In 1509, Henry VIII began one of the most infamous reigns of English history. It is not for his brilliant mind or his musical talent that he is remembered, but for his many wives. Because he could not get the divorce he needed from the Catholic church, Henry VIII, once named Defender of the Faith by the Pope, broke with the Catholic Church in 1533 and created the Church of England, with himself as head. Although Henry forced his will against the most powerful religious institution of the time, the women at the heart of the dispute had very little power over their circumstances. What power they did have they exercised through clothing and fashion. In this article I discuss my research into how Henry’s wives and daughters used clothing to successfully negotiate the court. These women used clothing to advance their agendas, form their own alliances, and defend their interests. My research demonstrates how three of these powerful women used clothing for power in a time when even women in positions of power had little influence over their circumstances.

Publication Date

Spring 4-10-2020

Journal Title

Inquiry Journal


John Cerullo


Durham, NH: Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, University of New Hampshire

Document Type