Monday, 23 May 2005

Henry VIII and the Biblical Excuse



Apparently when Henry VIII was young he was a great athlete. He was involved in various sports, amongst which were football. This contrasts markedly with the image we have of him as a fat bloke riddled with gout, which of course describes his later years.

When he became king he was only 18 years old. His brother Arthur, who had been the heir to the throne had died several years earlier. He was thus made Prince of Wales and future king and also had to marry his brother's wife, Katharine of Aragon.

Henry's marriage to Katharine did not make him very happy as the desired male heir was not forthcoming. Over 10 years she suffered many miscarriages and when a boy was born he only died a few months later. This made Henry extremely depressed. He could not understand why Katharine could not come up with a male child and came to the conclusion that God must be angry with him. He could not think why though until he came across a passage in the Levitikon book of the Bible, which gave him an answer. He found the part which says "thou shalt not marry your brother's wife or though shalt remain childless". This gave him the answer he wanted and one suspects it gave him the justification to start proceedings which would lead to an anulment of a marriage he already had grown tired of. In 1533 he divorced Katharine and separated her from their daughter Mary. She ended her life three years later, in 1536, alone and uncared for.

4 comments:

Light said...

I was a divorce solicitor for a while; not one of my clients ever had the imagination to come up with an excuse like this. It was usually shrieking accusations of adultery...

God, we've lost so much class as a nation over the last 500 years...

Faithmy said...

I disagree. Henry loved Katherine and press the Pope for an exception to the rule that said he couldnt marry his brother's widow (precisely forbidden b/c of that Bible verse.) He claimed (as she did) that Katherine and Arthur had never consummated the marriage, therefore it was OK for them to marry. This was a HUGH part of the reason the pope would not budge about an anullment--Henry had lobbied for so long and hard to be able to marry--he wasnt going to get out of it. Love your site!

Natasha said...

Claiming that the verse in Leviticus weighed on his conscious was a nicer way of saying "I would like to trade in my old wife for a newer model." It also was the start of the reform of England. Henry then becomse "God" in England. Head of the Church, leader of a country, that is too much power for one self-important person to hold.

Natasha said...

The excuse that the verse taken from Leviticus weighed on Henry conscious was just a nice way of saying "I'd like to trade my old wife[queen] in for a newer model." It also led to the reform of the church, giving Henry the rule over it. He was (in his mind) a representation of the divine on earth. God speaks through rulers so they may lead their countries. Giving such a self-important, spoiled man that much power was a bad mistake.