Henry VIII was born on 28 June 1491 at Greenwich Palace, he was the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.
When his elder brother Arthur died in 1502 he became heir to the English throne. Arthur had recently married Spanish princess Katherine of Aragon. After Arthur’s death, Henry became betrothed to his brother’s widow, maintaining the Spanish alliance with Ferdinand and Isabella, Katherine’s immensely powerful parents.
Henry was a popular young prince, he was handsome and athletic and his popularity increased when his father died in 1509 and he ascended the throne of England. Soon after he married Katherine, a marriage that would last over twenty years.
Henry sought a divorce from Katherine after the marriage failed to produce a living male heir. He had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn and had high hopes for male heirs and the Tudor dynasty, instead, he had one daughter with Anne who would give her name to the Elizabethan age. This short-lived marriage in 1533 was the catalyst for England’s break with Rome.
Anne was accused of adultery and treason and was beheaded for her crimes in 1536. Henry then married Jane Seymour who died after giving birth to Henry’s sole legitimate male heir.
Henry’s next marriage was to Anne of Cleves in January 1540 – it was a political marriage and Henry met her at Rochester Castle in Kent, just days before the ceremony. Henry famously couldn’t consummate this marriage and Anne’s attractiveness (or lack thereof) has been blamed. But Henry, who was twice her age and grotesquely fat was in all likelihood unjust in his assessment of Anne. It could be argued that he wasn’t much of a catch!
Almost as soon as he married Anne of Cleves, he was trying to wriggle out of it as he’d fallen for the teenaged Katherine Howard, whom he married in July 1540. However, within two years Henry had ordered her death. He had discovered that she had had premarital affairs and there was every chance she was still continuing an affair with at least one of her beaus, Thomas Culpepper, although this has never been proven.
On 12 July 1543 King Henry VIII married his last queen, Katherine Parr, like his previous two marriages, they had no children. Henry died in January 1547 and was succeeded by his son with Jane Seymour, Edward VI.
Henry VIII is infamous for his six wives, there is even a rhyme to help you remember their fates;
Divorced, beheaded, died,
divorced, beheaded, survived.
- Katherine of Aragon – divorced
- Anne Boleyn – beheaded
- Jane Seymour – died
- Anne of Cleves – divorced
- Katherine Howard – beheaded
- Katherine Parr – survived
His (legitimate) Children
- Mary (mother Katherine of Aragon) – ruled as Queen Mary I
- Elizabeth (mother Anne Boleyn) – ruled as Queen Elizabeth I
- Edward (mother Jane Seymour) – ruled as King Edward VI
You can read about my visit to his favourite home Hampton Court Palace and learn more about Young Henry VIII’s Story here.