Wives of Henry VIII

Wives of Henry VIII


The wives of Henry VIII were the six queens
consort wedded to Henry VIII of England between 1509 and 1547. The six women to hold the title “queen consort”
of King Henry VIII were, in order: Catherine of Aragon;
Anne Boleyn; Jane Seymour;
Anne of Cleves; Catherine Howard;
Catherine Parr. A common mnemonic device to remember the fates
of Henry’s consorts is “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived”. There is also a rhyme: King Henry the Eighth,
to six wives he was wedded. One died, one survived,
two divorced, two beheaded. However, Henry did not “divorce” two wives
– he had the marriages annulled. At the time, the laws relating to marriage
were under the jurisdiction of canon law, and there was no divorce under canon law. It is often noted that Catherine Parr “survived
him;” in fact, Anne of Cleves also survived the king, and was the last of his queens to
die. Of the six queens, Catherine of Aragon, Anne
Boleyn, and Jane Seymour each gave Henry one child who survived infancy: two daughters
and one son. All three of these children would eventually
ascend to the throne: Queen Mary I, Queen Elizabeth I, and King Edward VI, respectively. Catherine Howard and Anne Boleyn, the two
of Henry’s queens who were beheaded, were first cousins. Several of Henry’s wives worked in at least
one of his other wives’ service, typically as ladies-in-waiting: Anne Boleyn worked in
Catherine of Aragon’s service, Jane Seymour worked in Catherine of Aragon’s and Anne Boleyn’s,
and Catherine Howard worked in Anne of Cleves’s. Henry was distantly related to all six of
his wives through their common ancestor, King Edward I of England. Henry and at least four of his wives were
portrayed in opera. Catherine of Aragon Catherine of Aragon was Henry’s first wife. After the death of Arthur, her first husband
and Henry’s brother, a papal dispensation was obtained to enable her to marry Henry,
though the marriage did not take place until after he came to the throne in 1509. Prospects were looking good when Catherine
became pregnant in 1510, just 4 months after their marriage, but the girl was stillborn. Catherine became pregnant again in 1511, and
gave birth to a boy who died two months later. In 1512, Catherine gave birth to a stillborn
boy, and then a stillborn girl in 1513. Finally, Catherine bore him a healthy daughter
in 1516, Mary. It took her two years to conceive again. This pregnancy also ended with a stillborn
girl. It is said that Henry truly loved Catherine
of Aragon, he himself professed it many a time in song, letters, inscriptions, public
declarations etc. Henry, at the time a Roman apostolic Catholic,
sought the Pope’s approval for an annulment on the grounds that his marriage was invalid
because Catherine had first been his brother’s wife. Henry had begun an affair with Anne Boleyn,
who is said to have refused to become his mistress. Despite the pope’s refusal, Henry separated
from Catherine in 1531. In the face of the Pope’s continuing refusal
to annul his marriage to Catherine, Henry ordered the highest church official in England,
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, to convene a court to rule on the status of
his marriage to Catherine. On 23 May 1533, Cranmer ruled the marriage
to Catherine null and void. On 28 May 1533, he pronounced the King legally
married to Anne. This led to the break from the Roman Catholic
Church and the later establishment of the Church of England. Shakespeare called Catherine “The Queen of
Earthly Queens”. Marriage to Henry VIII: 11 June 1509 – 23
May 1533; marriage annulled. Anne Boleyn Anne Boleyn was Henry’s second wife and the
mother of Elizabeth I. Henry’s marriage to Anne, and her subsequent execution, made her
a key figure in the political and religious upheaval that was the start of the English
Reformation. The daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn and his
wife, Lady Elizabeth Boleyn, Anne was of nobler birth than Jane Seymour, Henry’s later wife. She was dark-haired, with beautiful features
and lively manners; she was educated in Europe, largely as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Claude
of France. Anne resisted the King’s attempts to seduce
her in 1526 and she refused to become his mistress, as her sister, Mary Boleyn, had
been. It soon became the one absorbing object of
the King’s desires to secure a divorce from his wife, Catherine of Aragon, so he could
marry Anne. When it became clear that Pope Clement VII
was unlikely to give the king an annulment, the breaking of the power of the Roman Catholic
Church in England began. Henry had Thomas Wolsey dismissed from public
office and later had the Boleyn family’s chaplain, Thomas Cranmer, appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1533, Henry and Anne went through a secret
wedding service. She soon became pregnant and there was a second,
public wedding service, which took place in London on 25 January 1533. On 23 May 1533, Cranmer declared the marriage
of Henry and Catherine null and void. Five days later, Cranmer declared the marriage
of Henry and Anne to be good and valid. Soon after, the Pope launched sentences of
excommunication against the King and the Archbishop. As a result of Anne’s marriage to the King,
the Church of England was forced to break with Rome and was brought under the king’s
control. Anne was crowned Queen Consort of England
on 1 June 1533. Later that year, on 7 September, Anne gave
birth to Henry’s second daughter, Elizabeth. When Anne failed to quickly produce a male
heir, her only son being stillborn, the King grew tired of her and a plot was hatched by
Thomas Cromwell to execute her. Although the evidence against her was unconvincing,
Anne was beheaded on charges of adultery, incest, and high treason on 19 May 1536. Following her daughter Elizabeth’s coronation
as queen, Anne was venerated as a martyr and heroine of the English Reformation, particularly
through the works of John Foxe. Over the centuries, Anne has inspired or been
mentioned in numerous artistic and cultural works. Marriage to Henry VIII: 28 May 1533 – 17
May 1536; annulled, then beheaded. Jane Seymour Jane Seymour was Henry’s third wife. She served Catherine of Aragon and was one
of Anne Boleyn’s ladies-in-waiting. It is strongly believed that she is the mistress
who disposed of Anne, who was executed just 10–11 days before Jane’s marriage to the
king. The daughter of a knight, she was of lower
birth than most of Henry’s wives. Finally, a year later, Jane gave birth to
a healthy, legitimate male heir, Edward, but Seymour died twelve days later, presumably
because of post-natal complications. This apparently caused her husband genuine
grief, as she was the only queen to receive a proper Queen’s burial; when the King died
in 1547, he was buried next to her. Marriage to Henry VIII: 30 May 1536 – 24
October 1537; death from complications of childbirth. Anne of Cleves Anne of Cleves was Henry’s fourth wife, for
only six months in 1540, from 6 January to 9 July. Anne of Cleves was a German princess. It has been stated that Henry referred to
her as “A Flanders Mare”, which may or may not be true; nevertheless, the label has stuck
with Anne. Her pre-contract of marriage with Francis
I, Duke of Lorraine, was cited as grounds for an annulment. Anne agreed to this, claiming that the marriage
had not been consummated, and because she hadn’t resisted the annulment, was given a
generous settlement, including Hever Castle, former home of Henry’s former in-laws, the
Boleyns. She was given the name “The King’s Sister”,
and became a friend to him and his children until his death. She outlived both the King and his last two
wives, making her the last of the six wives to die. Marriage to Henry VIII: 6 January 1540 –
9 July 1540; annulled. Catherine Howard Catherine Howard was Henry’s fifth wife between
1540–1541, sometimes known as “the rose without a thorn”. Henry was informed of her alleged adultery
with Thomas Culpeper on 1 November 1541. Marriage to Henry VIII: 28 July 1540 –
23 November 1541; beheaded. Catherine Parr Catherine Parr, also spelled Kateryn, was
the sixth and last wife of Henry VIII, 1543–1547. She was the daughter of Sir Thomas Parr of
Kendal and his wife Maud Green. Through her father, Catherine was a descendant
of John of Gaunt, son of King Edward III. Through John of Gaunt’s daughter Joan Beaufort,
Countess of Westmoreland, she was Henry’s third cousin, once removed. By Henry’s paternal descent from another of
John of Gaunt’s children, John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, the two were also fourth
cousins once removed. Catherine showed herself to be the restorer
of Henry’s court as a family home for his children. Catherine was determined to present the royal
household as a close-knit one in order to demonstrate strength through unity to Henry’s
opposers. Perhaps Catherine’s most significant achievement
was Henry’s passing of an act that confirmed both Mary’s and Elizabeth’s line in succession
for the throne, despite the fact that they had both been made illegitimate by divorce
or remarriage. Such was Henry’s trust in Catherine that he
chose her to rule as Regent while he was attending to the War in France and in the unlikely event
of the loss of his life, she was to rule as Regent until nine-year-old Edward came of
age. Catherine also has a special place in history
as she was the most married queen of England, having had four husbands in all; Henry was
her third. She had been widowed twice before marrying
Henry. After Henry’s death, she married Thomas Seymour,
uncle of Edward VI of England, to whom she had formed an attachment prior to her marriage
with Henry. She had one child by Seymour, Mary, and died
shortly after childbirth. Mary’s history is unknown, but she is believed
to have died as a toddler. Marriage to Henry VIII: 12 July 1543 –
28 January 1547; his death at the age of 55. References

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