Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. It’s a mnemonic device many of united state learned as youngsters to psychic the fates that the six women – Catherine of Aragon, anne Boleyn, mrs Seymour, anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and also Katherine Parr – who ended up being Henry VIII’s queens between 1509 and also 1547. Yet who to be these women and also just what did it take it to capture the eye of a king?


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Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, made it through – this is the rhyme many commonly connected with the six wives of Henry VIII, chanted in classrooms about the world by kids learning about the Tudor king and also his family. Yet how much do girlfriend know around the six vital women in Henry VIII’s life? here’s our an extensive guide to every of his pair – native Catherine the Aragon through to Katherine Parr…


Who were the six wives the Henry VIII – in order?

Henry VIII is England’s many married monarch. He had six wives in total between 1509 and also 1547. This were, in order:


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Henry VIII surrounded by his 6 wives. Clockwise native top: ann of Cleves, Catherine Howard, ann Boleyn, Catherine the Aragon, Katherine Parr and Jane Seymour. (Photo through Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Why walk Henry VIII have actually six wives?

Answered by chronicler Lauren Mackay

One might be forgiven for assuming Henry had actually notoriously poor luck once it came to marriage, however in truth it was his desire because that a masculine son and heir to the Tudor empire that was the driving pressure behind many of his marital decisions. This, coupled with Henry’s infatuation with Anne Boleyn, to be behind his desire come divorce his an initial wife, Catherine that Aragon, and marry her.

You are watching: Capricious english king who tired of five of his six wives


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ann Boleyn, woman Seymour and also Catherine Howard. (Photo by Fine art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
Henry would certainly divorce 2 wives, and also behead two – anne Boleyn and also Catherine Howard – for adultery and treason. He no doubt would have remained married come his third wife, jane Seymour, who gave him his son and heir, but she passed away in childbirth.

In the end, just two wives – anne of Cleves, who he divorced years prior, and also his last wife, Katherine Parr – would outlive him.

Lauren Mackay is the author of Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and his 6 Wives through the Life and Writings that the Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys (Amberley Publishing)


Did friend know…

You can remember the stimulate of the 6 wives by rhyming their names: “Kate and also Anne and also Jane, and Anne and Kate (again, again)


Your overview to Henry VIII’s six wives

Charlotte Hodgman, editor of BBC background Revealed magazine, explores the 6 women that married Henry VIII…


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Catherine that Aragon (1485–1536)


Born in Alcalá de Henares, Princess Catherine was betrothed come England’s Prince Arthur in ~ the age of three. A devout Catholic, she was married come Henry for virtually 24 years and also never identified the annulment of their union


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Catherine that Aragon, very first wife of King Henry VIII. (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images)
The concern of Henry’s marriage became of paramount prominence to England in 1502, following the death of his elder brother, Arthur. As the new heir to the throne, that was as much as Henry to continue the fledgling Tudor dynasty. That didn’t have to look far for a possible bride: Catherine that Aragon was the youngest daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella the Spain.

Engaged together a child to Prince Arthur as part of Henry VII’s plans because that an alliance in between Spain and England, 15-year-old Catherine arrived in England in 1501 and was married top top 14 November the year. Half of she promised dowry the 200,000 crowns was paid shortly after.

It was the perfect royal match but, just six months later, Arthur to be dead. To prevent handing ago Catherine’s dowry, and to preserve the Spanish alliance, a new betrothal to be made between the widow and also Prince Henry, 5 years she junior. In Tudor eyes, Catherine’s marriage to Arthur had actually made her Henry’s sister.

So papal dispensation was sought, and also granted, to permit the union – however only after ~ Catherine had sworn the her quick marriage had not to be consummated. 5 years of wrangling over her dowry ensued, however Catherine’s patience to be rewarded when, in 1509, she married the brand-new king, 18-year-old Henry.

The union appears to have actually been, initially, one of mutual love and dynastic advancement. Henry had known Catherine for virtually a te on their marriage, and also she is described as gift every customs the beautiful queen.


For the first 10 come 15 years, the marriage appears to have been a happy one. Henry himself wrote that the love he boring his mam was such that “if he were still free, that would pick her in choice to all others”. The pair common a passion for learning, religion and also court entertainment, and also Catherine confirmed herself a competent regent while Henry campaigned in France between 1512–14.

But by 1518, relations had soured. Catherine, currently 33, had actually at least six pregnancies in ripe years, however only two youngsters had survived. One longed-for boy, Prince Henry, to be born in 1511 and also a huge tournament was organized in his honour, the 3rd most expensive occasion of Henry’s reign. Young Prince Hal was the toast of the kingdom but, simply 52 days after his birth, Henry’s much-loved heritage died.

The prince’s fatality devastated the couple but expect was restored with the birth of Princess mar in 1516. She birth confirmed Catherine can bear a living child, however could she provide a son? Henry, the seemed, had actually his doubts.

By 1525, through his mam no longer able come bear children and also with only one legitimate boy – a daughter at the – Henry began to question his marriage. Had Catherine and Arthur’s union to be consummated; was God punishing him for marrying his brother’s widow?


What is the rhyme around Henry VIII’s 6 wives?Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived

The ditty describes the fate of each wife: Catherine of Aragon and also Henry VIII divorce after the king damaged from Rome to marry his 2nd wife; Anne Boleyn passed away by execution after she to be accused of having sexual relations with five men, consisting of her brother, external of her marriage; mrs Seymour died during childbirth; Catherine Howard was beheaded; and also Katherine Parr outlived Henry VIII and consequently ‘survived’ their relationship.

The well known rhyme has been memorised by generations the school children learning around Henry VIII. Although only six words long, it is not completely accurate – Catherine that Aragon and Anne the Cleves did no technically divorce Henry VIII; rather their marriages were annulled.

Another version of the city is: “King Henry VIII, to six wives he was wedded. One died, one survived, two divorced, 2 beheaded”.


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Anne Boleyn (c1501–1536)


The daughter that a courtier and diplomat, Anne’s partnership with Henry brought about the English Reformation. She to be the very first English queen to it is in publicly executed



anne Boleyn, 2nd wife of Henry VIII and also mother that future queen, Elizabeth I. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE photo Collection via Getty Images)
Henry had an additional reason for wishing to end his marital relationship to Catherine of Aragon: he had actually fallen in love. The object of his affections was the quick-witted ann Boleyn, who had returned to England in 1522, after practically seven years living in ~ the French court.

By Tudor tastes, which held fair women in high esteem, the brunette, dark-eyed anne was no belle, yet her charm, style and also sophistication collection her apart from the other ladies at court and also ultimately captured Henry’s heart. Anne had been at court for four years prior to there was any type of hint that romance between the pair, yet by 1526 Cupid’s arrowhead had struck and also Henry had started courting ann in earnest.

In his at an early stage relationship v Anne, Henry revealed a genuinely romantic side – one that couple of would equate v the cantankerous, suspicious and cruel tyrant that his later years.

The 17 enduring love letters from Henry come Anne space the stuff of true Tudor romance. In them, it’s clear to check out that Henry’s desire for anne is growing, together is his frustration at her consistent refusal to end up being his mistress, and his desperation for the dissolved of his marriage. At some point in 1532, anne submitted come the king’s advances and, by December the year, she was pregnant. Henry was beside himself through joy. Achieving his annulment native Catherine – that clung grimly and also steadfastly to she marriage and also crown – now consumed his thoughts.

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It to be imperative the brand-new baby be born legitimate so, ~ above 25 January 1533, Henry married anne Boleyn in secret. With the Pope still refusing to finish the marriage, the monumental decision was taken to disapprove papal government altogether. Top top 23 May, Archbishop thomas Cranmer shown the annulment and Anne was crowned top top 1 June in a splendid coronation. Her seven-year wait because that crown, and king, was over.

Having overturned the spiritual and political life that England come marry Anne and conceive one heir, Henry was convinced his unborn son would be a son. The birth of Elizabeth, on 7 September 1533, therefore, to be a bitter blow and also must have caused substantial anxiety come Anne, who had seen her predecessor cast aside because that the same.

Sunshine and storms

The fiery nature that Henry and also Anne’s connection is well-documented yet they are also described together being “merry” together. Theirs, together one chronicler puts it, was “a tumultuous relationship of sunshine and also storms”.

Anne suffered at least two miscarriages during the marriage, the second of which, in January 1536, was a boy. But, regardless of Anne’s fail to develop an heir, the is widely believed that Henry remained committed to his wife. Court gossip and also intrigue, however, was to change his mind.

Anne’s downfall appears to have actually been an outcome of malicious gossip and also plots to end her influence over the King. Rumours of she infidelity arised after a lady-in-waiting to be heard to explain her own loose living as being “little in comparison through that the the Queen”. Henry, who prized chastity in his wives over all else, notified his chief minister, cutting board Cromwell, to investigate, telling him “if it turns out the your report, i beg your pardon I perform not great to believe, is untrue, you will get pain of death in location of .” tiny wonder, then, the by may 1536, Cromwell had actually unearthed ‘evidence’ that adultery, incest and also conspiring the king’s death.

Anne’s beheading, in ~ the hand of a French executioner, to be to be a transforming point in Henry’s life and also reign.


Henry’s break v Rome: king v popeHenry’s break with Rome heralded the creation of a brand-new Church, and also the king’s very own excommunication…

England’s split from papal power was motivated by Henry’s desire to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, a union because that which that felt God to be punishing him through a absence of male heir. The king desire come marry anne Boleyn only raised his determination: it came to be known together ‘The King’s an excellent Matter’.

In 1527, Pope Clement VII to be approached for an annulment ~ above scriptural grounds but, to Henry’s anger and frustration, it to be refused.

A legal method seemed the only solution and also it fell to Wolsey’s successor, thomas Cromwell, to use the powers of conference to decide the issue in the king favour. A collection of acts were passed, cutting earlier papal power and also influence in England.In 1533, thomas Cranmer was appointed come the short article of Archbishop of Canterbury and, on 23 might that year – accelerated by the news that anne was pregnant – the pronounced Henry and Catherine’s marital relationship to be against the regulation of God. 5 days later, Cranmer validated Anne and also Henry’s marriage, which had taken place some months earlier.

The pope was infuriated by the news, and excommunicated Henry. In England, parliament was rapidly called, and the legislation to enact Henry’s decision to break v the Church in Rome to be passed. The action of Supremacy, which complied with in November 1534, recognised Henry as supreme head of the Church that England, and rejected all “foreign authority”. This effectively brought an end to century of papal jurisdiction over spiritual life in England.

The act likewise stated that Henry and his heirs would have “full power and also authority native time come time to visit, repress, redress, reform, order, correct, restrain and amend all such errors, heresies, abuses, o ences… whatsoever lock be.”

Cromwell now had actually the tools through which to reform the English Church. In January 1536, he embarked ~ above the resolution of the Monasteries, happen their enormous wealth and also landholdings under crown control.


Lady-in-waiting come Catherine that Aragon and then anne Boleyn, Jane to be the only among Henry’s wives to get a queen’s funeral, in spite of the truth she was never ever crowned


As anne met she grisly end, Henry, now 45 and without a masculine heir, had already found his 3rd wife – mrs Seymour, Anne’s lady-in-waiting. Demure, calm and also gentle, 27-year-old Jane was Anne’s opposite in both looks and temperament, and also within 24 hrs of Anne’s death, Henry and Jane to be betrothed.

Jane’s organize over Henry has been much debated by historians. Although lacking Anne’s education and sophistication, woman is stated to have possessed a quiet determination and was maybe to control Henry and also his everincreasing outbursts the temper.

When Henry learned the her pregnancy in early 1537, that took good pains to ensure her every whim was catered for, also shipping quails eggs from France to satisfy her cravings. Nothing to be denied the woman he described as his “one true wife” and his attentions to be rewarded through the bear of Edward in October 1537. However 12 days later, Henry was mourning the fatality of his third wife, ~ postnatal complications.


Born in Düsseldorf, ann was culturally unsophisticated by Tudor standards. She was described as ‘The king Beloved Sister’ after ~ the annulment of her marriage to Henry


anne of Cleves, 4th wife the Henry VIII. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images); Paris, Musée Du Louvre. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
Henry remained solitary for two years after ~ Jane’s death, yet England had end up being vulnerable there is no the support of Rome. A politics alliance was considered necessary and the net was cast for a brand-new wife.

Henry’s first glimpse the his future bride, anne of Cleves, was a portrait by court artist Hans Holbein, in i beg your pardon she is depicted as a handsome, demure-looking woman. But, for Henry at least, the gap between portrait and reality was vast, and also after meeting ann he allegedly railed at his advisors: “I like her not! I favor her not!”

The conference was a disaster. Henry, in chivalric tradition, made decision to fulfill his bride-to-be in disguise. Anne’s function was to see with this to recognise her King and true love sadly no one defined this to anne who, once Henry attempted come kiss her, is said to have recoiled in ~ the over familiarity presented by what she regarded to be a lowly servant. Henry, faced with the fact that he to be no longer the gold Prince that his youth, to be utterly humiliated. The marriage lasted just six months – Henry to be allegedly can not to consummate the union and his eye were already collection on a new prize.


Cousin to ann Boleyn, Catherine was raised in the family members of she father’s stepmother in ~ Lambeth Palace. Her previous indiscretions and an affair v a courtier cost her her life


Now nearly 50, Henry had fallen in love again, with another lady-in-waiting: 19-year-old Catherine Howard. Come the ageing and ailing king, Catherine was everything a queen must be: obedient, fertile and also chaste. Henry to be entranced; Catherine made him feel young again, helping him forget the consistent pain of his ulcerated legs. “The King is so amorous the her that he cannot treat she well enough, and also caresses her an ext than that did the others”, created the French ambassador the the love-struck king. How Catherine felt around being married to a man old enough to be her grand is unknown, yet she is claimed to have embraced her lot of with an excellent grace, anxious to you re welcome her ambitious family.

Catherine loved the luxury of court and also her besotted husband showered her through expensive gifts. But, just 14 months into the marriage, a distraught Henry was presented with proof of Catherine’s infidelity: on 13 February 1542, his “rose without a thorn” was beheaded.


Already twice-widowed, Katherine had begun a romance v Thomas Seymour, brother to the late queen, once she recorded Henry’s eye. She go on to marry Seymour four months after the king death


Catherine’s fatality saw Henry slump right into a deep depression, and also with no new wife wait in the wings to distract him, his erratic temper make court a dangerous location to be. The lonely monarch necessary a companion and, in 1543, as plague broke out in London, Henry married twice-widowed Katherine Parr in ~ Hampton Court Palace.

Aged 31, Katherine was slim and attractive – far from the matronly number she is often portrayed as – v a deep love of learning and also desire for religious reform. She quickly developed herself as a major influence in Henry’s life, developing relationships v the imperial children and also tending come the king.


Her place seemed unshakeable, yet in 1546, Katherine almost became a 3rd victim the the executioner’s blade when her enthusiasm for the ‘new faith’ (Protestantism) triggered accusations of heresy. Tipped off in advance, Katherine took to her bed declare she was mortally ill; once Henry rushed to her side, she successfully defended herself and her actions. Katherine outlived Henry – together did anne of Cleves – yet she no at the king’s side once he died in 1547. As soon as this larger-than-life leader passed away, the was for sure in the expertise he had actually secured the extension of the Tudor dynasty. Yet as Henry was buried beside his beloved woman Seymour at Windsor Castle, no one can have known that it would be his daughters – Mary and also Elizabeth – that would adjust the course of brother history.

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Henry VIII’s royal mistressesIt wasn’t only the lawfully wedded wives who shared the king’s royal bed…

Henry’s favourite mistress to be Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Blount, lady-in-waiting come Catherine of Aragon. The affair started in c1514 and also it is even declared that Henry considered divorcing Catherine in order come marry her. Bessie offered birth come a child in 1519, a young the king called Henry Fitzroy. Fitzroy to be made Earl that Nottingham and also Duke of Richmond and Somerset in ~ the age of six, and Henry was even rumoured to be considering marrying Fitzroy to his legitimate daughter, Mary, together a means of legitimising the boy’s insurance claim to the throne. Even if it is Henry would have ever made Fitzroy his heir is unknown, because that he died of tuberculosis in 1536, aged 17.

Another the Henry’s known mistresses was mar Boleyn, sister come Anne. Mary, too, served at the French court, where she embarked on a cable of a airs, consisting of one through King Francis ns himself. Mary’s promiscuity earned her the nickname ‘The English Mare’ and, later, ‘The an excellent Prostitute’. Her five-year affair with Henry, which started in c1521, may have developed two children. Over there is even a insurance claim that Henry had actually an affair with Anne and Mary’s mother, Elizabeth, although as soon as asked even if it is he had actually “meddled both through the mother and also the sister”, he is claimed to have muttered “never v the mother”!