Tag Archives: Katherine Parr

Did Queen Elizabeth I have smallpox?

8 Jun

Anyone who’s studied history knows that when Hollywood comes calling it often takes ‘liberties’ in transferring personalities and stories from the archives to the big screen (see Braveheart et al).

Sometimes it’s for reasons of dramatic tension, other times through poor research and other times just because they wanted a different ending and felt emboldened to pursue it by simply adding a disclaimer ‘inspired by true events’.

So when I came across TV mini series The Virgin Queen and it showed Elizabeth I being struck down with smallpox, my first thought was to wonder if her life had been given an extra dash of drama.

I mean I’ve studied English history, I know all about the Tudors, about Henry VIII’s wives and about the monarch’s battles with Mary, Queen of Scots. But I had never heard she nearly died of this often-fatal disease.

However it turns out the storyline was real. She did suffer from smallpox, in 1562. In fact it’s said the resulting scars are what first prompted her to begin wearing her famous white make-up.

So there you have it. Another amazing chapter in the life of an extraordinary woman. Here’s five other tidbits I discovered . . .

* Elizabeth I attended the first performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
* Wars during her reign are estimated to have cost more than 5 million pounds (in the prices of the time).
* She thought to have died of blood poisoning.
* After Henry VIII’s death, she was taken in by his widow, Catherine Parr. However she was later sent away with rumours suggesting she had caught the eye of Catherine’s new husband, Thomas Seymour.
* Her motto was “Semper Eadem”, meaning “Always the Same”.

PS: While I was doing research on the website of the English monarchy I came across a section that noted Australia was a realm of the Commonwealth. Intrigued, I had to find out what constitutes a realm. And here is the answer…

“A Commonwealth Realm is a country which has The Queen as its Monarch. There are 15 Commonwealth Realms in addition to the UK: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Papua New Guinea, St Christopher and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Tuvalu, Barbados, Grenada, Solomon Islands, St Lucia and The Bahamas.”

How many wives did Henry VIII have executed?

16 Jan

If Henry VIII was courting today I suspect he might have trouble finding one wife, let alone six.

I mean, look at the portraits history has left of him – ugly, unkempt and obviously way too fond of a pheasant leg. Certainly not someone who sees Eric Bana in the mirror every day.

Then, of course, there was his propensity for dispatching his wives in brutal fashion. But I wanted to know how many of them fell victim to the axe. And it turns out my history buff-ness needed a bit of a polish.

I had it in my head that the Tudor king had eight wives. Since I knew he divorced the first one and was outlived by the last, I assumed that meant six heads on the chopping block. But I was guesstimating too high on both counts.

Turns out the tally was actually six wives and two death sentences. And here they are…

* Catherine of Aragon – married in 1509, divorced in 1533
* Anne Boleyn – married in 1533, executed in 1535 on charges of treason
* Jane Seymour – married in 1536, died in 1537 from childbirth complications
* Anne of Cleves – married and divorced in 1540
* Katherine Howard – married in 1540, executed in 1542 on charges of adultery
* Katherine Parr – married in 1543 and outlived Henry, before dying in 1548

Henry himself died in 1547, having been born in 1491 and crowned monarch in 1509. 

BTW there’s a persistent rumour he wrote the song Greensleeves for future wife Anne Boleyn. However the royal family’s own website says it was “almost certainly not” one of his compositions.