Henry VIII King of England (1509–47) and Married life full of tragic events

Henry VIII King of England | A married life full of tragic events

Henry VIII and Tragedy With His Wifes

Henry VIII was inseparable from his married life. Out of all of them, his marriage is remembered for the drama and noise that surrounded their breakups.

Youth and beginnings of the king

Henry VIII, born at Greenwich Palace in London in 1491 and died at Westminster Palace in 1547, is a Renaissance ruler. He has passed down to posterity as the bloody king with six wives. Henry VIII is the son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.
On the death of his father in 1509, he acceded to the throne of England because his older brother Arthur died in 1502. Nine weeks later, he married his brother Arthur’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, to assert the role of l ‘England in Europe.
In 1511, Henry VIII, who very often rode on horseback to the point of wearing several mounts a day, joined the Holy League, an alliance of the sovereigns of Spain (Ferdinand II), of the Holy Roman Empire (Maximilian I) and of the papacy (Julius II), against the king of France, Louis XII in Italy. In 1513, he defeated the French army in the North and won the battle. Scotland, ally of France, took advantage of the absence of the King of England to attack the kingdom. The Scottish army was defeated and much of the aristocracy was killed, as was the King of Scotland, James IV. This victory ended the Scottish threat to the kingdom of England. In 1514, Henry VIII arranged a marriage between Louis XII, King of France, and his sister Marie Tudor. An alliance between France and England is then contracted, but this will lapse a month later when Charles V and Henry VIII signed in Gravelines a secret treaty by which the two monarchs undertook not to conclude with France. a closer alliance than those that already existed. By this treaty, Henry VIII approaches Charles Quint, without adopting a policy hostile to France. In 1518, the Treaty of London was signed by the four great powers of France, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain and England. It is a non-aggression pact in which each signatory state undertakes to unite against the power which would come to break the peace aiming to maintain peace in Europe after the battle of Marignan. However, in 1521, Francis I started the Sixth Italian War. Henry VIII, learning that Francis I was in captivity following his defeat at Pavia in 1525, decides to end all diplomatic efforts and offers Charles V to help his armies to invade France. Charles V refuses and the invasion of France by the English army could not be carried out.

The six wives of Henry VIII, insatiable (never enough) ruler

6 Wives of King Henry VIII of England
6 Wives of King Henry VIII of England. Photo credit: Shakko / Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 4.0

He was a rabelaisian (totally outrageous) king and versatile, cunning and angry. But it is above all for his numerous marriages and the often tragic fate of his wives that posterity has retained his name. his frantic desire for an heir unleashed a war of clans and advisers which most often ended under the ax of the executioner.

1. Catherine of Aragon, married twenty-three years (1509-1533): the bulky Catholic

For Henry VII, first king of the Tudor dynasty, his son Arthur’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was strategic. The kings of England claimed the throne of the Valois. By uniting with Spain, they took the French adversary in pincers. Arthur died prematurely, but Henry VIII, his brother, could perpetuate the alliance by marrying Catherine, six years his senior. A major problem remained to be resolved: the Church forbade a brother-in-law to marry his sister-in-law. The Queen swore that the marriage with Arthur had not been consummated and was therefore null and void. We waited the necessary months to ensure that no pregnancy was in progress. Then Pope Julius II ratified the marriage of Catherine and Henry, celebrated in 1509. The two spouses conceived six children, but all died in infancy, except the future Marie Tudor.

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Henry Tudor multiplied the number of mistresses: he wanted to obtain this boy that Catherine, in his eyes, was incapable of giving him. In 1519, Henry VIII became the father of a bastard named Henry Fitzroy. he raised him Duke of Rich Mond and considered making him his heir. For the queen, the affront was unbearable. sure of her rights, Catherine, who was nothing less than the aunt of Emperor Charles V, intrigued with Spain to force her husband to treat her with more consideration. his actions pushed Henry a little more to divorce. The procedure lasted seven long years. It poisoned relations between England and Rome, which supported the daughter of the Spanish Catholic rulers. Henry passed on and repudiated Catherine in 1533. She died alone at Kimbolton Castle in 1536, a simple Dowager Princess of Wales. As for Henri, he was excommunicated.

2. Anne Boleyn, married three years (1533-1536): attractive to the point of losing her mind

Henry VIII absolutely wanted an heir. his bastard, Lord Fitzroy, although dead young, had proved to him that he could conceive a viable male. Many schemers knew how to use this royal obsession. A real war of the clans began. The first to come forward was that of Anne Boleyn. Sir Tomas, ambassador to Margaret of Austria, regent of the Netherlands, then to Francis I, maneuvered to push his daughters into the arms of Henry VIII. Anne was the companion of Queen Claude of France. With her older sister, Marie, they had grown up in a refined courtyard, where the recipes of gallantry ran the alcoves. At the Camp du Drap d’Or interview in 1520, when England and France swore perpetual peace, Boleyn placed Mary in Henry’s path. She immediately became his mistress. But the king grew weary of her, too docile. Anne the younger, entered the scene in 1525.

Intriguing and astute, she did not give in to Henri’s advances, but stirred up her passion. while the king’s “big business”, his divorce, dragged on, he “got mad” in the terms used at the time. In 1533, Anne and Henri married and the Archbishop of Cantor Béry finally annulled, under the king’s constraint, the marriage with Catherine of Aragon. A daughter was born – who will come from Elisabeth 1st. But the king shunned this birth. The courteous idyll quickly turned into a nightmare. Anne multiplied the miscarriages and Henri, kept away from her by his pregnancies, took mistresses. Jealousy and mistrust took hold. In 1536, she lost a boy in the twentieth week. For Henri, the cup was full. When his new wife appeared in the company of a Flemish musician, Mark de Smedt, the king, already infatuated with Jeanne Seymour, found there to be grounds for accusation. In the process, Anne was convicted of incest with her own brother, George, and jailed on May 2. her supposed lovers were beheaded on May 17, 1536. Anne met the same fate two days later.

3. Jeanne Seymour, married sixteen months (1536-1537): a great love without a crown

The Boleyn clan having exhausted its assets, another tried its luck with the king. Sir John Seymour placed his hopes in his fifth daughter, Jeanne. She had an advantageous lineage. his family prided themselves on having received some Plantagenet blood six generations ago. wise and reserved, Joan had arrived at Court first as Queen Catherine’s maid of honor before joining Queen Anne Boleyn’s entourage. The first rumors of her affair with the king spread from 1536. For Henri, she was a real balm at the end of his stormy marriage. Rome, after the episode of the schismatic queen, was waiting for Henry VIII to fall into line to cancel the excommunication. Charles V hoped that he would remarry in his line, for example with a Portuguese princess. But to their great disappointment, only ten days after the beheading of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII married Joan. only Francis I was relieved to see the King of England take a wife among his own nobility, the previous marriage with Spain having represented for him a dangerous alliance.

Jeanne Seymour was declared queen on June 4, 1536, but she was never crowned. The prudent king wanted to wait until he had a male heir before formalizing his marriage with great pomp. In Whitehall, the Court changed dramatically. Jeanne banned French fashion, she imposed a strict dress code and had laws enacted regulating the wearing of fur and pearls. After exuberance à la Boleyn, rigor was now required. In 1537, Jeanne became pregnant and joined Hampton Court Palace until the birth, on October 12, of a boy: the future Edward VI. Twelve days later, she died of puerperal fever. Henri was deeply affected. he still considered her “the only real woman” he had ever had. he mourned for three months and did not remarry for three years. And it was with her that he chose to be buried, in 1547, in Saint-George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

4. Anne of Cleves, married six months (January-June 1540): a friend, and nothing more

At that time, the marriage of princes was often a state affair: it initialed alliances and treaties by blood. To establish and arrange them, ministers and advisers jostled each other. Dissatisfied with their services, Henry VIII used them and beheaded as many, if not more, as wives. In Catherine of Aragon’s time, the king had Cardinal Wolsey as his principal minister. This married clergyman failed to obtain a royal divorce and died in prison. Humanist Tomas More, a friend of Erasmus, succeeded him as chancellor. A devout Catholic, he never accepted marriage with Anne Boleyn and paid for it with his own head in 1535. The ambitious Tomas Cromwell, who was Wolsey’s former protege, then became the king’s chief adviser. This diplomat, won over to the reform, negotiated the marriage of Henry VIII with Anne of Cleves.

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This union was very useful, because Anne of Cleves was a Protestant princess. In 1539, England was at bay. Against all expectations, Charles V had just signed peace with yesterday’s enemy, François I. For Henry VIII, this treaty represented an extremely perilous shift in political alliances. he now had to face a Catholic coalition.

Henri chooses Anne after seeing her portrait painted by Hans Holbein the Younger. But the model disappointed. She spoke only German and, despite an official marriage on January 6, 1540, he obtained its annulment in July of the same year. The former spouses nevertheless remained good friends. Henry VIII gave him lands and castles and always called him “his beloved sister”. Anne of Cleves resided in England until her death in 1557, at the age of 41.

5. Catherine Howard, married one year and seven months (1540-1542): very quickly unfaithful

The marriage with Anne de Clèves had been a fiasco. its instigator Tomas Cromwell paid for it with his head. In July 1540, he was convinced of treason and heresy … With the fall of Cromwell, the reformers gave way to the traditional Catholicists. The Duke of Norfolk was their leader. But it was too late to reverse the Anglican schism. The king had become the absolute governor of the Church and the ecclesiastical property integrated into the domain of the Crown. However, the iconoclastic fury that had sacked churches and monasteries refused.

Norfolk’s niece Catherine Howard, 19, had neither the education of Anne Boleyn, nor the gentle beauty of Jeanne Seymour, but a lot of temper. It pleased the king. The wedding took place on July 28, 1540. It was a young rose of choice for a 48-year-old man who was now obese, suffering from osteomyelitis and diabetes. But Henry VIII did not know much about the young Catherine. She hadn’t been a virgin since she was 14. And as soon as she was married, young Howard was proud, a spendthrift and above all devoid of all prudence. She reconnected with one of her former admirers, Tomas Culpepper, gentleman of the king’s chamber. Their dates were chaperoned by Lady Rochford, the surviving widow of George Boleyn. Worse, this giddy Catherine called two youthful lovers to her.

His actions reached the ears of Tomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, a fierce anti-papist. he reported them to Henri, who at first refused to hear the truth. Then he resolved to have Catherine, but also Lady Rochford, Culpepper and Dereham, one of his first lovers, beheaded in February 1542.

6. Catherine Parr, married three years and six months (1543-1547): and finally, the virtuous widow

Given the tragic fate of the Boleyn and Howard clans, no one was in a hurry to slip a nubile virgin into the bed of a king already provided with three heirs: the child Edward, 6, Elisabeth, 10, and the eldest, Marie Tudor, 27 years old. However, a 30-year-old woman, twice widowed, came forward. Catherine Neville Lady Latimer, more commonly known by her maiden name, Parr, had had the life of an obedient wife, successively married to two men older than herself, each very ill. She had had to move closer to London with her first husband to find better doctors. Catherine became familiar with the Seymours, the only clan to have survived the royal wrath. Well versed in theology, she loved debating ideas. She was noticed by both Sir Tomas Seymour and Henry VIII. Tomas ceded precedence to the old monarch who married Catherine on July 12, 1543.

Calm and dignified, she was the antithesis of Catherine Howard. She knew how to take care of the sick king, imposing herself by her gentleness and her tolerance. She bonded strongly with the Princess Marie who had inherited the rigorous Catholicism of Catherine of Aragon, but placed around the three royal heirs of the preceptors who dispensed them an enlightened humanism. Catherine’s religious views were complex. She wrote, and her “Lamentations of a Fisherman” were published after the death of Henry VIII. During the king’s lifetime, his Protestant inclinations nevertheless brought him some setbacks, fueled by powerful Catholics. But Henri paid little attention to it.

When the sovereign died in 1547, this reserved and pious woman suddenly gave in to passion. She married Sir Thomas Seymour, Admiral of the Fleet. At 35, she fell pregnant for the first time, gave birth to a baby Marie and died shortly after of puerperal fever. She thus knew the same end as Jeanne Seymour, the sister of her fourth husband and the wife of her third…


Catherine of Aragon, repudiated. Anne Boleyn, executed. Jeanne Seymour, died in childbirth. Anne de Clèves, scarcely (dismissed) married. Catherine Howard, beheaded. Only Catherine Parr pulls out of the game by bringing Henry Tudor a little stability.

King Henry VIII’s old age

The king, who was old, became fat, no longer moving with difficulty. He could no longer use his intellectual capacity in the past. Henry VIII, pursuing his religious policies, violently suppressed the Catholic revolt in April 1441 and forbade the lower classes and women from reading the Bible in English. In November 1541, learning of Catherine Howard’s infidelity, he was executed in February 1542. In 1543, he married Catherine Parr and entrusted the education of her children to the reformers. Henry really wanted to protect the unity of the kingdom.

Henry VIII King of England | A married life full of tragic events
Henry VIII King of England | A married life full of tragic events. Photo credit: Architas / Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 4.0

Descendants of Henry VIII

Of his six wives, Henry VIII had three legitimate children:
– Marie, future Marie Ière, daughter of Catherine of Aragon
– Elisabeth, future Elisabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn
– Edouard, future Edouard VI, son of Jeanne Seymour

Sources: PinterPandai, HistoryThe Royal HouseholdHistoricHistoric Royal Palace


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