I Am Henry: Tragic Tudor Love Stories

By Jan Hendrik Verstraten and Massimo Barbato

Tudor history is a treasure trove of fascinating tales, and among its most captivating chapters are the tragic love stories that unfolded within the courtly intrigues of the 16th century. In the run-up to Valentine’s Day, we delve into some of the heart-wrenching romances that have left an indelible mark on history. Some of these stories come to life in the pages of the novel ‘I am Henry’ which is an original re-telling of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s story, as told from the fantasy lens of the afterlife. Join us on a journey through the lives of three of Henry’s six wives: Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr, and discover how their passionate relationships were marred by the complexities of Tudor politics.

Anne Boleyn and Henry Percy: Love Interrupted by Royal Ambitions

The story of Anne Boleyn and Henry Percy is a tale of young innocent love and courtly intrigue, with far-reaching consequences for Anne and the entire English nation. Before capturing King Henry VIII’s heart, Anne was romantically involved with Henry Percy, the 6th Earl of Northumberland. Their love story blossomed around 1522 when Anne served as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon. Although being deeply in love, their relationship faced insurmountable obstacles, as described in the novel.

Percy was already promised to Mary Talbot, the daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, as part of an arranged marriage crucial for family alliances. Despite this, they betrothed each other in secret. Cardinal Wolsey intervened after he found out, possibly influenced by King Henry’s interest in Anne. This led to the termination of their engagement. Anne was sent away from court, causing heartache for both lovers. In the novel Anne and Percy meet once again and discuss what once was a true love.

Anne’s return to court and subsequent marriage to Henry VIII altered the course of English history as we know. Her union with the king resulted in the English Reformation and the establishment of the Church of England. Henry Percy, who married Mary Talbot, had a deeply unhappy and childless marriage. During Anne’s trial he collapsed. Percy died in 1537, still heartbroken over Anne’s fate.

The story of Anne Boleyn and Henry Percy is a poignant reminder of how political and familial alliances often trumped personal love in Tudor England.

Catherine Howard and Francis Dereham: Love, Scandal, and Tragedy

Catherine Howard’s ill-fated involvement with Francis Dereham is a central element of her tragic story as the fifth wife of King Henry VIII. Their romance proved catastrophic and played a pivotal role in her ultimate downfall.

Catherine’s relationship with Dereham began before her marriage to Henry VIII when she was still a teenager living in the household of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk in 1538. Their love affair and possibly sexual relationship was marked by terms of endearment such as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ though it lacked a formal or legal marriage.

Their attachment became public knowledge after Catherine’s marriage to Henry, triggering allegations of her premarital conduct. Dereham audaciously re-entered Catherine’s life, seeking to rekindle their romance or exploit her newfound status, which only added to the scandal.

Dereham’s confession to the premarital relationship led to his execution in 1541. Catherine’s arrest and execution in 1542 resulted from these revelations, as well as allegations of adultery with Thomas Culpeper, a courtier, after her marriage to Henry. In the novel, Catherine gives a testimony of her undying love for Francis, as the only man she truly loved.

The story of Catherine Howard and Francis Dereham serves as a poignant reminder of the perilous nature of Tudor court life for young women. In a time where personal history could be weaponised against them, Catherine’s relationship with Dereham became a catalyst for her tragic fate upon ascending the throne as queen.

Catherine Parr and Thomas Seymour: A Love Torn by Duty and Ambition

Before her involvement with Thomas Seymour, Catherine Parr had already endured two marriages. In 1543, she became a widow for the second time and caught the eye of King Henry VIII. Catherine, known for her intellect and strong Protestant beliefs, became Henry’s sixth and final wife.

Thomas Seymour, the charismatic brother of Jane Seymour, held influence at court but was overshadowed by his elder brother, Edward Seymour. The love story between Catherine Parr and Thomas Seymour began before Catherine’s royal marriage, but her duty to the king forced her to put her feelings for Seymour aside.

After Henry’s death in 1547, Catherine and Thomas rekindled their relationship, marrying in secret just months later, a move fraught with political risks. Their passionate but turbulent married life was marked by Seymour’s ambitious and often reckless pursuits, which ultimately led to his downfall.

Seymour’s controversial relationship with Princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I) who was in her early teens at the time and lived with Catherine and Seymour, further strained their marriage, as rumours of flirtation and inappropriate behaviour surrounded him. Catherine’s distress grew, and Elizabeth was sent away to protect their reputations.

Seymour’s ambitions eventually led to his arrest and execution for treason in 1549. Catherine Parr died a year earlier, leaving behind her infant daughter, Mary Seymour, orphaned by her parents’ tragic fates.

Final Thoughts

These tragic Tudor love stories offer a glimpse into the intricate web of passion, politics, and scandal that defined the era. The lives of Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr were marked by love, but they were ultimately shaped and shattered by the unforgiving forces of Tudor England.

We invite you to immerse yourself in the world of Tudor history through the pages of ‘I am Henry’; a historic fantasy novel that brings these remarkable women and their tumultuous lives back to life. It’s available on Amazon Kindle and in paperback.