Henry VIII and his Six Wives

Henry VIII was the King of England from 1509 to 1547. He is probably most famous for having six wives. They were: -

This simplified family tree shows Henry's six marriages and the three surviving children Mary, Elizabeth and Edward, all of whom became monarchs of England.

Catherine, of Aragon
   HENRY, VIII, King of England 1509-1547   (2)
Anne Boleyn
Jane Seymour
Anne, of Cleves
Catherine Howard
Catherine Parr
Mary, I, Queen of England 1553-1558, Bloody Mary Elizabeth, I, Queen of England 1558-1603 Edward, VI, King of England 1547-1553 

The way I remember the order of the marriages is using the fact that mostly Henry's wives surnames are in alphabetical order. That is all except Jane Seymour, but if you remember that she was the third then you should be ok.

Catherine of Aragon (divorced)

Catherine of Aragon was the wife of Henry's elder brother Arthur. The marriage between Catherine and Arthur was arranged by Arthur's father Henry VII as part of a campaign of securing peace in Europe. As the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Aragon, the marriage would secure trust between the two countries. Catherine arrived in England in 1501 and in the November was married to Arthur then heir to the English throne. Within months Arthur had fallen ill and died. Arrangements were then made to marry Catherine and Henry, now heir to the English throne. Henry and Catherine were married at Greenwich in 1509 a month before they were both crowned at Westminster Abbey. Catherine was five years older than Henry. She gave birth to a baby boy in January of 1511, but unfortunately the child died a few weeks later. Catherine had several more babies but all died in infancy until Mary was born in February of 1516. Mary was healthy and Henry now had an heir to the throne but he really wanted a son. Henry began to believe that the marriage to Catherine was wrong because she was his late brother's wife and this was why they were not having the son that Henry needed. Henry needed the marriage to be declared invalid so he could marry again.

Anne Boleyn (beheaded)

Anne was the daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn. Her elder sister Mary had become the mistress of Henry VIII. Henry's attentions turned to Anne but she was not happy to be just his mistress, she wanted to be his wife. Henry was still married to Catherine of Aragon but their marriage had broken down because Catherine could not provide the King with a male heir. Henry wanted the Pope to declare that the marriage to Catherine was invalid, mainly because Catherine had been married to his late brother and in the Bible this was seen as a sin. Henry and Anne were married in January of 1533. Anne gave birth to their first child in September of the same year. The child, called Elizabeth, was a girl much to Henry's dismay but the child was healthy and Henry felt sure that Anne would give him the son he needed. Anne then had a series of stillborn births and finally she had a premature birth in January of 1536 when she was informed that Henry had fallen from his horse and was seriously injured. Henry lost interest in Anne and looked for a way to end the marriage. Anne was accused of adultery and was executed for treason. Elizabeth, her daughter, would later become Elizabeth I, Queen of England.

Jane Seymour (died)

Jane Seymour was the third wife of Henry VIII and mother of Edward VI. She was the daughter of Sir John Seymour a close aid to Henry VIII. Jane worked as a lady-in-waiting to both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. Jane appears to have come to Henry's attention in late 1535 or early 1536 and in May of 1536 they were married. Jane was never given a coronation as the plague struck England in the summer and it was decided to postpone the ceremony. By mid 1537 it was confirmed that Jane was pregnant and on the 12th of October 1537 their son Edward VI was born at Hampton Court. The birth had complications and Jane became ill and died on the 24th of October. Jane was buried in St. George's Chapel at Windsor and Henry gave instructions that when he died he should be buried next to her in the chapel. Of all his wives Jane seems to have been Henry's favourite.

Anne of Cleves (divorced)

Anne was the fourth wife of Henry VIII. It had been two years since the death of Jane Seymour when the marriage to Anne was suggested by Thomas Cromwell. A marriage to the sisters of the Dukes of Cleve would create a strong European political alliance. In order for Henry to see what Anne and her sister Amelia looked like the artist Hans Holbein was sent to paint their portraits. The painting of Anne was flatering and Henry agreed to the marriage. When Henry saw Anne, who arrived in England on the 1st of January 1540, he was disappointed that the she did not look like her portrait. At first he wanted to cancel the wedding but the organisation had gone too far and so the marriage took place on the 6th of January. The marriage was a marriage in name only and Henry sought the means to have a divorce. He even unkindly called Anne 'The Flander's mare'. Anne understood the situation and accepted the divorce along with a good income and the use of several homes including Hever Castle. Anne died on the 16th or 17th of July 1557.

Catherine Howard (beheaded)

Catherine Howard was the fifth wife of Henry VIII. Catherine had been a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves and had come to the attention of Henry. She was much younger than Henry who was now almost fifty and had gained a lot of weight. The marriage took place only weeks after Henry's marriage to Anne of Cleves was annulled in July of 1540. Catherine soon tired of the king and began a series of affairs with men nearer her age. Two of these were Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham. Word of the adultery finally reached Henry who at first refused to believe the news. Catherine and her lovers were arrested and found guilty of treason. Catherine was executed on the 13th of February 1542.

Catherine Parr (survived)

Catherine Parr was the sixth and final wife of Henry VIII. She had been made a widow twice by former marriages and was in her early thirties. Henry proposed to Catherine and she accepted although she was in love with Thomas Seymour (brother of Jane Seymour?). Henry and Catherine were married on the 12th of July, 1543. Henry's health was poor due to the leg injury he had suffered when he fell from his horse and Catherine took on the role of his nurse. Catherine also became step-mother to his three children Edward, Mary and Elizabeth who she brought together as as family. Catherine and Henry had a dispute over religion and Henry ordered Catherine's arrest. The dispute was settled and the arrest order was cancelled. After Henry died Catherine married Thomas Seymour. She died in 1548.

Related Information

Henry VIII
Reign From22 April, 1509
Reign ToJanuary 28, 1547
SucceededHenry VII
PrecededEdward VI
Royal HouseTudor
Catherine of Aragon
Born15 December, 1485
Married11 June, 1509
ChildrenMary (18 Feb, 1516)
DiedJanuary, 1536
Anne Boleyn
Married25 January, 1533
ChildrenElizabeth (7 Sept, 1533)
Executed19 May, 1536
Jane Seymour
Married30 May, 1536
ChildrenEdward (12 October, 1537)
Died24 October, 1537
BuriedSt. George's Chapel, Windsor


1501 Oct 2 Catherine of Aragon arrives
   After several months of travelling Catherine of Aragon finally arrived at Plymouth in preparation for her marriage to Prince Arthur.
Nov 14 Prince Arthur marries Catherine of Aragon
   After several days of celebration and reception Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon were married at St. Paul's Cathedral.
1502 Jan Prince Arthur moves to Ludlow
   Prince Arthur took up his position as governor of the Welsh Marches and moved to Ludlow Castle. He was accompanied by his wife Catherine of Aragon.
Apr Prince Arthur dies
   Prince Arthur fell ill at Ludlow with consumption, an illness that he seems to have suffered from a lot during his life. The illness was severe and he died.
1503 Jun 23 Henry and Catherine's marriage arranged
   Catherine of Aragon was now a widow and on the 23/24 of June the marriage was arranged between her and Henry (VIII). Catherine was the widow of Henry's brother and special dispensation was required from the Pope for the marriage to be lawful.
1509 Jun 11 Henry marries Catherine of Aragon
   Henry VIII married Catherine at Greenwich.
Jun 24 The coronation of Henry VIII
   Henry and Catherine of Aragaon were crowned at Westminster Abbey.
1511 Jan 1 Birth of Henry's first son
   Catherine gave birth to a boy on the first of January but the child did not live long and died in February of the same year.
1515 Sep 22 Birth of Anne of Cleves
   Anne of Cleves was born in Dusseldorf, Germany.
1516 Feb 18 Birth of Mary
   All of Catherine of Aragon's children died in infancy until Princess Mary was born in February of 1516. Mary was healthy and Henry was happy to have an heir. But Henry would have been happier to have a son.
1527 Henry VIII meets Anne Boleyn
   Anne Boleyn came to the attention of Henry VIII. Anne was a lady-in-waiting for Queen Catherine and the sister of Mary Boleyn who was at the time the mistress of Henry VIII. Henry became besotted by Anne.
Jun 22 Henry VIII declares his marriage invalid
   Henry VIII told Catherine of Aragon that their marriage was invalid because she had earlier been married to his brother Arthur. Anne Boleyn, who Henry had become besotted with, wanted Henry to divorce Catherine and to marry her.
1533 Jan 25 Marriage to Anne Boleyn
   Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn at Whitehall Palace on or around the 25th of January. Anne was expecting a child which Henry and Anne hoped would be a boy.
Spring Act of Succession
   A statute passed by Parliament called the 'Act of Succession' declared that Mary Tudor was illegitimate and not Henry's heir because the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was void. This meant that children of Henry and Anne Boleyn would be the true heirs to the English throne.
Jun 1 Coronation of Anne Boleyn
   Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England at Westminster Abbey by the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer.
Sep 7 Birth of Elizabeth to Anne Boleyn
   Anne gave birth to Elizabeth a healthy girl at Greenwich Palace. Henry had hoped they would have a boy to ensure the continuation of the Tudor line.
Dec Princess Elizabeth moved to Hatfield
   Princess Elizabeth was moved from Greenwich, London to Hatfield were she was looked in the household of Lady Bryan.
1534 Jan Mary moved to Hatfield
   By the order of Henry VIII Mary's title of Princess had been removed and she was taken to Hatfield to be a servant in the household of Princess Elizabeth, her younger step-sister. Mary was around eighteen years old at this time. Mary was not happy with this arrangement and could not accept that Elizabeth had a better claim to the English throne than she did.
1536 Jan Death of Catherine of Aragon
   Catherine of Aragon died. It was believed that she had been poisoned but it is possible that she died of cancer. Catherine died at Kimbolton Castle.
Jan 29 Anne Boleyn loses a son
   Anne had a premature birth resulting in a stillborn child and the child was a boy. The failure to give Henry a son meant the end of her marriage to the king. Henry needed a new wife who could give him a male heir and he had his eye on Jane Seymour.
May 19 Execution of Anne Boleyn
   Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII, was executed for treason and adultery at the Tower of London.
May 30 Henry marries Jane Seymour
   Henry married his third wife Jane Seymour the former lady-in-waiting to both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. They were married at York Palace (now the Palace of Whitehall)
Jul Elizabeth declare illegitimate
   Parliament declared that Elizabeth, like her elder step-sister Mary, was illegitimate. This allowed the next son of Henry VIII to be born to become the heir to the English throne.
1537 Oct 12 Edward VI born at Hampton Court
   Jane Seymour gave birth to Edward at Hampton Court. The birth had complications and Jane became ill.
Oct 24 Jane Seymour dies
   Jane Seymour died after complications with the birth of Edward VI. She was buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.
1540 Jan 6 Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves
   Although Henry was disappointed that Anne did not resemble her portrait the marriage went ahead as planned.
Jul 9 Marriage to Anne of Cleves annulled
   The marriage of Henry VIII to Anne of Cleves was annulled just a few months after the marriage. Anne agreed to an annual income and the use of several lavish homes in England.
Jul 28 Marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine Howard
   Just weeks after the marriage to Anne of Cleves was annulled Henry married Catherine Howard.
1542 Feb 13 Catherine Howard executed
   Found guilty of adultery and therefore treason, Catherine Howard was sentenced to death and was executed on Tower Green within the Tower of London.
1543 Jul 12 Marriage of Henry and Catherine Parr
   Henry married Catherine Parr, his sixth and final wife at Hampton Court Palace.
1557 Jul 16 Death of Anne of Cleves
   Since the divorce from Henry VIII Anne had been given a good annual income and use of several homes. She died on the 16th or 17th of July, 1557.

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