Henry VIII’s wives, one of the most interesting periods of English history. He is one of most well known monarchs of England, charismatic and extravagant. He ruled for almost 39 years, and introduced radical changes to the English constitution and expansion of royal power. He is perhaps best known for the at the time controversial breaking with the Catholic Church through the English Reformation.
Out of his duties as a king, he is truly best known for being married six times. His first marriage to Catherine of Aragon lasted 25 years, with the next five lasting less than that combined. Two of his marriages were annulled, first parting him from the Catholic Church. Two of his wives were beheaded, and another died after having his only son. His final wife outlived the famous English king.
Let us now see who were the six wives of king Henry VIII.
1. Catherine of Aragon
Although she was much in life, Catherine is famous today for her role in the Reformation. She is the daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Catherine was a political tool, as she was first the wife of Henry’s brother, Arthur. Unfortunately, he passed away only five months after the wedding.
Arthur’s father and the king of England, Henry VII, had to decide what to do in the difficult situation, while Catherine was practically a prisoner. Six years after Arthur passed away, she became the ambassador of the Aragonese Crown to England in 1507. This made her the first female European ambassador in history. She married Henry VIII two years later.
Their long marriage was eventful for Catherine. She suffered multiple miscarriages and stillbirths. Their first son died 52 days after birth. Their daughter Mary later become a queen. In 1513, Catherine was the regent Queen for six months, because Henry was away in France. During this period, she gave birth to a stillborn child and oversaw a victory against Scotland at the Battle of Flodden.
Henry started to notice Anne Boleyn, Catherine’s lady-in-waiting, around 1526.This seemingly miniscule event started a chain reaction, which would end Catherine and Henry’s marriage and lead to the Protestantization of England. Henry wanted to annul his marriage and marry Anne. The pope refused of course, so the king turned his back on Catholic Church and took supremacy over religion.
He divorced Catherine in 1533 and banished her from the court. She died at Kimbolton Castle in Cambridge shire in 1536.
2. Anne Boleyn
The controversial and extraordinary events of her life were unparalleled in British history. Queen Anne is the most famous of the wives of Henry VIII, and is the subject of talk and fascination even today.
Henry endured a seven-year courtship and various political and religious upheavals due to his decision to marry her. However, the controversial monarch had her investigated for high treason not even three full years later.
This was probably due to Anne being unable to bear him a son. She gave birth to Elizabeth I in September of 1533, after which she suffered several miscarriages. Henry again began to look elsewhere for a woman who would give him an heir. Jane Seymour was the one he thought.
He began courting her, and a month later ordered an investigation for high treason, sending Anne to the Tower of London. She was tried on adultery, incest and plotting to kill the king, found guilty, probably wrongly, and was beheaded four days later. Learn more about Anne at Factinate.
3. Jane Seymour
Jane is believed to have been Henry’s favorite wife, probably because she gave him a son who lived. She was also a lady-in-waiting to the queen. Interestingly, she shared a great-grandmother with Anne, as well as with Henry’s future wife Catherine Howard.
Jane Seymour was not nearly as highly educated her predecessors, but was peaceful and gentle, which helped with peacemaking efforts at court. She married the Tudor king in May of 1533,only days after Anne had been beheaded. Their son arrived in October of next year. This boy went on to become King Edward VI, but his mother would not live to see it, as she sadly passed away two weeks after giving birth. He was the only one to receive a queen’s funeral. Henry also chose to be buried with her when he passed in January of 1547.
4. Anne of Cleves
The last three wives of Henry VIII are far less famous than his first three. They also share names with two of the previous. The next three wives were also far less dramatic and controversial, and have not resulted in any children.
Henry’s marriage with Anne of Cleves also went unconsummated. They married in January of 1540, but the plans for it began shortly after Jane died. Anne is the daughter of Duke of Cleves and Count of Mark. She was mostly a political tool, and Henry was not really enamored with her. He annulled the marriage after six months, stating the reasons to be the lack of consummation and the fact she was already engaged once.
Henry also blamed her appearance as the reason for the former. They did however become close friends after. She accepted the annulment and became an honorary member of the family, known as “the King’s Beloved Sister”. Thomas Cromwell, the advisor who suggested this marriage, was executed on 28 July 1540, on the same day Henry married his next wife.
5. Catherine Howard
Henry’s next marriage was more controversial than the fourth. His new teenage bride was a first cousin of Anne Boleyn. Her life was turbulent even before this. Her music teacher molested her since she was 13. Later, she had an affair with the secretary of her father’s stepmother. After she found out, she was sent to serve as a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves. Her uncle, Duke of Norfolk, set it up as he saw Henry’s disinterest in Anne.
Henry was attracted to her. The following spring, Catherine allegedly began an affair with Henry’s favorite courtier, Thomas Culpeper. Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, found out about it, as well as the relationship with the secretary.
Cranmer launched an investigation into the alleged affairs, and within months, Catherine met the same faith as her cousin Anne, beheaded for high treason.
6. Catherine Parr
The monarch’s sixth and final wife is also the third one named Catherine. She was the luckiest. Catherine married Henry in July 1543, four months after Catherine Howard’s beheading, and managed to outlive him by a year. She was already married once before Henry, and again after him. This made her the most married English queen. A more impressive feat is that she was the first queen of both England and Ireland.
Catherine was in a romantic relationship with Jane Seymour’s brother Thomas Seymour when they tried to turn Henry against Catherine. Catherine outwitted them, however, and reconciled with her husband. Six months after Henry VIII passed away, Catherine married Thomas Seymour. Next August, she gave birth to her only child and died several days later.