Blue-eyed, auburn-haired, lively and gracious, the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon was 23 years old to Henry VIII’s 18 and a diminutive 4ft-something to Henry’s towering 6ft 2 inches when they married in 1509. But any differences in age and stature evaporated in their mutual devotion: unusually for the times, theirs was no mere political alliance but also a love match. Nevertheless the union would end in bitterness some 24 years later as Henry embarked on his infamous marital merry-go-round.

“Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived” runs the well-known mnemonic recalling the fates of the King’s six wives, and it is easy to pigeonhole them as one-dimensional bit-players in the great dramas of Henry’s reign: pious Catherine of Aragon, scheming Anne Boleyn,

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