The 6 wives of Henry the VIIIth: From passion to murder

We have all heard the story of the ruthless ruler who had 6 wives and almost all of them suffered tragic endings. From passion to murder, from love to hate, from the crown to the scaffold, from the rise to the fall, here are the 6 women who ruled England behind closed doors and remained in the history books as the 6 wives of Henry the VIIIth.

Catherine of Aragon, or as we know her from the original series, The Spanish Princess, was the daughter of the Spanish King. In the eyes of many she was and still is the only true queen of Henry the VIIIth. Catherine was firstly married to Arthur, Henry’s older brother who would one day inherit the throne. It wasn’t until 1502, when both of them fell ill and the fate of the kingdom was questioned. Arthur never made it, and on the 2nd April 1502, Catherine was left a widow. However, Henry’s father would not let her dowry and precious alliance with Spain be ruined. He held her prisoner for years, and when his other son, Henry the VIIIth, became of age, he arranged their marriage. Since Catherine had been married to his brother, Henry had to get a dispensation from the Pope in order to be able to marry her. Everything went according to plan and the two of them married on the 11th June 1509. Their marriage will be the longest out of all 6 of them. They will have a daughter, Mary or as she will one day be called, Bloody Mary.

It wasn’t unusual for the king to take a mistress. The Queen was supposed to be at his side and not question any of his moves. Henry was notorious for his young and restless heart, and because of that, one of his passions will become Catherine’s end. On 4th March 1522, he set his eyes on the young and beautiful Anne Boleyn. The king was no stranger to the Boleyn family. Anne’s father was one of the late king’s favorites and Mary, Anne’s sister, was very close to his majesty. However, Anne would not fall for him, but instead persuade him to divorce Catherine, marry her and make her his Queen. 

The Vatican did not even want to hear about this, and after many fights against the Church, Henry broke out of the Catholic Church and its rules. He built The Church of England and married Anne. Not many people loved their new Queen. They called her many things and simply ignored her. She married Henry on the 25th January 1533 and was crowned on the 1st June that same year. She will give birth to a daughter, Elizabeth I, one of England’s iconic rulers. Anne supported art and education, but Henry was not pleased since she didn’t give him a male heir. Anne had many miscarriages and one day, the King decided it was enough. Anne was charged with committing high treason and was arrested in the Tower. She will not live to see her daughter on the throne. She was beheaded on the 19th May 1536.

A lot of people believe the King was simply furious and mad at Anne for not giving a male heir. The King arranged every single detail of her beheading. However, there could have been another reason for his decision. He had a change of heart and started to notice one of Anne’s ladies, Jane Seymour. He often said that out of all his queens, Jane was his favorite. They married eleven days after Anne’s death, on the 30th May 1536. Jane was extremely happy. She married the King after all. Jane will be the one to give the King what he most utterly desired, a son. She gave birth to Prince Edward in October 1537. Henry finally thought he found his true queen, but his happiness did not last long. Jane suffered a lot of complications after the birth. She delivered a healthy baby boy, but her condition was worsening. She presumably died of puerperal fever, one of the complications after giving birth. She died 11 days after and the kingdom and its ruler were devastated. She is the only Queen who was buried next to Henry after his death.

It took a long time to find the right woman to fulfill such an important position, but on the 6th January 1540, he married for the fourth time to Anne of Cleves. This was his shortest marriage, as it was ushered and not thought out. Anne was described as tall and slim, and knew how to read and write, but only in German. The problem was that she barely spoke English. Henry was disappointed in her lack of education and cultural sophistication. He blamed his counselors for misleading him, and did everything in his power to annul their marriage. It wasn’t as hard as the first time, and on the 9th July 1540, Henry was free of his commitments to Anne.

The people of England were getting skeptical about Henry’s decision, since he was now ready to marry again, this time to lady Catherine Howard. Catherine was part of the last Queen’s household, and Henry noticed her. Catherine’s family took advantage of this and after Henry’s annulment, they thought they could recreate the same relationship Henry had with Anne Boleyn in the beginning. As there were no better options, Henry agreed to the marriage. On 28th July 1540, they got married. However, Catherine was not Anne. She was thought to be naive and carefree. She fell in love with a male courtier, Thomas Culpeper. Upon the declarations of eyewitnesses, the pair was discovered. Culpeper was beheaded and so was Catherine. She died on the 13th February 1542, leaving behind no children of her own.

On the 12th July 1542, Henry married for the last time, to Catherine Parr. She was particularly fond of the King’s children and managed to restore Mary and Elizabeth to the succession. Both of them have been removed after Catherine of Aragon’s annulment and Anne Boleyn’s death. They grew very close and all three of the children loved her. Catherine was almost arrested like the Queens before her, but managed to reconcile it with the King. Henry the VIIIth died on the 28th January 1547. Catherine survived her husband and married again after his death. She retired from court and left England in the hands of Henry’s son, Edward.

The wives of Henry VIIIth still fascinate people. They were strong-willed women and fearless leaders. They all left their mark on England and made their way into the history books, no matter the way they died. Five hundred years later, the luxurious Tudor court, with its secrets, lies, betrayals and bloody deaths, still echoes the names of the 6 wives of Henry VIIIth.

Redactor: Antonia Suciu
Tehnoredactor: Pridie Carmen-Andreea