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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Welcome Guest Author Judith Arnopp
Judith Arnopp 

          Author Judith Arnopp

Today, I am welcoming Author par excellence, Judith Arnopp as guest blogger to my sight. She is going to give us some insight to The Last Days of Henry VIII

Welcome, Judith, please tell us about this fascinating aspect of Henry's life.


The name Henry VIII instantly conveys an image of an obese tyrant, blithely slicing off heads and dispatching wives. One of our greatest monarchs has become a caricature, a joke to illustrate the misfortunes of marriage. But, although one can clearly see the reason for this, he wasn’t always so. In his youth and in the early part of his reign Henry was the embodiment of renaissance prince. Henry, young, strong and vigorous, armed with Skelton’s self-help guide, Speculum principis, (which contained detailed instruction on how to be a noble prince) he had every intention of ruling justly. He promised virtue and triumph for the country and, all in all, to prove to be a king most unlike his father.


So what happened? What turned this glorious prince into the monstrous tyrant we all associate with his name today? For there is no arguing with the fact that by the time he married his sixth wife, Katheryn Parr, he had ultimately failed in almost all of the necessary virtues. Henry had become a physically broken man and emotionally detached from those around him. By the time he married for the last time Henry had produced just one legitimate son and two daughters (both of whom he made illegitimate to serve his own ends). By this time most of his friends were dead by his own orders. It is easy to imagine that Henry must have been a man consumed with self-loathing and regret.


As a young man Henry suffered an attack of smallpox and in the years that followed he displayed a fear, bordering on paranoia, of sickness and contagion. Careful records were kept of his ailments, the treatment given and this provides an excellent resource for historians. It is clear to see that in his earlier years (apart from the smallpox) he seems to have suffered only the type of sports injuries and minor ailments anyone can expect. Yet his fear of contagion sparked a keen interest in herbal remedies, and he sometimes dispensed advice and medicines to his household. If ever the threat of plague or the sweat arose he promptly retired from public view and forbid anyone who had been in contact with the disease from coming to court. Even when he was deep in love with Anne Boleyn and she became ill with the sweating sickness, he kept a careful distance, keeping himself safe but sending regular letters and prayers for her swift recovery.


Over the years there have been various explanations for Henry’s declining health. When I was at school (a long time ago) it was widely accepted that he had syphilis but since none of the remedies available at the time are listed in his doctor’s records this has now largely been dismissed. One of his early complaints was varicose veins and ulcerated legs which intensified as his weight increased and his diet grew worse. His increasing paranoia, ill temper, uncontrollable eating habits, his weight gain, and ulcers that refused to heal all strongly suggest type two diabetes.


Whatever his medical condition was, toward the end of his life the king presented an unattractive picture. A sad decline from invincible Renaissance Prince to a self-loathing King but this is the man Katheryn Parr was offered as husband.


It was an offer she was in no position to refuse. Knowing the fate of his former wives she displayed great strength of mind when she entered into marriage with him, promising to be ‘bonaire and buxom in bed.’


The recently widowed Katheryn had fully expected to marry the virile, handsome Thomas Seymour but, true to her motto to be ‘useful in all I do’ Katheryn put aside the desires of her heart and married the king instead.


For many years Katheryn has been depicted as the ‘carer,’ the nurturing matron, sitting with Henry’s stinking leg in her lap while she distracted him with passages from the bible. But in reality she was very different.


Katheryn was still a young woman when she married Henry, still of an age to produce a child, a ‘spare to the heir’ and she entered into the marriage with characteristic determination to do the best she could.


One wonders if she slept at night. In many ways Katheryn approached marriage to Henry as the other wives had approached the scaffold. She gathered all her resolve, closed her eyes, sent up a fervent prayer and waited to see what would happen next…

Intractable Heart by Judith Arnopp

You can read about the extraordinary life of Katheryn Parr in my latest novel, Intractable Heart available now from Amazon and on Kindle.


Judith’s webpage: www.juditharnopp.com

Judith’s blog: http://juditharnoppnovelist.blogspot.co.uk/

Judith’s Amazon page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Arnopp/e/B003CGLWLA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1401886846&sr=8-2-ent

Pictures to use from Wikimedia Commons

The old Henry VIII, The Young Henry VIII, Katheryn Parr


Thank you, Judith, for this very informative insight to Henry VIII last days.


That's all for now,



Jess Steven Hughes

10:04 am pdt          Comments

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