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Divided Loyalties in Tudor England

For the lesser-known members of the great Tudor dynasties, loyalties were divided. Should you support your king, queen or family?

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn Observed by Queen Katherine (1870), by Marcus Stone.

Henry VIII’s ‘great matter’ is a familiar story. We are used to hearing about its impact on religion, on the succession, on Catherine of Aragon and on Henry himself, but we rarely think about the effect that the royal divorce had on the relationships of those in close proximity to the monarchs: their courtiers and their nobility. This may be because, despite being a story about the relationships between a man and two women, it is usually told from a male perspective, focusing on the king, his male advisers and the male relatives of the women concerned. When broadened to include the wives, sisters, daughters and ladies-in-waiting of the protagonists, the story becomes more nuanced. We begin to understand the impact of the divorce, not only on the courtiers’ own marriages, but on their families, too.

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