On this day in 1485 was born the ‘Spanish’ princess, Catalina de Aragon near Madrid, known in the English speaking world as Catherine of Aragon.
Catherine married the heir to the English throne, Arthur Prince of Wales, in 1501. However, Arthur died soon afterwards. When Arthur’s brother, Henry ascended the throne on the death of his father in 1509, he quickly married his brother’s widow, forging an important alliance between England and Spain.
However, over the course of the next twenty years, Catherine failed to deliver Henry a living male heir, her only major ‘crime’. Following a long protracted dispute between Henry and Papal legates, during which the Pope refused to annul the marriage, Henry declared himself Head of the Church of England, allowing him to divorce Catherine and marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn in 1533.
Catherine died in January 1536 at Kimbolton Castle, and is buried in Peterborough Cathedral.
There were few more dynamic and controversial figures during the reign of Elizabeth I than the daring, swashbuckling, and, some might say, reckless Robert Devereux, the second Earl of Essex.
Having arrived at court in the 1580s, he soon became a favourite of the Queen due to his charm, wit and dashing, distinctive good looks, eventually replacing the Earl of Leicester as Master of the Horse in 1587. He went on to capture Cadiz 1596, an achievement which sealed his reputation as a military commander.
He was made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1599, but led an abortive campaign against the Irish Rebellion. Two years later he was executed for treason for leading an attempted coup d’etat, despite Elizabeth’s painful indecision over her former favourite.
So what made this larger than life man tick astrologically?
To begin with, he had Sagittarius on the ascendant, with Uranus close to the ascending degree. His ruling planet, Jupiter, is in Libra just beyond the MC or midheaven and loosely conjunct Venus.
Larger than life personality
Here is an expansive, confident, magnanimous and very ambitious personality and with Uranus involved, he would display a certain amount of eccentricity, probably manifesting like a loose canon at times, stemming perhaps from a certain confident belief in his own infallibility.
However, also involved with his angular Uranus are Pluto, Neptune and Saturn, making a loose grand cross. The involvement of all three ‘transpersonal’ planets here suggests that here is a man who believed, despite continual challenges, that he had a destiny, and much of his subsequent behaviour only confirmed this.
This grand cross in mutable (changeable) signs, though fluid by nature, would have brought him serious problems in key areas of his life, challenges and crises within himself, his relationships, his home life and in his career. Yet his indomitable belief in himself remained, even though at times he must have felt as if his ultimate destiny was being thwarted.
Moving on, he had a lot of activity in Scorpio, with the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury and Venus (plus the north node) in house 12.
So beneath the bravado and charisma of his personality, he had the intense power, determination and resourcefulness of Scorpio to back it up, mentally, physically and emotionally.
The Sun conjunct Mars in Scorpio is a very powerful vibration, revealing the deep, forceful intensity of his being. Here is a brave man, willing to put himself in danger, almost relishing it at times. The Sun and Mars rule houses 5, 9 and 12, showing that he was a great speculator, a purposeful and brave traveller in mind as well as body.
Great depth of feeling
His Scorpio Moon is also exactly conjunct the Moon in Scorpio in house 12. He had a deeply emotional mentality and though he was probably quite secretive, once he expressed himself verbally, few could match him for feeling. Like many, he was also a competent poet and writer.
I come out of this actually admiring his character. There is something endearing about someone with an implacable spirit, who is loyal to his followers, who had this incredible sense of adventure about him.
Even so, his life perhaps epitomises the ultimate tragedy of the pursuit of power, particularly in that most iconic Elizabethan age, which still manages to capture our imagination.
William Cecil (1520-1598) is perhaps the epitome of the true statesman. He was chief adviser, counsellor, Secretary of State, Lord High Treasurer and Lord Privy Seal under Queen Elizabeth I of England, her number one ‘go to’ man.
He could not be called a true politician in the modern sense of the word, but proceeded always with extreme caution and wisdom. Perhaps this is how he, and Elizabeth, usually avoided danger.
So what made him tick, astrologically speaking?
Caution and Diplomacy personified
I was not at all surprised to find that this very careful and deliberate man had Capricorn rising. Not only that, his ruling planet, Saturn, is found in Capricorn (its own sign) in house 1 (approach/personality), in good aspect to a Sun in Libra in house 10 (career) and also to Venus in Virgo (love of detail, method) in house 9 (higher mind).
So here we see a courteous, though cautious, calculating, highly responsible and dutiful person but with also a high degree of ambition, with the patience and prudence to reach the top, regardless of time. He did indeed reach the top, both politically and academically, being also a principal individual at Cambridge university.
Not only that, his Moon also in Libra in house 10 indicates his natural, innate sense of courtesy and diplomacy, put to good use in his career.
He would tend to see both sides of any argument to the nth degree and come the most reasoned, conservative solution possible, in an attempt not to offend anyone.
Courteous, Diplomatic… but tiresome?
I am quite sure that at times he would have come across as a tiresome person, and if Shakespeare is to be believed, where in the play ‘Hamlet’ the character of Polonius is thought by some to be a kind of caricature of Cecil, then the ‘tedium’ of his personality might have become quite legendary or notorious at Elizabeth’s court.
Saturn’s difficult aspect to Mercury in house 10 might have only added even more weight to the mental caution (fussiness), a primary trait of Polonius, exhibited throughout the play ‘Hamlet’.
His Moon is also square Mars in Cancer in house 7, indicating that diplomatic and marital affairs were often difficult and emotional to deal with and would have caused much emotional disturbance for him.
Very difficult, trying decisions
So if his well developed house 10 implies success in his political and diplomatic ambitions, Jupiter close to his midheaven puts the seal on this, aided by supportive aspects from Venus and Mars.
However, Jupiter is also closely opposed by Uranus hovering around the nadir (bottom angle) of the chart, indicating, I am sure, some of the horrific decisions and sudden changes he had to make working with his queen, namely dealing with the ups and downs regarding Mary Queen of Scots, her eventual execution, the Spanish Armada, and all the secrecy, intrigue and espionage involved throughout her tumultuous reign. His home and family life would also have been deeply affected.
Nevertheless, the good aspects from this tight opposition to Venus in Virgo in house 9, I am sure, would have led him to find an easy release of this tension and upheaval through greater involvement in his love of detail and efficiency, something in which he excelled.
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Anyone brought up in Great Britain, or in fact anywhere in the world, is probably familiar with the character and the life of King Henry VIII, probably England’s most famous and notorious sovereign – he of the six spouses. Does his birth chart reflect this personality and what else might it reveal?
Henry had the Sun in Cancer, Moon in Aries, with a Virgo ascendant. His Cancer Sun gave him an essentially caring, protective, yet sensitive nature, often inflamed, however, by his ardent, fiery, direct and often impatient Aries Moon loosely square to the Sun.
Even filtered through his Virgo ascendant, which would provide him with a highly discriminatory approach to life, this could not prevent this basic dichotomy of his character from manifesting from time to time. We can see this at various times in his life, his impatience and anger.
Furthermore, his ruling planet Mercury is in Leo in the 12th house, exactly opposing Saturn.
Here is a psychologically ingrained mental pride and implacability, which except under the rarest of circumstances, finds it difficult to envisage that it can ever be wrong.
In any everyday personality, who would have little influence beyond his family, such a mentality would not constitute a wider threat. However, when you are talking about a monarch of a powerful country, such an attitude can become epoch making, even downright lethal for many people.
It is worth remembering that Henry was no radical, but a true conservative, despite his ‘reputation’ for encouraging the Reformation in England.
Quite early in his reign the Pope conferred on him the title ‘Defender of the Faith’, something which Henry was extremely proud of, and a quite fitting title for a monarch with such a stubborn and conservative mentality as symbolised by the quality of his Mercury. The young Henry put up a strong, reactionary resistance to reformers like Martin Luther.
However, whilst this configuration gave him the mental capacity to defend an argument to the hilt and often with great success, as he grew older this same tendency developed into an extreme implacability, far beyond mere stubbornness. This is one of the characteristics that gave him the reputation for being a tyrant.
Jupiter Neptune spiritual cycle personalised
Henry’s chart also has a fairly tight T-square involving Mars at the apex in Virgo in the 1st house, square to both Jupiter and Neptune on the Gemini/Sagittarius 10th/4th axes.
I think this is most revealing. A first house Mars in Virgo in itself represents a diverse, yet practical energy, which would probably sometimes manifest as great irritability when things were not going his way.
Add to this the tension in the Jupiter Neptune opposition, however, which in historic and transpersonal terms is related to the human religious and spiritual cycle (something which would be in all charts for those born around 1491 but made personal here through the contact with a first house Mars) and you can see what might tend to be irritable to him.
Love of scripture
Henry was the second son of Henry VII. Had his brother Arthur lived to become king, Henry might well have a pursued a religious path in some way. Henry clearly had a very strong interest in religion and spirituality, he was very knowledgeable, yet in many ways it proved to be his undoing because it conflicted with his desires as a monarch.
The fact that Mars rules the 3rd house of the mind and the 10th house Venus in Gemini is the ruler of the 9th house, only underlines this. He had a natural love of literature, particularly religious literature, plus a great ability at languages.
King versus Pope
But of course, Henry is most famous for having the six wives. Jupiter is the 7th house ruler, the house of relationships and as we have seen, his 10th house of career Jupiter is involved in a tight T-square, which appears to symbolise the constitutional crises arising from his wife’s ‘inability’ to produces a living male heir. Here we see the needs of the king vying with the fundamentals of religion.
One way around this, was to find an appropriate quotation from the Bible, in Leviticus, in regard to a man marrying his late brother’s wife and the impurity which would result from it; Henry had indeed married his late brother Arthur’s wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Head of the church
It was this argument which was used, stubbornly and vehemently by Henry, though equally opposed by the Papacy and his wife, Catherine. Henry eventually got around the impasse by declaring himself the head of the Church of England, surely equally symbolised by this tight Jupiter Neptune opposition in houses 10 and 4.
But it was something which must have weighed down his conscience for the rest of his life. For despite the break with Rome, Henry remained staunchly conservative in his religious beliefs, as befits that strong Mercury opposite Saturn in the Leo/Aquarius and 12/6 axes.
Vicissitudes in love
So moving on to his love life, we have already noted that his Venus is in Gemini, making him something of a natural flirt (not that all Venus Geminians are like this!), but when we also look at his 5th house of love, we have Uranus present and Saturn is the 5th house ruler.
Uranus would tend to bring sudden, unexpected changes in his love life and Saturn, being ruler of this house, as we have already seen, is in close opposition to Mercury, bringing to bear all his stubborn, arrogant mentality in this area of his life too.
The continual vicissitudes after his first divorce, the sudden demise of Anne Boleyn, the death of his third wife, Jane Seymour, after giving birth to a son, the farce of the ‘courtship’ and marriage to Anne of Cleves etc… are all shown by this 5th house Uranus and the tense quality of the 5th house ruler Saturn.
Sympathy for Henry?
At the end of the day, I have some sympathy for Henry. He never quite came to grips with the circumstances that he was presented with.
His deep sense of faith, his natural conservatism, were tested to the utmost by the needs of his dynasty, the difficulty he and his wives had in producing a living male heir.
This was the classic conflict between church and state, something which he thought he had solved by ‘marrying’ the two together by becoming head of the church in England. I am quite sure, at the end of his life, he never dreamed his life would turn out the way it did.
Somebody stopped me
in the Canterbury street, like a hand
on my arm which took me
by surprise. Two dark eyes full of
verve, like air fanning fire, arresting
me with their stare,
a challenge written with an effulgent
quill; in my mind I saw it tripping
over pages with invention
in sweet candlelight.
So many years before, a Kentish king
knelt before the altar in solemn
genuflection, and now
you, your head brimming with catechism
and heady charm, speaking out like
Machiavelli, Paul becoming
Saul to declare another truth
in your eyes, in mottos and tatty trinkets
of shop windows, which only repeat
your daring pose in ignorance
Anne Boleyn? Hans Holbein the Younger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
(a response to Holbein’s sketch, purportedly of Anne Boleyn)
So, is this really you? Those full lips
well kissed, I have no doubt,
your pretty duckys hidden, fit for ravagers
we call kings. Holbein’s profile, it
simply shines your intelligence, courts
with language, love and ideas,
perhaps a little too much for kings
and enemies to take, at a time
when your sex are meant to be
little more than slaves and vessels
for petulant princes.
But no one can stop me grieving:
I imagine you blink, turn
and smile at me. Oh,
you are strong and keen, yet tender
and kind like all mothers
and lovers should be. No wonder
other men may have dreamed
on those lips, carried away
by your verve, which only victors
ever get to call treason. Now I wish
I could touch your fine chin
and whisper: “Elizabeth— remember Elizabeth!” My words
vanish into air like justice, while you
stare blankly through Traitor’s Gate;
but this little girl takes the better part
of you, better than any king before
or since, of this abject state
The morning is like copper,
a veiled threat in the sky.
We find ourselves among
patches of green poking through
a dusting of snow, scents of
woodsmoke hanging in the air.
I watch your smile break as
a blackbird alights on a bare branch,
a morsel of bread in his beak.
I shiver, adjust my coat
to find the ruff strangely
around my neck. You turn
round to see what troubles me,
your dark mantle twirling behind,
the lightness of your collar setting off
that burning gleam in your eyes,
windows on some other world.
We saunter through a sleeping garden,
hints of the dead season clinging
to brittle bushes like a bitter denial.
Standing in front of me, your soft
words are scarcely understood,
yet inwardly known. Your laugh
sends out clouds which resolve
to a gentle cough, gloved fingers
touching your chest. Without a word,
I usher you inside towards the fire
which greets us with soothing heat.
We shall warm our toes together
in its fading glow