|Katherine of Aragon
|Anne of Cleves
King Henry is most infamously remembered for his marital life, rather than his kingship. As the jingle goes: Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived. Henry became king when his older brother, Arthur, passed away. He married his brother’s wife, Queen Katherine of Aragon. Yes, that’s right, his brother’s wife. There’s your first indication that these people were crazy.
Katherine gave birth to Henry’s first daughter, who was to become Queen Mary I. While married to Katherine, who could not bear a son, Henry had many affairs, including Mary Boleyn. When Mary became pregnant with their second child, he fell in love with Mary’s sister Anne Boleyn. What’s with Henry and siblings? Anyway, Henry became obsessed with divorcing Katherine in order to marry Anne, and when the Pope would not grand the divorce he broke ties with the Church of Rome.
After Henry and Anne wed, Anne gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I, but she also couldn’t bear Henry an heir to the throne. When Anne refused to accept Henry’s affair with Jane Seymour, and after two miscarriages with no sons, he accused her of adultery and treason, leading to her beheading at the Tower of London. Shortly after, Henry married Jane Seymour.
Jane gave birth to a son, the future King Edward VI, but she died soon after childbirth from an infection. She was pretty boring anyway. Henry’s advisors, mainly Thomas Cromwell, advised him to marry Anne of Cleves. Unfortunately for Henry, Anne’s portrait was more flattering than reality, and she smelled bad, so he quickly divorced her in exchange for his beheaded wife Anne’s childhood home Hever Castle and a lifetime supply of deodorant.
In case you’ve lost count, we’re on wife number five: Catherine Howard, Anne Boleyn’s cousin, who married Henry when she was only a teenager. Henry was almost 50 at the time, and his leg was oozing from an old wound that didn’t heal and smelled even worse than Anne of Cleves. Gross. Catherine had several affairs and admitted being promiscuous before marriage, and was charged with treason. Fearful of the axe, she escaped from the guards at Hampton Court Palace to run to the chapel where Henry attended mass. She banged on the doors and screamed Henry’s name, which her ghost supposedly continues to do to this day. Spooky. Eventually, she was detained and ultimately beheaded at the Tower of London.
Finally, Henry ended his run with Catherine Parr. By this time, Henry was too obese and covered in boils from his gout and massively oozing at the leg to consider it weird that he was on his third Catherine. Catherine disagreed with Henry over religion, but was submissive enough to survive until after Henry’s death. Within a two years, Catherine remarried and died in childbirth. So things really didn’t work out for any of Henry’s wives. Except for Anne of Cleves, who lived the remainder of her stinky life at Hever Castle.