While watching Shakespeare's play, Richard III, it occurred to me why the
Pilgrims came to America. They couldn't remember the names of all the Kings
and Queens in England. In the play it seemed that everyone was named
Richard, Edward, or Henry - even the women. All right, I'm exaggerating
about the women. But there was Queen Elizabeth with a daughter Elizabeth,
who became Henry VIII's mother, who named one of his daughter's Elizabeth.
Did no one own a copy of, 101 Names to Name Your Child? And what is the
Queens name today? I rest my case. So, I've decided to assist those souls that have shied away from English
history for just this reason. I can help the reader at least remember the names of the six wives of Henry the 8th.
If someone starts talking about English history, one can simply say, "My favorite period has always been the reign
of Henry VIII," and proceed to regale the listener with the names of his wives. Any history professors that are
easily offended - stop reading now. The rest of you may laugh but these methods got me through college.
First remember this: Divorced - Beheaded - Died - Divorced - Beheaded - Survived These are the fates that his wives met. It will make more sense as we proceed.
Then remember this:
Catherine of Aragon - 23 years and gone.
Anne Boleyn - He decided he wanted to go bowling with Anne Boleyn.
Jane Seymour - He decided he wanted to see more - of Jane Seymour.
Ann of Cleves - He asked to leave
Katherine Howard - Was no coward
Katherine Parr - Outlived him - not far
This is how we remember their names and it will make more sense as we proceed also.
Wife Number One: Catherine of Aragon
Aragon was a region of Spain. Catherine's parents were the infamous Ferdinand and Isabella that sent Columbus off to discover American. (But they hadn't done that yet.) The thing you want to remember about Catherine is that she was first married to Henry's brother Arthur, who died a year after their marriage at a very young age. She and Arthur had supposedly "not done it"- so it was all right for the new King, (after his father, Henry VII had died) to marry her. Henry was only 17 years old - Catherine was 23 years old. Henry sincerely cared for her and they were married a long time - 23 years. But in all those years Catherine had only one child that survived, a daughter, Mary. Henry was obsessed with having a male heir. After all those years Catherine was middle-aged and past her childbearing years - and there was a really hot chick in the court, Anne Boleyn. But Catherine was a devote Catholic and refused to give Henry a divorce or annulment. She knew this would affect the legitimacy of her daughter as well.
Anne Boleyn -
He decided he wanted to go
bowling with Anne Boleyn.
Wife Number Two: Anne Boleyn
Anne was said to be smart, witty, and pretty. And she played her cards right. Anne didn't sleep with Henry for six years, driving him to distraction. Only when he promised to marry her did she acquiesce.
It is often inferred, that Henry dismantled the church only to marry Anne. He certainly did want to marry her and he certainly did want to have a male heir. But there were already many, many people that were also trying to change the shape of the Catholic Church before Henry got the hots for Anne. He contended that his marriage to Catherine was not valid because she had been married to his brother (now he thinks of that.) The Roman Catholic Church and Catherine refused to agree with him. The Pope was on the side of Catherine and her family and excommunicated Henry from the Catholic Church. Henry formed his own Church of England, of which he was the supreme head and married Anne Boleyn. Anne had a baby girl - Elizabeth. Like Catherine before her, she had many failed pregnancies. Henry was not pleased. Not only did Anne have a daughter but, the bloom was off the romance. Anne was smart and witty but she had a temper and that wasn't so adorable now. He and his ministers framed her for adultery and had her beheaded. Being Henry, he already had his eye on a new girl around court, Jane Seymour.
Jane Seymour -
He decided he wanted
to see more - of Jane Seymour.
Wife Number Three: Jany Seymour
Jane was everything that Anne wasn't - sweet, submissive, adoring. She did the right thing and refused his advances to protect her family's honor. Henry married her and made her his Queen a few weeks after Anne's beheading. Jane got pregnant and had a son and heir, Edward. She died twelve days after giving birth. Henry was devastated. But when you are King, (and head of the Church of England) it is always best to have an heir and a "spare." Within two years, Henry wanted a new wife.
NOTE HERE - Henry has had 3 wives and 3 children - his only children. By wife number 3 - he had 3 - Mary, Elizabeth and Edward.
Ann of Cleves - He asked to leave.
Wife Number Four: Anne of Cleves
Henry's ministers went about Europe looking for someone of royal blood for him to marry. They returned with a painting of a woman they thought was "suitable" for him, a German Princess. This would be an advantageous alliance with another Protestant country. Henry agreed to marry her but when she showed up for the wedding, he found her less than attractive. She was young - in her twenties, but she was not gifted or highly educated. It's more than likely that Anne wasn't thrilled either. Henry was fat and aging. They married but the marriage was never consummated. Since there would be no heirs there needed to be a way out of the marriage for both of them and quickly. Anne agreed but wanted to stay in England. He divorced her but gave her a large income and she was given the title, "Henry's Dear Sister," and respected in Court.
Katherine Howard -
Was no coward.
Wife Number Five: Katherine Howard
By now Henry was in his late forties, obese and troubled by an ulcerated leg. But he was King and he wanted a pretty young thing he saw around court. Katherine Howard was still in her teens, pretty and petite. Unlike his previous wives she could barely read and write. But she knew how to flirt and flatter the King. After a year of being Queen, Katherine became bored. She didn't remain faithful to old cantankerous Henry. What was she thinking? Had she not paid attention to what had happened to his previous four wives? She was no coward - but stupid - so "Off with her head." Henry was plunged into misery and never recovered from the heartbreak of Katherine's betrayal. Katherine never recovered either - being beheaded and all.
Katherine Parr -
Outlived him - not far.
Wife Number Six: Katherine Parr
By now Henry is in his fifties and sickly and just wanted a stable home life, some companionship, and a nurse. He wasn't looking for a mistress - those had gotten him into a lot of trouble. There was a young widow at court that had out-lived two husbands and was only 31 years old. Katherine reluctantly agreed to marry Henry. She entertained the King with intellectual and philosophical discussions and she was good to Henry's three children and brought the family closer together. They were married for three years - until his death in 1547. She out-lived him - but not by far. Katherine was left a wealthy widow and married a former suitor. She died shortly after giving birth to a daughter, only two years after Henry.
Divorced - Beheaded - Died - Divorced -
Beheaded - Survived
Now it makes more sense doesn't it?
Catherine - Anne - Jane - Anne - Katherine - Katherine
See what I mean about the names? There were 3 Katherines, 2 Annes, 1 Jane.
1. Catherine of Aragon - 23 years and gone.
2. Anne Boleyn - He decided he wanted to go bowling with Anne Boleyn.
3. Jane Seymour - He decided he wanted to see more - of Jane Seymour.
4. Anne of Cleves - He asked to leave
5. Katherine Howard - Was no coward
6. Katherine Parr - Outlived him - not far
The reader is now fully versed in the wives of Henry VIII. Here they are in order. Quick - name them - don't peek.