It’s the third and final episode of what has been an intriguing look at the fate of the wives of Henry VIII. It’s a topic that has been covered innumerable times but it does feel like historian Lucy Worsley has shed some new light on the subject.
This week Lucy travels back to the Tudor Court to witness the fate of the last three wives of Henry VIII.
First Lucy witnesses Henry’s doomed courtship with his 24 year-old fiancée, Anne of Cleves. Henry, now middle aged and overweight, quickly claims to his courtiers that she’s not what he expected. After Henry and Anne’s disastrous wedding night, Lucy observes Henry successfully reneging on their marriage as he claims it hasn’t been consummated. Whilst humiliating for Anne, she would end up outliving both Henry and his later wives and become the richest woman in England.
Two weeks after the annulment of his marriage to Anne, Henry marries teenager Catherine Howard. At court Catherine is involved in what would be referred to today as an abusive relationship with a courtier. When rumours reach Henry of this ‘adultery’, he sends Archbishop Cranmer to interrogate Catherine. Lucy watches as Catherine tragically confesses, is convicted of treason and beheaded.
Henry’s last wife, Katherine Parr, is already in love with someone else but cannot refuse Henry’s marriage offer. Katherine is a great stepmother to Henry’s children but their religious views differ greatly. Katherine writes a religious text, the first book to be written in English by a woman, but its popularity worries Henry’s inner circle, who view her religion as heresy.
When Katherine learns that there is a faction at court plotting against her, she destroys all copies of the book. Lucy observes a guard approaching the King and Katherine as they talk. When the guard issues a warrant for her arrest for heresy, Katherine manages to win Henry round and she survives.
After Henry’s death, Edward VI takes the throne, Katherine marries the courtier she was always in love with and gets pregnant. Tragically she dies a week after the baby is born.
Young King Edward would die a teenager and so Henry’s daughters would become Queens – first Mary, then Elizabeth. Lucy highlights the irony that after all the infidelities, miscarriages, divorces and beheadings in order to produce a male heir, it would be a woman, Elizabeth I, who would secure the Tudor dynasty.
Our picture shows Older King Henry VIII (Richard Ridings) and Katherine Howard (Lauren McQueen)
Six Wives With Lucy Worsley Episode 3 (of 3) airs on Wednesday 21 December, 2016 at 9.00pm on BBC One.