HENRY VIII:

ROLE PLAYING

 

Role Playing can be used effectively in an advanced placement class. I have found transfer effects in my students' writing assignments and students also seem to remember information better when presented this way. Research suggests that role playing engages the right brain-- and therefore the student is effectively involved. The following exercise which I introduce to the class as the original Dynasty in prime Tudor time is an example of how role playing might be effectively used. If you use my exercise, caution students that the events have been telescoped (not all views would be present at a given time) and that all the participants never actually met together and discussed their problems. If they had met, they would not have been as free with their tongues nor opinions. Although I've tried to remain historically accurate, biographers disagree about motivation. You may wish to modify my scenarios to conform with your own viewpoints or your school climate.. I think role playing is more effective if the student gains some insight into motivation and personal factors--I therefore have included what some may consider trivia. My principal sources: Thomas More by Richard Marius; Great Harry and The First Elizabeth" written by Carolly Erickson.

 

Method:

One day prior to role playing: select students to play roles and provide students with the scenarios; assign appropriate text sources as homework reading. On the day of confrontation have players sit at a table or arrange the desks so that the rest of the class can observe. Players are to discuss the problems and possible solutions for Henry's problem. Insist that they address each other by the proper titles; "Lady Anne, Your Majesty, You Eminence, Your Grace, Sir Thomas," etc. The class is to act as the king's council and may offer suggestions. The class may also interrupt if members feel that the players have deviated from roles. The exercise should last the entire period.

 

Two excellent movie follow-ups are Man for All Seasons and Anne of a Thousand Days

Follow-up with analysis of Henry as King

Henry provides a good model for a discussion of dynastic kings, the English Reformation and Balance of Power politics.

 

CAST OF CHARACTERS

 

POPE CLEMENT VII

Described by one historian as a "great and respected cardinal" who became through enormous labor a "small and little-esteemed pope," you are Giulio de'Medici. Hard-working, quick-witted, and inoffensive, you lack character and are easily swayed by the circumstances of the present. Henry and England are far away; Charles' troops have sacked Rome and you are virtually his prisoner. How can you possibly decide between the Defender of the Faith in England and the most powerful ruler on the continent? Your only possible course is to delay as long as possible. As you delay, the Church is increasingly threatened by Protestantism. You cannot admit now that a previous pope, Julius II had made a mistake, not when the Church is being attacked on all sides.

Some of your proposals which have been presented to Henry by your legate, Cardinal Campeggio, and if accepted would remove the necessity of your issuing a dispensation:

1. Obtain a judgment of nullity from an English church court

which you could then confirm

2. Persuade Katherine to enter a nunnery--Henry would then be

free to remarry (although there is some question about this

tactic--some of your advisors say that with a living wife, even

in a nunnery, Henry should not remarry)

3. Marry the Princess Mary to Henry Fitzroy; who would then be

indisputably the heir (male)

4. Issue a papal; decree declaring any children born to Henry and

Anne as legitimate.

5. Issue a papal decree allowing Henry to have two wives.

Most of all you hope to delay any decision until Henry, who seems to be having a mid-life crisis, tires of Anne and goes back to Katherine as a good husband should.

 

HENRY VIII

As a younger son, you were not intended for the throne. When your brother Arthur died in 1502, you became Prince of Wales. the Spanish Ambassador described you as a lad of sixteen in 1507: "There is no finer youth in the world." However, as you grew into one of the handsomest young men in Europe, your father became increasingly pathological. The once good rapport between you had been shattered by your brother's and then your mother's death. Your father now disliked you intensely, "having no affection or fancy" toward you. Your upbringing had always been strict, but your isolation became even more intense because of your father's ill health and because of the fear that you, too, would die leaving England without a male heir. Relief came only in supervised, outdoor exercise which you loved in all forms: hunting, jousting and wrestling.

Your father died in 1509 and seven weeks later you married your brother's widow, Katherine of Aragon. Certainly your grandmother had pushed for the marriage--Katherine was learned, intelligent, and of good character. You found her very attractive and she had agreed to renounce he dowry in your favor. Your father had considered keeping the Spanish dowry a matter of utmost importance.

Your grandmother died soon after your marriage and for the first time in your life you were free of parental restraints. She had been so strict with you that all your life you would be wary of women who wished to dominate you. What a wonderful time you had as king! Your penurious father had left you a full treasury and you had the intelligence to use it wisely--but also more enjoyably than he. As one example of your humanity bent, you invited Erasmus to live in England and each of you dearly impressed the other. Your first years with Katherine were happy, she was described by Fernandez as "the most beautiful creature in the world," but her inability to produce a viable child began to erode your marriage as the years went by. Katherine became less attractive and more pious as she lived through miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths. You became attracted to other women who were prettier and less careworn than your wife.

You have fathered healthy sons by other women, so you are sure that Katherine is to blame for not producing an heir. You are concerned about the passage in Leviticus which prohibits the marriage of a brother to his brother's widow: "They shall be childless." Your daughter Mary cannot be considered because women marry and become subjects to their husbands. If Mary married outside of the kingdom, a foreigner would reign in England. If she married within the kingdom, who would be royal enough? Besides, no woman has ever ruled England successfully. You also wish to continue the Tudor line--a very new, not quite legitimized royal house. England is not that far away from the War of the Roses--and there are other potential heirs to the throne. However, you must be careful in your decision--children are a valuable commodity in making alliances. You do not wish to jeopardize the marriage value of your one legitimate child, Mary, by stigmatizing the circumstances of her birth.

You are getting older. You would like to leave England in the hands of a young man, not the hands of a child--prey to ambitious, unscrupulous schemers. You realize you are not immortal--your active lifestyle has resulted in many near fatal accidents and your health is beginning to fail. Your mistress, Anne Boleyn, is pregnant and although you have elevated your bastard son, Henry Fitzroy, even higher than your daughter Mary, you are still worried about the succession. Will your people accept a royal bastard as their king?

As Europe becomes embroiled in religious controversy, one way out of your dilemma become clearer. Other men have declared Catholicism invalid--the Pope an anti-Christ and a mockery of Christ's intentions. Since the Pope refuses to grant a divorce and if he will not let you take another wife (bigamy is sometimes legitimate and you have asked your councilors to look into this option), you might consider separation from the church. This is a dangerous step not only for your soul, but also politically. An excommunicated king is held to be deposed, leaving his kingdom vulnerable to civil war and invasion. Charles V would be only to happy to claim the English throne for his aunt and cousin.

As you ponder these ideas, you become increasingly convinced that God is punishing you for marrying your brother's wife. England must have a male heir!!

 

ANNE BOLEYN

At age twelve, you accompanied your father Thomas Boleyn, the king's ambassador, to the French court. This court was your finishing school where you were educated in art, music and literature. One poet wrote that you were such a graceful maiden, that no one would have believed you to be English. You took great care of your reputation at the licentious court of Francis I especially because your sister Mary was noted as "a great prostitute, infamous above all." Later, when Mary returned to England, she was married to one of Henry's attendants, and speedily installed as a royal mistress. The Boleyn family profited from this affair. You father became a Knight of the Garter and Lord Rochford. You became one of Katherine's maids of honor and fell in love with Henry Percey, heir to Northumberland and a member of Wolsey's household. Wolsey sent you to the Boleyn country estate and Henry was forced to marry Mary Talbot. After three years of exile you returned to the court determined to cause the cardinal much displeasure. Henry had dropped your sister and was smitten with you. You were determined not to be discarded like your sister, and resisted Henry's advances. The chivalrous Henry saw you as a chaste, unattainable lady and because of his need for an heir, determined that you would be his wife and queen. Not only are you sexually attractive, well-educated, and sophisticated, you seem a healthy woman capable of bearing many children. You "never wanted to love the king," but his persistence and your family's insistence have weakened your resolve. You are presently pregnant by the king and terrified that you will be abandoned as your sister Mary was--even though she is the mother of the king's bastard, "young Master Carey." You do not want to settle for the status of mistress and eventual cast-off. Already Henry's eye has begun to wander and the rumors are that he already has another mistress. Henry quickly loses interest in anything he has, and you seem to be on your way out., Many people at court hate you for your treatment of good Queen Katherine. Others think you a witch because of that strange sixth finger of yours which you keep hidden by long "Anne Boleyn" style sleeves. You have always been associated with the more Protestant forms of religion at Court, and people more comfortable with the older styles of religion think if you were deposed the King might return to the old ways. Even your family is deserting you--your uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, calls you "a great whore" and has said you will be the ruin of your family. Unpopular and alone, you pray Henry will divorce Katherine so that this child you carry will be the legitimate heir to the throne.

 

KATHERINE OF ARAGON

You were sixteen when you came to England to marry Prince Arthur in 1501. Although you would later learn some English during your long life in England, you and Arthur could speak only haltingly in Latin to each other. You were a widow in less than five months and deathly ill at the time Arthur died. When you recovered, you found that Arthur has willed all his personal property to his sister Margaret. You, as widow, received nothing. Your duenna wrote to your mother, Queen Isabella, that you were still a virgin and your parents began planning to marry you to the young Henry.

However, this marriage would not take place until 1509 after the old King's death. The reason for this was bizarre--the old king had fallen in love with your sister, Joanna of Castile who with her husband, Philip the Handsome, had visited England in 1506. They were the parents of the future Charles V. When Philip died suddenly a few months later, Henry pursued a marriage with Joanna. Unfortunately, Joanna had become quite mad at the time of Philip's death and kept his corpse with her at all times. No one could persuade her to give up the body for burial. Actually, even though Joanna was insane, the English were willing to negotiate, if she were still fertile. Failing that, Henry was ready to marry his sister Mary to the future Charles V. Negotiations on all proposals failed and Henry took his frustrations out on you. From 1505 you were a diplomatic hostage while the rest of your dowry went unpaid. You were turned out of your house, your allowance was cut off, and your wardrobe degenerated into rags. Henry would not pay your bills and Spain would not send funds. As a forlorn, unattractively dressed reject, you had little chance to attract the attention of the young Henry. How surprised you were when your long awaited marriage actually took place--and how different your life was during the first few years. Henry was an attentive, intelligent companion and you were a true queen, regal in every way, compassionate to the poor, and well-loved by the people.

Older than your husband by six years, you aged more rapidly than he. You were almost always pregnant, but had produced only one child, a girl, who lived beyond infancy. You turned more and more to your Catholic faith as a solace in this strange land with its inhospitable climate in which you are sick so often. Your piety did not attract Henry--he preferred light-hearted, healthy women not bound by conventional restraints.

You realized that husbands, especially royal husbands, would have mistresses, but your pride was severely hurt when such women were flaunted. The Boleyn whore has been the most painful experience for you. You are sure that Henry will tire of her as he has of all the others. You cannot accept his demands that you acknowledge that you were not a virgin when he married you or that the Pope's dispensation was not valid (heresy!) --this would make you, a royal daughter of Spain, the concubine of this upstart ruler whose own right to his throne is questionable. Mary, your one child to survive after so many pregnancies, would be a bastard. You pray for Henry and his soul which is in dreadful danger because of that witch who has beguiled him. You still care very much for him, this difficult husband of yours.

 

THOMAS MORE

Originally you intended to be a priest. You saw your marriage as a fall from God's grace and did your best to atone. You beat yourself with whips, wore a hair shirt next to your skin for most of your life, and abstained from any over indulgence in food or drink. Ironically, your friend, Henry VIII, would be your opposite in attitudes.

You, however, were a true medieval man. From the beginning, Christians had prized virginity above matrimony. Sexual asceticism is a predominant theme of the New Testament. The only purpose of marriage was procreation--the worst of the sensual sins, according to Augustine, was sexuality. Perhaps this is why you chose the elder daughter of the Colt family, Jane, rather than the second daughter you were attracted to. You second wife, Alice, was a widow older than you, and again, perhaps you chose her as a penance for your sexuality.

Your biographer, Richard Marius, believes that some of your hostility toward Protestantism was based unconsciously on your early decision not to be a priest. Now, too late for you, some devout Christians believed that priests could be married. Your life would be meaningless of this were so.

You are not against divorce if the Church agrees, but you are against defiance of the Church. The Church represents order. If the Church falls, what will be the replacement? Certainly, events in the Germanies support your concerns. A Church ruled by secular monarchs would certainly be in the clutches of Satan. The Church serves as a moral guidepost for the ruler. You acknowledge that the Church needs reform, but you prefer to work within the conciliar movement and place restrictions on papal authority.

The monarch is the role model for his people. If Henry casts one wife aside to take another, won't ordinary people feel that they can do the same? What will happen to the order and structure of society? Does one individual matter that much? Henry should think about the good of his kingdom, not his personal desires. The welfare of the group should always be considered above the welfare of the individual.

The Protestants are wrong about many things. They claim that all knowledge of God comes from a dead book, the BIBLE. They fight over interpretations. Nothing but dissension can come from focusing on a book. The Catholic faith is alive and infused with the Holy Spirit. Protestants believe that humans are depraved and only a select few will see God. How different from Catholicism which sees man as a worthy creature saved by the grace of God! If Henry defies the Pope, he will be endangering all of England with this new danger--Protestantism!

 

CARDINAL THOMAS WOLSEY

You are the Lord Chancellor of England. You were educated at Magdalen College, Oxford and became a priest in 1498. Within a few years you were chaplain to Henry VII and his diplomatic envoy. Your career hesitated briefly when the old king died, but you were soon one of the new king's most influential counselors. You encouraged Henry to join the pope's holy league against the French and later arranged a perpetual peace capped by the marriage of Henry's sister, Mary, to the French king. By 1515, your successes had ensured you the position of lord chancellor which you would hold almost until your death.

Your quick rise to power was based on ambition, but more than ambition was involved. You are a tireless, efficient worker with a tremendous intellect. You love to solve problems and your concentration is an amazement to your contemporaries--your servant Cavendish described your work while on a diplomatic mission: rising at four in the morning you began work and until evening "my lord never rose once to piss, nay yet to eat...but continually wrote his letters in his own hand."

As chancellor, you presided over the Star Chamber and greatly expanded the scope of this royal court while using it as an instrument to increase the king's power. Although you were a papal; legate, you did not use your power to reform the English church. Instead, you became an example of extravagant living and nepotism--endowing your son, for example, with a deanery, four archdeaconeries, five prebends, and a chancellorship.

Deeply involved in foreign affairs, you plotted to become pope, but failed because Charles V failed to honor his promises to you. Your diplomacy with Charles failed on England's behalf also, he refused to marry his cousin Mary Tudor and he did not honor his English alliance. The king's desire for a divorce has led you into a reckless policy of an alliance with France and a war against Charles to remove the pope from the Hapsburg influence. The French were defeated. You are hated for your taxation policies, your unclerical behavior, and your efforts to curb the nobility. With no allies, you council divorce, but encourage Henry to marry not the whore Boleyn, but the French princess.

 

King Francis I

You were born 12 September 1494 the son of Charles of Angouleme and Louise of Savoy. At the age of 20 you married Claude, the daughter of King Louis XII and Anne, Duchess of Brittany. Claude died 10 years later and you remarried, this time to Eleanor, the widow of Manuel I of Portugal. Between the two wives you will sire 7 children, three boys and four daughters.

Your reign began on 1 January 1515 when your father died. You were crowned in the traditional cathedral of Rheims on 25 January 1515.

As a monarch you are extremely autocratic and prided yourself on being a "son" of the Renaissance. Early in your reign you became a patron of the arts and humanist learning. Your accomplishments include founding the College of France, and bringing Leonardo da Vinci to Amboise. You also sponsored the construction of two magnificent chateau's, Chambord and Fontainebleau. You publicly kept several mistresses including the noteworthy duchess d'Etampes.

In 1516 you continued the traditional role of the French kings in regard with the Church by manipulating the Papacy into signing the Concordat of Bologna which effectively gives you control over the church in France. You now have the right to appoint all members of the higher clergy. In delegating authority your chancellor, Cardinal Duprat (a noted pluralist), you created a situation which increased corruption in the church. Due to an increase in heresy you ordered Luther's writings confiscated and burned in 1521. Until 1534 you were fairly tolerant of Protestantism but during that year a series of incidents involving extremist placards gave you personal offense and your toleration ended. By the end of your reign you were actively involved in persecuting the Protestants throughout the kingdom.

In July 1515, you led an army across the Alps and conquered Milan. Four years later your rivalry with the house of Habsburg intensified when you became a candidate for the imperial crown in Germany. The election was won by the Habsburg king of Spain, who became Holy Roman emperor as Charles V. The subsequent war against Charles ended in your total defeat at the Battle of Pavia (1525), in which you were captured. Released in 1526, you disavowed a promise to cede Burgundy and began a new war, which lasted until the Peace of Cambrai in 1529.

To stabilize conditions between you and Henry VIII you invited him to France for a meeting in June of 1520 (the fabled meet at the Field of Cloth and Gold). The meeting resolved nothing other than to show of the riches of both nations as you and Henry vied to out "boast" each other. A tense moment occurred when you violently threw Henry to the ground in a wrestling match. Your wars in Spain greatly interested Henry who hoped that if you weaken the Spanish crown, they would be unable to protect the papacy thus leaving the Church more vulnerable to Henry's demands and threats.

Your unsuccessful wars divided the royal court into fractions. Your patronage so strained the treasury of France that you were forced to resort to the sale of government offices and the prosecution of your ministers to gain operating funds. You died on 31 March, 1547, and the nation barely mourned your passing.