Heritage

9 Juicy Tidbits About King Henry VIII And His Six Wives

His shortest marriage lasted only six months.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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Regarded as lustful, charismatic, harsh, and insecure, King Henry VII lived an intriguing royal life with a story that spanned six wives, two daughters and a crown prince, and everything in between.

1. Even as a child, the young Henry already had a lot of interests.

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He was athletic and spent a lot of time jousting, hunting, and playing tennis. Henry was a sweet young man who wrote love poems and music, too. Aside from singing, he could also play the flute and the organ.

 

2. He was only 18 when he was first married.


His first wife, Catherine of Aragon was five years his senior. She was first married to Henry's older brother Arthur, who died at an early age.

Aside from Catherine not being able to give Henry a male heir to the throne, it was also because of her previous marriage that made the King believe that their union was cursed, and was insistent on defying the church and getting an annulment.

 

3. Second wife Anne Boleyn has often been portrayed as the most problematic.


The King is said to have been obsessed with pursuing Anne, and in one of his popular love notes, he wrote a promise of kissing her duckys—an old Tudor term for breasts. It was because of Anne that Henry disobeyed the words of the Pope and forced the annulment, eventually turning England into a Protestant country.

Anne Boleyn gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth, who would eventually become Queen Elizabeth I, one of the most highly regarded monarchs in Britain history. However, the King still desired a crown prince.

The second wife turned out to possess qualities appealing for a mistress, but not for a wife. Anne was never regarded as the gentle, soft-spoken, and submissive type of wife, and her contrary nature soon became a problem for the King.

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It was also during Henry’s marriage to Anne that he fell off his horse in a jousting tournament, was unconscious for hours, and suffered a serious leg injury—which later on affected his life, causing him to gain weight to the point of obesity, and to have frequent mood swings.

With Henry’s interest in Anne waning, he soon began seeing his would-be third wife, one of Anne’s ladies-in-waiting, Jane Seymour. By this time, Anne had already grown insecure and was anxious about her position, especially as she could not produce a male heir. She was greatly outraged when she caught Jane sitting on her husband's lap. It has been speculated that this caused Anne another miscarriage, and this time, it was supposedly a male child, who could have been her savior.

4. Henry became obese and it had effects on his potency.


The King’s waistline measured four-and-a-half feet in circumference, and because of his weight, he was at times impotent, although he would never admit it. Mechanical devices were installed to help him get in and out of bed and on and off his horse.

 

5. The King’s third wife, Jane Seymour, seemed to be the true love of his life.


Jane Seymour was regarded as the complete opposite of Anne, whose motto was to be “the most happy,” while Jane’s was “bound to obey and serve”.

Jane gave birth to an heir to the crown, Edward (eventually, Edward VI of England). Jane died shortly after childbirth, due to an infection, and the King requested to be buried right next to her come his death.

 

6. There were rumors that Anne of Cleves had body odor.


One of Henry's advisors recommended his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. Henry agreed and sent his favorite portrait painter, Hans Holbein the Younger, to Germany to create a likeness of his wife-to-be. He was pleased with the image he saw.

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Meeting her in person, however, was a different story. Henry did not find her attractive, and there have been speculations that her having body odor and saggy breasts were a factor, too. The King allegedly referred to her as “A Flander’s Mare” as she was ugly and resembled a horse.

Their marriage was annulled shortly, and Anne was rewarded with two houses and an allowance for agreeing to the King's requests. They remained good friends afterward.

 

7. Henry's fifth wife was not a virgin and he apparently was not aware of it.

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Catherine Howard was only nineteen when she married the King, who was then almost fifty. She was young and flirtatious and was often seen with younger men. There were rumors about her having an affair but Henry didn't believe them.

It was only until the King found out that Catherine had already had sexual relations before their marriage that he began to loathe her. She supposedly had several former lovers, including her cousin and a musician. It was Archbishop Cranmer who exposed her secret to the King, citing an old servant as his informant.

8. The last and sixth wife outlived the King.


Katherine Parr was popular and fondly loved by the children of the King. She was intelligent yet sweet-tempered, well-educated, and a great writer, too. She was a leader who could be trusted and had ruled as her husband’s Regent while he was away at war in France.

After Henry’s death, crown prince Edward Seymour took power, instead of Katherine becoming regent. She secretly married Edward’s younger brother Thomas, hopeful that their marriage would allow them to regain control of the royal brood.

 

9. A popular rhyme speaks of the fate of his six wives.

“Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived”—simplifies what eventually happened to the end of his six wives. It is a well-known poem was made into a song and played on Horrible Histories, a children’s show that helped them learn about history. While the rhyme isn’t entirely accurate (because three of his marriages were annulled and Anne of Cleves survived him, too), it was taught in school in to help students remember the fate of the King’s wives.

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