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Six Queens: Passion and Peril at the Court of Henry VIII

Southwark Cathedral London SE1 9DA
Date and Time
20 January
10:00am - 5:00pm

Six Queens: Passion and Peril at the Court of Henry VIII

The Event...

The Wronged Woman; the Goggle-eyed Harlot; the Obedient Wife; the Flanders Mare; the Good-time Girl; the Nurse. Six wives, six stereotypes, and six women whose real stories need to be told.

Unusually for sixteenth-century royalty, Henry VIII believed that his marriages should bring him personal happiness, choosing women he loved more often than political alliances. Yet each of the women was very different in appearance, temperament, religious outlook, and her relationship with the king.

Join a panel of Tudor experts to hear the truth behind the myths about the Six Wives of Henry VIII and explore not just how each of these women rose and fell in the king’s affections, but how they conducted themselves in the role of queen, how they negotiated the tricky politics of the Tudor court, they brought out the best – or the worst – in Henry, and how their legacies lived after them.

Each speaker will have 25 minutes to speak about their queen. Vote for your favourite wife at the start of the event and then again at the end to see if our experts have persuaded you to change your mind!

This event is in partnership with our friends at which is the online repository for all things Tudor and Stewart (1485–1625). To find out more about Tudor Times please visit their website.

This is in-person only event and won't be recorded or streamed.

This event will take place in the Cathedral nave and your ticket allows entry for the whole day.

Please note that if sat in the transepts and particularly in the side aisles there maybe restricted viewing of the speakers, there will be no visual slides used on the day but those sitting in these areas will certainly be able to hear and take part in any Q&A sessions.

Doors will open at 10am for a 10.20am start.

Publications written by our speakers will be available to purchase on the day from the Cathedral shop and our speakers will be more than happy to sign any books purchased.

Our Speakers...

10.20am - Welcome

10.30am - Catherine of Aragon presented by Dr Nicola Clark

Dr Nicola Clark is a Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Chichester and writes about women in the Tudor period. Her first book, Gender, Family, and Politics: The Howard Women, 1485-1558, was published by Oxford University Press in 2018, and she has also written for History Today magazine. She has recently appeared on television as part of the BBC's ‘The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family’, and More4's Royal Scandals. Her next book The Waiting Game: The Untold Story of the Women who Served the Tudor Queens will be published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in April 2024 and is available for pre-order now.

Catherine of Aragon was a Spanish Princess destined for greatness. She embodied the qualities of a medieval Queen; she was intelligent, well-educated, pious, loyal, and a strong leader. She was also proud, passionate, and outspoken. Henry adored his beautiful Spanish wife, and would trust none of his other consorts with political power in the way that he did Catherine. But Catherine bore no son. Desperate for an heir, Henry replaced her with Anne Boleyn. But should we remember Catherine as the quintessential ‘wronged woman’, or as a skilled political survivor?

11.00am - Anne Boleyn presented by Alison Weir

Alison Weir is the United Kingdom’s most popular and best-selling female historian, and has sold over 3 million books worldwide. Rich in detailed research, Alison’s engaging prose has captured the interest and imagination of countless people, instilling a love of history that has influenced the career paths of historians, historical novelists and teachers, while also greatly increasing knowledge of medieval and Tudor English history among people throughout the world. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an honorary life patron of Historic Royal Palaces.

The imprisonment and execution of Queen Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII`s second wife, in 1536 was unprecedented in the annals of English history. It was sensational in its day, and has exerted endless fascination over the minds of historians, novelists, dramatists, poets, artists and film-makers ever since. It is also the stuff of which myths and legends were made. Alison Weir will speak about one of the most charismatic, controversial, courageous and tragic heroines in history.

11.30 - Jane Seymour presented by Dr Elizabeth Norton

Elizabeth Norton is a British historian. She is currently writing a scholarly biography of Jane Seymour for Routledge, having previously written the first full-length account of Jane’s life (‘Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s True Love’, 2009). She has written twelve books and regularly appears on television, including acting as a consultant and contributor on the BBC’s ‘The Boleyns, A Scandalous Family’.

Jane Seymour, whose motto was ‘Bound to Obey and Serve’, rarely receives much attention. Yet, contemporaries viewed her as the most successful of the six wives. The lowest born woman ever to become queen of England, she was a quiet success in the role. Jane took direct control of her household and lands, secured her stepdaughter’s rehabilitation and, crucially, bore a son. Although only queen for eighteen months, she remains the model of the perfect Tudor queen consort.

12.00pm - 1 hour lunch-break

1.00pm - Anne of Cleves presented by Dr Tracy Borman

Tracy Borman is a best-selling author, historian and broadcaster, specialising in the Tudor period. Her books include Elizabeth’s Women, Thomas Cromwell, The Private Lives of the Tudors, and most recently Anne Boleyn & Elizabeth I. As well as writing and presenting history programmes on TV, Tracy is joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces, Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust and Chancellor of Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln.

Anne of Cleves has gone down in history as the ugly wife and her marriage to Henry VIII was the shortest of the six. As a result, she has been largely overlooked in the history of the much-married monarch. But she was far from the hapless victim of legend. In fact, Anne of Cleves can justifiably claim to have been the most successful of all Henry’s wives.

1.30pm - Catherine Howard presented by Gareth Russell

Gareth Russell is a historian and broadcaster. He is the author of the Catherine Howard biography Young and Damned and Fair and his latest book is The Palace: From the Tudors to the Windsors, 500 Years of History at Hampton Court.

In her short time as queen consort, Catherine Howard was praised by diplomats for her elegance, dignity, and charm. After her downfall on suspicion of adultery, those testimonies were forgotten and her entire reputation was shaped by her downfall. Gareth Russell explores Catherine's personality and achievements while she was at the height of her glory, as well as asking what made her take the astonishing risks that led to the scaffold.

2.00pm - Katherine Parr presented by Melita Thomas

Melita Thomas has a Master’s in Historical Research from the Institute of Historical Research, and is a doctoral candidate at UCL. She is the author of history books, The King’s Pearl, and The House of Grey, and is the editor and principal content provider for the on-line resource, Tudor Times. Her latest work, 1000 Tudor People, will be published on 28 March 2024.

Katherine used to be thought of as the dullest of Henry’s wives – little more than his nurse and an affectionate stepmother to his children. However, that description is far from a complete portrait of a woman who married four times (once even for love), was an intellectual, a published author, and regent of England. Katherine was the first queen of England to also be queen of Ireland, and the first to be buried as a Protestant.

2.30pm - 30 minute break

3.00pm - Audience Q&A session with our speakers

4.00pm - End

Event organiser is Southwark Cathedral.

Disclaimer: All information was correct when the listing was prepared. Any questions about the event should be directed to the event organiser.

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