Since I’m doing a podcast on Henry VIII, I thought I could share some of the details of his crazy love life. As the title implies, Henry had 6 wives, and for some reason, they all had the same names. Not very original, Henry.
1. Catherine of Aragon
Catherine of Aragon was the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. Yes, that Ferdinand and Isabella. The ones who sent Columbus in search of a route to China (which would ultimately lead to the death of a lot of Native Americans).
Catherine was originally engaged to Arthur, Henry’s older brother. But 6 months after they were married, Arthur kicked the bucket. 14 months after that, Henry and Catherine were engaged, but Henry was not old enough to be married. So they sat around until 1505, when the marriage was supposed to take place.
Unfortunately, by 1505, Henry VII had cooled down to the idea of a Spanish alliance, and the marriage was cancelled.
Poor Catherine hung around in marriage limbo for 4 years, getting older and less fertile, and in 1509, Henry VII passed away. Almost immediately, Henry VIII (are you confused by the roman numerals yet?) married Catherine, and they were crowned together.
Then they immediately got busy with the important business of making royal babies.
Catherine miscarried their first child. Their second child was a boy, named Henry (seriously, we needed another Henry?). Unfortunately, Henry ‘IX’ died 52 days after his birth. Then Catherine miscarried again, and then had another shortlived son.
Finally, in 1516, after much emotional turmoil and let down, Catherine gave birth to a daughter, Mary. Unfortunately for Catherine, Mary was Catherine’s only child to survive to adulthood (where she would subsequently murder a lot of Protestants).
Catherine probably had two more miscarriages, but this was pretty much it for the aging queen.
Interlude: The Mistresses
Henry VIII was a bit of a player, and even while he was with his first wife, he was chasing tail. The most famous of his mistresses was Elizabeth “Bessie” Blount, of which very little is known except that she gave birth to an illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy (Really?! Henry again!?) and that she had the nickname of a cow.
The woman with the dubious title of “second most famous mistress” was Mary Boleyn. Poor Mary lives in the shadow of her sister, but this mistress was the sister of Anne Boleyn. We’ll now immediately forget Mary and turn to Anne….
2. Anne Boleyn
Ready for some history on Henry VIII’s most famous wife?
Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister (and a fascinating historical figure in her right) was married to Louis XII. Mary and Anne Boleyn joined Mary Tudor at the French court. A mere 3 months after the marriage, Louis XII passed away (thank goodness!) and the two Marys went back to England to get up to all kinds of mischief. But Anne stayed behind and became a filles d’honeur for the new queen. She remained in France for 6-7 years and develop all kinds of French mannerisms.
Anne came back to England in 1521 to be married. But the marriage fell through. She was introduced to court in 1522. She had a couple of romantic courtships, one of which almost ended in marriage, but was prevented by either Henry or his henchman, Cardinal Wolsey.
It’s not exactly clear when the courtship started, but by 1526, it’s obvious that Henry VIII was writing sappy poetry to Anne Boleyn (we have the letters, unfortunately).
The thing is, in spite of his romantic prose (including some references to her breasts…classy, Henry) and the fact that he was a king, Henry could not get Anne to sleep with him!
What was a horny man who was desperate for a son to do?
Find out next time how the Protestant Reformation in England had more to do with Henry VIII’s sex life than genuine religious convictions…