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Henry The 8th And His 6 Wives: Who They Were And What Happened To Them

Date April 15, 2020

Henry the 8th is a very recognizable figure in the royal circles of the past. His interesting take on marriage and cunning ways of dealing with the wives he no longer desired made him one of the most famous monarchs in history. Read on to find out what makes him so fascinating to this day.

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Henry the 8th: interesting facts

King Henry VIII was a contradictory ruler but he made quite a lot of changes during his reign. Here are the top 4 surprising facts about the Tudor monarch.

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He married his brother’s wife

Henry VIII's brother Arthur’s passing led him to take over the throne at the age of 17. In order to avoid returning a dowry Arthur paid to marry Catherine of Aragon, Henry married her himself.

He passed away as a poor man

Henry was broke by the time of his death. He enjoyed spending money throughout his life on palaces, tapestries, and other things that tickled his interest so when his son Edward VI inherited the throne, he also inherited almost empty coffers.

He was the first king who wrote and published a book

Henry wrote Defense of the Seven Sacraments to support Rome’s church, which became a best-selling book at that time. As a thank you, the pope called him the “defender of faith,” which is the name the King was very proud of, even when he separated the Church of England from the Catholic Church later.

He was very gifted

Not only the King was fluent in 3 languages (besides his native tongue, he could speak and write in French and Latin), he had an ability to sight-read music, which means Henry could play a piece of music he hadn’t seen before without any preparation.

Henry the 8th’s wives

Despite many curious facts about the English ruler, the most known one is considered to be the succession of his wives. Here are Henry the 8th’s wives in order.

Catherine of Aragon

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Henry the 8th’s first wife was Catherine of Aragon, who was previously married to his brother. Lasting for over 20 years, it was the longest marriage Henry had ever been in. Even though Henry reportedly considered Catherine “a model wife,” he fell in love with Anne Boleyn.

Although some historians believe that the King decided to annul his marriage to Catherine because she was unable to give him an heir, falling for Anne Boleyn certainly played a big role in his decision. In ordered to divorce her, Henry turned his back on the Catholic Church because the Pope refused to annul his marriage.

After the divorce, Catherine received the title of Dowager Princess of Wales and was sent away to live the rest of her days at Kimbolton Castle in Cambridgeshire. Until her last breath, she considered herself the true Queen of England and Henry’s wife.

Anne Boleyn

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So how Anne Boleyn managed to charm the King of England and lead him to make a historical decision – forming the Church of England after breaking away from Catholicism? She simply refused the ruler’s advances.

Boleyn didn’t want to be just a mistress, she wanted to be a queen, no less. She got what she wished for but she couldn't grant Henry’s biggest wish – give him an heir to the throne. Anne gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth, but after a few stillborn births, she was unable to hold the King’s interest.

Not only Henry divorced her, but he also accused Anne in a number of crimes, including incest, witchcraft, and treason and, despite little to none evidence, beheaded her for her “sins.”

Jane Seymour

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Jane Seymour is believed to be Henry’s favorite wife. He married her 10 days after Anne Boleyn received her punishment. Jane was the only one who gave him a son, Prince Edward, but she paid the unfair price for birthing the King’s heir – she passed away just 2 weeks after.

Even though Jane was not crowned as Queen, she was the only one of Henry’s six who received a proper queen’s funeral and buried next to him at St George’s Chapel.

Anne of Cleves

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Two years passed after Henry lost his third wife. He was inconsolable but it was time for England to get a foreign ally. The King’s choice fell on Germany’s Duke of Cleves’ daughter, Anne. Henry hadn’t seen Anne in real life so he sent a painter to Germany to paint the lady’s portrait.

The painter worked very hard, too hard probably, as the painting looked better than the bride in real life. After seeing Anne in person, Henry allegedly called her a "Flanders Mare" – it doesn’t sound too bad until you discover that mare is a female horse.

Marriage to Anne of Cleves was the shortest in Henry’s history and only lasted a little over 6 months before being annulled. The fact that Henry wasn’t attracted to Anne didn’t prevent the two from becoming friends.

Anne’s acceptance of her faith helped her to win the King’s affection and she became known as the King’s “sister.” She managed to outlive Henry the 8th and all of his other wives.

Catherine Howard

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Catherine Howard was just a teenager when she married Henry, who turned 49 at that time. The king, who had already become overweight by his fifth marriage, was very pleased to have a young wife. He showered her in presents but their union didn’t last more than a year.

Catherine was accused of adultery and stripped off her titles. She repeated the destiny of her first cousin, Anne Boleyn – she was beheaded, just like her reported lovers.

Catherine Parr

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Catherine Parr was Henry’s last wife but she had something in common with him. Catherine was married two times before committing to the King of England. But she made history not only by being the most married Queen but also the Queen who restored the court and brought the royal family back together.

She could have had the same faith as her predecessors after showing interest in Protestantism and getting arrested for it. But she managed to patch things up with Henry and became one of the most trusted people in the King’s life.

Parr also helped Henry to reconcile with his daughters: Mary from his marriage to Catherine Aragon and Elizabeth from marriage to Anne Boleyn. She also convinced to put the girls back in the line of succession after the King’s only son, Edward.

Catherine passed away a year after her husband but managed to get married once again before that to Jane Seymour’s brother, Thomas.

Henry the 8th’s mistresses

Having 6 wives was not enough for the English King. Henry was also famous for having a number of mistresses. The very first mistress the historians know about for certain was Catherine Aragon’s lady-in-waiting, Bessie Blount.

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After a short affair with the King, she gave birth to his son, Henry Fitzroy. Henry was the only illegitimate child the ruler ever acknowledged. He was later given the title of Duke of Somerset and Richmond.

After Bessie, Henry the 8th took interest in Mary Boleyn, Anne Boleyn’s sister. He attended Mary’s wedding to William Carey but when exactly Boleyn became his mistress is not known. Some believe that Mary’s two children, Henry and Catherine, were not from her husband, but from the King.

There are many rumors concerning other Henry’s mistresses. There was Jane Popincourt, a French-speaking tutor of the King’s daughters. Then there was Étiennette de la Baum, a Flemish woman who caught the King’s eye in France.

The Tudor King was a very secretive man, who preferred to cover his tracks. For that reason, we don’t know how many women he actually seduced to becoming his mistresses. Henry the 8th had 3 legitimate children and with Elizabeth, who never married, the Tudor dynasty ended.

Yet, we don’t know what happened to Henry’s illegitimate offspring. They probably continued the Tudor dynasty in the shadows, so it’s likely that Henry the 8th’s bloodline continued to grow well after Elizabeth I took her last breath.

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