30 July 2015

Love, Henry

Now open at LEA8 is Love, Henry, by Tahiti Rae, an installation that may appeal to students and enthusiasts of history, in particular those who delight in the ever-fascinating story of Henry VIII and his six wives. Henry's earliest years with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon (the widow of Henry's older brother, Arthur, their marriage lasting only a few months) seemed relatively happy, but Henry sought a male heir, and the couple seemed unable to produce one: of Catherine's six announced pregnancies, two were stillborn, two boys (both named Henry) and one unnamed daughter died in infancy, and one girl survived — Mary, later to become queen of England.

And so it was that Henry set his eyes on the young (and apparently strong willed) Anne Boleyn, whose older sister, Mary, had already been carnally known to him. Through a lengthy process, Henry annulled his marriage to Catherine and first secretly and then publicly married Anne, already visibly pregnant. A daughter, Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I of England) was born in a few months after the wedding in 1533, but once again no male heirs appeared, and by 1536 Henry's eyes roamed afresh, this time to Jane Seymour. Probably mostly through the nefarious workings of Henry's chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, Anne and her allies were thrown on the defensive, and charges of adultery and incest were brought against the queen. Declared guilty, Anne was locked in the Tower of London and subsequently executed the morning of 17 May 1536.

While visitors can enjoy the installation for its visual appeal — including a large library and a castle and gardens on the ground level — the bulk of the experience is to be had through an interactive journey that offers information and elicits responses to questions. Without revealing too much of the installation's content (at the request of Tahiti), it's fair to say that it hones in on a communication purportedly written by Anne to Henry during her imprisonment, and questions whether Henry ever received it — and so invites viewers to wonder what would have happened if the charges against Anne had been vanquished, and she had not been executed. On Sunday, 23 August, a "grand event" will take place at Love, Henry. To read more from Tahiti visit here on the LEA blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment