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Henry VIII, in a portrait made c.
1520, during his nearly 24 year marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

The wives of Henry VIII were the six queen consorts married to Henry VIII of England between 1509 and 1547.

The six wives (queens consort) of King Henry VIII were, in order: Catherine of Aragon (annulled), Anne Boleyn (annulled then beheaded), Jane Seymour (died, childbed fever), Anne of Cleves (annulled), Katherine Howard (annulled then beheaded), and Catherine Parr. Because annulment legally voids a marriage, technically speaking Henry would have said he had only 2 "wives", but his marriage to Queen Catherine of Aragon was declared legal and valid during the reign of his daughter Queen Mary I. 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 whom would eventually accede to the throne. They were Queen Mary I, Queen Elizabeth I, and King Edward VI.

A mnemonic for the fates of Henry's wives is "divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived". An alternate version is "King Henry the Eighth, to six wives he was wedded: One died, one survived, two divorced, two beheaded." Some have dubbed these as misleading doggerel, noting that Henry was never technically divorced from any of his wives, rather that his marriages to them were annulled. Likewise, it can be said that, four marriages—not two—"ended" in annulments, but this depends on the definition of annulment used. However, whether or not Henry annulled his marriage to Catherine Howard is under dispute.

Catherine Howard and Anne Boleyn, Henry's two queens that were beheaded, were first cousins. Several of his wives worked in at least one of his other wives' service. Anne Boleyn worked in Catherine of Aragon's service; Jane Seymour worked in Catherine of Aragon's and Anne Boleyn's service; and Catherine Howard worked in Anne of Cleves's.

List of wives

Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon
Catherine of Aragon (16 December 1485 – 7 January 1536; ) 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. Catherine bore him a daughter in 1516, Mary I, but no sons survived past infancy due to miscarriages and stillbirths.

Henry, at the time a Roman 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 (Henry had already consummated an affair with and then dismissed Anne's sister, Mary Boleyn, and Anne wanted to avoid the same treatment). 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 Boleyn (with whom Henry had already secretly exchanged wedding vows, probably in late January 1533). This led to the break from the Roman Catholic Church and the later establishment of the Church of England.

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn
Anne Boleyn (1501/1507–19 May 1536) was the second wife of Henry VIII of England and the mother of Elizabeth I of England. 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 (born Lady Elizabeth Howard), Anne was of nobler birth than either Jane Seymour or Catherine Parr, two of Henry's later wives. She was educated in Europe, largely as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Claude of France. She returned to England in 1522.

Anne resisted the King's attempts to seduce her and she refused to become his mistress, as her sister, Mary Boleyn, had done. 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 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 a baby girl who would one day reign as Queen 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 the coronation of her daughter Elizabeth 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. Due to this fact, she has remained in the popular memory and Anne has been called "the most influential and important queen consort England has ever had."

Jane Seymour

Jane Seymour
Jane Seymour (c. mid-1508– 24 October 1537) was Henry's third wife. He first became attracted to her while she was one of Anne Boleyn'sladies-in-waiting Jokinen, Anniina. "The Six Wives of King Henry VII." 2007. Web.7 May 2009./>. and it is popularly believed she is the reason he disposed of Anne. After their marriage in1536, she gave him his only male heir, later Edward VI. She died of postnatal complications less than two weeks afterEdward's birth.

Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves
Anne of Cleves (22 September 1515 – 16 July 1557; German: Anna von Jülich-Kleve-Berg) was Henry's fourth wife, for onlysix months in 1540, from 6 January to 9 July. Anne of Cleves was a German princess. She has become known as "The Flanders Mare" because the king is said to have disliked herappearance. 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, andshe was given a generous settlement, including Hever Castlemarker, 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. She outlived both the King and his last two wives.

Katherine Howard

Katherine Howard
Katherine Howard (1520/1525? – 13 February 1542) was Henry's fifth wife 1540–1542, sometimes known as "the rose without athorn". Henry was informed of her alleged adultery on 1 November 1541. After being deprived of the title of Queen, she was beheaded at the Tower of Londonmarker. The night before,Katherine spent hours practicing how to lay her head upon the block, and her last words were for mercy for her family and prayersfor her soul. She was buried next to her cousin Anne Boleyn.

Catherine Parr

Catherine Parr
Catherine Parr (about 1512 – 7 September 1548), also spelled Katharine, was the sixth and last wife of Henry VIII 1543–1547. She has a special place in history as the most married queen of England, having had four husbands in all; Henry was her third spouse. She had been widowed three times in rapid succession. After Henry's death, she married Thomas Seymour, uncle of Edward VI, to whom she had formed an attachment priorto her marriage with Henry. She had one child by Seymour, Mary, and died in childbirth. Mary's history is unknown, but she is believed to have died as a toddler.

Parr was probably named after Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, as her mother worked in Queen Catherine's service.


Henry VIII also had several mistresses during his marriages. While married to Catherine of Aragon, he had a relationship with Bessie Blount, which lasted around eight years; his friend's wife, Elizabeth Carew; Etiennette de la Baume; Anne Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon; Elizabeth Amadas; and most famously with Mary Boleyn, the sister of his second wife Anne. During his marriage to Anne, hehad a relationship with an unnamed lady, followed by a six-month affair with the Queen's cousin, Mary Shelton before starting a relationship with Jane Seymour. There were also rumours about his relationships with several other women,including the notorious Elizabeth Wyatt, Anne Bassett, Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk and his own son'swidow, Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond and Somerset.

Marriage lengths

Diagram of Henry's VIII reign relative to his marriages.

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DateFormat = yyyyPeriod = from:1500 till:1560TimeAxis = orientation:horizontalAlignBars = justify

Colors =
id:King value:purple
id:Queen value:red

id:grid1 value:gray(0.7) # major grid
id:grid2 value:gray(0.95) # minor grid

id:reign value:gray(0.4)

ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:10 start:1500ScaleMinor = unit:year increment:1 start:1500

Define $lshift = shift:(8,-4) #legend text shiftDefine $jwidth = width:0.1 #width of the vertical jointDefine $w1 = color:w1Define $w2 = color:w2Define $w3 = color:w3Define $dx = -80Define $dx2 = -100Define $dx3 = -120Define $dx4 = -140Define $dx5 = -160Define $dx6 = -180


align:left fontsize:S width:9

from:1509 till:1547 shift:(0,5) text:Henry VIII
from:1509 till:1533 shift:(45,-5) text:Catherine of Aragon
from:1533 till:1536 shift:(25,-4) text:Anne Boleyn
from:1536 till:1537 shift:(20,-4) text:Jane Seymour
from:1540 till:1540 shift:(15,-4) text:Anne of Cleves
from:1540 till:1542 shift:(25,-4) text:Catherine Howard
from:1543 till:1547 shift:(35,-4) text:Catherine Parr
#a long hack to create a cool grey-bar ScaleMinor
#since a line max width is only 10, two lines are used for each grey-bar
layer:back color:grid2 width:6

layer:back color:grid1 width:0.1

Further reading

Non-fiction, histories

Fiction, novels

  • Katharine, the Virgin Widow by Jean Plaidy (Katherine of Aragon)
  • Murder Most Royal by Jean Plaidy (Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard)
  • The King's Secret Matter by Jean Plaidy (Katherine of Aragon)
  • The Sixth Wife by Jean Plaidy (Katherine Parr)
  • The Rose Without A Thorn by Jean Plaidy (Katherine Howard)
  • Here Comes the King by Philip Lindsay (Katherine Howard)


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