The Wives Of Henry VIII

A portrait of Henry VIII.
A portrait of Henry VIII.

Henry VIII became the King of England and the second emperor of the Tudor Dynasty, succeeding his father on April 2, 1509. He is remembered for his role in creating fundamental changes in the English Constitution that founded the doctrine of political legitimacy and loyalty of kings to England. Henry has been accorded among the most charismatic rulers in England. King Henry VIII married six times, of which he had 3 annulled, and beheaded two of his wives.

6. Catherine of Aragon

Catharine of Aragon was born on December 16, 1485, the same year King Henry VII founded the Tudor Dynasty, and was the only living child of the Catholic King of Spain. Catherine was engaged to Henry’s youngest son, Prince Author, at the age of three. At 16, she traveled to England and got married to Arthur for six months but their marriage was never consummated. In 1509 when Author’s younger brother Prince Henry became king, he married Catherine. They were blessed with a daughter, Princess Mary. King Henry believed that God denied him sons since he had married his brother’s wife.

In 1527, Henry fell in love with Anne Boleyn, daughter of Thomas Boleyn. Since Catherine had denied Henry a divorce and refused to settle for a covenant, he professed himself as head of the new Church of England in order to nullify his marriage without the Pope’s consent. In 1533, his Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer issued the decree of nullity and Catherine was divorced and dethroned as the Queen of England. She was exiled from court and to a succession of damp and unpleasant castles including the Kimbolton Caste where she died on January 7, 1536, three weeks after her fiftieth birthday.

5. Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn was the second wife of King Henry VIII and the most famous Queen in English history. She was the daughter of an ambitious knight and niece to Thomas, the Duke of Norfolk. Anne spent her early years in France with her sister serving Queen Claude and returned to England in 1522. With her wit and style, she attracted the attention of Henry VIII who made her his mistress. In 1532, Anne became pregnant requiring an irrevocable breach with the Holy See for them to get married after the annulment of the union between Henry and Catherine in 1533.

Anne was not able to give Henry the son he desperately needed. Her life became miserable as she miscarried twice and the King was angry at her. She also endured scandals created by enemies including her sister Mary and best friend Jane Seymour. They moved to action by forcing the King to sign a document calling for Anne’s investigation over adultery, incest, and plotting to murder the King. On May 2, 1536, the Queen was arrested and brought to trial before her uncle, Thomas, who found her guilty and beheaded her on May 9 at the Tower Green. Her body and head were put in an arrow chest and buried at St. Peter’s Chapel.

4. Jane Seymour

Jane Seymour became the third wife of King Henry and fulfilled her most important duty as a queen by siring the King a son. She had first come to court to serve Queen Catherine and remained in waiting as Anne raised in favor and became the King’s second wife. Unlike Catherine and Anne, Jane was timid and shy hence attracted the attention of King Henry when he stated at Seymour family home in Wiltshire in 1535. Within twenty-four hours of Anne’s execution, Jane and Henry were officially betrothed. Their marriage was officiated at the Whitehall Palace although the Queen was not granted a coronation as the King waited for her to bore him a son.

On October 12, 1537, Jane bore a son, Edward II, who was baptized in a christening ceremony where Mary and Elizabeth acted as godmothers. Jane seemed weak and exhausted from the long labor and passed on two weeks later. She was accorded a state burial and buried at the St, George Chapel at Windsor Castle where King Henry had been preparing his tomb. She was the only of the six wives to be buried with him.

3. Anne of Cleves

After Jane’s death, King Henry remained single for two years since he had already had the son he desired. Having broken from Rome in the 1530’s, England was isolated from much of Europe and Henry’s advisors thought it would be best for them to broaden England’s diplomatic alliance with other great protestant nations like Germany by marrying a German Princess. Henry chose to marry the oldest daughter of the Duke of Cleves Anne. Anne of Cleves came to England in 1539 for her wedding but Henry was horrified by her physical appearance. He ordered his minister to find a way to kick out Anne but the Duke of Cleves drew a contract for the two to be married in order to break the tension between France and the Roman Empire which England supported. However, Anne was aware of Henry’s intentions of kicking her out of the marriage. Six months into the marriage, she affirmed in court that their marriage was never consummated and that her previous marriage to the son of the Duke of Lorraine was not officially broken, leading to the annulling of the marriage. She sought to live in solitude in the countryside under the ‘King’s Sister’ title and passed on in 1557.

2. Catherine Howard

Catherine Howard was Henry’s fifth wife and a cousin to Anne Boleyn. At the age of 19, she came to court as the lady in waiting to Anne of Cleves. She caught the attention of the King who married her as his fifth wife on July 28, 1540, sixteen days after the annulling of his marriage with Anne of Cleves. Having been brought up in the in the far too permissive household of her grandmother, Catherine was a flirtatious and emotional girl who is said to have been bored of getting married to an old man.

Catherine would always seek out young friends among the courtiers. Rumors about her adulterous life reached the King and he allowed for investigations about the accusations. Enough evidence was gathered and Catherine was arrested and brought to trial at the Tower of Green. She was executed on February 13, 1542, and laid to rest next to her cousin in the St. Peter ad Vincula Chapel at the Tower of London.

1. Catherine Parr

Catherine Parr was the last of the six wives of Henry VIII and the most married Queen of England had four husbands. Her parents served on the court during the reign of King Henry hence caught his attention. She was of good character and demeanor and a devoted stepmother to Henry’s children. Catherine was also zealous to the ailing King and nursed his wound until he passed on in January 1547.

Catherine was lucky to survive treason on account of being a staunch protestant which was against the Tudor dynasty. She was able to convince the King of her loyalty and dedication to him and his church hence was spared. After Henry’s death, Catherine married Edward’s uncle Thomas Seymour and died on September 5, 1548, five days after giving birth to her first child. She was buried at Sudeley Castle Chapel.


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