Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Henry VIII and his wives

I could write pretty much my whole life on the mythtories of this man and his wives.

Swiped from quickmeme.com

Quick! Pull out a piece of paper and see if you can answer these (without consulting Google).

1. How many wives did Henry VIII have?

2. How many wives did he kill?

3. How many wives did he divorce?

4. How many wives outlived Henry VIII?

Answers after the jump...
1. How many wives did Henry VIII have?

Henry VIII had six wives. In order they were:

  1. Catherine of Aragon (1509 – 1533)
  2. Anne Boleyn (1533 – 1536)
  3. Jane Seymour (1536 – 1537)
  4. Anne of Cleves (January 1540 – July 1540)
  5. Catherine Howard (1540 – 1541)
  6. Catherine Parr (1543 – 1547)

The most common incorrect number I hear is eight. I suspect that it's because he's Henry the eighth and people get caught up on the number 8. That and since the six women share only 3 names between them (one Jane, two Annes, and three Catherines) which were often spelled in different ways (Catherine Parr alone was variably spelled Katherine, Kateryn, Katheryne or Kathrine) some confusion is inevitable

2. How many wives did he kill?

Technically he didn't kill any of his wives, someone else did that. Of his wives, two were executed, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, and two died of natural causes.

Anne Boleyn was convicted of adultery, incest and treason (treason because for a queen to have an affair was by default treason), all crimes modern scholarship believes she was innocent of actually committing (the more likely crime was the same as Catherine of Aragon's -- the lack of a male heir and multiple miscarriages). Catherine Howard was also executed for adultery, but she was guilty of the crimes of which she was accused. The primary evidence used in her trial was a love letter she wrote to a lover eight months after she married Henry VIII.

Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, died of cancer, (though there were rampant rumors at the time  that she had died from poison) in 1536, while Anne Boleyn was still Queen Consort. 

Jane Seymour died due to complications of childbirth.

3. How many wives did he divorce?


This is somewhat of a trick question. Some readers are probably familiar with the rhyme:

King Henry the Eighth, to six wives he was wedded. 
One died, one survived, two divorced, two beheaded.

It's not quite accurate though, since Henry VIII didn't technically divorce anyone -- his marriages were annulled. A divorce is the legal ending of a valid marriage. An annulment declares that the marriage never actually existed in the first place. When Henry and Catherine of Aragon's marriage was annulled, it meant that they had never actually been legally married in the first place, and their daughter Mary was not a legitimate child, but a bastard born out of wedlock. 

Henry VIII had three marriages annulled: from Catherine of Aragon for having been married to his brother before, from Anne Boleyn on the grounds of adultery, and from Anne of Cleves on the grounds of their marriage having never been consummated. 

4. How many wives outlived Henry VIII?

Henry VIII died 28 January 1547. Two of his wives,  Anne of Cleves and Catherine Parr outlived him.

After Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII's marriage was annulled, she was declared to be "The King's Beloved Sister." She continued to live in England until she died in  the summer of 1557, two months shy of her 42nd birthday, most likely of cancer. 

Catherine Parr was his wife when he died. After Henry VIII's death, she married Thomas Seymour, becoming Her Majesty Queen Catherine, The Lady Seymour of Sudeley. She died in  1548 at the age of 35, due to complications after childbirth. 

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