Tudor Trivia

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.)


  1. I remember how I got interested in the Tudors. My babysitter was swept up in the BBC series that aired in the late 60s or early 70s. She tuned in just in time for Anne Boleyn's imprisonment. By the end of the show, I was dying to know more about this family.

  2. In my late teens I was obsessed with Henry VIII, his wives and children. What I remember reading about Anne Boleyn's 6th finger is that at the time of her downfall people whispered that she was a witch who had put the king under a spell and that the extra finger was a witch's teat to suckle her devil's imps!

  3. As far as I know Henry VIII wrote Greensleeves for Anne Boleyn because she wore long sleeves to hide her extra finger. They truly were fascinating times.

  4. That's so interesting about Greensleeves! Weir doesn't mention that.

  5. Actually, the thing about Greensleeeves is probably more a legend. I read on the internet several times things such as ''however, Henry did not write "Greensleeves," which is probably Elizabethan in origin and is based on an Italian style of composition that did not reach England until after his death''.

    I'm also pretty sure she didn't have 6th fingers either. On wikipedia, they say: ''After her death, a number of rumours sprang up about Anne, mostly by Catholic sources hostile to Elizabeth I. Nicholas Sander, the Catholic recusant, in De Origine ad Progressu Schismatis Anglicani (1585) described her as seducing men as a child, having six fingers on one hand, a wen under her chin, and being the natural daughter of Henry VIII. Her skeleton, exhumed and closely examined in 1876, showed finely formed hands with no extra finger.''

    Even without that, there's no question Tudors history is still fascinating!

  6. Hello from another Tudor fan. There are many of us out here in cyberspace. I would like to recommend Tudorhistory.org, a website dedicated to all things Tudor. The question and answers blog is wonderful and there are very interesting questions asked. There are also many Tudor historians that frequent the site and answer the questions with remarkable details that one might never know otherwise. The site also includes everything you might want to know about the Tudors and things or people in relation to them. All the questions that have been asked since 2006 are available to look at. You will come to learn that Ann Boleyn did NOT have 6 fingers, but may have had an extra fingernail. Henry's divorce from Katherine was not about Leviticus, but about his obsession with Anne Boleyn - his "great matter". Henry's marriage to Katherine was completely legal, and he knew it. It is believed by most historians that the marriage of Arthur to CofA was NOT consummated. There is so much more to learn about this cast of characters and a lot of documented sources out there as proof to what is real and what is not. I myself became a Tudor fan after reading A. Weir, and have now read many books and found amazing websites dedicated to them. Also check out Tudor Place (tudorplace.com). From these websites you will find many other great links to other sites related to the Tudors, both Henry VIII and his wifes and Elizabethan. One site is called "Tudoriffic". I know, a bit hokey but fun.


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