Who Were the Six Wives of Henry VIII?

Last updated on December 17th, 2022 at 09:41 pm

King Henry VIII is one of the most famous English monarchs in history. He was known for his many wives and his tumultuous reign.

Who were these six women, and what happened to them? Let’s explore the lives of Henry VIII’s wives and see what led to their downfall.

Catherine of Aragon

Henry VIII’s first wife was Catherine of Aragon. She was a Spanish princess and the daughter of King Ferdinand II. She married Henry in 1509 after they met at the Field of Cloth of Gold. They had a happy marriage for many years and had six children together, but only one survived infancy.

Catherine of Aragon

Unfortunately, Catherine could not give Henry a male heir, which he desperately wanted. In 1527, Henry began having an affair with Anne Boleyn, one of Catherine’s ladies-in-waiting.

Henry soon divorced Catherine because their marriage was not valid. After all, she married his brother, Arthur, in 1501, though the marriage only lasted six months before Arthur passed away.

However, when Henry approached the Pope to request a divorce, the Pope refused. Refusing to budge, Henry broke from the Catholic Church and formed the Church of England. This event has repercussions felt in England to this day.

As the newly minted head of the church, Henry quickly annulled his marriage to Catherine. He banished her from court, and she lived the rest of her days in isolation.

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn was Henry’s second wife. She was a member of the English nobility and the daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn. Anne became Henry’s mistress in 1526 and bore him a daughter,

Anne Boleyn

Henry’s relationship with Anne overlapped with his marriage to Catherine. In addition, Anne was one of Catherine’s ladies-in-waiting, which means she was often in the queen’s company.

Anne was very intriguing to Henry. He had spent a lot of time with and around her, and while she wasn’t the most beautiful woman, she was undoubtedly intelligent, funny, and exotic.

All of this, of course, did not make Catherine happy.

However, when Henry divorced Catherine in 1533 and married Anne, she quickly became pregnant with the future Queen Elizabeth.

Anne was very popular among the English because she was the first English queen in over 20 years. She brought new fashions from France and was very kind to the poor.

Unfortunately, Anne’s popularity couldn’t shield her from her eventual fate.

Henry, the fickle man he was, was tired of Anne and began an affair with Jane Seymour. Moreso, Anne wasn’t producing a male heir for Henry. Finally, after multiple failed pregnancies, Henry had enough.

Without a convenient excuse like with Catherine, Henry accused Anne of adultery and treason, and she was arrested and beheaded in 1535.

Jane Seymour

Jane Seymour was the third wife of King Henry VIII and the mother of his only legitimate male heir, the future King Edward VI.

Jane Seymour

Jane was born into a wealthy family in Wiltshire, England. Not much is known about her early life. We don’t know her birth date, though accounts place it between 1504 and 1509.

In 1536, Jane caught the eye of King Henry VIII while she was working as a lady-in-waiting to his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Henry courted Jane and asked her to marry him just days after he had Queen Anne beheaded.

Jane married Henry on 30 May 1536, just 11 days after Anne’s execution.

Jane wasn’t as well educated as Henry’s other wives but excelled at more womanly skills for the time, like needlework and managing the household.

Jane gave birth to Prince Edward on 12 October 1537. Unfortunately, she contracted puerperal fever and passed away just twelve days later.

Henry was devastated by Jane’s passing and never remarried. Jane Seymour is the only wife of Henry VIII to receive a royal funeral and was buried beside him at Windsor Castle.

Prince Edward, however, did become King of England after Henry VIII passed away in January 1547. As he was still a minor, England was governed by a regency council during his reign.

Religious Upheaval marked King Edward VI’s short reign as He continued the work begun by his father to break away from the Catholic Church and establish the Church of England.

King Edward VI passed away at the age of 15, probably of tuberculosis. His half-sister Mary I, who restored Catholicism as the state religion, succeeded him. Edward’s other half-sister, Elizabeth I, later became queen and reestablished Protestantism.

Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves was German royalty who became the fourth wife of King Henry VIII of England and was married to him for only six months.

Anne of Cleves

She was born on 22 September 1515, in Düsseldorf, in what is now Germany. Her father, the Duke of Cleves, was one of the most powerful nobles in Germany and raised his daughter with a strong sense of duty and responsibility.

In 1539, Henry VIII was looking for a new wife after the tragic passing of Jane Seymour.

Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, arranged for him to meet many European princesses who might be suitable wives. One of these was Anne of Cleves.

Cromwell had heard good reports about her from the Duke of Cleves’ ambassadors in England, and he thought she would make a good queen.

Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves met on 4 January 1540 at Rochester Abbey in Kent for the first time. Henry was not impressed with Anne, later describing her as nothing like her portrait.

Despite his initial misgivings, Henry married Anne eight days later, on 12 January 1540. They wed at Westminster Abbey in a grand affair attended by hundreds of guests.

The marriage was not a happy one. Henry found Anne unattractive and uninteresting, and he quickly began to regret his decision to marry her. Anne, for her part, was bewildered by the cold reception she received from her new husband.

Six months later, Henry annulled the marriage because the couple never consummated it.

Catherine Howard

Catherine Howard was the fifth wife of King Henry VIII. Catherine was between fifteen and nineteen years old at the time, making her one of Henry’s youngest wives.

Catherine Howard

Catherine Howard was originally one of the Anne of Cleves ladies in waiting. It was here that she first caught her future husband’s eye. They married on July 28, 1540.

Unfortunately for Catherine, her happily ever after was not to last. Just seventeen months into her marriage, Henry VIII began to suspect her of infidelity with her cousin Thomas Culpepper.

In November 1541, Catherine Howard was stripped of her crown and beheaded three months later.

Catherine Parr

Henry’s final wife was Catherine Parr, a widow who had been married twice. She was a Protestant and helped to nurse Henry back to health after he suffered an injury where he was knocked unconscious by a jousting lance.

Catherine Parr

Catherine was very kind and loving, which is probably why Henry took to her so well. They married on the 12th of July 1543, and she became stepmother to Henry’s three children: Mary, Elizabeth, and Edward.

She was also pregnant when they married but sadly miscarried.

Catherine was a huge support to Henry during the last years of his reign. She helped him with business matters, soothed his temper, and nursed him back to health on many occasions.

She remained by Henry’s side until his passing on the 28th of January, 1547. After that, she married Thomas Seymour, the uncle of Jane Grey, who would later be crowned queen for nine days.

Catherine outlived Henry by just a little over a year, passing away on September 5th, 1548.

So, there you have it! The lives of King Henry VIII’s six wives. As you can see, things were a little different back in the day, and it’s crazy to think of what went down in the upper echelons of English society and the royal bloodlines and what people were like.

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