Tuesday, May 12, 2009

King Henry VIII - Dressed to Kill

The cousins at Hampton Court

Hever Castle in the Spring

Hampton Court in North England

Barbara on the moat at Hever Castle

This year is the 500th Anniversary of King Henry VIII's ascension to the throne of Great Britain. His was a tumultuous reign with many people dying in the process of Henry ruling the country and creating his own made-to-order church. Henry built many castles, two of which I am including pictures of with this email.

Hever Castle
is very near to the London Temple and is in a beautiful, sheltered valley. The castle itself was built in the 1100's and belonged to the Boelyn family. Henry met Mary Boelyn and had a long adulterous affair with her, but never committed to marry her. He was at that time married to Katherine of Aragon, who he later decided to divorce because she couldn't seem to provide him with a male heir. She had, however, given birth to a little girl named Mary, who later become Bloody Mary and was eventually beheaded by her half-sister, Elizabeth for treason against the Queen. He then met Anne Boelyn and longed to make her his Queen. After organizing his own Church of England so that he could grant himself a divorce from Katherine, he married Anne. She immediately became pregnant and bore him a little girl, named Elizabeth, who later became Queen Elizabeth !. After only a short marriage, during which Anne had many miscarriages, Henry accused her of incest with her brother and treason against the King. He had both Anne and her brother beheaded. This broke the Boelyn parent's hearts and they both died an untimely death. Henry kept Hever Castle after Anne was killed and later gave Hever Castle to Anne of Cleves who had become his 4th wife and he decided to divorce. She lived in the Castle until she died. It was later purchased by the Astor family from the United States and restored to its former splender in the early 1900's.

Another of Henry's palaces that we have visited is Hampton Court in the Southeastern part of London. It was actually built by Cardinal Woolsey of the Catholic Church. He refused to advocate that the Pope grant Henry a divorce from Katherine of Aragon so Cardinal Woolsey was imprisoned in the Tower of London and eventually beheaded there. Sir Thomas Moore was next appointed to be head of the Catholic Church in England. He too refused to grant Henry his much sought after divorce and he was neatly disposed of . He lost his head, also, at the infamous Tower of London. Henry then continued to live at Hampton Court throughout all of his reign from about 1509-1547. He had many of the beautiful cathedrals of Caholicism ransacked, priests killed, and artifacts destroyed all in the cause of establishing his own Church of England. He was a tyrant who rulled for many years here with an iron hand. I told my cousin the other day that I despised King Henry VIII and she looked at me with shock and horror that I, an American, would have the audacity to criticize a British King.

The history lessons that we have learned here have been fascinating, the palaces beautiful, the English countryside indescribably green, the friendships that we have made unforgettable, and the spiritual experiences have been magnificent. What an experience it has been. Now as it draws to a close, we are rushing to complete all of the goals we had set for ourselves when we came out nearly seventeen months ago. Life at the Visitors' Centre is interesting. We are averaging about 2,000 visitors per month. Many people share their testimonies and life experiences with us there and they are wide and varied, but always fascinating. We hope all is well with all of you. It has been a grand ride and it has been fun to share much of it with all of you. We have loved hearing from many of you regularly and keeping abreast of life at home. We have just had a wonderful week with our daughter, Brenda, and her husband, Josh. We had such a great time. I'm glad that we know that "Families are Forever".