Henry VIII’s Life: The King of England Who Had Six Wives


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Lauren Kramer, Writer

Henry Tudor, also known as Henry VIII, was born on June 28, 1491, in the Greenwich Palace in London, England. He was the son of Henry VII and Elizabeth York and was one of four surviving children out of six children. He was the second son of Henry VII, with his older brother, Arthur, being prepared for the throne. As a child and young adult, he was highly educated by private tutors, leading him towards a church career with an education in theology, music, languages, poetry, and sports. 

On April 2, 1502, Henry VIII’s older brother Arthur died of an unknown sickness titled the “English Sweat”, which can show influenza symptoms and lead to death in a mere three hours. His unexpected death at the age of fifteen made Henry VIII the next person to take the throne. Arthur had been promised a union with Catherine of Aragon since the age of two, and they had been married for a few months before his death. In the turn of events, she remarried and was the first wife to King Henry VIII as he began his rule.

Henry VIII began his rule at the age of seventeen, and during the first fifteen years of his rule, he had engaged in three wars with France. During this time, Catherine of Aragon gave birth to three daughters and three sons, with only one daughter surviving infancy. The only surviving child  was Mary I, who was born in 1516.

Other than causing a large number of wars in a short amount of time, Henry was also an active king in hunting, jousting, festive court, writing, and playing music. He also spent his time issuing an attack against Martin Luther’s church reforms, and through this earned the title of “Defender of the Faith” from Pope Leo X. All of these activities could not stop the thought Henry was plagued with: the lack of a male heir for the throne. 

Around the 1520’s, Henry became obsessed with Anne Boleyn, who was a part of Catherine’s entourage. Because of his infatuation with Anne, and the fear that his marriage with Catherine was cursed because she was the widow of his brother, Henry began to seek an annulment that would free him to remarry. Henry appealed to Pope Clement VII to get this annulment, but it failed because Catherine’s nephew refused and pressured them to stop their pursuit of the divorce.

Henry came to the ultimate conclusion that he didn’t need the pope’s permission, and he married Anne in 1533. During the early years of their marriage, Anne gave birth to their daughter, Elizabeth I, and during this time Henry made sure that England’s monasteries were all closed because they denied his divorce. He sold them and added the money to his wealth, and feeling full ability to do whatever he wanted, he made Elizabeth his heir and made Catherine’s child illegitimate for the throne.

At the beginning of the year 1536, Henry was injured in a jousting tournament. The stress of this accident caused Anne to miscarry, and deliver a stillborn son. Henry then rejected her and focused his attention on another woman, Jane Seymour. Six months later, Henry had Anne executed for treason and incest and quickly married Jane. They rapidly had a son (Edward VI), and Jane died two weeks later of a bacterial infection and puerperal fever

Henry married again, this time to a woman named Anne of Cleves, who was a political marriage to gain the support from her brother who was the Protestant duchy in Germany. The marriage lasted a few days before Henry had it annulled. He ended their marriage and their alliance because he found signs that she had been previously pregnant, and he wanted someone who was still a virgin. 

His fifth wife was Catherine Howard, who was, two years after their marriage, accused and found guilty of treason and adultery. She was immediately beheaded due to King Henry VIII’s claims, and didn’t get a trial. The difference between Catherine Howard and Henry’s other previous wives was that she was actually guilty of her crimes. She was still undeserving of death as a punishment, but she is actually the only one to ever commit the crimes she was accused of by Henry VIII.

During the end of his life, Henry became temperamental, obese, and was in great pain from his lingering injuries from the jousting tournament he was in in the past. For his final marriage, he married a woman called Catherine Parr in 1543, who was a great stepmother to his three living children. In a turn of events, Henry restored Mary I and Elizabeth I (his daughters) back into the line of the throne along with Edward VI.

Henry VIII died on January 28, 1547, at the age of fifty-five caused by an ulcer on his leg from the jousting tournament many years before, and of natural causes from obesity. Catherine Parr remarried six months later to the brother of Jane Seymour, Thomas Seymour, and died eight days after giving birth to his child due to puerperal fever. At the age of nine, Edward VI took the throne but died a mere six years later. Mary I had a five-year reign, where she tried to steer England back into Catholic beliefs, but was ultimately replaced by Elizabeth I who continued her father’s ideals and his religious reforms.