Duchess Digest: A Single Minded Tutor on the Tudors

By -Jill Brown

Last Sunday was a very important day for me. Why you ask? It was the premiere episode of the Final Season of Showtime’s The Tudors. I am obsessed with this show!

Jonathon Rhys Meyers is gorgeous, the love scenes are hot, hot, hot and the storyline, while true, is more scandalous and dramatic then even the most fantastically scripted contemporary plots of reality television. And this was over four hundred years ago! But even before the series, I have always found this period of history fascinating. One man’s life, greed, passion, clarity and power changed the course of the entire world. But just like the saying goes, behind every great man is a great woman (or in Henry VIII’s case, six!) and there is so much to be learned from the women that were in this monarch’s sphere of influence. And while many of them will go down in history as the condemned, the tragic and the shocking – these historically single minded women each have admirable qualities that we modern women can take away with us.

I want to share a little more about each of these now infamous six wives and why they are still relevant and remarkable today. However there’s so much about each that could be six different columns! So for now, lets start with the first and longest reigning Queen of Henry’s; Catherine of Aragon.

All good Tudor fans know that this little Spanish Princess became the first of six Queens of England when she married Henry. However, before she was the Queen of England, she was the Princess of Wales (yes, that’s the same title as Princess Diana) because she actually married Henry’s older brother Arthur as a young teenager first. A few short months after their marriage Arthur died (Catherine herself suffered the same illness and barely survived). Because of their young age, the marriage was declared null as it was speculatively agreed that it was never consummated (Catherine stood by this claim her whole life). After Arthur’s death, it was agreed that when Henry was old enough, Catherine would marry him. Henry was five years younger than her (go Medieval cougar!) and they were happily married for twenty-four years before Anne Boleyn came into the picture and Henry transformed into the mid-life crisis, predictable tyrant he would later be best known for becoming.

All that is well and good, but why should the modern day single minded women admire Catherine? What could you possibly learn from this Queen of hundreds of years ago? I’m glad you asked! Here are the top reasons and qualities why Catherine is a great modern role model. Read on . . .

1) Confidence: Catherine was supremely confident and insistent of her worth. After Arthur died it wasn’t just a seamless transition from Princess of Wales to Queen of England. Henry and Arthur’s father, the current living King, decided Catherine was no longer a suitable match for Henry when her own mother died shortly after Arthur’s death (her mother’s kingdom in Spain was very wealthy; so no mom, no money, no marriage). Catherine was for all intents and purposes a hostage of the King’s, locked away for seven years in poverty while she fought to have her marriage to Henry take place, insisting it was her right to be the future Queen. It was only after the King’s death, when Henry succeeded the throne, that Catherine became Queen (Henry was madly in love with her – they had a nice Ashton – Demi thing happening). Fast forward twenty-four years to Henry becoming a semi-predictable pig, Catherine is the only wife of Henry’s that lived out her time until a natural death. Even though Henry insisted at the end that the marriage had to be annulled (so he could marry Anne Boleyn), Catherine insisted she was the true monarch and Queen. Henry did have her sent away, but it was a far preferable fate to the beheadings that followed some of his other wives.

2) Persistence: To the end Catherine was confident, calm, insisted on her value and was kind to the King. How many of us would wait patiently in extremely dire circumstance for seven years to marry our match? How many of us would insist on our rightful place as wife and Queen, even upon death threats from our philandering husband in our older age? And how about surviving near fatal illness as a young teen, newly married and unable to speak the local language in a foreign country without our parents? Catherine was the model of persistence and collected nerves.

3) Modern Love: Catherine was incredibly modern for her time. She was an advocate of women being educated (which was shocking at the time). Maybe it was her parents influence; or at least because of being raised by an independent mother (whose kingdom was worth more than her fathers, who fought alongside the men in battle and who funded Christopher Columbus’s maiden voyage to the ‘New World’). The people of England loved and adored Catherine for her known kindness and progressive thinking. Shakespeare described her as the ‘The Queen of Earthly Queens’ and the controversial book ‘The Education of Christian Women’ was commissioned by her and dedicated to her. She also introduced modern inventions like the fork to her English people. Spain was much more advanced at the time with sanitation, diet and instruments – the Brits were still eating with their hands when she arrived, to her horror. She also introduced salad and water to the British diet, which as the time, consisted entirely of meat, root veggies and ale/wine. Can you imagine living a whole life not drinking water? No wonder people died so young! Catherine’s culture recognized the importance of the variety of fresh vegetables, salads, and water for long life and health. Kudos!

-Jill Brown

Jill Brown is a Los Angeles, California-based life coach and writer. She earned her Bachelors in Humanities and Sociology from USU and is a member of the National Association for Conflict Resolution and the Ladies Who Launch Network. She is the founder of “The Duchess Guide” a website dedicated to helping women become their most fabulous and unique selves. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast, traveler and health nut. When she isn’t writing or working on Duchess, Jill loves spending all her free time with her Labrador – Betty. For more on The Duchess Guide or Jill visit: http://theduchessguide.com/

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