The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Season 1 Episode 1

Catherine of Aragon

Aired Unknown Jan 01, 1970 on BBC Two
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Episode Summary

Catalina of Aragon, a Spanish princess, is set to wed Arthur Tudor, eldest son on King Henry VII. Shortly after they wed, Arthur is taken by illness. Catalina then catches the eye of Arthur's brother, Henry. When Henry VII dies, he tells his son Henry that he must marry Catalina. Henry becomes the King of England and marries Catalina. Being loved by her new subjects, Catalina changes her name to the English version, Catherine. After many years, she is still loved by her subjects, but it's a different story with her husband.moreless

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  • Old-fashioned, historical drama.

    This miniseries was really a collection of six plays, each 90 minutes long. What surprised me was that the producers chose to put the women central. Annette Crosbie plays Catherine of Aragon and gets first billing, before Keith Michell who will appear in all six episodes. (Miss Crosbie seems to specialize in characters that hide their fiery temperament behind a stoic demeanour. Her Catherine is a preparation for Queen Victoria in "Edward VII".) You can clearly detect three acts, like a traditional stage play. In the first thirty minutes we don't even get to see King Henry. It's all about the complications after Catherine's first husband died. Will she get to marry the dead man's brother, Prince Henry? When most people think about Henry VIII, his divorces come to mind. Apparently his first marriage didn't come about easily. Yet, this confusing episode in their relationship will have its effects later on. Henry VIII uses Catherine's first marriage as an excuse for their eventual separation.

    What about Henry? Because the emphasis is so much on Catherine, I find Henry's character rather inconsistent. Why does he suddenly agree to marry Catherine, after years of ignoring her? He seems very smitten on their wedding day. At times he appears clueless, at other times he's outwitting his enemies. Historians now believe Henry was not very interested in details and let his life be ruled by his advisers. Though we get to see the advisers talk among each other, we rarely see them interact with the king. It looks as if he thought of everything himself.

    Apart from a short scene before the credits, everything is shot in a studio. The viewers have to keep track of several characters, some of them with different names (their regular name or their title). This was theatre on television, and quite serious. But did the viewers of 1970 laugh, like I did, when it was said that the king was leaving for Woodstock?moreless
  • This is a fine example of mini-series television. I began watching Masterpiece Theater after this show was aired.

    The Six Wives of Henry VIII is the only dramatization I've ever seen where Catherine is portrayed as a young woman first. Most seem to start when she is older and King Henry VIII is rejecting her for Anne Boleyn. It is sad how she was treated in England when she first came after Arthur died. She waited for 7 years for Henry VIII to marry her and it seemed that when they finally did, he was happy. The desire for a son led to all sorts of drama. This portrayal of Catherine has always been one of my favorites. She usually gets the short shift in stories about Henry but this series gave her the prime spot. Anne Boleyn seems to get credit for starting the problems that began when Henry VIII decided she should be Queen, but Catherine refused to let him go and fought to the bitter end to keep Henry her husband. She never gave up and finally Mary was able to become Queen in her own right. Alas, she did not become a successful queen as one might have hoped. The damage done to her in childhood and most of adulthood was too great.moreless
Annette Crosbie

Annette Crosbie

Catherine of Aragon

Guest Star

Dorothy Tutin

Dorothy Tutin

Anne Boleyn

Guest Star

John Woodnutt

John Woodnutt

Henry VII

Guest Star

Patrick Troughton

Patrick Troughton

Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • Eustache Chapuys served as Ambassador to England for the Holy Roman Empire from 1529 until 1545. His extensive and detailed correspondence about the English Court during that period is one of the major sources for information about that era.

    • Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII, was the daughter of the famed King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, who had sponsored the voyages of Christopher Columbus to the New World.

  • QUOTES (12)

    • Surrey: A king and queen aren't husband and wife. They are fluctuating sources of power.

    • de Puebla: By laws of Spain a royal bride may not be seen before her wedding--even by her bridegroom.
      Henry VII: De Puebla, this is England.

    • de Puebla: Your Royal Highness, have you lived for 15 years in the court of Spain and now lived for five years more in the English court and you still haven't learned that you can trust nobody?
      Catherine: Not even you, Dr. de Puebla?

    • Catherine: I would rather die than go back to Spain unmarried. I would rather die.

    • Catherine: The English people have always been kind to me even when everyone else was unkind.
      Henry: I promise you that no one will be unkind to you again. Word of a king.
      Catherine: I would rather have words of a Henry.
      Henry: Words of a Henry.

    • Surrey (to Lord Willoughby): Matrimonial devotion is a virtue no doubt but it can be carried to excess.

    • Anne (about Catherine): 18 years of marriage and nothing to show for it but a handful of stillborn sons.

    • Catherine (to Wolsey): While my husband lives, I am his wife. His own true wife. If it were not true, I would have been his whore and my daughter a bastard and that I will never say.

    • Catherine (to Wolsey): There is nothing you can allege against me which all the world cannot hear.

    • Norfolk: You can have anything you want if you meet the King's wishes.
      Catherine: You mean I can see my daughter if I declare her a bastard?

    • Catherine (about Anne Boleyn): Poor creature. She is as little to be envied as I am.

    • Henry (to Champuys): If the Pope excommunicates me, I'll declare the Pope a heretic. I'm already head of the church so what can he excommunicate me from?

  • NOTES (5)

    • Music: Keith Michell performs "Pastime With Good Company", also known as "The King's Ballad", a song written by King Henry VIII shortly after his coronation.

    • This episode aired on January 2, 1972 as an episode of Masterpiece Theatre.

    • Patrick Troughton is best remembered as the second portrayer of the title character in the long-running British sci-fi drama Dr. Who.

    • One historical figure who's noticably absent (though mentioned in the dialogue) from this teleplay is Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England, who was executed because he opposed Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and subsequent remarriage to Anne Boleyn. More's role in many of the events of this episode had been previously related in the classic 1966 film A Man for All Seasons.

    • If nothing else, Annette Crosbie established herself as a great screen crier in the scene where Henry announces to Catherine that he's seeking an annullment of their marriage.


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