07 September 2010
Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn: One time wives to the Great King Henry
Anne came into King Hal's life in a rather indirect way. I don't think it is fair to say that Anne Boleyn destroyed Catherine of Aragon's marriage, because her husband was disenchanted with Catherine long before Anne made herself known at the English court. As we all know, Mary was Hal's mistress long before he became enamoured of Anne. In fact, the Boleyn Family became interwoven into Henry and Catherine's estrangement in a complex and somewhat convoluted manner. That is not to say that Anne did not bear guilt, because she certainly did. Anne carried on for years with a still very married man, and simultaneously mistreated his daughter, Mary. I have wondered to what extent the miserable treatment Mary endured from Anne Boleyn, shaped her extremely disturbed personality in her adulthood.
King Henry was gracing the Boleyns and Howards with many favours quite some time prior to his fiery romance with the raven-haired Anne. To many, it seemed that as Henry was systematically ousting poor Catherine out of his life, he was almost creating a new family for himself among the Boleyn and Howard factions.
It is difficult not to feel great sympathy for Catherine. Almost any normal woman can relate to her dilemma. She was the wife of Henry's youth and had done nothing to deserve such shoddy treatment. She had been faithful to Hal in every conceivable way, had never complained of having a convenient headache when Hal's desires were for her, (and he would admit later that she had performed her wifely duties in every way when they were together,) and she had deferred to him on all matters. But, Boy Howdy, when Hal thought he was going to quietly send Catherine on her way and take up with sexy, young Anne Boleyn, the Great Henry found he had another thing a-coming. The formerly mild, almost timid Catherine stood up to him with a fury that few man ever had dared to. Again--as women, most of us can relate. Henry had impregnated Catherine over and again. Few of us modern day women would like to be pregnant as many times as the long suffering Catherine had been. The poor queen kept having miscarriages, or infants who would tragically die shortly after birth. All contemporary accounts report that being perpetually pregnant for many years had all but destroyed Catherine's looks. Once a bright strawberry blonde, with rose-gold cheeks and curvy figure, sorrow and over a dozen pregnancies had left Catherine prematurely aged, and hopelessly stout. Sadly, Henry had not the character to remain loving to his wife. We all know couples where the wife was once a Catherine Zeta-Jones, or a Christie Brinkley, and 3 children later, perhaps a career, loads of hard work and perhaps a few heartaches along the way, has thoroughly faded the wife's once radiant beauty. And yet the husband remains solidly in love with his wife. A real man knows and expects that his wife will not look the way she did in the honeymoon photos forever. Beauty fades, and quite fast, so many of us have found. True beauty comes from the heart, and this type does not fade. Catherine had true beauty to spare. But Henry was a superficial kind of guy. He found Anne's long shimmering black hair, her flashing eyes, and her sworn state of virginity, (probably not true,) to be an offer he couldn't refuse. It is worth mentioning, and considering that we know how the story ends, Anne would one day find herself in the same unenviable position. Discarded, cheated on, unwanted was the state Anne would become familiar with, just as Catherine had experienced not so many years before.