Your cheeky guide to the dynasty


Henry VII’s true schmoopie, Elizabeth of York, died in 1503 after giving birth to the couple’s seventh child, and England had one sad king on their hands. Two years later, he may have thought it a good idea to get on Spain’s good side by marrying over that border.

Sensing that her daughter (and Henry VII’s widowed daughter-in-law) Catherine of Aragon might be in his line of vision, her mother Queen Isabella was all “Hey, look, over there, something shiny! It’s Joan, Queen of Naples!” The king was interested enough to send his ambassadors to get the goods on this girl.

The document detailing his desires was printed in 1761 (!) and was on display at the Vivat Rex! exhibit in Washington D.C. last fall. The king clearly wanted to know what he might be getting into. Aside from needing to know the height of her forehead and the possibility of hair on her upper lip, he had the ambassadors report on: 

  • How was her complexion?
  • Were her arms big or small, long or short?
  • Was the palm of her hand thick or thin? 
  • Were her hands fat or lean, long or short?
  • Were her fingers long or short, small or great, broad or narrow?
  • Was her neck long or short, small or great?
  • Were her breasts and “pappes” big or small?

…you know, the usual concerns. The answers were promising:

  • Her complexion was clean, fair, and sanguine
  • Her arms were somewhat round and not very small, but “of good proportion to her personage and stature of height”
  • Her hands were somewhat full, soft, fair, and clean-skinned
  • Her fingers were fair and small
  • Her neck was full and comely, not misshapen, not very short nor very long. However, her neck appeared shorter “because her breasts were full and somewhat big.”
  • More on the breasts! They appeared to be somewhat great and full, as they were “highly trussed.”

In the end, it just didn’t work out, money and politics and all. No word on if Henry VII gave Joan the “It’s not thee, it’s me” reason.


1 Comment

  Anne Barnhill wrote @

I love the ‘highly trussed’ bosoms! Hmmm, wonder whose would not have been bound up so–those stomachers did a number on the chest area, methinks.

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