Enrique Rubio |
Hever (United Kingdom) (EFE).- Their rivalry marked the history of England, and even the European one. The complex relationship between Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn – the first two wives of King Henry VIII – has transcended the centuries, but their religious devotion unites them again now, 500 years later.
At a time when autobiographies of “royals” break sales records, series inspired by the monarchy triumph on platforms and the country prepares to crown a new king for the first time in 70 years, a look at the history of the The United Kingdom shows that everything was already there long before.
The island’s break with the mainland, the cataclysms that a “marriage of three” can produce or even the effects of a pandemic have marked the recent life of the British, but they did so in the same way in the 16th century through these two women.
The reason for their reunion is now held by two small polychrome books annotated in English and Latin. They are two “books of hours”, illustrated manuscripts published in Paris in 1527 and which served both queens to pray and meditate. Who knows if under the same roof and at the same time.
For the first time these two works, which both women used when Henry VIII had already asked for Anne’s hand and insisted on annulling his marriage with Catherine, are exhibited together, in the same Hever castle (south-east England) where Boleyn spent her childhood and lived before marrying the monarch.
The study of both books has allowed the historian Kate McCaffrey to reveal a new face of both women, who were united by their deep Christian beliefs, although one remained faithful to Catholicism and the other was decisive in Henry VIII’s break with the Vatican and the creation of the Anglican Church.
“It’s a new connection between the two women, really intriguing, at a time with so much change at court and in their lives. Bringing them together and reexamining them from a new perspective, to see what they shared and what linked them not only as rivals is very important, ”McCaffrey, deputy curator of the exhibition, told EFE.
For the historian, what makes the life of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn so attractive is that it is a “great example of human drama, with all the ups and downs of soap operas that we like to see today”, since it shows two “real women ” on which, beyond the hackneyed subject of the wife and the lover, many stereotypes weigh.
A close relationship
Daughter of the Catholic Monarchs, Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536) married the heir to the British throne Arthur, but he died five months later, and eight years later, in 1509, she married his younger brother and successor, Henry VIII.
Until the end of their lives she was a queen adored by her people, especially after her regency while her husband was in France. That didn’t stop Henry VIII from breaking his ties with the Catholic Church so he could marry Anne Boleyn, who had served as Catherine’s lady-in-waiting for five years.
McCaffrey believes that Anne Boleyn and her family would have had a close relationship with the then-queen and would not initially have seen her as a rival.
“We know that Catherine asks one of her ladies-in-waiting, who was criticizing Anne Boleyn, to stop and tells her that one day she will take pity on her. I think that this gives us a clue that Catalina knows that Enrique is actually the problem. From her experience with the king, she knows that Ana will end up exposing herself to a terrible end,” she explains.
Ana would end up being executed in 1536 for dubious accusations of adultery and incest.
McCaffrey’s ultraviolet ray investigations with the two books show that the one owned by Ana was preserved over generations by her acolytes, despite the smear campaign launched by her husband.
“It is quite revealing that Enrique decided to give his wife the least decorated copy and his lover the best…”, admits the expert.
Although it was lost track of for many years, in 1910 the American magnate William Waldorf Astor bought it after becoming the owner of Hever Castle. Catalina’s copy was acquired at the beginning of the 20th century by another millionaire, John Pierpont Morgan, who kept it in his library in New York until now lending it for the first time for joint exhibition.
An inscription in English in the margin of her book serves Anne Boleyn as an early farewell: “Remember me when you do pray that hope dothe led from day to day” day”).