Wives of King Henry VIII

A portrait of Henry VIII, painted c. 1520

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. Annulments essentially declare that a true marriage never took place, unlike a divorce, in which a married couple end their union.[1]

Overview

The six women who were married to Henry VIII, in chronological order:

No. Name Marriage dates and length Fate of marriage Fate of wife and issue
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 28 May 1533 – 17 May 1536
(2 years, 11 months and 19 days)
Annulled, then beheaded Died 19 May 1536. Beheaded 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)
Died Died 24 October 1537, twelve days after giving birth due to complications.
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, possibly of cancer.
5 Catherine Howard 28 July 1540 – 23 November 1541
(1 year, 3 months and 26 days)
Beheaded Died 13 February 1542. Beheaded at the Tower of London.
6 Catherine Parr 12 July 1543 – 28 January 1547
(3 years, 6 months and 16 days)
Survived Survived Henry VIII. Later remarried to Thomas Seymour.
Died 7 September 1548.[2]

Henry's first marriage lasted nearly 24 years, while the following five lasted less than 10 years combined.

Catherine ParrCatherine HowardAnne of ClevesJane SeymourAnne BoleynCatherine of Aragon

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.

and

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.

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