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King Henry VIII and his 6 wives

Ruler of the House of Tudor

1485–1509 Heinrich VII., Born 1457

1509–1547 Henry VIII, born 1491

1547–1553 Edward VI., Born 1537

1553–1553 Jane Gray, born 1537

1553–1558 Maria I, born 1516

1558–1603 Elisabeth I, born 1533

King Henry VIII, 1491-1547, English king

Heinrich's 6 wives

Catherine of Aragon
1st wife, 1485-1536, repudiated

Ferdinand of Aragon
Isabella of Castile
Marriage: Philip the Handsome
1st marriage: Arthur
2nd marriage: Heinrich


King Henry VII had come to power in England. He endeavored to marry his children with other royal families in order to strengthen his position.

So the plan arose to marry his eldest son Arthur to the Spanish princess Katharina. She was the aunt of the later born Habsburg emperor Charles V.

In 1501 the time had come: in London, in St. Paul's Cathedral, Arthur and Katharina made their marriage vows. The two were then 15 years old. Just a few weeks after the wedding, both fell ill.

Arthur died, Katharina survived and then became her father-in-law's diplomatic pawn.


Eventually the widow married the brother of her deceased husband - and now we have come to Henry VIII. He had just ascended the throne and this was his first marriage. It was perfectly harmonious.

Katharina was a tolerant wife who accepted all lovers and illegitimate children. She had only one flaw: she did not bear any sons.

Of their six births, only their daughter Maria survived. This later became Queen and known as the Bloody Mary.


One of Katharina's ladies-in-waiting was Anne Boleyn. Heinrich fell madly in love with her, when she also became pregnant and he was hoping for a son, he tried to get a divorce quickly. Then he could marry Anne, his child would be born a legitimate heir to the throne.

But Katharina didn't play along. She refused to consent to the divorce. Heinrich saw no other way out than to apply to the Pope to annul the marriage. But he also refused. Heinrich made short work of himself, renounced the Roman Catholic Church and founded the Anglican community - with himself as head.

Henry VIII himself was able to annul his almost 25-year marriage with Catherine in an 'Anglican' manner. She was sent 'into the pampas', where she died three years later, in 1536. Until the end she referred to herself as Queen of England.

1st marriage: Catherine of Aragon
Their daughter Maria declared Heinrich a royal bastard and excluded her from the line of succession.
Nevertheless, she later managed to assert herself against all adversaries and was crowned the first Queen of England in her own right. However, she was Catholic and had many Protestants executed. So she went down in history as Bloody Mary.

Anne Boleyn
2nd wife, 1501-1536, executed

Anne Boleyn was born in Kent, her father introduced her to the aristocratic society at the Habsburg-Dutch court. Back in England she was a focal point at the royal court. She was beautiful, charming, funny, educated, exceptionally fashionable, elegant.

Anne already knew Heinrich through her sister Mary. She had been his secret mistress for two years and even had two children with him. Then it was shelved. Anne didn't want to experience that.

She didn't want to become a discarded lover. Only when Heinrich treated her as the official queen did she hear him and promptly became pregnant - the wedding followed (see above).

But Heinrich's hopes for a son were not fulfilled. Anne Boleyn gave birth to a daughter. She was to become Queen Elizabeth I later. But then two stillborn children followed.

Heinrich grew tired of his wife. She bore him no sons, she was unpopular with the people, and besides, she became more and more intolerable. Her charm was gone. He wanted to get rid of her. But how? Having his second marriage annulled wasn't that easy either. So murder. He was plotting. Anne Boleyn was accused of adultery and was executed together with her five allegedly loved ones (including her brother, the two were believed to have had an incestuous relationship). Her daughter Elisabeth was almost three years old at the time.

Elisabeth had the same fate as her half-sister Maria: She was declared a royal bastard and she too would later make it to the throne as queen.

Anne's cousin Catherine Howard will later become Henry's fifth wife (see below).

Jane Seymour
3rd wife, 1507-1537, died after giving birth

Heinrich lost no time and married Jane Seymour less than two weeks after Anne's execution. Jane had been Katharina and Anne's lady-in-waiting.

Until the end of his life Heinrich maintained that of all his wives he loved Jane the most. Henry's feelings for Jane were undoubtedly reinforced by the birth of an heir to the throne, Edward (1537-1553). He was a sickly boy, only ten years old when his father died and he had to ascend the throne. He was only 16 years old.

His mother Jane died 12 days after giving birth. The marital happiness had only lasted a year.

3rd marriage: Jane Seymour

Anna of Kleve
4th wife, 1515-1557, marriage was annulled


Heinrich's health deteriorated. He was getting stout and plagued by a chronically inflamed, smelly leg and depression.

On the advice of his confidante Thomas Cromwell, he married the German Princess Anna von Kleve, born in Düsseldorf, for political reasons in 1540.

He could have taken her older sister Amalia as well, but Heinrich had seen Holbein's siblings painted and thought Anna was more attractive - not knowing that the painters of the time supplied Photoshop retouching without being asked. When Anna and her entourage - around 300 people and horses - arrived in England, he was bitterly disappointed.

Heinrich couldn't do anything with her either. She was shy, brought up conservatively, spoke no English, and dressed unfashionably. After six months Heinrich couldn't take it any longer and had the marriage, which he had never consummated, annulled. He also had a new lover: Catherine Howard.


But Anna was the most lucky of all women. In the meantime, marriage was no longer politically important for Heinrich, but he did not want to mess with her family. So he sought a good understanding with Anne and she agreed to abdicate and return the wedding ring.

The king paid Anna £ 4,000 a year and gave her two country houses and Anne Boleyn's castle. He gave her the title of "honorary sister" for her good cooperation - making her the first woman in the state after the queen and her daughters.

Thomas Cromwell was less fortunate. He was charged with heresy and executed a month after the marriage was annulled. Hans Holbein also fell out of favor. Although he remained a royal court painter, he was never to paint a family member again.

Catherine Howard
5th wife, 1525-1542, executed

On the day of Cromwell's death, Heinrich married 15-year-old Catherine Howard. He was 49 at the time. She was Anne Boleyn's cousin (her father and Anne's mother were siblings).

With Catherine, her family had hoped for a good match at the royal court, as she was present there as Anne von Kleve's lady-in-waiting. Nobody would have dared to hope that the king himself would keep an eye on them.

Catherine, as they say today, must have been "early developed". Growing up in a large household (she was the 10th child) with many male and female servants, she had probably observed nocturnal merrymaking many times. Soon she was having a petting romance with her music teacher.

As almost always, Heinrich was enthusiastic about his wife at the beginning of his marriage. He showered Catherine with jewelry and gifts and compliments. But here, too, the hoped-for heir to the throne did not appear. The mistress did not become pregnant. Perhaps he too had become sterile in the meantime - he is said to have had syphilis. While she was enjoying her youth, dancing at balls and having fun, he had to cure his ailments at home.



In 1541 Catherine made a fatal mistake: she flirted a little too much with one of her suitors, and it was said that she was having an affair. The court party, hostile to it, had only been waiting for this. An intrigue was already being spun. The end was bloody: one suitor was hanged and quartered, the other had the grace to be beheaded.

After three months' imprisonment, Catherines died under the ax in 1542, a downright meanness because even her cousin Anne had been given the noble execution by the sword. The two cousins ​​are buried next to each other in the tower's chapel.


Catherine Parr
6. Wife, 1512-1548, survived her husband

Catherine Parr's family was closely related to the English nobility and royalty. She was already a widow of two when she fell in love with Thomas Seymour, Jane Seymour's brother. Heinrich then cast an eye on her and sent the rival abroad.

The king married his Catherine in 1543, with his fourth wife, Anna von Kleve, serving as maid of honor. Through this marriage she became the first Queen of England to be awarded the title of Queen of Ireland, after Henry himself had only accepted the title of King of Ireland in 1542.

This third 'Katharina' was warm, engaging, and astute. As a stepmother, she lovingly cared for Heinrich's children: Maria, Eduard, Elisabeth. She was a model for the later queens.

Heinrich even handed over the affairs of state to her when he was gone. She gathered well-read women around her. Her erudition was praised.


But when Catherine began to publish prayers in English, Bishop Gardiner suspected her of being a heretical Protestant (Catholics then usually wrote prayers in Latin). He even obtained an investigation from the king and eventually an arrest warrant.

Heinrich had founded the Anglican Church, but still felt like a Catholic. But his wife was able to convince Heinrich that there was nothing wrong with the whole thing. If she spoke of "newfangled things" it was only to distract him from the pains of old age. The king revoked the arrest warrant, Bishop Gardiner fell out of favor and was relieved of all his offices.

Two years later Heinrich felt his end was approaching. Before his death, he arranged his wife's financial livelihood and allowed her to marry again (one could only laugh about that today, if it weren't so sad that it took until the 1970s for a man to no longer have legal authority over a Wife).

After Heinrich's death, his son Eduard ascended the throne, Catherine retired into private life and her great love, Edward's uncle, Thomas Seymour came back into her life and they married shortly after Heinrich's death. Her stepchildren weren't thrilled about it.

There was again great astonishment when Catherine was expecting a child from Thomas at the age of 35. So far she had not had any pregnancies. One week after the birth, puerperal fever probably killed Catherine. Two years later, her husband Thomas was beheaded for treason (1549). The daughter died as a toddler.



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