As discussed in previous posts, I am obsessed with Tudor history, and I'm blissfully making my way through Alison Weir's Six Wives of Henry VIII. Here are a few interesting facts.
1. Anne Boleyn had six fingers. (One diplomat described it as an additional nail on one side of one of her fingers, but others, including Margaret Roper, Sir Thomas More's daughter, called it a finger.)
2. Katherine of Aragon was married to Arthur, Henry's older brother, for six months before he died of consumption (tuberculosis). He was ill the entire marriage. Many of Katherine's contemporaries and modern historians believe that the marriage was not consummated, which is hard to believe in this day and age. Arthur's bluffs, like "I spent the night in Spain," which he is reputed to have said the morning after his wedding night, were probably just bluffs - a young man trying to save face.
3. Katherine of Aragon was pregnant definitely six, but maybe eight, times. Only one child survived infancy - Princess Mary.
4. Both Henry and Katherine had blond hair. (She is always depicted in modern films has having black hair, but this might be because popular imagination expects a Spanish woman to have black hair. Plus, blond hair is considered a trait of the English, and she is not usually thought of as an English Queen. Her step-granddaughter, Elizabeth, the most English of Queens, is always depicted with having blonde hair, which she actually did.)
5. Katherine maintained her Spanish accent throughout her life. We know this because of her phonetic spellings of English words. (Spelling was largely unstandardized at the time.) For example, she spelled Hampton Court, 'AntonCurt.'
6. Before he became overweight and burdened with gout, Henry was about 6'2'' with long lean muscles and 'beautiful' calves, of which he was very proud. (He even boasted that there was no way the French King could have as beautiful calves as his.)
7. Anne Boleyn's bones were found in the 19th century during a renovation of the church where she was buried. Her head was neatly cut from her body, and she had 'small, delicate bones.'
8. Henry VIII was ironically pronounced Fidei Defensor, Defender of the Faith, by the Pope, a title that Elizabeth II still holds.
9. Henry VIII supposedly discussed divorce in the late 1510s, long before he met Anne Boleyn, because his conscience was so troubled about breaking Levitican law. According to Leviticus, no man should marry his brother's wife, or God would damn them childlessness. Henry believed that he was childless because he had no sons by Katherine, which proved to him that his marriage was sinful.
10. Katherine of Aragon was the daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Christopher Colombus fame.
(In the picture, Katherine of Aragon pleads with Henry for understanding during the trial to determine the viability of Henry's petition for divorce.)