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Interesting theory about the marriage of Henry VIII’s grandparents, King Edward IV and Elizabeth Grey (nee Woodville)
May 1 has just gone past–a date known in ancient Britain as the Feast of Beltaine, the ‘Fires of Bel (the Shining One)’. Of all the old important pre-Christian dates, this is the one that the Church was never able to Christianise in any obvious way, retainings its traditions of merriment, dancing and bawdiness right down to the present. Even Halloween (All Hallows) had a vague Christian veneer placed over its supernatural and ancestral elements, and Midsummer’s Eve was associated with St John as well as with the summer Solstice several days earlier and the burning hilltop bonfires.
It was of course on May 1 that Edward IV was supposed to have married Elizabeth Woodville, in a secret ceremony attended by her mother, a priest and child. The date is interesting, as May marriages were at one time considered to be unlucky. An old rhyme goes ‘Marry in the month…
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John Matusiak’s article on the History Press’ website succinctly appraises the situation with regard to the traditional historiography of King Henry VIII. The present writer would have included the reference to Nero in this essay’s title but John correctly and somewhat courageously used it as his book title ‘Henry VIII, The Life and Rule of England’s Nero’ (The History Press, 2013).
Academic historians of the dominant Whig school influenced generations of scholars until relatively recently. Such eminent historians as Sir Geoffrey Elton, Dr David Starkey and A.G Dickens inevitably regarded Henry as the founding father of modern England. The monarch who stood up to the foreign ‘tyranny’ of the Papacy, had the courage to implement a much needed religious reformation and revolutionised government. According to this view, Henry was a colossal figure and significant player on the European political stage, whilst simultaneously epitomising the ideal cultured, learned, humanist Renaissance prince.
Popular historians have tended to examine Henry through the prism of his colourful matrimonial entanglements and focused more on each unfortunate woman who occupied the queen’s revolving throne. This genre has given rise to a competition, akin to a popularity contest, or an early-modern ‘reality show’ portrayal of each of the women. This trope has also seen him portrayed as ‘Bluff King Hal’ – a benign figure who revelled in his hedonistic lifestyle and courted the love of his subjects. Fate and circumstances conspired against him and altered his temperament radically. Some have even attempted to play medical detective and diagnose from beyond the tomb. The king fell off his horse in January 1536 and was unconscious for a couple of hours. This was responsible for such a dramatic personality change and, by implication, his subsequent behaviour can be explained and or excused. Those of us of a certain age will find this a little too reminiscent of the cartoon character, ‘The Incredible Hulk’!
Historical novelists have perhaps been the most serious saboteurs of attempts to ascertain the truth about both Henry and those in his orbit. As the professional historian, G.W Bernard has remarked, historical novelists use their imaginations to fill in the enormous gaps in our knowledge and ‘risk embedding images that are at best fanciful and at worst, downright false’. 
In a similar vein, writers and bloggers skirt around the issue of the paucity of primary sources by deploying much speculation and unnecessary ‘padding’ in order to compensate for the lack of hard evidence. This is really quite irresponsible and reinforces myths and stereotypes in popular perception.
However, evidence for Henry VIII’s reign during the period of Thomas Cromwell’s ascendancy is more plentiful, thanks to the latter’s organisational skills and diligent record keeping. It is a result of this that a study of the largest of all Tudor rebellions, The Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536 can be examined in more depth by the use of primary sources. This rebellion was as much a rising against Cromwell himself as that of the king and has been the subject of much debate among professional historians.
30,000 men took up arms against Henry in the autumn and had the potential to threaten his grasp on the throne.
The way in which Henry avoided this and navigated his way through this affront to his dignity is explored in Insurrection: Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and the Pilgrimage of Grace. The ramifications for the protagonists and the impact on Northern society in the aftermath are also discussed by the careful examination of contemporary sources.
Henry’s behaviour throughout the rebellion was typical of his character; a character shrewdly summarised by the French ambassador, Marillac in the above title. Of the king, he said that Henry’s three prevalent character vices were avarice, suspicious nature and inconstancy’.
Frequent examples abound to support Marillac’s assessment throughout the king’s reign and are highlighted in this most recent study of the Pilgrimage of Grace.
 G.W Bernard, Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions, Yale University Press, 2011, Preface.
 Eric Ives ‘Henry VIII: the Political Perspective’ in The Reign of Henry VIII: Politics, Policy and Piety, Diarmuid MacCulloch (ed.), 1995, p.31.
Before I post any articles on this site, I wish to advise visitors that universities use plagiarism-detection software, for instance Turnitin. Plagiarism is serious and a theft of intellectual property. Be assured that it does not go undetected.
For that reason, I will provide a Bibliography at the end of each essay but will not use footnotes. This should further dissuade individuals who may be considering a ‘quick fix’. It will probably take longer to locate the precise source than to actually plan one own’s essay!
My own original will be retained and can be forwarded to any third party mentioned in the Bibliography.
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The Tudor dynasty continues to captivate the imagination of historians and enthusiasts from generation to generation. Why is this? I hope that we can attempt to answer
that question together. This page will attempt to portray the authenticity of the Tudor period, as opposed to the common misconceptions, myths and glamour which this era has been subjected to in the past. It will concentrate on primary sources and peer-reviewed secondary sources and will be devoted to evidence testing.
The Glass of Truth is a reference to Henry VIII’s propaganda tract in favour of the annulment of his marriage from Katherine of Aragon in the early 1530s. At the other end of the spectrum is the grain (or pinch) of salt. The reality of the Tudors and their deeds in evidential terms sits somewhere between the two.
Of course the figure of King Henry VIII (1509-47) looms large in the public perception of the Tudors. A famous (or should that be infamous?) monarch who dominated the first half of sixteenth-century England. One immediately thinks of a giant of man, with no less than six wives and a penchant for judicial murder.
Henry’s matrimonial entanglements, lust for Anne Boleyn, obsession with a male heir, rivalry with King Francis I of France, creation of martyrs and ferocious personality have all contributed to a fascination with him.The separation of England from the Papacy and the dissolution of the monasteries are also inextricably entwined with Henry and the effect of his decisions had far-reaching implications, some of which, arguably, are present today.
Of course, Henry VIII was but one of five monarchs in the dynasty founded by his father, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, following his defeat of King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. The dynasty lasted for 118 years, until the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 and straddled the transition from the late medieval period to the emergence of the nation-state and an enhanced and specific sense of English national identity.
These years saw some of the most significant and turbulent episodes in English history and each reign witnessed dissent, uprisings, sedition and varying degrees of monarchical popularity. The Tudors presided over an era which saw the centralisation of the state and religious upheaval, in common with other European monarchies, but they had their own set of particular problems and personalities and it was the way in which they navigated their way through a state of political and religious flux which perhaps appeals to the public’s enduring curiosity.
We shall examine and explore the dynasty through biographies and appraisals of each of the monarchs and by highlighting themes for discussion and events for consideration.
The opening post will focus on King Henry VIII and the largest uprising of the Tudor period – The Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536.
This rebellion is the subject of my recent monograph, Insurrection: Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and the Pilgrimage of Grace, published by The History Press in the UK this month.
It will be published in Australia/New Zealand on 1 June 2016 and the U.S/Canada on 1 July 2016.