There is much fascination surrounding Henry VIII’s six wives, but who exactly were they? Some people’s knowledge only stretches as far as the well-known rhyme describing how they were either killed; largely beheaded, or annulled by the notorious King of England.
The first of these wives was Catherine of Aragon. Originally the wife of seven months to Henry’s brother Arthur, Catherine came to England and married into the English royal family in 1501, marrying Henry in 1509. Henry and Catherine’s marriage lasted the longest out of all of the six, and Catherine was one of the most popular of the wives with the English people. Being a Spanish princess, she had a great deal of experience in royal and political affairs, allowing her to deal with any political problems which arose in the country. Catherine even took charge when the king was in France and at war in 1513.
Catherine’s problems in her marriage were rooted in the fact that she struggled to give Henry a male heir, with her marriage to Henry boasting only one living child – Mary. With the Tudor dynasty in trouble, Henry soon turned his attentions to other women. This being where Anne Boleyn made her appearance. With the promise of a son elsewhere, Catherine was asked by the king for an annulment, thus ending their marriage. This was no easy feat, with the marriage eventually being declared invalid in 1533, Catherine never in fact agreed to the annulment. Catherine insisted she was the rightful Queen and wife of the king right up until her death in 1536. Catherine’s defiance arguably hardened her daughter Mary’s attitude and outlook on life as she grew up, as she saw the harsh treatment of her mother by the father and country she loved. This first in a string of failed marriages would change the face of the Tudor monarchy and turn the wheels of religious reform that would soon take place in the country.