"28th June, 1491 was a momentous day for England. Sadly England did not realise it at the time. I came kicking and squalling into this world, full of vigour, full of strength and hearty of lungs. God be witness to this, what was the first thing they did? Put me to the breast. Now I ask you... what chance did a man have of growing up to be indifferent to women when they did that!"
With these words his Majesty King Henry VIII, arguably the most powerful English king, strides onto the pages of this remarkable book. In conversation with the woman he believes to be the reincarnation of katherine of Aragon, he recounts the real events surrounding his six wives; his regrets, his triumphs and his disasters. In coruscating detail he relives the moment he fell in love with his brother's wife and how all that befell him and his beloved England stemmed from that moment.
By turns acerbic, witty, brutal and sensitive, Henry VIII stands revealed at last - but beware, he is not happy with how history has treated him!
Why Henry VIII, when there are so many books on his life and/or his many wives? Because it feels as if the books consistently miss the essence of the man and the man himself knows this. He wanted to write his life as he saw it and lived it. For most authors he is either a bluff jovial king or a tyrannical despot, murdering all in sight. The truth lies somewhere between the two.
Henry VIII is a combination of his ancestors, his cautious, quiet, diplomatic politician father, his quiet, beautiful, obedient mother, his equally beautiful grandmother, Elizabeth Woodville, his grandfather, the soldier king, Edward IV, the ambitious Margaret Beaufort and even further back, to the Valois and Welsh ancestors. All that heritage came together in one virile, woman-loving, power-hungry, ambitious and very clever man who was able to manipulate those around him and get his own way by sheer force of his personality.
He is often eulogised in film and on TV only for his sexual exploits but this, like so many ‘facts’ about this extraordinary king, is just another myth. Some historians seem to get no further than his six wives; others want to portray him only as a mass murderer, albeit with all the killings done second hand. Few, especially novelists, have managed to capture the man himself.
This is Henry as he was; a giant among men. It is also our effort to put right many of the ‘errors’ made by film makers and others who do not let historical facts get in the way of what they want to see on the screen, starting with the colour of his hair… and to rectify comments such as his being a ‘murderous cripple’, comments which bother His Majesty a good deal. This book is his observations on his life and on the way he has been - and still is - portrayed.
I know, from being regressed several times, that I was once Katherine of Aragon. The first two occasions were with a hypnotherapist. Both times I went back to the lives of the same two people, in the same order, too, Katherine first and then someone in the 15th century. The regressions were very vivid, even without the prompting of the tape I can remember the words I spoke and the sensations I experienced. The ‘Katherine’ life was also confirmed by a leading psychic when I asked her about another past life.
So it was no surprise to find His Majesty coming to me, calling me Katherine and asking about writing his story. It is a great comfort to know that when the book is done, unlike the majority of the other authors who are awaiting their turn, my liege lord will not be moving on. He says he will stay with me for the remainder of my natural life and help me in every way he can. This is a gift and an honour; I do not consider myself worthy of his attention and devotion, although he insists I am.
Here then is the eighth person to hold the name Henry and become King, in his own words, as told to the person who was once his Queen, Katherine of Aragon.
Isle of Wight,
Dedicated to the memory of
His Majesty King Henry VIII
28th June 1491 – 28th January 1547
‘God And My Right’
This book is also dedicated to HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, at the request of His Majesty King Henry VIII. His comments are as follows:
This fine Prince has been maligned, misunderstood, misquoted, caricatured and at times ignored. He has suffered much at the hands of the press, has been through grief, great loss and heartache as well as periods of great contentment and happiness. He has my every sympathy for I have known such feelings myself. But I know and the country should know that his heart and mind are in the right place, that he has the welfare of the people of what you now call Great Britain at the centre of his thinking. He should be accorded respect for the work he does and the example he sets in his devotion to the work of the Royal Family and the many organisations of which he is patron.
In particular I wish to thank him for his patronage and interest in the raising of the Mary Rose and in the ongoing work of the Museum dedicated to preserving my favourite ship and all the artefacts discovered with it.
I also wish to remember every person who helped resurrect what was left of the Mary Rose and to all who created and those who continue to maintain the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth. You do me a great service in preserving my ship. I will not forget it.
For my part, grateful thanks go to:
Mary Holliday, devoted friend;
Lynne Mulrooney, who knows how much help she has been;
Terry Wakelin because he is Terry Wakelin, my rock and my anchor as always;
To everyone in my spiritual ‘inner circle’ for support, love, laughter, guidance and for always being there.
I would also like to mention Jane Owen for her ongoing contribution in keeping the Tudor connection to Appuldurcombe House alive and kicking.
Henry and I also wish to mention a special person, our daughter Mary Tudor, who is now in this life. She knows who she is.
A percentage of the royalties from this book are to go to the Mary Rose Trust, to ensure the work of the museum and care of the artefacts continues. If we can play a small part in funding the work of drying out the hull so it is preserved for future generations to visit, view and learn from, it will be worthwhile.
Quote: Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
It has been said that though God cannot alter the past, historians can: it is perhaps because they can be useful to Him in this respect that He tolerates their existence.
(It is to be hoped He will continue to tolerate me for a few more years…)
"Katherine, this nonsense on what you call TV, what is it all about? Tudors! What do they know? For a start, I had blonde hair; did they not know that? What is this dark-haired person who looks nothing like me doing leaping into - or onto - bed with women who look nothing like my wives? I mean, my dear wife, you were beautiful, that one, well ... just plain unattractive, to me, anyway. Now, shall we tell it like it really was?”
“My liege lord, I am ready and waiting. Where do you want to start?”
“Ha! That is a question I have been long pondering, ever since you said you would write my story and chose that title. By the way, how did you know that would sum up my life so well?’
“Simple. You diced with God from the moment you laid eyes on me and probably a good deal before that, too, before I arrived in your life, my Lord. I would need the ability to travel the Realms and find each and every nursemaid, tutor, stable hand, falconer, tailor, courtier … need I go on… to find out what you were like from the moment you first drew breath until I saw you myself. I do not have that ability, more’s the pity but I can go with what I know of you.”
“Hm. This might be more difficult than I anticipated. I had visions, you know, happy visions of walking the floor of this room, your office I think you call it, hung with moons for some reason that still escapes me-”
“You asked me about them the first time you came, my Lord. You stood in typical majestic pose, hands on hips, and said “Katherine, what is all this stuff?” and then swept the air with a kingly right hand. I said then ‘just moons, sire, because I like them.’ No more than that.”
“As I said, walking the floor dictating my life story to you, to undo the dreadful impression given by that – that autobiography – yes, I know, before you say a word, I told you to buy it! But I did not think the author would be so foolish as to put grown up words into a three year old’s mouth! And then this – this television thing – in the name of God…”
“Too many mistakes, it seems to me. Not that I have watched it, as you well know. I would not bother with something that is so erroneous as not to be true. And now the film…”
“Do Not Under Any Circumstances speak to me of the film, Katherine! That is an outrage and an abomination and a disaster! How could they do that to a book?”
“Quite easily. Hollywood has a talent for wrecking books.”
“So I see, so I see. Well, shall we get on with the real book?”
“You have had time to consider the outline of the book, my Lord, where you really want to begin. At least, I thought you had, but I might have taken you by surprise in deciding to write three books at the same time, one of them being yours.”
“Yes! Damn woman! I – oh, what’s the point? Women always get their own way! Why don’t we do what that dreadful author did, begin at the beginning?”
“And end at the end?”
“Of course. Need you ask?”
“Which ‘end’ would that be, my Lord? The one where you were, with great difficulty, lowered into the grave alongside Jane Seymour, or the ‘end’ that is now apparent, you as a spirit companion and guide to this lowly writer?”
“Are you aware how much of a Plantagenet habit that ‘Ha!’ is? You are your grandfather’s descendant, for sure!”
“Hm. The less said about him the better, I think, Katherine. A most unsavoury time, most unsavoury. So much gallivanting going on. So many battles, so much fighting and killing.”
“You, of course, never indulged in such things...”
“No! Of course not! Well, perhaps…”
“Before this slides into conflict, my Lord, should we not begin the story?”
“Yes, Katherine, let us begin! We will take the sorry tale of one man’s life as King of this thrice blessed country and set it aright. We will dispel the myth that I lived solely for women – but what true man would not do just that, if they were paraded in front of him? Endlessly paraded, I would add! – And dispel the myth that all I sought was money. Oh, and that I was fat and old and tired before my time. No, I was fat and old and tired because of my time. Too many banquets, too little exercise. Ah, but I was a fair prince…
Enough! We have a book to write!”
Chapter One - Beginnings
28th June 1491 was a momentous day for England. Sadly England did not realise it at the time. I came kicking and squalling into this world, full of vigour, full of strength and hearty of lungs. God be witness to this, what was the first thing they did? Put me to the breast. Now I ask you … what chance did a man have of growing up to be indifferent to women when they did that!
You are going to ask ‘how do I know that?’ I will tell you that it was the habit of the time. Birth the child, clean the child, console the child with the breast of the wet nurse to stop the inevitable bawling that comes of being thrust head first into a world that does not always appreciate your arrival, then turn to the mother and deal with the after effects of what was and is a most dangerous act – delivering a child.
Why was I not appreciated? Because I was a second son. And because I was one of the ‘rich’, with servants, maids, nurses and physicians in attendance when so many of my fellow countrymen – and I say that without a hint of condescension, by the way – fought for survival in the most pitiful of conditions.
There is nothing more useless than a second son until they are needed. The ‘spare’. The ‘might one day be useful’ being who hangs around, getting under people’s feet – often literally, especially when small – given lessons because lessons are needed, instruction on how to behave, how to conduct oneself at the table in the presence of the Great and Good of England and any other land, come to that. Taught to do these things because even in the most well-run household, where we were all prayed over often, given the best food, the best medicine when ill, the best of everything all the time, accidents, illnesses and death could happen. And did, on a regular basis.
It is hard to imagine me, this giant of a man in every way, being a helpless child swaddled and cradled and fed and taught the basics of life: control your body, your movements, your stumbling feet, your inability which soon becomes an ability to converse, if only by single words for a while. The forming of sentences comes later. Speaking English comes with the milk you are fed. Speaking any language gives you an advantage; you can ask for that which you need or simply want.
To be philosophical for a moment, a child cannot form the concept of ‘love’ in their mind so cannot use the word to ask for it. Love should be freely given. In my case it was not. Perhaps the nursemaids had a love for the little boy Henry; the tutors did not, that I can assure you. My father, of which much more later – unfortunately – did not. My mother did as she was bid but did she, in her heart, hold a love for her son who soon grew big and strong and determined not to be outdone or overshadowed and showed it in his attitude? I would like to think so. But I cannot prove it and have no way of giving myself concrete evidence on which to believe it.
Your century is a million years from mine; your last century went through changes that happened so fast it is hard to keep track of them. Back then, in my time, everything changed slowly. Even fashion took some time to be adopted. The books say that the court copied Anne Boleyn’s long trailing sleeves, yes, they did, but not immediately. At first they simply pointed and stared. Now a look is advertised, I think you say it thus, and every young person appears to be wearing it the next day. No matter if it is ugly, unsuitable, ridiculous or any other word you wish to fasten to it, that is what happens. We moved much slower, we took our time to make changes. Were you to visit a castle in the 15th century and again in the 16th century you would find little change. Maybe an additional building here or there, maybe a few more tapestries, more glass, but not much else. So I tell you that the procedure on the birth of a child was the same for many centuries. A newly born living child was something to be rejoiced over and if the mother survived too, even more rejoicing. Aristocratic children were put to the breast of the waiting wet nurse and so I repeat, I was put to the breast - and never left it.
That’s made you laugh, Katherine, something I have not seen for a while! At last, a laugh! But enough of that. What we are to one another is not for the world to know, is it? Or would they want to know? This day I am full of questions, for myself, for you, for the world at large. I am getting few answers; your entire mind is dedicated to writing my words as I send them from my spirit to yours. Sometimes you falter, as if the words are not clear, but I believe you falter only to make sense of them before committing them to your screen, that light which shines before you and magically displays the words which you somehow put on to it. Just as well, with the speed of my thoughts and memories, no quill or parchment would tolerate the rapidity of the words!
To return to the subject - me. I have to comment that few biographies, few historians mention my early years. They tend to begin when the crown was placed on this fair head of mine but my formative years were just that, forming my character so that what came after was a result of what I lived through then. Is this not always so? Are people not formed by what they had/endured in early life and did that not colour their personality for the remainder of the time?
Remember this always, you who judge me even now, you who call me monster and tyrant and despot and a hundred other derogatory terms – I know full well who some of them are – you did not walk in my shoes. You did not live my life. You did not have to cope with all that I coped with in the way of deception, treachery, double dealing: the power-mad potentates who would have liked nothing more than to see me fall from my glorious pinnacle, the self-seeking families who put their women, young and not so young, in my life so that I might see them and perhaps toss a few scraps of honours their way, when they were not scheming to place the bitch in my bed, that is.
I am aware Katherine hesitated long before typing the word I gave her, but it is true. Mostly they were bitches. Fortune-hunting schemers who had no love for me, none whatsoever, but a tremendous lust for that which I could offer them: a position of power and prestige. But my Katherine loved me and I walked out on her and that I regret more than I regret any death, any execution, any act I did in the remainder of my reign.
What a diversion I set up there! I have to say, in truth, many of those who schemed their way into my life and into my bed were doing precisely what that clever title indicates, they were dicing with God – I was God at that time - and they lost. I can load dice as well as any trickster. I did, too.
Enough! I have a deadline; I must work to it! A set amount of months for Katherine to scour the books, take my memories, write my words, ensuring I do not miss anything or anyone in this overall view of a long, violent, bloody, golden, power-ridden period of history. The choice of words is deliberate: the overview will be truncated here and there, of necessity, there is not enough paper in the world for me to write every word, every conversation, every plot, every treasonable act … and have a book that can be held in the hand and read comfortably. You readers today do not sit at desks to read, but hunch over a book in a train or bus or before that thing, that time-gobbling monster you call television or whilst you eat. You are not allowed to throw bones over your shoulder any more, by the way … I would wish I had actually done that. It would have been interesting to see the reaction of those who ate with me and those who were struck by the bones. Would they have kept them as relics or would they have quietly thrown them to the dogs immediately? Ah, can you believe the stupid pathways my thoughts take me these days? Am I getting old or something?
Katherine assures me with your words: ‘no, you are not, you are just shaking off the shackles of royalty and being yourself.’
And what am I? A better Fool than the Fool I had, for sure. I employed him at first because I felt sorry for him and he amused me, sometimes. Later he became invaluable. I know I could have done a better job than he did as Fool, but it was beneath a king’s dignity to make jokes. Or so they told me. You do know I threatened to kill him once, with my own hands? He took on a dare and cast aspersions on Anne. I wanted to kill him that day. I am glad I didn’t, he became a most valued helper and nursemaid in my later life. He is a fine Fool, helper and nursemaid to me now, not that I need nursing but it is nice to be pampered occasionally.
A larger than life monarch in English history? That is how many view me and obviously why there are so many books on my life and so many films and programmes and lectures and assumptions. I like the idea of being a larger than life monarch but I do disapprove most strongly of the many mistakes and wild assumptions they have been making over the years which have somehow become fact. I am grateful for the chance to put my side of the story and perhaps straighten out a few of the more conceited, arrogant and pontificating historians you seem to have around you at the moment. Katherine does not own, nor would I encourage her to have it, the latest book on my life. Already she reads that there are badly written passages in it. Of course there are, he rushed it to coincide with the anniversary of my coronation, as if that matters a jot to anyone but the publishers. This book has been revised several times already and by the time it is delivered to Katherine’s publishers, we will have gone over it one more time to ensure that every person named here is named in a way that the reader will understand who they are and their place in history. We will also watch for awkward sentences, unless I ask for them to stand. Not everything can be left to editors, I have to say, although I also have to say Katherine happens to have a superb editor for her series.
What else am I? A despot, killing all who stood in my way. Yes, it would seem that way but there were reasons for every execution, something I will go into later.
A much-married man with an eye for the women? I think, if you look at some of your film stars, you will find there some much married men - and women, too. One has been married eight times, if I remember correctly. Why should I have been any different? Read the book; find out why I was much married. There were reasons, just as there were for the executions.