When we left off last week, Henry and Katherine Parr had just gotten married, and Henry was in the mood to celebrate. Now, back to the words of Mr. Al.****
Henry decided on a celebration that would combine business with pleasure. Accordingly, during a visit to Windsor Castle, Henry had three Protestant heretics burned at the stake on the front lawn. Yes, all was well in the Tudor household. Katherine had prevailed upon Henry to be nice to Mary and Elizabeth. With Edward brought in from the royal bubble Henry kept him in, all three half-siblings were finally spending quality time together. Edward loved it! He didn’t get to socialize much, and it showed. Unfortunately, not everyone was happy.
Lord Chancellor Wriothesley was a political ally of the Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner, whom we met earlier in a public house in Essex. Mister Gardiner’s career had come along nicely, thank you very much. Wriothesley and Gardiner hated Protestants every bit as much as Henry. They also suspected the Queen of being one. Which she was. Very, VERY secretly. Katherine was aware of the danger and conducted herself accordingly. Unfortunately, she began to feel a little bulletproof, being the Queen and all. What she didn’t realize was that being Queen made it even more imperative that she be careful. Especially since she didn’t know who her enemies were.
When the heretics were burned at Windsor, she didn’t bat an eyelash. She did nothing to intervene. She was aware that she was being watched for her reaction. She couldn’t fool Wriothesley. He wanted to bring her down the way he had brought down Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. One gets the impression that he did not approve of queens.
Poor Henry, every time he set out to find the perfect wife, somebody had to jam the spokes of the wheels of the wagon of wedded bliss with the triple monkey wrenches of adultery, heresy and more adultery. Wroithesley and Gardiner decided to bide their time. Henry wasn’t going to live forever, or even much longer. They fully expected to be appointed to Edward’s Regency Council. Then they would make their move.
In the meantime, all Katherine could do was try to keep to herself. That, and indulge one of her great passions, female education. To say Katherine Parr was ahead of her time on the issue would be putting it mildly. She was centuries ahead of her time. Not just for girls of Good Family, but the poor as well. Educate the poor?! Men of the court were horrified. Katherine used her position to champion these causes and more.
She took money from her household fund to provide scholarships for academically worthy boys from modest homes. And she practiced what she preached close to home. Under her guidance Mary, Elizabeth and Edward excelled at their studies. Granted, Elizabeth and Edward were prodigies, but Mary was not. She was very intelligent, but not on the level of her half-siblings. Adding to that the treatment she had received at the hands of her father, she had the self-esteem of a clam. Katherine made sure she did her best. Which turned out to be pretty damned good. Edward remembered those days as the happiest of his life. Elizabeth thought she’d died and gone to heaven.
Both Mary and Elizabeth produced translations of French philosophical texts that were good enough to publish. These works received a wide reading and were praised by academics across England. Edward’s grasp of foreign languages astounded his tutors. Not yet in his teens, he could, and did, argue points of theology and law with university professors. Katherine was the toast of the university community. And not just because she had money for them.
Mary and Katherine were very close in age. The two of them got on wonderfully, as long as they didn’t discuss religion. This must have been hard for both of them. Mary as a devote Roman Catholic and Katherine as a closet Lutheran. It couldn’t be any other way. With Henry’s reforms, they were both skating on thin ice. Katherine was about to find out how thin.
Thank you Mr. Al. It’s amazing how Henry’s least little mood swing makes me cringe. I’m so glad I’m not living in his times.