Catherine Friend
Catherine Friend

Swimming with the Children of King Henry VIII

Still swimming laps at the pool, but now I’m thinking about the children of King Henry VIII. In last week’s post Henry died, leaving behind three legitimate Tudor children: Edward, 9, Elizabeth, 14, and Mary in her early 30s.


Lap One: Edward

As the only son, Edward became king, but because of his age, his uncles basically ran the show. Sadly, he wasn’t that strong, and died when he was only 15. Short story—doesn’t get me all the way through my lap, so I must start on the week’s grocery list.

Painting by Delarouche of Lady Jane's beheading
Painting by Delarouche of Lady Jane’s beheading

Lap Two: Lady Jane Grey

Edward is dead. What now? Most of you have cousins, which means you are descended from the same grandfather or great-grandfather. Henry’s cousins thought, “Why is Henry any more deserving of being king than one of us?” Some of the cousins moved quickly upon Edward’s death, and proclaimed teenaged Lady Jane Grey as Queen. This coup lasted only the nine days it took Mary’s people to get their act together, storm the castle and throw Lady Jane Grey into the Tower of London. Mary became queen, and to eliminate the possibility of the cousins trying to unseat her again, she had Lady Jane beheaded. Like father, like daughter.

Mary Tudor
Mary Tudor

Lap 3: Mary

Mary was also a little worried about her sister Elizabeth making a play for the crown, so she locked her up in the Tower of London for a year or two until Elizabeth managed to convince her she had no interest in unseating her.

Remember that Mary was raised Catholic, the religion of her mother, so when Henry broke with the Catholic Church in order to divorce her mother, she was furious. She hated Protestants of any sort, and quickly proclaimed England to be once again Catholic. She burned a lot of Protestants at the stake, and killed so many people that she became known as “Bloody Mary.” Yup—The drink made of vodka, tomato juice and spices, with a stalk of celery in it, is named after her.

Mary’s advisors convinced King Phillip of France to marry her, which he did, but it was a choice he quickly came to regret. Eventually Mary declared herself with child. Nine months later the country held its breath. No birth. Another month. No birth. Another month. No birth. Mary wasn’t pregnant. Gotta wonder what that was all about.

Long story, short, Mary wasn’t physically well, and maybe even a little off in the head. She died after five years as Queen.

Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I

Lap 4: Elizabeth I

The only legitimate child of Henry’s left? Elizabeth. Henry had beheaded her mother Anne Boleyn when Elizabeth was three. She was now 25, and became England’s longest-serving queen (until Queen Elizabeth II broke that record a few years ago.) Elizabeth realized that if she married, her husband would become King and run the show. She didn’t think that was a good plan, so basically strung suitors along for years until everyone finally realized she had no intention of marrying. She was called the Virgin Queen, but may not have been given her love for her horse master, Robert Dudley. Scandalous!

When she died in 1603, there were no more Tudors to put on the throne, so it went to a cousin, James I. The reign of the Tudors came to an end.

But I still have more laps to swim, so will go back to the beginning and think about Edward again!

3 Responses

  1. I don’t know how you can think of all of this stuff while you swim. I have to concentrate just to keep track of my laps.

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The Big Pivot

About Me

After twenty-five years on the farm, I’m adjusting to the adventures of city life. Part of that adjustment is figuring out what I want to write about now, since sheep are no longer part of my daily life. I’m challenging myself creatively by painting with pastels and playing the ukelele as I seek my new writing path.


Occasional Newsletter

Catherine Friend is a fiscal year 2021 recipient of a Creative Support for Individuals grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.