Put your breakfast down before you read today’s installment of Henry’s life and wives. Mr. Al is in rare form today!
In the summer of 1546, a woman, Anne Askew, was imprisoned in the Tower on charges of heresy. For some reason Wriothesley considered this a golden opportunity to gather evidence against the Queen. Under questioning she denied knowing any members of the Queen’s household, let alone the Queen herself. Wroithesley ordered her racked. When no information was forthcoming, Wriothesley took over, turning the wheel himself. Once her arms and legs had been pulled from their sockets, Wriothesley had Anne dumped on the floor, where she was kicked and beaten for another two hours. She would not deny her faith nor admit to knowing any member of the Queen’s household. Wriothesley ordered her to be burned at the stake. Occasionally, a prisoner sentenced to be burned would be strangled with a cord before the fire was lit; an act of mercy the executioner was not allowed to do for Anne. So, apparently on his own initiative, he tied a bag of gunpowder around her neck. It exploded almost as soon as the fire was lit. That execution was the talk of London. If Katherine needed any evidence as to how far the anti-Protestant crowd would go, she need look no further than Anne Askew. Wriothesley returned to biding his time and hoping that the Queen would slip up.It was becoming more difficult for Katherine to hide her true beliefs. Especially since she loved theological debates. So did Henry. This would have been fine but for the fact Henry DID NOT like to be contradicted. Katherine did it constantly. Perhaps this would have been acceptable on a very limited basis with a man like Archbishop Cranmer, perhaps not. It was not acceptable from a mere woman, Queen or no queen. Katherine didn’t get that memo.
Worse yet, it was becoming clear that she was pushing church reform much further than Henry was willing to go; and in an undeniably Protestant direction. This wasn’t sitting well with Henry. Nor was the fact that after three years of marriage there were no kids, male or female. Edward’s health as well as the changing situation in Scotland convinced Henry that more princes were required. Three whole years and no rug rats. What the hell?!
Since any problems in a Henry marriage were automatically the woman’s fault, Katherine would have to, um…take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and do something about it. She didn’t seem to be aware that there was a problem. She really should have. Kids aside, she continued to push for greater church reforms and continued to contradict Henry. Wriothesley, (Say that name really fast five times.) and Gardinier were delighted to give her all the rope she wanted. It was only a matter of time before she hung herself. And then, one evening at the dinner table, she did.
What point they were debating is not known. Considering Henry’s reaction it was probably religious. In any event, in the middle of making a point, Henry told Katherine to shut the hell up and change the subject. Shocked, Katherine did as she was told. After dinner, she rose, bid His Majesty a good night and left the room. Bishop Gardiner was at that meal. As soon as Katherine was gone, he went to work.
Henry grumbled about uppity women daring to contradict their husbands. What was the world coming to? It broke the good bishops heart to have to report to Henry that the Queen’s views were not hers alone. No, there was an entire Protestant faction within the Queen’s household that was promoting a brand of heresy that would be an automatic death sentence for anyone of lesser rank.
Worse, these members of the Queen’s household were planning the overthrow of Henry’s government, the destruction of his church and the imposition of a radically heretical sect in its place! Worse than Lutherans, maybe. Although in Gardiner’s book, it would be pretty hard to sink lower than a Lutheran. Henry was stunned. What in heavens name was his little Kate getting up to? Sure, she was lippy and opinionated, but this? Henry wasn’t sure what to think. These charges were about as serious as it gets.
Henry had known Gardiner a lot longer than he had known Katherine. If a man of his caliber was making such claims, he’d better have the matter investigated. Besides, Gardiner must have known the price he would pay for lying about such a thing. He would never risk it unless at least some of it was true. Henry and the bishop had a long conversation that night. When it ended, Henry was in a very bad mood. He ordered Gardiner to find the proof. Leave no stone unturned.
Uh oh. Poor Katherine. How dare she be a real person! Mr. Al, tell me this ends well. I’m tempted to skip ahead to next week.