In common parlance, the wives of Henry VIII were the six queens consort wedded to Henry between 1509 and his death in 1547. In legal terms, King Henry VIII of England had only three wives, because three of his marriages were annulled by the Church of England. However, he was never granted an Annulment from the Pope, as he desired for Catherine of Aragon, his first wife. Annulments declare that a true marriage never took place, unlike a divorce, in which a married couple end their union.Along with his six wives, Henry took mistresses.
The six women who were married to Henry VIII, in chronological order:
|No.||Name||Marriage dates and length||Fate of marriage||Issue and fate|
|1||Catherine of Aragon||11 June 1509 – 23 May 1533|
(23 years, 11 months and 12 days)
|Annulled||Died 7 January 1536. Mother of Queen Mary I.|
|2||Anne Boleyn||25 January 1533 – 17 May 1536|
(2 years, 11 months and 19 days)
|Annulled||Beheaded 19 May 1536 at the Tower of London.|
Mother of Queen Elizabeth I.
|3||Jane Seymour||30 May 1536 – 24 October 1537|
(1 year, 4 months and 24 days)
|Ended with Seymour's death||Died 24 October 1537, due to complications twelve days after giving birth.|
Mother of King Edward VI.
|4||Anne of Cleves||6 January 1540 – 9 July 1540|
(6 months and 3 days)
|Annulled||Died 16 July 1557.|
|5||Catherine Howard||28 July 1540 – 23 November 1541|
(1 year, 3 months and 26 days)
|Ended with Howard's arrest||Beheaded 13 February 1542 at the Tower of London.|
|6||Catherine Parr||12 July 1543 – 28 January 1547|
(3 years, 6 months and 16 days)
|Ended with Henry's death||Survived Henry VIII, remarried to Thomas Seymour.|
Died 5 September 1548.
Henry's first marriage lasted nearly 24 years, while the following five lasted less than 10 years combined.
A mnemonic device to remember the names of Henry's consorts is “Arrogant Boys Seem Clever, Howard Particularly”; a mnemonic for their fates is "Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived". There are also two rhymes:[ citation needed ][ year needed ]
King Henry VIII,
To six wives he was wedded.
One died, one survived,
Two divorced, two beheaded.
Boleyn and Howard lost their heads,
Anne of Cleves he would not bed,
Jane Seymour gave him a son – but died before the week was done,
Aragon he did divorce,
Which just left Catherine Parr, of course!
It is often noted that Catherine Parr survived Henry, but Anne of Cleves also survived him and was the last of his queens to die. Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, and Jane Seymour each gave him one child who survived infancy: two daughters and one son. All three of these children eventually ascended to the throne as King Edward VI, Queen Mary I, and Queen Elizabeth I.
Catherine Howard and Anne Boleyn were first cousins and were both beheaded. Several of Henry's wives worked in service to another wife, typically as a lady-in-waiting. Anne Boleyn served Catherine of Aragon, Jane Seymour served both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, and Catherine Howard served Anne of Cleves.
Catherine of Aragon (16 December 1485 –7 January 1536; Spanish: Catalina de Aragón) was Henry's first wife. Her name is most commonly spelled Katherine, or occasionally Katharine. She also spelled and signed her name with a "K," which was an accepted spelling in England at the time. 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 he came to the throne in 1509. Catherine became pregnant in 1510 but the girl was stillborn. She became pregnant again in 1511, and gave birth to Henry, Duke of Cornwall, who died almost two months later. She gave birth to a stillborn boy in 1513, and to another boy who died within hours in 1515. Finally she bore a healthy daughter, Mary, in 1516. It was two years before she conceived again, the pregnancy ended with a short-lived girl. It is said[ by whom? ] that Henry truly loved Catherine of Aragon, as he himself professed it many times.
Henry, at the time a Roman Catholic, sought the Pope's approval for an annulment on the grounds that Catherine had first been his brother's wife, using a passage from the Old Testament (Leviticus Chapter 20 Verse 21): "If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an impurity; he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.” Henry had begun an affair with Anne Boleyn, who refused to become his mistress. (He had already had and ended an affair with Anne's sister, Mary Boleyn).[ citation needed ] Despite the pope's refusal to annul the marriage Henry separated from Catherine in 1531. He ordered the highest church official in England, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, to convene a court. 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 (with whom Henry had already secretly exchanged wedding vows). This led to England breaking from the Roman Catholic Church and the establishment of the Church of England.
William Shakespeare, in the play Henry VIII, called Catherine "The queen of earthly queens" (2.4.138).
Anne Boleyn (c. 1501 –19 May 1536) was Henry's second wife and the mother of Elizabeth I. Henry's marriage to Anne and her execution made her a key figure in the political and religious upheaval at the start of the English Reformation. She was the daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn and Lady Elizabeth Boleyn (born Lady Elizabeth Howard), and she 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, 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 that he could marry Anne. He wrote a love letter which provides evidence of some level of intimacy between them, in which he admires her "pretty duckies" (breasts).It eventually became clear that Pope Clement VII was unlikely to give the king an annulment, so Henry began to break the power of the Catholic Church in England.
Henry dismissed Thomas Wolsey 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 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, and she gave birth to Henry's second daughter Elizabeth on 7 September. She failed to produce a male heir, her only son being stillborn, and the King grew tired of her and had their marriage annulled. Thomas Cromwell devised a plot to execute her.
Despite unconvincing evidence she was found guilty, and beheaded on 19 May 1536 for adultery, incest, witchcraft, and high treason. After the coronation of her daughter, Elizabeth I, Anne was venerated as a martyr and heroine of the English Reformation, particularly through the works of John Foxe. Over the centuries, she has inspired or been mentioned in numerous artistic and cultural works.
Jane Seymour (c. 1508 –24 October 1537) was Henry's third wife. She served Catherine of Aragon and was one of Anne Boleyn's ladies-in-waiting. It is believed[ by whom? ] that she is the mistress who disposed of Anne, who was executed just 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. Almost a year and a half after marriage Jane gave birth to a male heir, Edward, but she died twelve days later from postpartum complications. Henry apparently suffered genuine grief, as she was the only one of his queens to receive a Queen's burial, and when he died he was buried next to her.
Anne of Cleves (22 September 1515 –16 July 1557) was a German princess and Henry's wife for just six months in 1540, from 6 January to 9 July. Henry may have referred to her as "A Flanders Mare", and the label has stuck. Her pre-contract of marriage with Francis I, Duke of Lorraine, was cited as grounds for annulment. Anne did not resist the annulment, claiming the marriage had not been consummated, and was rewarded with a generous settlement including Hever Castle, the former home of the Boleyns, Henry's former in-laws. She was given the name "The King's Sister", and was a lifelong friend to him and his children. She outlived the King and all his wives.
Catherine Howard (c.1521 –13 February 1542) was Henry's fifth wife between 1540–1542, sometimes known as "the rose without a thorn". Henry was informed of her alleged adultery with Thomas Culpeper on 1 November 1541.
Catherine Parr (1512 –5 September 1548), 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 (Henry's great-great grandmother), 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.[ citation needed ] 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. Lady Mary's history is unknown, but she is not believed to have survived childhood.
Henry was distantly related to all six of his wives through their common ancestor, King Edward I of England,through more than one ancestor.
The following family tree of Henry VIII's six wives is the closest lineage of him.
King of England
Duchess of Brabant
Countess of Hereford
King of England
Duke of Brabant
1st Earl of
King of England
Countess of Flanders
Countess of Arundel
1st Duke of
1st Duke of
Countess of Flanders
Duchess of Norfolk
Duke of Burgundy
King of Castile
5th Earl of
Queen of Castile
Duke of Cleves
| Elizabeth |
Duke of Cleves
|Henry Wentworth||c. 1483–1517|
Duke of Cleves
|Anne of Cleves|
|Coat of Arms||Armiger|
(Date as Queen)
| Catherine of Aragon |
1509 – 1533
|The Royal Arms, impaled with that of her parents the Catholic Monarchs. The blazon: |
The sinister supporter came from the coat of arms of her father, Ferdinand II of Aragon, who displayed his shield on the breast of a single-headed Apostolic eagle displayed. Catherine's badges were a commemoration of the conquest of Granada from the Moors, when the superiority of the Spanish archers gained a victory. Both badges were combined with the Tudor rose (Henry's dynastic symbol).
| Anne Boleyn |
1533 – 1536
|The Royal Arms, impaled with that of her own arms as Marquess of Pembroke, which alluded to several of her ancestors, however remote. The blazon: |
The noted antiquarian and heraldist Charles Boutell commented that the: "Arms of Queen Anne Boleyn are the first which exemplify the usage, introduced by Henry VIII, of granting to his Consorts "Augmentations" to their paternal arms. It is a striking illustration of the degenerate condition of Heraldry under the second Tudor Sovereign." The dexter supporter was intended to represent the leopard of Guyenne (Aquitaine). The sinister supporter was a heraldic creature from the badge of the Boleyn, as descended from Earls of Ormond (Butler). The falcon badge was granted to Anne as Countess of Pembroke, this badge was also used by her daughter Queen Elizabeth I.
| Jane Seymour |
1536 – 1537
|The Royal Arms, impaled with that of her own arms and that of the Seymour family. The blazon: |
An alternative set of supporters for Queen Jane was reportedly: "Dexter a unicorn argent, crowned and unguled or, collared with a double wreath of white daisies and red roses; Sinister, a panther incensed, striped with various colours, gorged with a coronet of crosses patée and fleurs de lys alternately and chained or." The badge of the phoenix rising from the flames was granted posthumously by her son King Edward VI to his maternal relations (who became the Dukes of Somerset), who continue to use it as a crest in their coat of arms to this day.
| Anne of Cleves |
January - July 1540
|The Royal Arms, impaled with that of her father John III, Duke of Cleves. The blazon: |
| Catherine Howard |
1540 – 1541
|The Royal Arms, impaled with that of her own as granted by the King. Her arms incorporated those of her family the Howards. Catherine's father Lord Edmund Howard, was the third son of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. The blazon: |
| Catherine Parr |
1543 – 1547
|The Royal Arms, impaled with that of her own as granted by the King. The arms allude to those of her family and the titles of her father Sir Thomas Parr. The blazon: |
The sinister supporter was inherited from her maternal grandfather William FitzHugh, 4th Baron FitzHugh. Her badge was granted by the king, it combined the Tudor rose badge of Henry with a previous one used by the Queen's family. The House of Parr had assumed as a badge "a maiden's head, couped below the breasts, vested in ermine and gold, her hair of the last, and her temples encircled with red and white roses." This they inherited from the badge of Ross, of Kendal.
Six is a pop-rock musical featuring each of Henry's wives. A major theme of the show is that women should be the ones to tell their story and how much more there is to their story than how their relationship with Henry ended. The musical was written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss.It originated in Edinburgh in 2017, moving to the West End in January 2019. In May 2019, Six had its North American premier at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. and moved to Broadway in March 2020. The tag line of the show, "Divorced. Beheaded. LIVE in concert!", alludes to the rhyme describing the queens' fates.
Catherine of Aragon was Queen of England from June 1509 until May 1533 as the first wife of King Henry VIII; she was previously Princess of Wales as the wife of Henry's elder brother, Arthur.
Anne Boleyn was Queen of England from 1533 to 1536 as the second wife of King Henry VIII. Their marriage, and her execution for treason and other charges by beheading, made her a key figure in the political and religious upheaval that marked the start of the English Reformation. Anne was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard, and was educated in the Netherlands and France, largely as a maid of honour to Queen Claude of France. Anne returned to England in early 1522, to marry her Irish cousin James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond; the marriage plans were broken off, and instead she secured a post at court as maid of honour to Henry VIII's wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Jane Seymour was Queen of England from 1536 to 1537 as the third wife of King Henry VIII. She succeeded Anne Boleyn as queen consort following the latter's execution in May 1536. She died of postnatal complications less than two weeks after the birth of her only child, a son who became King Edward VI. She was the only wife of the King to receive a queen's funeral, and his only consort to be buried beside him in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.
Anne of Cleves was queen consort of England from 6 January to 9 July 1540 as the fourth wife of King Henry VIII. Not much is known about Anne before 1527, when Anne became betrothed to Francis, Duke of Bar, son and heir of Antoine, Duke of Lorraine, although their marriage was never accomplished. In March 1539, negotiations for Anne's marriage to Henry began, as Henry believed that he needed to form a political alliance with her brother, William, who was a leader of the Protestants of western Germany, to strengthen his position against potential attacks from Catholic France and the Holy Roman Empire.
The Private Life of Henry VIII is a 1933 British film which was directed and co-produced by Alexander Korda and starring Charles Laughton, Robert Donat, Merle Oberon and Elsa Lanchester. The film focuses on the marriages of King Henry VIII of England. It was written by Lajos Bíró and Arthur Wimperis for London Film Productions, Korda's production company. The film was a major international success, establishing Korda as a leading filmmaker and Laughton as a box office star.
The Six Wives of Henry VIII is a series of six television plays produced by the BBC and first transmitted between 1 January and 5 February 1970. The series was later aired in the United States on CBS from 1 August to 5 September 1971 with narration added by Anthony Quayle. The series was rebroadcast in the United States without commercials on PBS as part of its Masterpiece Theatre series.
Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford née Parker, was the wife of George Boleyn, 2nd Viscount Rochford, brother of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII. Jane had been a member of the household of Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon. She had a role in the judgments against, and subsequent executions of, her husband and Anne Boleyn. She was later a lady-in-waiting to Henry's third and fourth wives, and then to his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, with whom she was executed.
Elizabeth Blount, commonly known during her lifetime as Bessie Blount, was a mistress of Henry VIII of England.
The Boleyn Inheritance is a novel by British author Philippa Gregory which was first published in 2006. It is a direct sequel to her previous novel The Other Boleyn Girl, and one of the additions to her six-part series on the Tudor royals. * The novel is told through the first-person narratives of – Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Jane Boleyn, who was mentioned in The Other Boleyn Girl. It covers a period from 1539 until 1542 and chronicles the fourth and fifth marriages of King Henry VIII of England.
Agnes Howard was the second wife of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. Two of King Henry VIII's queens were her step-granddaughters, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Catherine Howard was placed in the Dowager Duchess's care after her mother's death, and the Duchess's lax guardianship allowed her to commit sexual indiscretions that ultimately led to her execution while queen.
Henry VIII is a two-part British television serial produced principally by Granada Television for ITV from 12 to 19 October 2003. It chronicles the life of Henry VIII of England from the disintegration of his first marriage to an aging Spanish princess until his death following a stroke in 1547, by which time he had married for the sixth time. Additional production funding was provided by WGBH Boston, Powercorp and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Henry VIII and His Six Wives is a 1972 British film adaptation, directed by Waris Hussein, of the BBC 1970 six-part miniseries The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Keith Michell, who plays Henry VIII in the TV series, also portrays the king in the film. His six wives are portrayed by different actresses, among them Frances Cuka as Catherine of Aragon, and Jane Asher as Jane Seymour. Donald Pleasence portrays Thomas Cromwell and Bernard Hepton portrays Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, a role he had also played in the miniseries and briefly in its follow-up Elizabeth R.
Events from the 1530s in England.
The Six Wives of Henry VIII is a 2001 television documentary series about the wives of King Henry VIII presented by historian David Starkey from historic locations with added re-enactments.
Murder Most Royal (1949) is an historical fiction novel by Jean Plaidy.
Anne Berkeley, Baroness Berkeley was a lady-in-waiting and companion of Queen Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII of England. She was one of the witnesses at the secret wedding ceremony of the King and Anne Boleyn which occurred on 25 January 1533.
Mary Boleyn, also known as Lady Mary, was the sister of English queen consort Anne Boleyn, whose family enjoyed considerable influence during the reign of King Henry VIII.
Catherine Howard was queen consort of England from 1540 until 1541 as the fifth wife of Henry VIII. She was the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard and Joyce Culpeper, cousin to Anne Boleyn, and niece to Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Thomas Howard was a prominent politician at Henry's court, and he secured her a place in the household of Henry's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, where she caught the king's interest. She married him on 28 July 1540 at Oatlands Palace in Surrey, almost immediately after the annulment of his marriage to Anne. He was 49, and she was still a teenager.
The Mistresses of Henry VIII allegedly included many notable women between 1509 and 1536. They have been the subject of biographies, novels and films.
Henry VIII of England had several children. The best known children are the three legitimate offspring who survived infancy and would succeed him as monarchs of England successively, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.