The Six Wives of Henry VIII

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The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived: these are the ultimate fates of the six wives of Henry VIII. Henry took his first bride, Catherine of Aragon, when he was seventeen. They lasted twenty-four years together, but Catherine suffered through many miscarriages and failed to produce a male heir. Henry then fell in love with Anne Boleyn, the mother of Elizabeth I. Their relationship transformed England forever, but Henry had Anne beheaded and married his next wife, Jane Seymour, days after Anne's execution. At last, Seymour gave birth to Henry's longed-for-son, Edward VI. What followed was a beauty contest which ended in the King's brief marriage to the "mare of Flanders," Anne of Cleves. Finally, there were the two Catherines: Catherine Howard, the flirtatious teenager whose adulteries made a fool of the aging kind and who was the second bride to lose her head; and Catherine Parr, the shrewd, religiously radical author who outlived him.

Catherine of Aragon was the youngest surviving child of the "Catholic Kings," Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon. She was betrothed from an early age to Henry's older brother, Prince Arthur. In preparation of her future as Queen Consort, she was schooled in Latin and French, religious texts, Roman history, philosophy, civil and church law plus traditional bridal skills - embroidery, music, dance, drawing and, even, cooking. In 1501, Catherine, aged sixteen, arrived in England to wed Arthur. Their marriage did not last long, however, as Arthur died the following year. Catherine's parents, eager for an alliance with England, were quick to negotiate a betrothal between the newly widowed Catherine and the new heir to the throne. By the time Prince Henry was old enough to be wed, Henry VII was no longer so keen for a...