Henry VIII and His Six Wives s01e01 Episode Script

Katherine of Aragon

Henry VIII is the most Infamous monarch in English history.
I, Katherine I, Anne, take thee, Henry, to be my husband.
I do.
Famously, over his 38-year reign he married six times.
Divorced, Beheaded, Died Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.
But the women Henry married were more than just six wives.
They were the six queens.
The six queens were formidable individuals.
Some were ambitious, some brave, some ruthless.
All changed history.
They shaped the man who became the monster, and in turn they shaped England itself.
But who were these women? What drove them? And what was it really like to be married to Henry VIII? In this series we'll dissect these marriages from the rival perspectives of Henry and his queens.
- I will call you Henry.
We'll uncover the passions that created them, the obsessions that darkened them and the betrayals that brought them to an end.
This time, Henry's first wife, Katherine of Aragon, is often over-looked by history but she was the warrior queen who taught Henry how to be a king.
Be ready to defend your territory! This is the little-known story of their love, their passion and the tragedies that tore them apart.
You are not my wife! On November 14th 1501, Princess Katherine of Aragon was being prepared for her wedding night in London.
She was 15 years old, over a thousand miles from home and she spoke little English.
But Katherine had a big future ahead of her.
Hours earlier, she had stood in front of thousands of people in Saint Paul's Cathedral and married Arthur, Prince of Wales.
The eldest son of Henry VII, the first Tudor king of England.
Prince Arthur was the heir to the English throne, and Katherine was one day to be his queen.
The marriage of Arthur and Katherine was hugely important to Henry VII.
It allied his fledgling Tudor dynasty with Katherine's powerful royal family in Spain.
To strengthen the bond, King Henry expected the young couple to produce a son and heir.
A king who would one day rule England.
The future of the Tudor dynasty depended on it.
Little did anyone know that what went on beneath the royal sheets that night would one day have consequences that would change England forever.
In December 1501, newly-weds Arthur and Katherine moved here, to Ludlow Castle in Shropshire.
This is where Arthur would begin his training to one day rule England with Katherine by his side.
This probably wasn't the life that Katherine had been expecting.
She had been born in Madrid and had grown up in some of the most beautiful palaces in Spain.
And now she was stuck here - on a damp and draughty hilltop, miles from the capital.
And whilst this castle was certainly the grandest place about it hadn't been renovated for 150 years - it wasn't exactly glamorous.
The cold and dank castle took its toll on the royal couple's health.
Around Easter 1502, just four months into their marriage both Arthur and Katherine fell seriously ill.
People feared they had caught the plague.
Then on April 2nd, Prince Arthur died.
The mysterious illness also looked like it would finish off Princess Katherine.
But she was made of strong stuff, and after a fight she pulled through.
Where is Arthur? Where is my husband? Where is he? Katherine had been married for just five months and a day.
the news of Arthur's death threw her back into a sickness and into deep mourning.
One day she was Queen-in-Waiting.
The next she was a 16-year-old widow, alone in a foreign land.
Katherine's life wasn't the only one turned upside down by the sudden death of Prince Arthur.
Here at Eltham Palace on the outskirts of London the spotlight now fell on Arthur's 10-year-old brother, Prince Henry.
Henry was a bright, intelligent child, but he had been brought up at palaces like this surrounded mostly by women and he had never been prepared for rule.
Henry was no longer the second son.
Suddenly he was next in line to the English throne.
When we think of the towering and majestic Henry VIII it's easy to forget that he was never meant to be king at all.
So this sudden change in circumstances must have been very disconcerting but things were about to get even worse.
Less than a year after Arthur's death.
Henry's mother, Elizabeth of York, also died.
Now there could be no more sons.
The future of the Tudor dynasty rested heavily on Prince Henry's young shoulders.
The sudden, drastic loss of Henry's brother and mother was more than just a personal tragedy it was a harsh political lesson.
And it drilled into Henry the paramount importance of securing the line of succession.
But to do that he'd need a suitable wife.
Henry was still only a child, so he had no say in who he would marry.
His father decided for him.
And he made a strategic choice - Arthur's widow, 17-year-old Katherine of Aragon.
This was Katherine's second chance to be Queen of England.
But to get the throne would take all the fight she had.
In June 1503, a marriage contract was arranged between 11-year-old Prince Henry and 17-year-old Katherine of Aragon.
The couple were scheduled to marry in two years' time.
Unfortunately for Katherine recovering her position as future Queen of England was not going to be straightforward.
A condition of her marriage was that her father, Ferdinand of Aragon provide 100,000 crowns in plate, jewels and coins as a dowry in advance.
But by 1505, this had not been received.
So the date of the wedding came and went.
The stalemate between Katherine's father and King Henry VII continued.
Katherine was now 20 years old, in limbo and starved of money.
Her household was sinking into debt.
Desperate, Katherine wrote to her father appealing for help.
Those personal letters are kept at the British Library.
This is an original letter from Katherine to her father from 1506 and it's an extraordinary letter because it says in it that she is in the greatest trouble in the world.
She says that she has only two chemises and she has had to sell some bracelets in order to buy a robe of black velvet, because she was all but naked and a little later on she says that she doesn't have money for food.
This is an incredible situation - we have a princess from one of the great royal houses of Europe writing to her father to say that she has to sell her jewellery in order to buy food and clothes.
The stand-off continued for 3 more years.
Henry VII kept Katherine penniless and made no promises about her future.
Katherine was so isolated and desperate she even considered suicide.
Then on April 21st 1509.
King Henry VII died of tuberculosis.
Within hours, his now 17-year-old son was proclaimed Henry VIII, King of England.
Henry was tall, good-looking and accomplished, and he was welcomed to the throne with near universal acclaim, both in England and abroad.
Henry was England's most eligible bachelor and, now his father was dead, he was free to choose his own bride.
He wanted a queen who could help him bring glory to England and a wife who could produce a batch Of healthy sons.
There was only one woman for Henry.
Katherine of Aragon, his brother's widow.
Katherine had endured 7 years of heartbreak and hardship but now she would finally be queen.
On June 11th 1509 the young couple married in a small private ceremony in Greenwich Palace.
Katherine was 23 years old and Henry was about to turn 18.
I, Henry take thee Katherine to be my wife to have and to hold, from this day forward for better for worse, until death us do part and thereto I plight thee my troth.
So why did Henry choose Katherine? Well, we know he was physically attracted to her but he didn't just want a pretty wife - he wanted a queen.
He was an inexperienced ruler and he was looking for someone to help him achieve the glory that he'd dreamed of.
So in that sense Katherine's 7-year struggle to marry Henry was one long job interview.
And she had excelled.
She was exactly what this young king needed.
I, Katherine take thee, Henry to be my wedded husband to have and to hold, from this day forward 'til death do us part.
I now pronounce you man and wife.
Katherine 's strength of character had paid off and she had the ultimate prize, the English crown.
Her days of wearing rags and selling her possessions to survive were long gone.
She had the world at her feet and she was going to make her impression on it.
Katherine adored her handsome, athletic and vigorous new husband.
She wrote to her father to thank him for allowing her to be 'so well married.
' She loved Henry and it seems that Henry loved her.
Henry and Katherine did their duty to the Tudor dynasty.
And just months into their marriage Katherine became pregnant.
The royal couple were happier than ever.
But on January 31st, 1510, their happiness turned to sorrow when their baby was stillborn at nearly 8 months.
It's okay.
It's not your fault.
Katherine was devastated by the stillbirth, and suffered a crushing sense of shame.
When she wrote to her father to break the news she said that it was an 'ill omen' and she begged him 'not to be angry with her for it was the will of God'.
Henry was just as distraught, but he didn't blame his wife.
In fact, he was very gentle and supportive.
And the stillbirth was kept a closely guarded secret.
Apart from the royal couple, only 4 people knew about it.
Katherine remained in confinement, hidden away from the rest of the court until she was pregnant again.
Which didn't take very long.
On New Year's Eve 1510, the Queen went into labour.
All Katherine's hopes rested on giving Henry a healthy son and heir.
She blamed herself for losing the first child and she felt couldn't afford to fall again.
Henry probably prayed more than anyone that this time a healthy child would be born.
He needed a son and heir to continue the Tudor line.
At 1:30am on New Year's Day Katherine gave birth.
To her utter delight, it was a boy.
Precious boy.
Little Prince, Little Prince.
Wait until your daddy sees you.
Katherine was now the wife of a king and the mother of a prince.
Her status had never been so high.
The public rejoiced, bonfires were lit, wine flowed in the streets and cannon were fired from the Tower of London.
Henry VIII was beside himself with joy.
Just a year and a half into his marriage and already he had a son.
He was the triumphant, virile, ultra-masculine king.
Henry was probably more in love with Katherine at that moment than at any other time in their marriage.
He had lived up to his father's expectations.
I have a son Shh a son.
I will call you Henry.
But Henry and Katherine's happiness was not to last.
Less than eight weeks after his birth.
Henry and Katherine's precious son died.
The death of Prince Henry tore Katherine apart.
Henry VIII was equally devastated.
He tried to hide his grief from Katherine.
But this meant more to him than the death of a son.
This was a real blow to his kingly prestige.
But if Henry had failed so far to have a son, there were other ways that a king could boost his self-image.
Henry decided to go to war with England's old enemy, France and Katherine encouraged her husband's ambitions.
On June 30th 1513, here at Dover Castle.
Henry appointed Katherine Regent.
She would rule England while Henry was at war.
Henry declared publicly that he was leaving his realm in the hands of a woman whose honour and excellence could not be doubted and he instructed his subjects to obey her every command.
This was a massive compliment and a huge vote of confidence in his wife.
And it tells you a lot about the strength of their marriage - despite the miscarriage and the death of their son.
Being Regent was the greatest challenge Katherine had so far faced as queen.
But she believed it was a responsibility that she was strong enough to bear.
Katherine had been educated by her mother, Isabella of Castile - in her day Europe's most powerful woman.
Isabella taught Katherine that women could be as strong and as powerful as men.
And that if they fought for themselves, they could more than equal the other sex.
It was a lesson that Katherine never forgot - and it was just as well.
Two months after Henry went to war, Katherine 's ability to rule was tested to the limit.
News from the borders, Your Majesty.
The King of the Scots means war.
James IV, King of Scotland, knew Henry was away fighting in France and invaded England.
000 Scottish troops swept south and captured 3 English castles.
England is surrounded by enemies worse still, neighbours, who want to destroy it.
Be ready to defend your territory.
Katherine leapt into action and took command.
She rallied the English troops and ordered two armies to face the Scots.
Then she too marched North at the head of a third.
Why has the mayor and the sheriff of Gloucester not responded to my letters? There is no time to delay.
They have 15 days to tell me how many men and horses they can supply.
Katherine was ready to go to war.
She was prepared to fight to defend her husband's crown.
On September 9th 1513, an invading Scottish army met Katherine's English forces at Flodden Field in Northumberland.
Katherine 's army was commanded by the Earl of Surrey.
The Scottish soldiers were led by King James IV himself.
Hold your lines, men! James launched a ferocious pike attack on the English right flank, and it crumbled.
Panic gripped Katherine's army.
James and his men fought valiantly but then his forces hit boggy ground and lost momentum.
English archers stepped up and fired at the stricken soldiers.
James was struck in the jaw.
The English moved in for the kill.
With the Scottish king dead, the battle became a bloodbath.
Today, it's hard to imagine the carnage that took place here on the 9th of September 1513.
1,500 Englishmen were killed, but the real massacre was amongst the Scots.
Around 12,000 Scottish soldiers were slaughtered in an afternoon.
Including James IV, the King of Scotland himself.
Katherine's victory was total.
Triumphant, Katherine sent Henry the blood-drenched coat of King James IV along with a letter.
Sire, you shall see at length the great victory that our Lord has sent your subjects in your absence.
This battle has been to you the greatest honour that could be.
More than if you should win all the crown of France.
Henry probably greeted Katherine's letter with mixed emotions.
Relief that his kingdom had been saved but perhaps a little jealousy too.
His wife had won a far greater victory in England.
Than he was ever able to do in France.
1513 was the moment when Katherine showed Henry how to be a king.
All he'd won after all were a couple of skirmishes and two minor French towns.
Katherine had fought a real war and utterly annihilated one of England's oldest enemies.
There's understandably a touch of boasting about her letter.
Henry and Katherine were a team, but in this case there's no doubting who the senior partner was.
It would be hard to imagine a more perfect queen.
But Henry no longer wanted a queen to fight his battles.
He needed a wife who could give him a son.
But that was proving far harder than he could possibly imagine.
In the four years Henry and Katherine had been married they suffered the loss of two babies.
Then in 1513, another son tragically died just hours after his birth.
The following autumn, another boy was born, but he also died.
This was now a cycle of grief.
It must have been deeply upsetting for Katherine.
She had no problem getting pregnant but why wouldn't they live? It wasn't her fault but it was seen as her failure.
The repeated stillbirths and infant mortalities began to take their toll on this happy marriage.
Henry was growing more and more desperate.
The throne his father had fought for and won was in jeopardy.
The strain weighed heavily on the young king.
Then, in February 1516.
Katherine went into labour for the fifth time.
Henry was probably terrified that once again the baby would not survive.
Fortunately, Oh the 18th Of February, a healthy child was born.
Katherine was ecstatic.
News of the birth was immediately sent to Henry.
But it wasn't the news he wanted to hear.
His baby was a girl.
If it is a daughter this time, boys will follow.
We're still young.
Call her Mary.
Henry tried to swallow his disappointment.
But the truth was, he needed a boy.
Only three women had attempted to rule England as queen and in each case it had ended in civil war.
The Tudor dynasty was two generations old.
Without a son, it wouldn't make it to a third.
So a princess simply wasn't good enough.
Over the next nine years, Katherine conceived only once more.
Again, a girl.
Sadly, she too died at birth.
Katherine was now in her late 30s and would not conceive again.
To her horror, Henry did father a son with his mistress - one of Katherine's ladies-in-waiting.
The boy was christened Henry Fitzroy.
Fitzroy's birth confirmed to Henry that he wasn't to blame for the lack of a male heir- it was all Katherine's fault.
Katherine had failed to give him the son he desperately needed.
Her last pregnancy had been 4 years earlier, and there were no signs of any more.
The Tudors were in danger of disappearing.
Henry kept up appearances, but in truth his heart had left the marriage.
He was looking for a way out.
Around 1526, Henry found it.
His gaze fell on a young woman in court.
Another of Katherine 's ladies-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn.
Katherine had seen it all before.
Henry wasn't the great womaniser we have been led to believe but he had had two short-lived affairs.
Katherine knew of his attraction to Anne and probably thought that he would have his way and then grow bored and move on.
But this time, things were different.
Anne was intelligent, charming and sophisticated.
She 'd learnt elegant manners and the latest fashions in the glittering courts of the Arch Duchess of Austria and the Queen of France.
Once Henry noticed her he became absolutely obsessed.
In a bid to make her his mistress, Henry started to send Anne secret love letters.
These are copies of Henry's letters to Anne.
The originals are in the Vatican.
But they tell you the depth of infatuation that Henry felt for Anne.
In this one he says he's 'stricken with the dart of love'.
Here he says 'my heart and I surrender ourselves into your hands'.
There's also a feeling of real, raw, physical longing so here Henry says he dreams of being 'in my sweetheart's arms whose pretty dukkys I trust shortly to kiss.
' Now dukkys is Henry's affectionate term for Anne's breasts.
The feeling you get from all of these letters though is of Henry begging Anne constantly to become his mistress.
Here he says if she'll do that, he'll 'cast off all others besides you out of my thoughts and affections and serve you only.
' That's quite an offer.
We don't have Anne's letters back to Henry, so we don't know exactly what her response was but from the way Henry is begging and begging it doesn't feel like she is desperate to fall into the royal bed.
But why? After all, Henry was the ultimate catch.
it's possible that Anne was holding out for a far greater prize.
Put yourself in Anne's position for a moment.
She was in her mid-20s, and she needed to find a husband.
Agreeing to become the king's latest bed mate was hardly a smart way to achieve that.
He'd had mistresses before, and he'd always gone back to his wife.
No woman had ever gone from being mistress to being Queen of England.
In fact Anne knew a lot about Henry's mistresses - the latest had been her own sister Mary.
Anne knew that the position brought no status and an uncertain future.
Is it any wonder she held back? But Anne's unwillingness to jump into the royal bed didn't dampen Henry's spirits - it enflamed them.
Henry just wrote more letters and sent gifts.
After a year, Henry's tactics finally worked.
Evidence of Anne's change of heart survives and is kept at the British Library.
This beautiful book is Anne Boleyn's own personal Book of Hours it is a collection of prayers and devotions.
And in it, Henry has written to Anne it's written in French, their shared language, but what it says in translation is: 'If you remember my love in your prayers as much as I adore you, I should surely never be forgotten because I am yours, Henry R.
' And Henry has put this on a page that shows the Biblical Man of Sorrows just to emphasise how lovesick he is.
But it's Anne's response that is most revealing.
On this page we have Anne's handwritten message to Henry and this one is in English.
It says 'By daily proof you shall me find to be unto you both loving and kind.
' And even more important than the words is the setting because Anne has written this on a page that depicts the virgin Mary being told by an angel that she will give birth to a son.
So what Anne is saying to Henry is that she will love him, but on her own terms.
She won't be a mistress for sex who might give birth to an illegitimate child.
Instead, she is offering him the thing he wants most of all in the world - a son and heir.
Anne was aiming higher than any mistress in English history.
Henry now had the greatest reason to end his marriage.
But this warrior queen had no intention of giving up her husband or her crown without a fight.
Henry was genuinely very pious and a keen student of scripture.
So, naturally he turned to the Bible to help him understand the reasons for the failure of his marriage and to justify trying to wriggle out of it.
While studying his Bible.
Henry found a passage that seemed to have been written specifically for him.
This is the passage, it is from Leviticus chapter 20, verse 21.
'And if a man shall take his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother's nakedness; they shall be childless.
' To Henry, this was the proof that his marriage to Katherine wasn't just coming to an end it had been illegal right from the start.
Henry was now convinced that God was on his side.
So he asked the Pope to annul his marriage.
Even without the benefit of hindsight, this was a pretty extraordinary decision.
So why did Henry do it? Well, certainly he was smitten with Anne Boleyn, and he genuinely doubted the validity of his marriage.
But I think there was something more fundamental at work.
The truth was, Henry had grown up.
Seventeen years into his reign, he had power, he had experience.
Now much of this he'd learned from Katherine, but he didn't need a teacher any more.
He needed a son.
So whatever their past, whatever love they'd shared, Katherine had to go.
Your Majesty.
In June 1527, Henry decided to tell Katherine that he believed their marriage was against God's law.
Katherine, my conscience has been troubling me.
Sire? It is the opinion of many theologians that we have been in mortal sin all the years we have lived together.
Henry, what are you saying? I have decided for the sake of both our souls that we should separate from both bed and board.
I would like you to choose somewhere to retire.
Katherine, this is for the best.
Katherine could have accepted what Henry said and retired from court in comfort and security.
But that wasn't Katherine's character.
She had fought to get her crown, and she wasn't about to toss it to Henry's latest mistress.
She had fought to get Henry, and now she would fight to keep him.
Henry's case for an annulment rested On the fact that Katherine was his brother's widow.
But Katherine had a shock in store for Henry.
Katherine said that 26 years earlier, she and Henry's brother Arthur had slept in the same bed.
But sleep was all they did.
Katherine claimed they had never had sex.
The marriage was unconsummated.
In legal terms, this meant she and Arthur had never been married.
Katherine's defiance destroyed Henry's case and the Pope refused to grant a quick annulment.
Henry was furious, he hadn't expected any opposition let alone an opponent as strong and fearless as Katherine.
Henry decided to change tactics.
If Katherine wanted a fight then he would give her a fight.
To discredit his wife, he orchestrated a vile smear campaign.
Henry's chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey, wrote to the pope saying that Katherine had a sexual disease.
He added that she was consumed by ravenous desire.
It was all lies, mud flung at the Queen in the hope that some would stick.
But it showed just how far Henry was willing to go.
For the best part of a year, Henry and his lawyers petitioned Katherine to step down as queen and give him an annulment, but she refused.
Then in April 1528, tensions boiled over and Katherine confronted her husband.
Dowager Princess.
- Queen Katherine.
Your wife.
- You are not my wife.
All the legal experts of England have made a declaration to that effect.
I know very well that if I am granted a hearing, no judge will be unjust enough to condemn me.
If I am to be judged, please let me defend myself.
If their marriage had to be judged.
Katherine wanted it done in a public court.
Henry wanted to keep the annulment private, but to end his marriage quickly he had little choice.
I agree that it should be so.
But it must be done now, without delay.
Katherine now had a chance to save her crown and to keep the man she still dearly loved.
For Henry, this was now a flight for the future Of the dynasty his father had started.
And Henry refused to let Katherine stand in his way.
Katherine of Aragon was brave, majestic and utterly determined.
She showed Henry how to be a king.
But there was one lesson that Katherine never meant to teach.
Henry VIII learned how to be cruel.