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King Henry the Eighth and His Six Wives

By Edited Jun 13, 2014 0 0

The Tudor Monarchy made a very short-lived appearance in history, yet managed to give birth to some of England's most famous, and notorious, rulers. Queen Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, was a Tudor. As was her sister, Mary 1 Tudor, also known as "Bloody Mary" for the mass killings she authorized. Their father was King Henry the Eight and his fondness for chopping off his wives' heads' is still widely known. He has six wives and nearly all of them seemed to meet dire ends. After Henry broke with the Catholic Church and Rome, his power was limitless. Unfortuantely, this left his wives completely at King Henry's mercy, which proved to be rare indeed!

Catherine of Aragon, Henry's first wife, was originally wed to his brother, Arthur. Arthur died less then 6 months after his wedding, prompting a betrothal between Catherine and Henry. In 1509 they married. Catherine gave birth to six children. Two were stillborn, while the others died in infancy or childhood. Only a daughter, Mary, lived to adulthood. Henry's obsession with producing a male heir became Henry's driving force in anulling his marriage to Catherine. That, and he had fallen in love with the seductive Anne Boleyn. Catherine knew her chances in Henry's court were slim, so she attempted to steer the case in her favor by appealing to the Pope. Unfortunately for her, this proved a futile gesture. Henry broke with the Catholics and made a new church, the Church of England. The King appointed himself Supreme Head. Catherine also recieved a new title, Princess Dowager of Wales. She refused to accept this role throughout her lifetime, and died in 1536. On her deathbed she wrote a very touching letter to King Henry and signed it, "Catherine the Queen."

Anne Boleyn married Henry in 1532. It is speculated the she was pregnant when her and Henry exchanged vows, while others protest that Anne rebuked the King's advances until they were properly wed. She was known to have played a pivotal role in Henry's annulment, along with his decision to break from the Catholic Church. For this reason Anne was not popular with the people (unlike her rival, Cahterine of Aragon) and was sometimes scornfully referred to as a witch. Anne Boleyn was pregnant at least twice. Her first child was Elizabeth 1. Her second child was a son that she miscarried. It was said then that Anne had "miscarried of her savior" for she was beheaded only a few months later on charges of adultry, incest, and high treason.

On May 30th of 1536, eleven days after the execusion of Anne Boleyn, Henry married Jane Seymour. A year later Jane was pregnant, and in September of 1537 gave birth to long awaited male heir: Edward V1. It was a very hard labor, lasting three days and two nights. Jane never recovered, and died shortly after. Henry would marry again three more times, but upon his death in 1547 was laid to rest beside Jane as his own request. It is widely believed that Jane was the favorite wife, because she was the only one who provided Henry with his longed for male heir.

After the death of Jane, Henry remained single for over 2 years. Finally, after much debate, he consented to marry Anne of Cleves. It was a purely political move, and Henry voiced his disapproval of the marriage several times. However, he still went through with it. Seven months and three days later the marriage was annulled. Anne granted her consent for this, and was granted a large sum of money, along with multiple properties. She and Henry became very close afterwards. Anne was eventually granted the title of "King's Sister."

Sixteen days later Henry was married again. This time he chose the cousin of his second wife, a 19 year old beauty by the name of Kathryn Howard. Katherine was very lively, and this did much to lift the King's sagging spirits. He was vastly overweight by this time, and had an ulcer on his leg that needed to be drained daily. He referred to Katherine as his "rose without a thorn," and "the very jewel of womanhood." Katherine similarly flattered the King, her motto being, "no other will then his." However, after less then a year into her marriage, rumors of infidelity reached the King's ears. Henry was reluctant to believe the news, but by November of 1541 enough evidence had been gathered to convict Katherine, including a love letter to Thomas Culpepper written in the Queen's own hand. On February 7th, 1542 Katherine was beheaded. Although she needed help climbing the scaffold, she died with a decent amount of composure.

When Katherine Parr took the throne in 1543 her motto was, "To Be Useful In All That I Do." Twice widowed at the age of 31, she became attached to Thomas Seymour. However, when the King proposed to Katherine she accepted out of a sense of duty. She managed to stay married to Henry until his death in January of 1547, despite a plot against her. In 1546 the Conservative Faction plotted against the Queen and an arrest warrant was drawn up. When the news leaked to Katherine she immediately took to her bed. When Henry came to see her, Katherine insisted she only argued with him to that she may be instructed by him, and also to take him mind off the pain his leg caused him. Henry's anger was abated, and the arrest warrant revoked. Katherine caused a significant impact on society. While she was Queen education became very popular among women. Henry also became reconciled with his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. Henry was so taken with Katherine that he left specific instructions that she be treated like a Queen, even after his death.

After the King's death, Edward V1 took the throne, and England fell into the hands of a 9 year old boy. While a child King may be considered a scary prospect for a country, his early death gave way to an even greater threat: Mary 1. Determined to wipe out the Protestant faith, Mary burned more then 200 people at the stake. She ruled for 5 years. After her death in 1558, Elizabeth 1 took the throne, and was coronated in 1559. Here, England was finally to know some peace. Elizabeth reigned for 44 years and is heralded as one of the greatest Queens Endland has ever known.



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