Got a nice hot cup of tea or coffee ready?  This jewelry studded feature is a long one and hopefully fascinating to you all.
Shown above : Elizabeth I, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn as a young princess. Artist unknown. TreasuresForAQueen Necklace
 What does it take to make historical reproduction jewelry?  Research, attention to detail and also in the case of Angela, the North Carolina based designer of TreasuresForAQueen, beautiful workmanship! 
There was no photography long ago. So artisans like Angela refer to portraiture where royalty and the very rich showed off all their glittery goods. Gold, pearls and other gemstones feature in the then distinctive tiered styles which still looks very wearable today. Natural pearls were worn in abundance. They were extremely expensive so having many matched ones in a necklace was a sign of great wealth.
Angela does a number of different period replica jewelry but the one collection which stands out is her Tudor collection. When we read the word Tudor, we immediately think about the outsized (literally as well as historically) figure of Henry VII.  
He famously had 6 wives and how each fared can be summed up by the famous little rhyme - "Divorced, Beheaded, Died; Divorced, Beheaded, Survived." Six very different women who shared only one thing in common - the man they married.
Angela said in a message to me :
There is just something almost magical in the way that the history of Henry and his wives enchants so many people. I’ve always loved history but it wasn’t until I began studying Medieval British history that I became obsessed!

Me, too, Angela! I never formally studied history but this part of history has always fascinated me. Henry's court was full of toxic and convoluted intrigue where people struggled to succeed, at times, at all costs.  Blood was not thicker than water. The Boleyns and Howards got rich and received many honours when Henry married his 2nd and 5th wives but they quickly abandoned the women to save their own necks when the women fell from grace and were judicially murdered.

Who needs made up stories like the Game of Thrones when history, especially medieval history (minus the dragons and supernatural nightwalkers), delivers real and unforgettable stories of those who lived during a most tumultuous time in English history? There were huge political and religious changes which changed the country forever. 

Angela did well to find portraits of those most connected with Henry VIII and reproduced the jewelry depicted. This was not an easy task as Henry's queens in the portraits are sometimes not positively identified. And sourcing the right findings must also be tricky.
The image we have of Henry VIII is the portly one by the German- Swiss artist, Hans Holbein the Younger, who was known for his realistic painting style.  Henry grew large (52 inch waist)  in his later years when he could no longer exercise due to unhealed, very painful leg ulcers but continued to eat gigantic amounts of food - mostly meat.

Holbein also designed jewelry, plate and other precious objects.  His medallion designs are very similar  to the preferred pendant styles worn by medieval nobility and royalty then :

Many, but not all, portraits of his Queens show them wearing the Tudor Consort necklace (see recommended documentary below) which is evidence of their position as queen.  The necklace consists of pearl clusters with rubies set in quatrefoil. Different pendants could be hung on it. It was part of the Crown jewels so it was not theirs to keep and was passed to the next queen in line.

Queen Jane (Seymour) wearing the Tudor Consort necklace. Painting by Hans Holbein

Henry VIII was the third of 4 surviving children of Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York.  He was never meant to be king because he had an older brother, Prince Arthur. Henry was largely ignored by his father because he was the spare. He was raised until he was 10 by his extremely doting and indulgent mother. He always got everything he wanted - an expectation which characterized the rest of his life. 

Mary Tudor (Henry VIII's younger sister). Portrait by Jan Mabuse. Replica necklace by TreasuresForAQueen

Prince Arthur (shown below) was married to Catherine of Aragon when they were 15 years old. She was the daughter of the powerful King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain.  Their parents wanted a strong alliance against their common enemy, France. 

But Prince Arthur died just 5 months after the wedding. Catherine endured 7 years in limbo, often without sufficient funds. While their fathers agreed Henry should marry Catherine, they haggled over her dowry. Henry also spent the same period miserable and under his controlling father's thumb as he became the heir. But Henry came to the throne at 17 after his father died and married Catherine soon after.

Prince Arthur (Henry VIII's older brother). Portrait by an Anglo-Flemish School artist. Replica brooch by TreasuresForAQueen

Henry VIII and His Six Wives | Six the Musical

500 years later, the fascination of Henry VIII and his six wives still lives on. The story of Henry VIII and his wives will be told here partly through Angela's work, portraiture and partly through the wonderful songs from the latest Tony award winning musical comedy called SIX.  Also linked below are recommended and fascinating documentaries should you wish to learn more. 

Written by two young Cambridge University students, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, for their musical theatre group, the musical went on to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was given a professional polish and made it to the West End and Broadway and is now touring internationally. Their all-female backing band is called The Ladies in Waiting. 

It is a refreshingly and at times powerful modern take - a "history remix" - with the six queens taking the stage as members of a modern pop group.  They each sing, with saucy asides in between the songs as they tell their stories. The one who suffered the most with Henry would get to be the lead singer. In the end, they realize that they each did not need to be defined by Henry so they decide to write their own happy afters and sing together.

The music and lyrics do remarkably well to capture the essence of each queen and touch on some highlights of their lives.

Watch the wonderful lively opening number, Ex- Wives  by the Broadway cast at the Tony Award Ceremony.  The creators were inspired in part by some of today's leading female pop artists See this Smithsonian magazine article for the lyrics.

Catherine of Aragon: Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Jennifer Hudson
Anne Boleyn: Miley Cyrus, Avril Lavigne, and Lily Allen 
Jane Seymour:  Adele, Sia, and Celine Dion
Anne of Cleves:  Nicki Minaj and Rihanna
Katherine Howard: Ariana Grande and Britney Spears
Catherine Parr:  Alicia Keys and Emeli Sandé

1. Catherine of Aragon - "Divorced"

Henry VIII was 6 years younger than Catherine of Aragon - they married when he was 18 and she was 24. He was not the obese monarch nor a tyrant then, but a tall (6' 2"), handsome, charming, intelligent and athletic young man.  In his younger days, he was compassionate and kind. 
Both Henry VIII and Catherine were very much in love in the early years of their marriage.  The well educated Catherine was a good supportive Queen - she once acted as his regent when he was away fighting in France. She always deferred to him but underneath, she was strong and courageous.

Catherine was a pious and pragmatic Queen - she was his wife for the longest - for 24 years.  Kind and courteous to all who served her, Catherine's popularity also extended to her subjects. 
But she struggled to give Henry the son he wanted. She miscarried, or had babies including 3 sons who were stillborn or died shortly after birth. Only the Princess Mary (the future Mary I) survived to adulthood.

Catherine of Aragon c. at 17 yrs old (or possibly Mary Tudor).Portrait by Michael Sittow. Replica necklace by TreasuresForAQueen

Why was Henry so obsessed about begetting a legitimate son? He badly needed an heir to cement the legitimacy of the fledgling Tudor Dynasty. His father had a very weak claim to the English throne, having snatched the crown from the last Plantagenet king, Richard III, at the Battle of Bosworth. There were still plenty of Plantagenets around who could claim the throne if Henry could not produce an heir. 

Catherine of Aragon. Unknown artist.  Replica Necklace by TreasuresForAQueen

Henry began to look around for a replacement Queen. He fell deeply in love with Anne Boleyn, one of  Catherine's ladies-in-waiting and then tried to find a way of getting out of his marriage.  He even forced  Catherine to attend a court session over the validity of their marriage. She stood her ground and said that she and Prince Arthur never consummated their marriage which effectively deprived Henry the chance of remarriage by canon law.

Portrait of Catherine of Aragon thought to be that of Catherine Parr until 2012. Artist unknown.

In the song "No Way" ( Adrianna Hicks, Broadway Cast), Catherine of Aragon told of how she wisely ignored many of Henry's affairs but it must have really hurt when one of his mistresses and Catherine's ladies-in-waiting, Bessie Blount, bore him a son who survived while she could not. Henry, on the other hand, was ecstatic. Always very sensitive on the subject of his virility, this birth proved he was not at fault for the lack of a son.
She stood firm when Henry wanted her to leave and go into a nunnery so he could marry Anne Boleyn.  Henry became increasingly convinced God was punishing him because of Leviticus 20 :21 in the Bible which stated: "If a man shall take his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing...they shall be childless." He conveniently forgot he actually had a daughter. Moreover, he didn't have any such doubts at the beginning of their marriage! There are conflicting texts in the Bible - Deuteronomy positively encourages the opposite. This uncertainty is why their marriage was originally granted a papal dispensation.

Thanks to the creative manipulations, cunning and utterly ruthlessness of Henry's chief minister and Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cromwell, their marriage was eventually declared invalid and their daughter, Princess Mary became illegitimate.  Henry forced Catherine to hand over the crown jewels, including the Queen Consort necklace to Anne Boleyn.
Banished away from court, Catherine was cruelly forbidden to see the girl again. She died at age 51. Henry even forbade young Mary to attend her mother's funeral. Yet Catherine never stopped loving Henry to the very end.

2. Anne Boleyn - "Beheaded"

The familiar and beautiful old English tune of Greensleeves about unrequited love can be heard in the opening song, Ex-Wives. Henry VIII, who was musically talented, did not compose this old ballad.  But many thought he wrote it during his long courtship with Anne Boleyn. That is why the costume of the performers playing Anne Boleyn is green to reference the song. The color was also thought to mean "lightness in love" in medieval times.

Anne was not considered beautiful but she was intelligent, witty, lively and stylish having spent time at the French court. She was flirtatious and had a number of male admirers before she caught the eye of the King. She also had a volatile temper and a sharp tongue.

He became so obsessed with her, he waited 6 long years before he could marry her. 
The "King's Great Matter" as it was called at the time, was eventually solved.  It meant breaking with the Catholic Church and the Pope and setting up the Protestant Church of England where he was supreme head. 

The English Reformation tore the country apart. There was much unrest. Henry was a hypocrite who continued to worship in Catholic ways but he expected his subjects to follow his Protestant Church and shun the Pope. Anne was an unpopular Queen because many thought she usurped the rightful one.

Anne Boleyn's famous B initial necklace. Portrait was painted by an unknown artist some time after her death. Replica necklace by TreasuresForAQueen.

Things began to sour between Henry and Anne within 3 years of marriage. Once they were married, Anne wasn't the submissive queen Henry expected. Anne was not afraid to voice her opinions and and they had many disagreements (and reconciliations). She was also not quiet about it when Henry began to stray.  She physically retaliated against Jane Seymour, one of her own ladies-in-waiting, and Henry's next Queen, when she realized that Henry had a new love interest. 
In the end, she failed in the only way that mattered with Henry. She didn't give him a son.

Their firstborn turned out to be a girl - Princess Elizabeth (the future Elizabeth I). She miscarried days after he was injured in a jousting tournament. And by the time she miscarried another son on the day of Catherine of Aragon's funeral, he became convinced he needed another wife. 

Don't Lose Your Head - This ditty (sung by Andrea Macasaet, Broadway Cast) tells Anne's story from the perspective and language of today's messaging culture.  Clearly inspired by the numerous begging letters Henry VIII wrote to Anne Boleyn over 6 years trying to convince her to have a relationship with him. The song does capture this Queen's audacious and arrogant personality. He was so obsessed with her and she was equally adamant not to fall for the same fate as her older sister Mary, who was for a time, Henry's mistress.  

Henry's chief "fixer", Thomas Cromwell, got down to work once he realized Henry wanted to be rid of Anne. He cooked up a terrible plot. Cromwell might have helped her become Queen but he grew tired of their disputes such as what to do with the confiscated wealth from the Dissolution of the Monasteries. He wanted the money to go into Royal coffers and make his King the richest monarch around but Anne wanted it for good works and charity.  

Cromwell moved quickly. Anne was accused of adultery with four men (incidentally all Anne's admirers and supporters - a dastardly move on Cromwell's part), and incest with a fifth man, her own brother. Even those who disliked her knew the charges were not true. Cromwell made sure Anne never saw Henry again once she was accused in case she could charm him into changing his mind. Henry's one act of mercy was to grant her execution by the sword rather than the axe which could be a messy affair. 

3. Jane Seymour  - "Died"

He married Jane Seymour, one of Anne Boleyn's ladies-in-waiting, just days after Anne's execution. 

He picked Jane Seymour because she was quiet and unassuming - the total opposite of Anne Boleyn. But like Anne, she refused to be his mistress. Underneath that meek exterior was a strong woman who weathered through what must have been a supremely awkward courtship during the downfall and execution of her predecessor, the Queen she served.  She also had a pair of very ambitions brothers, probably goading her on. 

She did once speak out about the closure of the monasteries. Henry sharply reminded her what happened to the last Queen who meddled in state affairs to shut her up. 

Jane died of puerperal fever (postpartum infection) less than a fortnight after giving birth to his only legitimate heir.  She was just 29.  (More than 1 in 3 of Tudor women died during their childbearing years.)

Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein. Replica Necklace by TreasuresForAQueen

Heart of Stone is a power ballad (Natalie Paris, Studio Cast Recording) about Jane's strong love for the King despite his flaws.  
She sings about how she knew she was the Queen he loved best only because she gave him the son he so wanted.  She laments how she would never see him grow up.  Jane was only Queen for 18 months and the least known of all his Queens. She was the only wife of the six to be given a Queen's funeral. And the only one who actually left him.  Henry was later buried next to her as per his wishes.

4. Anne of Cleves - "Divorced"

It took another two years before Henry married again - monarchs always need a spare as child infant mortality was so high back then.  Thomas Cromwell arranged for this political marriage with the German-born Anne of Cleves which supposedly brought about an alliance with German princes.  

Henry complained Hans Holbein's commissioned portrait exaggerated her looks.  This Anne was tall and big-boned unlike his previous petite Queens. The marriage was never consummated and was terminated after just six months. 
Anne was smart enough to agree to the annulment in exchange for properties, goods and a generous settlement.  She became known as the King's "sister". She never married again, thus keeping her wealth under her own control. She wasn't allowed to leave England as Henry didn't want her bad-mouthing him across Europe.
Considered the most successful of all his Queens, Anne of Cleves also outlived them all including the "survivor", Katherine Parr, Henry's sixth wife.

Anne of Cleves (Henry VIII's fourth wife). Portrait by Hans Holbein

Henry had confided in Cromwell of the non-consummation of this marriage and word eventually got out.  Thomas Cromwell later paid for this matrimonial matchmaking mistake with his life.  Henry never forgave him for his indiscretion and public humiliation about his impotence.

This Hans Holbein portrait of Catherine Howard is now thought to be that of Anne of Cleves although there is some disagreement as Anne of Cleves was not queen long enough to wear the Consort necklace for a portrait. Replica necklace by TreasuresForAQueen

Unlike what was sung in the catchy "Get Down" (Studio Cast Recording), there is no evidence to suggest Anne of Cleves ever had her own portrait at her palace. 

5. Catherine Howard - "Beheaded"

As was his habit of looking over the ladies-in-waiting of his Queens, Henry spotted the very young, pretty and vivacious Catherine Howard among those who served Anne of Cleves.  She was Anne Boleyn's first cousin.

Catherine lost her mother when she was very young and was sent to be raised by her wealthy step-grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. There wasn't much supervision of her dozen or so wards. Nor were they educated much beyond basic literacy.
Earlier historians considered Henry's youngest Queen to be flighty and promiscuous. But modern historians consider her a victim as she was taken advantage of, groomed and abused by predatory older men. 

Her story starts with her music teacher, Henry Manox who molested her when she was 13, followed by the Duchess's secretary, Francis Dereham when she turned 14.  This second affair was very likely consummated as according to Dereham, the couple considered themselves all but married. The Duchess found out about their liaison (Henry Manox snitched on them) and sent Dereham away. Catherine would later claim at her trial that she was raped.

Possible portrait of Catherine Howard (Henry's 5th wife) painted by Holbein. Replica Necklace by TreasuresForAQueen

Her family had her placed in Anne of Cleves' household so she would catch the eye of the King which she did. The first 14 months of marriage saw the 49 year old Henry totally enamoured by his teen bride and he doted on her. She was a balm to his battered ego after Anne of Cleves. She could have been as young as 15-16 when she married him.
But Catherine was out of her depth in the Tudor court especially when Henry was away. Francis Dereham turned up at court, expecting favors and was indiscreet about their previous relationship. He had her appoint him as her secretary in exchange for his silence.
She became involved with young Thomas Culpeper, one of Henry's favorite courtiers. This man was known to be violent towards women in the past.  It is not known if this affair was consummated - both of them denied it. Some historians believe they were not truly romantically involved. They consider Culpeper as an aggressive, ambitious courtier and that Catherine only met up with him to stop him from spreading tales about her past.
When Henry found out about their meetings and her past liaisons, he was devastated.  She was soon accused of not declaring her sexual history prior to marrying the King. Henry brought in a special chaste law which made it an act of treason for not doing so.

Catherine (played by the immensely talented Samantha Pauly of the Broadway Cast) sings "All You Wanna Do" and tells her heart-wrenching story. Many of the performers in this role wear a long ponytail reminiscent of Ariana Grande who was also sexualized at a young age. 

Francis Dereham, Thomas Culpepper as well as Catherine were all executed. Catherine was hysterical when she was first arrested but became determined to face her death with composure and dignity. Instead of a confessor, she requested the block to be brought to her the night before so she could practice placing her neck there.  
Catherine was possibly only 17 or not much older, when she died. Arguably, the most tragic Queen of all because she was so very young, inexperienced and had very little control over the circumstances in her life.

Also beheaded right after her, was her lady-in-waiting, Lady Rochford, Jane Boleyn - Anne Boleyn's sister-in-law - for helping Catherine and Thomas Culpeper meet in secrecy. Jane Boleyn's own story (see link below) shows how perilous it was to be in Henry's court. She served 5 queens. She was interrogated when her husband was arrested back in Anne Boleyn's time. She was interrogated several times this time round. Fearful of being tortured (she wasn't), she had a total mental breakdown. Henry still exacted his revenge on her by changing the law to make it possible for the mentally incapacitated to be executed for treason.
6. Catherine Parr - "Survived"

Catherine Parr was serving the Princess Mary when Henry noticed her. Catherine Parr was already widowed twice before marrying the by now, ailing Henry. She really didn't want to marry him- she had fallen in love with another, Thomas Seymour, Jane Seymour's brother. It isn't true that Henry married her because she could nurse him in his last years - there are royal servants to do that! By this time, Henry was in very poor health. The stench from his infected leg ulcers could apparently be smelled three rooms away. 

She was highly educated, a linguist and was the first female published English author. She wrote about religion and meditation. She was also interested in female education. She was a loving stepmother to Henry's three children. She even persuaded Henry to restore his daughters to the line of succession. 
Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth adored her.  Catherine served as an able regent when Henry was away in France. Princess Elizabeth was there at court during this time so there is speculation that the young girl learned firsthand from this queen that women could be capable rulers. And so she was herself when she became Elizabeth I.

Catherine Parr (Henry's last wife). Unknown artist. Replica Necklace by TreasuresForAQueen
A devout Protestant, Catherine almost lost her head as she urged the King to complete the Reformation. This didn't sit well with the male religious leaders who plotted for her downfall. Catherine found out in time and convinced Henry that she only debated with him over religious issues to distract him from his health problems. It worked.
The Alicia Keys inspired song I Don't Need Your Love (Studio Cast Recording) has Catherine writing a letter to the man she loved, explaining why although she didn't need Henry's love, she had no choice but to marry Henry. 

After Henry's death, she finally married her love after a scandalously short widowhood.  Thomas Seymour was young, handsome and unfortunately an utter cad. Henry had given Catherine guardianship over his younger daughter, Princess Elizabeth. Thomas Seymour tried to seduce the then 14 year old girl who was living with them, so she was forced to send the Elizabeth elsewhere.
Like Jane Seymour, Catherine died of puerperal fever at 35 after giving birth to their daughter, Mary Seymour. She only outlived Henry by 18 months. Her feckless, reckless husband, was executed for treason months later.

Henry was succeeded by his son, Edward VI, who died when he was just sixteen. His sisters ruled after him. First the Catholic Queen Mary I, known in history as Bloody Mary for her persecution of Protestants in her 5 year reign. And lastly by Queen Elizabeth I. She was the last Tudor monarch as she had no children. 

I've not included all the musical numbers - listen to the full Studio Recordings available through these sources here.  There are many versions on Youtube.
Six the Musical - Costume Design - Catherine of Aragon
Did you notice the splendid costumes, crowns and jewelry? The designer, Gabriella Slade, won the Tony Best Costumes award. See this V&A video on the making of one of her costumes. Her inspirations came from portraits, armor, stained glass and architecture. 


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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM