs and vows of ‘getting to know each other better.’ The Bachelorette seems to end in declarations of soulmate-dom, of True Love Forever. (I sometimes get the sense that the Bachelor, after being wildly pursued by 20 beautiful, and often tipsy, 24-year-olds, feels that he is far hotter than he actually is, and thus why should he settle down with just one? Whereas the Bachelorette is a rare prize to be fought over).

And speaking of women chasing men and vice versa, on this date in 1543 Henry VIII married his sixth and last wife Catherine Parr. Poor Catherine–no final roses or fantasy dates in the Bahamas for her! She had already been married twice to much-older men, and Henry was gouty, crazy, and immensely fat, and in need of a devoted nurse (having dispatched 5 wives already). Catherine, despite being in love and nearly betrothed to the handsome, dashing, but in the end wildly idiotic Thomas Seymour, had no choice. She married the king at Hampton Court, in a quiet ceremony with 20 witnesses.

But she was not just a devoted nurse of elderly husbands. She was deeply interested in the reformed Protestant faith, and her scholarly achievements were impressive (her 1545 book Prayers and Meditations, was the first work ever published by an English queen under her own name. Another book, The Lamentation of a Sinner, was published after Henry’s death). She was also a devoted stepmother, both to the children of her second husband and to Henry’s 3 children, Mary, Elizabeth, and Edward, personally supervising their education.

It was her interest in the Protestant faith and encouragement of study within her household that nearly led her to the block in 1546. The conservative faction at Court had never been happy about her marriage, and the fact that she and her ladies were known to have banned books, the possession of which was grounds for arrest and execution on charges of heresy. The warrant was accidentally dropped, and seen by someone loyal to Catherine, giving her time to go to the king and claim that she only discussed and argued issues of religion with him so she could take his mind off his troubles. Playing to Henry’s ego was always a good thing, and she was spared from being the third queen executed.

After the king’s death in 1547, she married Seymour (a bad decision), and in 1548 died in childbirth at the age of 37. She was buried at her home at Sudeley Castle, with another of her young proteges, Lady Jane Grey, as chief mourner.

So, did you watch Bachelorette? What did you think of the ending, or of the Bachelor franchise in general? Any favorite wives of Henry VIII? (Catherine Parr is actually tied with Katherine of Aragon as my second-fave, behind number one Anne Boleyn!)

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Megan Frampton
14 years ago

One of my first fascinations was with Henry and his multitude of wives, so thanks for this post, Amanda.

My favorite wife was probably the last katherine, too, she had a lot to deal with and managed to survive. Props go to Anne of Cleves, who dodged a bullet by being ugly, to Henry’s eyes at least.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“Props go to Anne of Cleves, who dodged a bullet by being ugly, to Henry’s eyes at least.”

LOL! She really did come out the best of the 6 in the end, didn’t she? A tidy divorce settlement, property of her own, and not having to live with Henry. Good on her.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

Oh, and on a related historical note, on July 10, 1553 Jane Grey started her nine-days reign as queen

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I know so little of this time period, I can’t comment! My knowledge is based on the miniseries of a brazillion years ago and I can’t even remember that!

Fascinating stuff, though. I think it shows that there were strong, intelligent, clever women in every age.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“I think it shows that there were strong, intelligent, clever women in every age.”

This is one of my favorite things to discover in doing historical research! There are always women who somehow find the strength to know themselves, to be true to themselves and stand up for what they want even under the most constraining circumstances. The Tudor and Georgian/Regency periods seem to be especially rich in such women. 🙂

It’s easy to just look at Henry’s wives as victims, since they paid such a heavy price for standing up for themselves, but they were so much more. (For the most part–I don’t know much about Jane Seymour, and Catherine Howard was a normal foolish teenager doing normal foolish teenager things, though it got her killed in the end). But Parr, Boleyn, and Katherine of Aragon were all scholars and patrons of the arts and learning, and willing to be true to themselves and their beliefs even against enormous pressure. They’re very admirable.

Cara King
14 years ago

Oh, I hadn’t realized Catherine Parr died in childbirth not many years after Henry died. Not a very happy ending for her. Too bad!

Speaking of Lady Jane Grey, Amanda, did you ever see the movie about her with Helena Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes? Not a documentary by any stretch, but a great deal of fun. (Except the ending, which, you know, was kind of a downer.)


Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Love your site!!! The colors and the little touches of filligree curlicues.

Megan Frampton
14 years ago

By the way, how funny is it that you have a favorite list of Henry’s wives, with two of them tied for top position?!?

You are such a history geek. Love that about you.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“By the way, how funny is it that you have a favorite list of Henry’s wives,”

I thought everyone had a list of their favorite Henry VIII wives!! 🙂

Cara, it’s been years since I saw that Helena Bonham Carter Lady Jane movie, but I remember enjoying it! Yeah, you’d have thought they would do something about that bummer ending, LOL.

“The colors and the little touches of filligree curlicues.”

Thanks Keira!! And did you notice the lettering of my name matches the lettering on the book covers??

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Yes!! That makes for a great match between your books and the site, a subtle but seamless way to do so. Your friend’s incredibly talented.

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

To answer your question, while Anne Boleyn is the more famous, Catherine is my favorite, partly because of Lady Jane Grey.

After Top Chef‘s season was over, I haven’t been watching any TV until PR next week, so no to The Bachelorette. With Gossip Girls, are you thinking of writing a YA or chick-lit one of these days?

Louisa Cornell
14 years ago

Add me to the history geek roll of honor. I have always counted Anne Boleyn as my favorite Henry VIII wife, with Catherine Parr second. In the end Anne got the last laugh on Henry. Her daughter, the very reason he “divested” himself of her was one of the greatest monarchs in British history. A very sweet revenge for a woman of fairly intellectual attributes in addition to the obvious.

14 years ago

My favorite wife was Anne Cleves who got one of the best divorce settlements. I remember her being played by Bette Davis in a very early Henry VIII movie. I could be wrong.

And I loved the Jane Grey movie. Wasn’t Patrick Stewart also in it?

But all in all, I’d have to say that Katherine of Aragon is by far my favorite. I think Henry always knew her heart was with Arthur and that had to be a thorn in his Tudor arse.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“With Gossip Girls, are you thinking of writing a YA or chick-lit one of these days?”

I have no idea what I might want to write some day, Keira! Maybe an historical YA. Hmmm–a historical YA Gossip Girl? Mostly I just like the clothes on the show. And Blair Waldorf’s crazy machinations. She would have made a good Tudor-era woman.

Speaking of history geeks, I was at dinner tonight with some fellow-geek friends, and tried to explain the intricacies of the Essex Rebellion after a couple glasses of wine. That’s my idea of a fun evening, LOL.

“I’d have to say that Katherine of Aragon is by far my favorite”

Santa, I really admire her, too. She stuck up for herself and her position as queen for more than 20 years, and that of her daughter as princess and heir, when it would have been much easier on her to give in and let him have his divorce. It strikes me that, for a man with supreme power and a strong personality, he sure had lots of women with equally strong personalities opposing him at every turn. 🙂

14 years ago

A number of years ago, Cara and I saw the rarely-performed Shakespeare play Henry VIII. At the end of the first half we thought “Wow, this is great! Why is this play so rarely performed?” After the second half, we thought “Oh, so that’s why it’s so rarely performed!” 🙂

To be fair to Shakespeare, he was laboring under severe difficulties: he was trying to make Catherine of Aragon a patient and saintly martyr, and Anne Boleyn a blameless and virtuous young woman. Hard to keep both those ideas going at once without the plot unraveling around the edges.


Deb Marlowe
14 years ago

I always liked Katherine of Aragon, too. Such dignity.

When I read about this period I’m always struck by how *exhausting* it must have been to be a part of this court!

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