Episode 28: Alice in Wonderland

Once a season we step back from the factual historical world into the fictional historical world. This season, while stepping back, we fell into a rabbit hole of sorts and found ourselves becoming curiouser and curiouser about Alice. Alice in Wonderland, that is.

This episode is all about Alice. Who was she, how did these books about her come to be and who is her creator, Charles Lutwidge Dodson (more commonly known as Lewis Carroll)?  What is it about this story that has allowed  it to endure for 150 years? Is it the charm or is it the mystique that surrounds not only the tale, but the life of the writer?

Originally written for a child, this fantasy deals with some very dark images and has generated some wholly grown-up interpretations.Yet, it has been  adored by children and adults alike.  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Saw There have been in continuous publication since they were first published in the late 1800’s.

We discuss the storylines of these two books in our companion mini-cast, Beckett and Susan’s Adventures in Wonderland and What They Saw There. If you are not familiar with the story, or need a refresher, please give a listen to that podcast first. Some of the details of this episode are better understood within the context of those stories.

There are more references than just the biggies

On July 4th, 1862 Charles Dodgson, a friend and three young Liddell sisters- Lorina, Edith and 10 year-old Alice- took a rowing trip up a river. As was tradition for this group, Charles began to tell stories. One in particular enchanted young Alice who asked if he could write it down for her. He did, and presented her with a hand written and  self-illustrated Alice’s Adventures Under Ground some time later. With further editing, reworking and creating, Charles published the tale (with illustrations by John Tenniel) as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland three years after that boating trip.

Who was Charles Dodgson? He was the third of eleven children, although the first male in his family. His father, Charles, was a clergyman and mother, Francis Jane, raised the large and close upper- middle class family in Cheshire, England. Young Charles was gifted academically and excelled in school (although he had a stint in a rather notorious institution that may not have been the cheeriest of times).  When it came time for Charles to decide on a career path he became a mathematics lecturer at Oxford.( Maybe not the most obvious choice for a man with a stammer). He was quite religious, and an ordained deacon- although he never entered the priesthood as his employer would have required. He was also a writer, penning magazine articles and poems under the name Lewis Carroll, and a very accomplished amateur photographer .

The mystique of Lewis Carroll that endures is probably based on the loss of some key diary entries after his death, and what is known was often left to very loose interpretation. We knock out some of the myths and common misconceptions during the podcast including:

Did he stammer only around adults?  (No, he stammered when speaking with children as well, they may have been more understanding, however.)

Was he shy? (No, he was very social and had a wide circle of friends.)

Was he a pedophile? (No, probably not. When the social context of the times, as well as the trends in photography are taken into consideration evidence seems to  point to no.)

We cover quite a bit more in the podcast, but the one that pertains the most to this topic? Who WAS Alice and who was she to him?

Alice Liddell was the forth of ten children of Henry and Lorina Liddell (rhymes with ‘riddle’). Henry was the Dean of Oxford during a large chunk of Charles’ time there, and his boss. Charles was a good family friend, spending time with the whole family, not just Alice. He photographed all of the children, and does have several existing portraits of Alice.

The two parts of the portrait sitting of Alice, meant to be shown together.

Alice lived a very long and full life, marrying a man of means she became a society hostess and mother of three boys. She held on to her original gift from Charles for most of her life, although a series of situations forced her to sell it in her old age.

But she doesn’t LOOK like the Alice you know, does she? As Charles was rewriting his original story, and combined forces with illustrator John Tenniel and sent John images of a couple of other young girls who looked more like the girl in his mind including this one:

Beatrice Henley, the probable model for Tenniel's book illustrations.

The story of Alice lived on long after the deaths of both Charles Dodgson and Alice Liddell. Alice and her friends have crept into our language (“Off with her head!”) and culture (See: Tom Petty Don’t Come Around Here No More or any number of other musical references). We don’t really know when we are going to stumble into her, but when we do- we feel like we are meeting with an old friend.

This fountain has been in Central Park since 1959.

Time Travel With The History Chicks

Have you fallen into the rabbit hole that is the world that surrounds Alice in Wonderland? Where to next? Oh, why here is a note, it says “READ ME!”

We suggest that you start with Annotated Alice, by Martin Gardner. In this (really big) book you will find the original text and illustrations for the two books, as well as commentary about the subject matter.

Are you interested in learning more about the man behind the tales? We liked The Mystery of Lewis Carroll by Jenny Woolf. Although there are MANY books about this man out there, and many contradict the others…that’s kind of what’s fun about the mystery, don’t you think?

Why should all the recommendations be non-fiction? With this topic, it just doesn’t make sense. Give these two a try:  The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

If you are as drawn to the work of Mary Blair as Susan was, this is the book version that she  gushed discussed.

Retold by Jon Sciezka, with original artwork of Mary Blair

Alice All The Things! (History Chicks Internet version)

Read both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass and The Hunting of the Snark online. LibriVox also has audio versions available.

AlteredAlice– links to Alice inspired art from all over the world.

Lostepedia– Many references within the TV show LOST. Many. (As in:enough to get you to watch it again)

Contrariwise– One of many online groups whose purpose is to discuss and exchange information about Lewis Carroll and his beloved tales.

Carrollmyth: a super slick site that helps address some of the myths surrounding the man.

And, of course, please please, take a cruise through the work of the Lewis Carroll Society (link to North America, but that’s only because we are in North America). If you investigate that site you can easily find links to many of the photographic works of the man, as well as lots of other very fascinating information. You could be there for a while.

And finally ( because, really, where else are you going to find it?) a last look at the Mock Turtle and a recipe for Mock Turtle Soup. You are most welcome.

why does he have a cow head, again? Oh, yeah.

The Walrus and the Carpenter restaurant, In Seattle- which probably doesn’t serve Mock Turtle Soup, but we thought it was pretty interesting.

Episode 27: Clara Bow

We couldn’t tell the story of Clara Bow entirely in G-rated terms, so younger ears should probably skip this one where we talk about the original It Girl. What is It?  Looks, charm, talent, and something special that attracts a wide range of people.  It is a mysterious quality usually likened to a form of sex appeal. Clara Bow had It. She used It for her career and It attracted many men.  But, in addition to all those marketable qualities that made her a successful silent film star, she had other factors in her life that contrasted: Poverty, abuse, mental illness, and a span of time when she was treated like a pawn in an industry where youth and It survived, and all else was tossed aside.

Clara Gordon Bow was born on July 29, 1905 to Robert and Sara Bow in Brooklyn, New York. We would love to give you a romantic version of her parents, a rags to riches love story- but it would be a lie. Robert had a thing for younger girls and liquor; Sara was the daughter of an abusive father and mentally ill mother who was looking for a way out of her home and teen marriage was that ticket.

Robert worked as a singing waiter and at various odd jobs, but he would often leave his wife and child for long stretches. He spent his wages in bars and on underage prostitutes. Sara was miserable at home. Clara was her third  child- the first two died almost immediately after birth- and Sara had been advised that another pregnancy might kill both her and the child. Death may have seemed a great strategy for leaving her sad life, but both mother and child survived.

More sadness, and gloom filled the life of young Clara: her mother plummeted through episode after episode of depressed, psychotic and hostile states leaving Clara to take care of both herself and her mother. Clara’s grandfather died at her feet. As a young child she witnessed the gruesome death of her best friend, and she would be forced to drop out of school by seventh grade to get a job to help support her family. We go into details on the podcast of the impoverished and dysfunctional world that Clara grew up in, but let’s suffice it to say, it wasn’t a fairy tale. The escape method that she used was the movies- going to them, reading about them, and dreaming of a life as the person IN the movie magazines, not  just reading them.

One of Clara’s first employers

At the age of 16,she saw her chance in the form of a magazine sponsored contest  With a storyline that would make a terrific movie, she scraped together the money for  entry pictures, impressed the judges, kicked fanny at the  acting auditions and won!Included in the prizes was a photo shoot that created these two images:

Through what may have been the hardest work of his life ( if not a singular moment of support for his child)  Robert Bow pushed the powers- that- be to follow through with the other part of the prize: help Clara get work in the movies. Clara got her first role, and- in true movie fashion- her performance ended up on the cutting room floor. Crushing.

But that role landed her the next, and she was off to the glamorous local of….New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Made it on the big screen! Down to the Sea in Ships

In fairly quick order, Clara set off to Hollywood with an agent who had a rather interesting tale to tell after her cross-country train trip with the free spirited, insomniac that was a teenage Clara Bow.

Of course, we go into the whole story on the podcast, but Clara’s acting skills, big eyed beauty, and ability to cry on cue (not to mention her lack of inhibitions and sparkling personality) soon got her the screen time she needed to get  her career really started. She signed with Preferred Pictures and let her career  be formed in the hands of the head of the studio- B.P. Schulberg.
Her looks and attitude suited the times. Women were taking more risks, making bold moves, bobbing their hair, letting their sexuality shine all while dancing on tables. Well, the women that Clara portrayed on screen were- she personified the flapper, the Jazz Baby. Women wanted to be her, men wanted to be with her and both of them were flocking to her movies.

The movie that she is most often known for, It.

Throughout the 1920’s Clara was, quite simply, a superstar. Her personal life was as wild as some of the characters she played on the screen. Tooling about town in a roadster she lived her life with as little a filter as she could get away with. (How is that for putting it mildly?) She was romantically linked to many men, and called her own shots in her frenetic personal life. The newspapers and those movie magazines she used to read loved her, although they may have exaggerated some aspects of her life- the public couldn’t get enough of Clara.

The invention of talkie movies slowed Clara down a bit, but it didn’t end her career as is often rumored. What did end it? Maybe the pace she had kept for so long. Maybe a series of ill-timed life moves including several stints in hospitals for “rest” and a much publicized legal battle with a former personal secretary who attempted to blackmail Clara. Maybe the love of a good man, Rex Bell, who helped stabilize her life and gave her the family and normalcy that she had longed for since she was a child. Maybe the times, as the Depression began the flamboyant lifestyle of the now matured flapper wasn’t the image that movie goers craved. Maybe it was a combination of all of those things.

Clara stopped making movies in 1933. She retired to the ranch in Nevada where she and Rex raised two boys. They later divorced and she moved to Los Angeles. She was mostly a recluse, although she did still answer her fan mail and was often surprised when people remembered her. She died of a heart attack in her home on September 27, 1965 at the age of 60.

Clara, Rex and their children.


First thing we would do? Watch some movies. Netflix streams It, as well as some others, and you can see bits and pieces on YouTube. If you have 7 minutes, give this one a peek… the IT of Clara Bow  is very obvious in this clip. This link will take you to a channel with  more Clara Bow movie clips.

Since we are talking internet links here, Clara Bow Archive on tumblr maintains a twitter account as well. Get unique pictures of Clara sent right to your twitter feed. Also The Flapper Factor on tumblr is not Clara specific, nor is this Silent Ladies.com , but you might be impressed with the collections presented.

Learning more about a movie star just seems to fit visual media, you know? There is a Biography:  Clara Bow which isn’t on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon-but you might want to check out your library.

Turner Classic Movies has a Clara Bow documentary, Discovering the It Girl (narrated by Courtney Love) which we liked. And  a related one, Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood which is narrated by Jane Fonda ( and based on a book by Mick LaSalle who is interviewed in the film). Keep an eye out for airings of both these on TCM, or see if your library has them.

As it ties into this topic, and to cleanse your brain of the Debbie Reynolds Molly Brown image- go see Singing in the Rain. Set in the times of Clara Bow and with some of the (highly Hollywoodized) issues that Clara had to deal with. (Just an aside: the songs were written before the story of this movie but it’s still a fun romp).

Just for a fun movie tie in

We teased you about this in the podcast, an interview by Mark Twain with Elinor Glyn, writer of It and overall character herself.

So you like books? Us toooo!  For Clara we recommend:

Clara Bow: Running Wild by, David Stenn

The “It”: Girl: the Incredible Story of  Clara Bow by, Joe Morella & Edward EpsteinSilent Stars by Jeanine BasingerAnd finally, as a related recommended read (yes, there is a movie also), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.

As always, music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at Music.mevio.com

Episode 26: Rosa Parks

This episode was a surprise for us. We had planned on posting a minicast about Rosa Parks to tie in with the episode on Ida B. Wells. The women’s lives had several parallels and we wanted to highlight Rosa Park’s role in the civil rights movement. But, when we sat down to talk, the talk went longer than a typical minicast. So we made it into a full length episode about the woman called, “the mother of the civil rights movement”.

Rosa Louis McCauley was born on Feburary 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. As always, we discuss her life in detail on the podcast and merely outline it here, but her family;  father James and mother Leona as well as Rosa’s younger brother, Sylvester, left Tuskegee  for Pine Level, and then Montgomery, Alabama when Rosa was a child.

She was educated first in a rural school and then at Montgomery Industrial School (also called Miss White’s School), a fairly progressive school  for the times run by women from the north. Many people in her early life contributed to her firm belief in equality, and taught her character traits that would serve her well. And we cover them in the podcast, stopping for  a few moments extra to talk  about the strength of  both character and backbone, of her grandfather and her mother, as well as what life was like in the Jim Crow south.Rosa, circa 1956

As she was entering college, Rosa had to drop out of school. Her grandmother was ill, and Rosa set off to work as a seamstress to help support her family. It is during this time that she mets a handsome, well dressed, self educated man, Raymond Parks who was a barber by trade, a civil rights activist by desire. They were wed in 1932. With his support, Rosa competed her education.

Raymond and Rosa were very active in their local NAACP chapter, working behind the scenes on cases such as that of the Scottsboro Boys, trying to make right wrongs done to blacks, trying to establish equality for all people.  Rosa had served as chapter secretary, as well as working with youth programs and assisting with a very complex voter registration process.

The day that changed her life, was not Rosa’s first encounter with discrimination on a bus. She was far from the first black woman that had been arrested for not giving up her seat so that a white passenger could sit. And, in the podcast, we discuss the many people and actions that play into the success that followed when Rosa was the woman who was arrested.

JoAnn Robinson, a college professor, had gone so far as  to intentionally sit in the first row of seats, seats that were always reserved for white passengers. She abandoned her protest when the bus driver kept yelling at her, but she thought that a bus boycott would make a loud impact on not only the economy of Montgomery, but also make strides in race relations.

Claudette Colvin, a teenager, had also been arrested for not giving up her seat months before Rosa.

Rosa Parks herself had also previously been asked to leave a bus for refusing to give up her seat . But on that particular December day in 1955, refuse she did again.  She was tired of giving up her seat, tired of being treated in this manner. She was empowered by a series of events in her life and took a stand. By sitting.

When she was arrested the black community of Montgomery got busy, fast. Jo Ann Robinson,  Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, and many community leaders did in 1955 what it takes the internet to do today: they spread the word. They formed an action plan and got the entire black population informed and organized. Within a day, what was planned as a one- day bus boycott began. It would not end until 381 days later.


The mugshot seen around the world

By being the right woman at the right time, in the right city and with the right support, Rosa Parks, with her quiet voice and firm but proper demeanor became the mother of the civil rights movement.

Later, Rosa and Raymond moved to Detroit where she worked toward racial and gender equality as a speaker, a writer and activist.

Rosa Parks died at the age of 92, on October 24, 2005 due to complications from dementia. Even in death, she was treated as a national treasure and was allowed  to lay in honor at the US Capital Rotunda and two other locations, one in Montgomery and one in Detroit.

Time Travel With The History Chicks

Books! We have a few that we recommend, starting with the one written by Rosa herself, Rosa Parks: My Story.

My Story, by Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks, by Douglas Brinkley

The award winning children’s book that we thought was really good was,

Rosa Parks, by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Bryan Collier

The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development has a website. Lots of information as well as links to youth programs, although some of the information does seem out of date.

The free, interactive app e-book  , The Road to Civil Rights, is available through this site. We didn’t read it, so if you do, send us a review! Academy of Achievement.

Movies! This is the one that we were talking about staring Angela Basset:

Rosa Parks Story

Yes, there is an American Experience for that! Eyes on the Prize.

This site has a terrific collection of photos, and videos- worth a click for those alone! Rosaparksfacts.com

There are quite a few activities on this site for kids to learn about Rosa Parks, but here is a link to an interview with her based on student’s questions.

Finally the bus! Recovered and restored with help from the Save America’s Treasures program of the National Trust for Preservation, the bus is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Even if you can’t get to Michigan, you should check out the online resources of this museum.

The restored bus

As always, music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at Music.mevio.com

Episode 25: Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Ida B. Wells- born a slave, educated in a post-Civil War south and left to care for her family at an early age. She grew to become a teacher, a writer, a crusader, a suffragist, a wife and mother. A woman of  strength and character who dared to speak up and challenge those who desired to oppress others , even when her own safety was at risk.

How could we not talk about a woman like this?

Ida was born on July 16, 1862, the first of eight children to Jim and Lizzy Wells in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Her father was the son of a plantation owner and one of his slaves; her mother a slave. As always, please know that we go into so much more detail in the podcast- the early life story of Ida’s parents is really remarkable, but what they did at the end of the Civil War is even more so.

Jim, a skilled and trained carpenter and Lizzy a highly sought after cook, put down roots and took advantage of the post war opportunities that were presented to them. Ida and her siblings were all sent to school, all raised to be hardworking, respectable and full of faith.

It was a wonderful story of pulling themselves up and being role models for their children, until a Yellow Fever epidemic hit when Ida was 16. The illness took the life of both of her parents as well as that of a young brother. She stepped up and assumed the role as head of the family. She lied about her age to get a teaching job, enlisted the help of some extended family members and did what a lot of female head of families do now: she made it work.

A young and determined Ida

After a few years, Ida couldn’t take the stress and pressures of the lifestyle. At this point, her siblings were getting older and some could support themselves. She had a physically handicapped sister that required live-in assistance and was sent to an aunt’s home to live.  Ida took her two youngest sisters and moved to the big city of Memphis, Tennessee to live with another aunt.

Confederate money issued from Holly Springs.

With some of the responsibility off of her, Ida took another teaching job and breathed, just a little. She enjoyed all that the city had to offer and lived the life of a young woman interested in the arts, learning, and making new friends.

But it didn’t take very long for her to realize that she had more to do than attend concerts. One day,while commuting via train, she was asked to leave the Ladies’ Car for another, less comfortable one. Ida had purchased a first class ticket, as she always did, and ignored the wishes of the conductor for her to leave her first class seat- as she always did when this happened.

Only this time, the conductor didn’t ignore her and physically tried to move her. Kicking and biting and fighting back, this tiny woman stood her ground. And got kicked off the train for her efforts.

The ensuing court battle was only the beginning of the life as a political activist for Ida Wells. When she became dismayed at the inferior conditions of the school system that she worked in, she spoke up. She began writing in church newspapers about the  racial disparity in the Memphis schools. And ultimately lost her job because of it. But she wasn’t done crusading for what was right.

Ida had heard about lynching, of course she had. This was the post Civil War south, but like a lot of people, she had assumed that the vigilante “justice” that was carried out was justified. Until it happened to people that she knew. Good people.

Enraged, she began to write for (and eventually ended up being a part owner of) a newspaper called The Memphis Free Speech and Headlight (later shortened to Free Speech).

This type of career- held by a woman, a black women in a racially charged South- made Ida a target. She eventually was forced to flee Memphis and landed in Chicago.

This is the part where we get to talk about her love, attorney Ferdinand Barnett who is particularly suited to sharing his life with this strong, determined, unshy woman. We talk about her life as a wife and mother, and her never ending and far reaching efforts to end lynching.

Ida with her children, courtesy of University of Chicago

Her life continued to be one of championing causes and we do cover all that in the podcast. But in addition to her anti-lynching crusade she was a suffragist, and a founder of many organizations including the NAACP. She even staged an unsuccessful run for the Illinois State Senate!


Ida and Ferdinand surrounded by kids and grandchildren

Although the organizations that she helped found began to turn their backs on her, Ida Wells-Barnett worked hard until just prior to her death at age 68  in 1931.

Time Travel With The History Chicks

Ida’s family maintains a website in her honor. Find out more information about her life, get directions and information about the Ida Wells Museum in Holly Springs, click  links to the Ida B.Wells Foundation and buy a t-shirt. Yes, a t-shirt. Oh, or a mug.

Ida B. Wells Museum in Holly Springs, MS

Books! Here are the ones that we recommend:

To Tell the Truth Freely, by Mia Bay

Ida Wells Memphis Diary, edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis

They Say by, James West Davidson

Ida Wells: A sword Among Lions by, Paula J. Giddings

Here is a link to Project Guttenberg. It’s an online resource of free ebooks. This link should take you to the available Ida B.Wells  publications. For *sing it* freeeeeee!

Want to peek at her Chicago house? A peek is all you can get, it’s a private residence, but that didn’t stop the National Park Service from making a page about her and the house. We love nps.gov.

You know what else we love? A good  PBS American Experience and here is a very good one about the Reconstruction period.

As always, music comes courtesty of Music Alley. Visit them at music.mevio.com

Episode 24: Last Four Wives of Henry VIII

With this episode we continue our series on the Tudors. Henry, Henry, Henry… First Catherine of Aragon didn’t produce, so you divorced her. Then Anne Boleyn failed as well, so you took care of that nuisance. In this episode we talk about the last four of your wives, or as we like to call them, Mommy, Sister, Party and Lucky.

First up, Jane Seymour! Henry VIII had his eyes set on Jane before Anne Boleyn was even out of the picture. She was born about 1504, and may have finished her education in France in service to Henry’s sister, Mary when she was Queen of France. Jane may have even come to Henry’s court in service to wife number one. It is known that she was a Maid of Honor to Anne Boleyn. And oh, how much fun do we have realizing what a wife/mistress feeding trough those ladies are to Henry VIII? (Lots.)

Jane Seymour: Wife #3

Jane’s brothers were also in service to King Henry VIII, and she was probably used as a pawn for family gain, but Henry wasted no time- betrothing her within 24 hours of Anne Boleyn’s execution.They were wed within two weeks.

We all know what Henry was after, a male heir. Jane looked like a promising vessel to bring that to him.  Henry’s illegitimate- but recognized- son, Henry Fitzroy, died shortly after the marriage at age 17.  With that, the back-up plan crumbled and Henry has no heir options.

We talk a bit about what happened in this short marriage during the podcast, but Jane is pregnant within a year and gives birth to a son, Edward, who would one day, briefly, succeed Henry VIII as King.

Future King Edward VI, Henry! You got a male heir!

Sadly, the hand that was dealt to his mother, Jane, was not so kind. She died of complications from childbirth about two weeks after Edward’s birth.

Henry needs a wife! So he quickly put his people on the task of  finding one. The fate of his previous wives has people rethinking the Get This Daughter Married to Henry to Further Our Family strategy. Pickings are getting slim, and political gain is the main objective.

Enter Anne Of Cleves.

Born in 1515 to John, Duke of Cleves and his wife Mary, Anne was intelligent, meek and proficient in needlework (which is middle ages speak for “She has a great personality”). Lord Cromwell sticks his nose into the scene yet again. He thinks that this Protestant German Princess, or her sister Amelia, is the ticket. Henry sends an artist to paint portraits of the women, sees Anne’s and signs the deal.

The bait and switch pic

Anne was a very charming teenager of about 19, but she was far from the image that the King saw.  The artist may have been mesmerized by her personality when he painted the portrait in her best light, and also neglected to add the smallpox scars that dotted her face. She was simple, spoke no English and was quite unsophisticated by English court standards.

But Henry really isn’t marrying her for her looks, merely for political gain. She travels from her home land to England, and they are married in January but Henry can’t take it. He claims that the marriage was never consummated, pulls some of his old tricks out of his pocket, and they are divorced by July.

But Henry wasn’t heartless, and he did seem to care for Anne. He sets her up, treats her like a sister and she lives her days out happily in England and- in 1557-she is the last of Henry’s wives to die.

But that doesn’t solve the Queen problem- Henry needs one. Court has always been a good place to look and he quickly finds his next vic…wife. Kathryn Howard.

Girls just wanna have fun…Kathryn Howard

Kathryn was born in 1521, the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard, who was the younger brother to the Duke of Norfolk who we have discussed before ( sneaky!). Kathryn was also the first cousin to Anne Boleyn. Her mother had died when Kathryn was nine and she was sent to live with her Step-grandmother. During this time, Kathryn probably did not have much guidance because she began her party-girl ways very early, having suspected lovers before she was sent to court to serve as – yes!- Lady in Waiting to Anne of Cleves.

This is where Henry falls for the beautiful young (19) Kathryn. A mere 16 days after his annulment from Anne, Henry VIII takes his fifth wife, Kathryn. He is quite smitten, calls her his, “rose without a thorn” and claims her to be the,”jewel of womanhood”.

But Henry, almost 50, overweight with an ulcerated leg is not exactly the most attractive man around. Oh, no. And Kathryn? She’s young and fun and after a year still not pregnant. She is linked to liaisons with several men; charges that she has had affairs materialize. Henry is devastated. He has the men executed and within two years of marriage, Kathryn and her Lady in Waiting, Jane Parker Boleyn,  (she had been married to Anne’s brother George) are sent to the Tower of London. Kathryn meets the same fate as her cousin, and is beheaded and buried near her.

Poor Henry, another wife gone. And heartbroken to boot! (insert tiny violin here).  Obviously his wife finding methods were faulty, this next time will be different.

Catherine Parr, Henry ended on a strong note

Enter Catherine Parr. Her parents, Sir Thomas and Lady Maud Parr served under Henry VIII. Her mother was a Lady in Waiting to Catherine of Aragon, and her father was the Controller of the Household. Catherine Parr may have been educated with Princess Mary who was only 4 years younger. She was bright, educated, refined and married, and widowed, by age 20.

Her second marriage lasted longer, although by age 30 she is once again a widow.

She  then fell in love with Thomas Seymour, brother to late Queen Jane, Uncle to Prince Edward, but Henry put a stop to that. His options for his next wife were becoming limited and he looked at this woman that he had known for a very long time and knows what he wants. He convinces Catherine to break ties with Thomas, and marry him.

She does.

She is a very loyal wife, a good companion to the aging, almost bed ridden, 300 pound monarch. She took her Queenly duties seriously and handled them with a composed and mature manner. Henry named her Regent when he headed off to invade France, showing his trust for her. We talk in details about the four year marriage, but Catherine was a good Queen and a provided stability to the royal family.

Her release from her duties came when Henry VIII died. Within four months she married the love that she had given up to serve her King, Thomas Seymour. She would give birth to a daughter, Mary Seymour, but died of complications of the birth at the age of 36.

Phew! What a wild ride! Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived- those were the wives of King Henry VIII.


Please go back and look at the media recommendations for the entire Tudors series. There is some great stuff out there for you to learn more. But if we had to recommend one book for this episode it would be this:

The Wives of Henry VIII by, Antonia Fraser

Okay, we love books.  And we don’t hesitate one second to recommend historical fiction, especially Philippa Gregory historical fiction.

The Boleyn Inheritance

PBS has a really excellent resource for an easy overview of all the wives with this, The Six Wives of Henry VIII

We also keep recommending this website for Tudor information. Great for homeschoolers, or the self-learners, or anyone who wants a quick read on the people of this era. Luminarium.org

Ahh, Twitter. Yes, you can  get character tweets by following  (only listing those with recent activity) Jane Seymour. Catherine Parr, Anne of Cleves, and Kathryn Howard all have accounts that seem to have been abandoned. If one of those women is your favorite, it seems like you have a project, right?

A Knight’s Tale is available for streaming on Netflix.

You only get this reference if you listen to the podcast

As always, music provided by MusicAlley. Visit them at Music.mevio.com