Henry VIII and His Six Wives

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Henry VIII of England was a monarch who belonged to the Tudor dynasty. Most of the Kings are known for their valour or treasures or even for being tyrant to the people, Henry was known for all of the above and his interesting six wives. Henry VIII was probably considered to be the most unpleased person on earth. Marriages of this king whether were a product of lust or just a political agenda is highly debatable. What was the purpose and the circumstance of these marriages is very necessary in all these six marriages had affected nationwide during that time. Henry even though was an attractive king, perfectly described as Tall, fair , healthy and handsome especially in his youthful days so it’s quite likely ladies would swoon over him any day. In addition to that he is a King of a nation would you say no?

Marriages played an important role in any society may it be medieval or contemporary. Therefore a king being married was a matter of utmost importance as the nation needs its queen. It was highly expected of the queen to be sign of care love and a symbol of chastity. When it came to Henry VIII and his 6 marriages there was a dash of motive and a whole lot of love, lust and drama.

Catherine of Aragon

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Belonging to the family highest catholic monarchs in Spain, Catherine of Aragon even though was destined to be the Queen of England she was never to be Henry VIII wife. Catherine of Aragon was betrothed to Prince Arthur Henry VII’s eldest son and Henry VIII’s elder brother. On 14 November 1501, Catherine of Aragon and Arthur were married at Old St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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In March 1502, Arthur and Catherine were afflicted by an unknown illness, “a malign vapour which proceeded from the air.” Catherine survives but Arthur lost his life to the illness. Catherine of Aragon now a widow stares at the undecided wall of future ahead of her. The reason for marriage of English to Spanish was to create an Anglo Spanish alliance. Now that this unfortunate disaster had resulted question of a sweet turn bitter occurrence question remained of Catherine’s future. Bizarrely even Henry VII ( Arthus ‘s and Henry’s father ) considered getting married to her but this was strongly opposed by Catharine’s father. Later it was finally decided Henry VIII then known as Henry duke of York would marry Catherine of Aragon. While catherine was 23 years old henry was 17 years old ( below is the picture of henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon).

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The pope then opposed the marriage as canon law forbade a man tomarry his brother’s widow but Catherine later testified that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated. Therefore also according to cannon law a valid marriage is consummate so one therefore a marriage between Arthur and Catherine was never consummated. Catherine’s second wedding took place on 11 June 1509, seven years after Prince Arthur’s death. Contrary to Henry viii personality this marriage was not a product of love and lust but rather mere political alliance. The marriage lasted for 20 years and couple was bless with a baby girl princess Mary I ( below is the picture of young Mary I)but Catherine couldn’t give Henry VIII what he longed for the most, a heir to the throne, a son and successor to the English throne.

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All sailed smooth for this Madrilenian till in 1525 the king set his eyes on the temptress Anne Boleyn, Queen Catherine’s lady-in-waiting. Due to age Catherine was no longer able to bear children by this time. Henry began to believe that his marriage was cursed and turned to bible where he read a text, which he interpreted to say that if a man marries his brother’s wife, the couple will be childless even though Catherine would insist to her dying day that she had come to Henry’s bed a virgin. This gave Henry VIII opportunity but mainly it was subconscious inner paranoia. These were building blocks to Henry’s second marriage to Anne Boleyn. Henry then wanted to have the marriage annulled which is completely different from divorce as annulment meant that the marriage never took place. It was then Henry married Anne in 1533 but it was only later that Cranmer held Henry and Catherine marriage null thus giving way to Henry and Anne.

Anne Boleyn

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Born to the house of nobility The Boleyn’s, Anne Boleyn can be considered to be Henry VIII’s gateway to the idea of love. Love story, which it was technically was during that time stirred a lot of controversies and drama because the apparent male interest of the story, Henry VIII who was then married to Catherine of Aragon. It was’nt like kings were not allowed to have mistresses but the idea was’nt as popular as in the French courts. Anne herself was fully against the idea of being king’s mistress. Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was totally a hand me down business due to Arthurs death. Element of love might be in existence but it was at the later stage.

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This faded away when the Château Vert (Green Castle) was blessed with the grace of Anne Boleyn. Considered to be perfect lady back then she had excellent wits, was beautiful and educated yet could be a gal you would take for hunting! ( above is a potriat of anne and her hunting expidition with henry ) She apparently also played musical instruments; being straight she was an all rounder. Her route to being queen of England started with the game of courtly love which a medieval European literary conception of love that emphasized nobility and chivalry. Even though this love affair started when Henry was married to Catherine of Aragon, Anne and Henry did’nt consummate their relationship for a period of 7 years of their courtship. Though it is said that they consummated it right before their marriage which got Anne pregnant may be therefore the hurry to get annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon? May be. Anne Boleyn never wanted to be Henry’s mistress so it became a matter of great importance for him to annul his and Catherine’s marriage and start fresh and legal with Anne hence “the king’s great matter “again may be? Therefore when the marriage was finally annulled and Catherine had been banished. Public support remained with Queen Catherine. One evening in the autumn of 1531, Anne was dining at a manor house on the river Thames and was almost seized by a crowd of angry women. Anne just managed to escape by boat.

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Henry and Anne married in a secret ceremony on November 14, 1532. After the marriage in 1533 time came for her most important role of her life as the Queen of England. She was the last queen consort (the female ruler of an independent state, especially one who inherits the position by right of birth.) Fulfilling her duty to state as queen and to her husband as a wife she was now to perform her jointly duty to the state and her husband by giving birth to a male heir for the future succession of henrys’ throne. While Anne was expecting it was highly speculated that she will surely give Henry what he wants and that’s a boy, but as the history said that’s not what Henry got.

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In 1533 Anne gave birth to Elizabeth I though under esteemated by her father she would become the greatest English queen of all times. Henry’s dream not being fulfilled even after the second attempt when Anne was pregnant for the second time , Henry then started losing interest and instead started paying court to Jane Seymour who served Anne Boleyn back then. Jane Seymour was later also shifted to royal quarters in the early 1536. It was around this time the rumours of Anne Boleyn being adulteress surfaced. Adultery was considered to be a form of the treason due to its implication on the crown. Anne Boleyn was not only charged to having relationship with 4 men but it also included her own brother George Boleyn which was incestuous in nature. When the trial took place the three men pleaded guilty and Anne along with her brother all were charged with adultery along with incest for which the punishment was death. Right after Anne was convicted their marriage was held null and void. Soon after Anne Boleyn was executed with a sword instead of an axe.

Jane Seymour

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Jane Seymour born in Wiltshire was the closest and the dearest wife of Henry VIII. Though she was not as highly educated as Henry’s previous wives but she was fairest of them all not beautiful as such but fair that what John Russell, an English minister during Tudor era mentioned. This was Henry’s third marriage. Henry began courting Jane while she was in service to the then Queen of England Anne Boleyn. While Anne suffered miscarriages on one hand Henry was losing hope in their marriage on the other. During this time Anne received a severe blow with the allegation of being an adulteress. Anne was then tried and executed for her crime, which she till the last moment pleaded not guilty.

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Soon after Anne’s execution and by soon I mean the very next day… Jane and Henry married at the Palace of Whitehall. As a wedding gift the King made her a grant of 104 manors in four counties as well as a number of forests and hunting chases for her jointure, the income to support her during their marriage. After the marriage as a queen Jane was loved and adored by the people of England. This love came due to Jane’s effort to reconcile Mary and Henry; Jane also made significant changes in the court itself by making it more formal and strict by banning French fashion introduced by Anne Boleyn. Basically she was the ideal and most perfect queen in the eyes of many courtiers as well as general public.

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The perfect queen was soon pregnant and she delivered a Boy, future king Edward the VI ( above is the potriate of the toddler prince). She had fulfilled her duty. She couldn’t have provided any more happiness to Henry then this.

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But the happiness did not last for long as Jane suffered from pregnancy complication (placenta infection) which resulted in her death soon after Edward’s christening.

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Henry VIII called Jane Seymour his only beloved wife and she was only wife of Henry who received a proper funeral as his queen. Henry wore black attire for 3 months a sign of mourning and did not marry for almost 3 years.

Anne of Cleves

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Anne of Cleves was a German princess. She was earlier betrothed to Francis duke of Lorraine when she was 11 years and he was 10 as it was an unofficial betrothed it was cancelled. Shortest lived marriage of the six, this German “beauty“was rather a need to marry than a product of love. Henry as mentioned did not marry for 3 years. Henry valued education and cultural sophistication in women, but Anne lacked these. She had received no formal education but was skilled in needlework and liked playing card games. She could read and write, but only in German. Nevertheless, Anne was considered gentle, virtuous and docile, qualities that recommended her as a suitable candidate for Henry.

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Though Henry was considered to be a handsome man when he became a king, long termed depression due to death of his beloved wife had turned him into a giant and not necessarily attractive ( above is the picture of henry in his youth compare to the middle age). The need of queen for the state was important. There are great speculation and debatable arguments about Anne of Cleves and her possible beauty. Why a possible question of being beautiful one may ask but that was the whole and sole reason why the marriage being and ended. Thomas Cromwell, chief minister of Henry proposed him with Anne of Cleves.

Considering Anne was never seen before artist Hans holein the younger was send to paint the most accurate painting of not only Anne but also her younger sister Amalia. The painting though turned out beautiful but the artist did not necessary stick to the reality. When the painting back to Henry he was delighted and Anne was at once sent to see the king. When the day came Henry decided to surprise the to be queen by game of disguise. Henry presented himself as the commoner; as said earlier Henry did not look as attractive during his youthful days and 22 years old Anne dint bother to turn her head till he revealed his true identity.

Through the disinterest from Anne’s side there was no major reaction from the king as well, for starters it is rumoured that he screamed “I like her not”. The king felt completely misled and more over felt that he over trusted Cromwell. Though the artist was to be blamed for over exaggerations but from here on it was a blame game, but nobody could blame the king. All this chaos was hush hush as the wedding still was take place as England did not want any sour relationship with the Germans.

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The wedding took place in 1540, Greenwich. The wedding night not a shocker was an unsuccessful one. Due to Anne’s chubby appearance Henry believed that Anne wasn’t a virgin. The doubt was so bad that he had two physicians check Anne. The marriage soon felt apart and Henry asked for annulment and Anne consented to it. The marriage was annulled on the ground that it was never consummated and the Francis Lorraine matter. Cromwell who was blamed for the failure of the marriage was charged for treason. The settlement for the annulment was great for Anne’s future; the relationship did not turn bitter as Anne was later known as King’s beloved sister.

Catherine Howard

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Catherine Howard born in the house of nobility was in service to Anne of Cleves when she was the queen. While Henry was least interested in his wife turned sister Anne of Cleves he already had set his eyes to a great deal of distraction i.e. Catherine Howard. Though she belonged to the house of nobility she was not necessarily rich. Known to be as giggly, distracted and non scholarly but she was an attractive woman. After Henry’s annulment of marriage with Anne, on 28 July 1540 Catherine and Henry had their wedding at Oatlands Palace.

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Henry was 49 while Catherine was 17 at the time of their marriage. Though too young to take part in the administration of the state she was full of happiness and carefree. She was never coronate as the queen of England but when she travelled downriver in the royal barge into the City of London to a gun salute and some acclamation. Henry too spent greatly on her not only clothes but there were a lot of great positions given to her family members in the king’s affair. Howard house suddenly had grew by the grace of King Henry VIII, this grace would have lasted for long only if Catherine would have been more careful about her actions.

Catherine was very young when she came to court and in her youth she has been under the care of her step grandmother at Norfolk House in Lambeth. While she was here was influenced by older girls who let men allow in their sleeping chambers for entertainment. Even at the age of 13 she was technically molested by her music teacher, Mannox. Around this time she also had courted with Francis Dereham with whom she even planned to get married. Why would all this matter you say? but being the queen marrying the king of England meant that she had to reveal her intimate past within 20 days of her marriage or it will be considered as treason, which she hadn’t which made her guilty. In addition to this Catherine had begun an affair at the court with the courtier Thomas Culpeper.

All the matters of the past were brought back and the people from the court had started whispering about her affair with Culpeper. There was no turning back from here on Catherine was stripped from her title as the queen she was also made to give back the ring which was the symbol of her lawful rights. After being interrogated it was proven that she was indeed in an adulterous relationship with Thomas Culpeper and she was successfully able to do so with the help of her trusted ladies. Deheram also gave a testimony of his relationship with the now ex queen.

All the cards had opened and the queen had fallen. Dereham was hanged drawn and quartered while Culpeper was beheaded. Catherine was merely 18 years old when she was held guilty for treason. A night before the execution she bought in a block to practise so that she doesn’t stumble upon while her head has been cut off. Catherine was executed on February 13, 1542.

Catherine Parr

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Catherine Parr, the only surviving wife, was born to an aristocratic family. Catherine and Henry were distant cousins. Catherine’s mother was close friend of Henry’s 1st wife, Catherine of Aragon who was also Catherine Parr’s god mother. Catherine Parr life was different than that of the other henrys’ wives. Apart from Anne of Cleves, Catherine Parr were the only two Henry’s wives to outlive him. Catherine prior to her his marriage to Henry was married twice, in 1529, when she was seventeen, Catherine married Sir Edward Burgh who later died due to ill health and In the summer of 1534 Catherine married secondly John Neville, 3rd Baron Latimer who too lost his life to illness in 1543 . Later Catherine took an influence of her mother’s friendship to Catherine of Aragon and by 16 February 1543, Catherine had established herself as part of Mary’s household. Here it did not take long for Henry to lay her eyes upon Catherine Parr. Henry no longer longed for love or lust as failure of 5 marriages had left him wanting none. But he wanted to marry Catherine for her maturity and so that he had care and support during his last days and that she did.

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Catherine married Henry VIII on 12 July 1543 at Hampton Court Palace. She was the first Queen of England also to be Queen of Ireland following Henry’s adoption of the title King of Ireland. Catherine did take part in state administration was Regent when Henry left for his French campaign in 1544. Her way of control over the state was so efficient and effective that mannerism and method had great influence on the greatest queen of England Queen Elizabeth I. Catherine also convinced Henry to add the names of his two daughters Mary I and Elizabeth I to the line of succession.

King’s ulcer had taken over his life Shortly before he died, He made provisions for his queen to be given 7000 £ annually and after his death the queen will be titled as queen dowager and shall be given queen’s respect after his death. Catherine retired from court duty after coronation of her stepson, Edward VI, on 31 January 1547.

Catherine Parr went on to marry Thomas Seymour which caused a bit of scandal and it was off putting for King Edward and Mary I. Catherine never conceived during her initial three marriages and it was quite a surprise for her that she was pregnant from her fourth marriage. Catherine gave birth to her only child—a daughter, Mary Seymour, named after Mary on 30 August 1548. Catherine died eight days later, on 8 September 1548 due to the lack of hygiene around childbirth.

There are two rhymes to conclude Henry’s marriage life as a whole


King Henry VIII,
To six wives he was wedded.
One died, one survived,
Two divorced, two beheaded.

&

Boleyn and Howard lost their heads,
Anne of Cleves he would not bed,
Jane Seymour gave him a son – but died before the week was done,
Aragon he did divorce,
Which just left Catherine Parr, of course!


I prefer the second one, which one do you?

Sources
  • Lehman, H. Eugene (2011). Lives Of England’s Reigning And Consort Queens.
  • Weir, Alison (1991). The Six Wives Of Henry VIII.
  • True Stories From English History. Chronologically Arranged From The Invasion Of The Romans To The Present Time. By A Mother, Author Of “True Stories From Ancient History”, “Modern History”
  • The Life And Death Of Anne Boleyn: The Most Happy By Eric Ives
  • Scarisbrick, J. J. (1968): Henry VIII. Berkeley And Los Angeles: University Of California Press.
  • Loades, David (2003). Elizabeth I. London: Hambledon And Lodon.
  • Lofts, Norah (1979). Anne Boleyn.
· ‘The Six Wives Of Henry VIII’ – Antonia Fraser
· Murder Most Royal: The Story Of Anne Boleyn And Catherine Howard: Eleanor Hibbert
https://www.historyonthenet.com/catherine-of-aragon-timeline/
http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2290&context=wmlr
https://web.archive.org/web/20100620050949/http://www.a-london-tourist-guide.com/jane-seymour.html
https://thehistoryjar.com/2017/01/06/anne-of-cleves-not-love-at-first-sight/
https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/the-marriage-of-henry-viii-and-catherine-howard/
http://garethrussellcidevant.blogspot.com.au/2011/02/february-13th-1542-execution-of.html
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