Henry VIII divorces led to copycat splits, Bangor researchers say

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Henry VIII split from the Roman Catholic church after he rowed with the Pope over one of his divorcesImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Henry VIII split from the Roman Catholic church after he rowed with the Pope over one of his divorces

Henry VIII's legendary marital troubles paved the way for copycat divorces, new evidence has suggested.

Records from the 16th Century have been largely lost.

But experts from Bangor University and the University of Exeter have unearthed evidence of parallels between events at the royal court and the love-life of a member of the Welsh gentry.

Edward Griffith of Gwynedd flip-flopped between two wives in a similar way to and at the same time as the monarch.

Teenager Edward married Jane of Cochwillan who subsequently died aged 13. He then married her sister Agnes in about 1527 but the following year she returned to live with her father.

Edward later married Jane Puleston in about 1529, but he soon began living with Agnes again. He then returned to Jane and they had three daughters - Jane, Elin and Katherine.

The chronology of these events closely resembles the complicated ending of Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

The king's divorce was mentioned in court documents about Edward's split from Agnes and experts believe the similarity of the two cases showed Edward was following events at the royal court as he managed his own marriages.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Anne Boleyn was executed under Henry's orders while he divorced Catherine of Aragon

Details about Edward's marriages only exist because his heirs brought a case about the Penrhyn inheritance in 1556.

Dr Gwilym Owen, of Bangor Law School, said: "The evidence is contained in witness depositions taken in Chancery proceedings. Church records for the period are substantially lost. Therefore, these depositions are a lucky survival."

Prof Rebecca Probert, an expert in marriage law from the University of Exeter, said: "We have compared the evidence we have about Edward's life and it's very striking that events in his life echo that of events in the royal marriage.

"Viewed in isolation, Edward appears at best indecisive and at worst a complete cad. But if you put his actions in the context of the actions of the king, it seems he felt bound by the arguments put forward by his ruler."

She added it may also have been because he was "an impressionable teenager".

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