Henry VIII and His Six Wives Janet Hardy Gould - chapter 1
King Henry is dead
My name is Catherine Parr. A month ago I was the Queen of England, the wife of King Henry the Eighth. Henry died and we buried him last week in St George’s Church, Windsor. Two days ago, on 16th February 1547, I went back to the palace of Whitehall, which was once my home. I wanted to take my letters and books and bring them back to my house.
Margaret, my new maid, came to the palace with me. She’s very young and doesn’t know a lot about the world. She has only just come up to London from her home in Somerset. Perhaps I was like her when I was twelve. I, too, was always asking questions and wanting answers immediately.
When we arrived at the palace, it was cold and dark. We walked into Henry’s room. I sat down in one of Henry’s large chairs in front of his wooden writing desk and looked at the pictures around the room. Next to me there was a big picture of Henry, when he was young. He was very handsome then, not like the fat old man he was later. I thought his blue eyes were watching me. I turned to Margaret and said:
‘You see that picture of the King? That’s what he was like when he was young – tall and strong and handsome. People say that he never got tired. He could go out riding all day, changing his horses nine or ten times, and then he could dance all night. He was clever, too; he could speak five languages. Will people remember him like that, or will they only remember him because he had six wives?’
‘Did he really have so many wives?’ said Margaret.
‘Yes, of course. I thought that everyone knew that.’
Margaret looked away and said, ‘We didn’t get much news from London at home, and my family’s house is a long way from the nearest village.’
‘It doesn’t matter,’ I said, smiling. ‘One day, I’ll tell you the story of my husband Henry’s life.’
On the desk in front of me there was a wooden box with a large gold H on the top. I opened it slowly and took out some old letters. Each letter was in different writing and some of them were old and yellow. One letter had a picture of a large bird on it. It was from Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn.
‘Margaret!’ I said. ‘I’ve found some letters from Henry’s other wives. There’s also a beautiful gold necklace and a small piece of hair.’ I looked at another letter. ‘Here’s one old letter from his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. She was married to him for a very long time.’
‘She only had one child, didn’t she?’ said Margaret.
‘Yes, only Princess Mary is still alive. There were five other children, but they were all born too early and died.’
Again I looked at the letter with the picture of the bird on it. ‘Have you heard of Anne Boleyn, Margaret?’
‘Yes, my mother talked about her. She said she was a very bad woman.’
‘Well, that’s what some people say. Anne was the mother of Henry’s second daughter, Princess Elizabeth. Look,’ I said. ‘This one is from Katherine Howard, Henry’s fifth wife. Both Anne and Katherine were beheaded in that terrible prison, the Tower of London.’
‘Why did the King send them to their deaths?’ asked Margaret. She looked afraid.
‘They had many enemies, who told the King that they had lovers. Perhaps the stories were true, I don’t know. But the King believed them.’
I looked at another letter. ‘This one is from Jane Seymour. She was the third wife and the mother of Henry’s only living son. He is now our King, Edward the Sixth.’
‘Was Jane Seymour beheaded too?’ asked Margaret.
‘No, poor Queen Jane died soon after Edward was born.’
I looked at the last, short letter. ‘Look, a letter from Anne of Cleves, Henry’s fourth wife.’
‘Did she have any children?’ asked Margaret.
‘No,’ I laughed. ‘Henry thought that Anne was very ugly and he didn’t want her to be the mother of his children.’
Margaret was silent. Then she said, ‘King Henry sounds like a terrible husband.’
‘He wasn’t all bad, Margaret. There were good times, too. He was clever at so many things – horse-riding and tennis, writing and playing music. He wrote many beautiful songs, and he had a wonderful singing voice. But it’s true that he wasn’t very kind to his wives.’
Margaret looked at the box. ‘So why did he keep these letters from them?’ she asked.
‘Oh, you ask so many questions, Margaret! I don’t know. Perhaps each letter says something important.’
I looked up and saw that it was nearly dark. It was time to go home to Chelsea Manor. I put the letters back inside the box.
‘Come, Margaret, we must go now.’
‘But can’t we read the letters?’ she asked.
‘We’ll take them with us and read them tomorrow.’
Popular Last 24 hours
- Hustle Harder, Hustle Sma... 45 views
- Life of Pi 24 views
- I Fell In love With A Bli... 14 views
- Alien Alert in Seattle By... 13 views
- The Murder at the Vicarag... 7 views
- A Moment of Madness Thoma... 7 views
- 6 Songs By Nick Hornby 6 views
- Age of Dragons By Antoine... 5 views
- Women in Business 4 views
- Arlos War By Frank Brenna... 4 views