Who were the Six Wives of Henry VIII?

The six wives of Henry VIII

Henry the Eighth (Henry Tudor) was a 16th century English ruler whose reign lasted through Renaissance England. Born in June 1491, Henry VIII was the son of King Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth York. Henry VIII succeeded his father and ruled from 1509 to 1547. His kingship era played crucial roles during the English Reformation.  Henry VIII was well-known for being an extremely promiscuous English monarch. For the 55 years that he lived, Henry VIII had six wives.

Names of the Six Wives of Henry VIII

Henry got married six times to six different women. The wives of Henry the Eighth (the Tudor Queens) were —  Catherine of Aragon, Jane Seymour,  Catherine Howard, Catherine Parr, Anne Boleyn, and Anne of Cleves. The fates of Henry’s six wives are usually summarized as: “1. Divorced, 2. Executed, 3. Died; 4. Divorced, 5. Executed, 6. Survived.”

Catherine of Aragon

Henry VIII wives | Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife

Not so long after rising to the throne in 1509, Henry got married to Prince Arthur’s arranged wife Catherine of Aragon. Prince Arthur (Prince of Wales) was the older brother of Henry. Arthur’s passing away on April 2, 1502 resulted in his betrothed wife Catherine marrying Henry.

Ostensibly, the relationship between Catherine and Henry was deemed necessary in establishing a peaceful relationship between the Spaniards and the English. This was feasible in the sense that Catherine’s parents were Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon l.

Catherine spent her childhood years moving up and down in Spain while her parents fought against the Granada Muslims. Receiving mentorship from European scholars, Catherine learned fast enough and became a multilingual who was fluent in English, Latin, French, and Spanish.

After marrying Henry in 1509, Catherine birthed 6 children — unfortunately, all but one (Mary I)  survived. However, Henry was much interested in having a male inheritor — therefore, he took steps to divorce Catherine. But Pope  Clement VII (1478 – 1534) and the Church of Rome wouldn’t endorse the annulment. Following Thomas Cromwell’s advice, Henry cut ties with the Roman church and resorted to the Church of England. With this approach, he successfully divorced Catherine in 1533 after more than 20 years of marriage.

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn was Henry the Eight’s second wife

When it was apparent that his first wife Catherine couldn’t give him a male inheritor, King Henry chose the hard way and started hosting mistresses in his house. Anne Boleyn was one of the mistresses he kept as a partner while still married to Catherine. But it was probably not Henry’s fault — Mary Boleyn was the one who introduced her sister Anne to the king. Since then, the pair secretly visited each other and shared some romantic moments together.

Around this time, Catherine had reached a menopausal age of 42, so Henry sought ways to get rid of her and remarry. To make matters worse, Anne became heavily pregnant for Henry in 1533. That was when Henry got motivated to hasten his attempt to divorce Catherine. Within the same year, news came that Henry had secretly married Anne. His divorce with Catherine was finalized.

Unknowingly, Anne had kept herself in deep trouble by marrying an unstable man such as Henry. Their marriage began to fall apart when Anne couldn’t give him a male inheritor. The king fabricated stories and accused Anne of adultery and murder plots on his life. Despite pleading not guilty, Anne was beheaded at the Tower Green (an area within the Tower of London) on May 19, 1536. But one thing Henry failed to see was that Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth I), would go on to become a powerful British monarch.

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Jane Seymour

Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife, passed away a few days after giving birth to Prince Edward, future King Edward VI

When one door shut, another opened. Sitting on the throne with limitless powers, Henry VIII never lacked women in his life. After executing Anne on May 19, 1536, Henry married Jane Seymour just 11 days later. But a formal coronation ceremony was not held to crown Jane a queen. In October 1537, Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour gave birth to the baby boy (Edward), the one Henry had been waiting for.

Unfortunately, the pregnancy had complications. Seymour passed away a few days after giving birth to Edward (future King Edward VI); the cause of her death was a from an infection she sustained during labor. At long last Henry had a male inheritor,  but his true wife Jane was no more. The king and his court mourned her for years.

Anne of Cleves

Henry VIII wives

Wives of Henry VIII | Anne of Cleves’ marriage to Henry VIII lasted for less than a year

She was the daughter of John III of Cleves (a German state) and Mary of Julich. In 1540, Anne married Henry for one main reason; the king wanted to establish a relationship between England and Germany’s Protestant princes. This was nothing new about the king; he had done a similar thing in the past when he married Catherine of Aragon.

Six months into his marriage with Anne, Henry realized that his vision to have a political alliance with Germany was no longer advantageous, so he called the marriage quits that same year. Allegedly, the king had even lost his affection for Anne’s body. Even though Anne’s marriage to Henry was short-lived, she was probably grateful to the king for sparing her life — she could have faced the real horror in marrying Henry — give him a baby boy, or better still face execution or divorce.

Catherine Howard

Henry VIII wives

Henry VIII’s 5th wife – Catherine Howard

She was Henry’s 5th wife. Convinced by her own moral sense and that of pressure from her family, young and beautiful Catherine entered into a marriage with the unforgiving King Henry. At that time in 1540, 49 year-old Henry had gained  weight, but an old sore on his leg wouldn’t heal fast. Meanwhile, the king’s temper was hot. His days of writing romantic letters to his wives were over; what was left was  mixture of rage and bitterness.

By marrying Henry VIII, Catherine Howard in effect had signed up for death; not marriage. It was probably a big mistake when she took the aged Henry for granted and started  engaging in extramarital affairs; at least that is what Henry VIII and his courtiers had alleged. In similar fashion as Anne Boleyn, when Catherine Howard’s cup was full, Henry had her executed at the Tower Green in London on February 13, 1542.

Queen Katherine Parr

Henry VIII wives | Catherine Parr was Henry’s sixth and final wife

Katherine Parr was the 6th and last wife of Henry VIII. Katherine was a highly educated and accomplished woman. She was also an intelligent writer with a kind heart. Because of her gracious character, Katherine was loved by Henry’s children. She was the only one who managed to survive the hot temperament of Henry and his abuse of women.

She convinced Henry to allow his daughters (Mary I and Elizabeth I) the right to succeed the English throne. Though the act nearly cost her life, Katherine stayed with Henry until his death in 1547, after which she married Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley.

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