The Differences in the Wives of Henry VIII

Raised as the second son, or “spare”, Henry Tudor, Duke of York was never intended to be King of England. When his older brother Arthur, Prince of Wales died unexpectedly in 1502 Henry was thrust into the spotlight as heir to the throne of England. His training began immediately and Henry despised the fact that his father controlled everything around him. He went from being raised with his sisters to being separated from the world.

When there were discussions by Henry VII and the parents of Katherine of Aragon to arrange a marriage between Henry and his widowed sister-in-law Henry appeared excited to marry his deceased brother’s wife. She was a beauty afterall and Henry was used to getting what he wanted.



Prior to the death of Henry VII the king had decided against the marriage of his son with the dowager Princess of Wales after a dispute with her parents over the dowry she was to bring to her marriage to the now deceased Arthur. Henry would not marry Katherine of Aragon after all.

Things changed when King Henry VII died in 1509 and his son Henry was declared King Henry VIII. The new king declared he was to marry Katherine and the couple were jointly crowned. Katherine was as happy to marry Henry as he was to marry her. She was raised to be queen and had expected for many years to be Queen of England.

When we look at the following wives of Henry VIII things look a little differently – many had never expected to be queen or had a true desire to marry the king from the start. Anne Boleyn and Kateryn Parr had both realized that Henry wished to marry them and there was nothing they could do about it – you couldn’t say no to the king.

Here is a fun look at the six queens of Henry VIII and their differences. I don’t usually write pieces like this so I hope you enjoy the humor in the titles.

katherine of aragon – raised to be a queen

Katherine of Aragon was the Spanish infanta, daughter of the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. She was raised to be a queen consort. To know her role as a woman, be the most pious queen and show her bravery.

Blamed for not providing her husband with a surviving son, Katherine would give birth (or miscarry) several babies but only their daughter Mary survived to adulthood.

Katherine of Aragon, NPG

When Katherine realized her husband, the king, was interested in Anne Boleyn she did not believe their relationship was serious. She had faith and confidence in the fact that Henry would come back to her. When he didn’t she fought with all her mother’s grace to against divorce proceedings.

Henry and Katherine’s daughter Princess Mary was the king’s ‘Pearl of the Realm’. Mary unfortunately suffered the consequences by taking the same stance as her mother. They would not surrender.

Katherine of Aragon would go on to carry the love of her supporters with her. She spent time praying for a better outcome to her cause. Around every corner Katherine’s end would draw near. She died, nearly alone, in January 1536 at Kimboltan Castle. Henry was free of his first wife for good and Anne Boleyn was without a doubt his queen.

After her death their daughter Mary was declared a bastard and removed from the line of succession for many years.

anne boleyn – reluctant, triumphant and ill-fated

Anne Boleyn was the English born daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard. Anne grew up at Hever Castle with her older sister Mary and younger brother George.

Anne was not raised to be queen – but she had a great upbringing being educated at the court of Margaret of Austria in Mechelen, learning to speak French fluently among many other skills.

Through Elizabeth Howard Anne came from the powerful noble Howard family led by the Duke of Norfolk. Her father Thomas Boleyn climbed up in the ranks within the inner circle of Henry VIII; Her brother George became Lord Rochford and the Boleyns prospered during Anne’s reign.

Anne Boleyn



Anne Boleyn believed she would give the king the strong son he so desired. In 1533 she gave birth to Princess Elizabeth (future Elizabeth I), but the king believed boys would follow. Unfortunately they would not survive.

Henry VIII eventually tired of Anne Boleyn, he had learned from his divorce with Katherine and made sure this time things would go much smoother and quicker for him. Anne Boleyn, like Katherine of Aragon, had a daughter whose rights were at risk during the downfall of her mother. Anne, like Katherine, did everything she could to fight for her daughter’s rights.

Anne Boleyn was executed on the 19th of May 1536. Her daughter Elizabeth was declared a bastard and removed from the line of succession for many years.

jane seymour – silent but deadly

Jane Seymour, like her predecessor, Anne Boleyn, was English. She was born to Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth and most likely grew up at Wolf Hall with her siblings: Edward, Henry, Thomas, Elizabeth and Dorothy. The Seymours were not considered royalty but they were what could be considered of noble birth. They had been around for generations.

Jane Seymour caught the eye of King Henry VIII while serving in the household of Queen Anne Boleyn. It is believed that Henry was attracted to Jane because she was the complete opposite of Anne. Jane also knew well how to play the game with Henry – telling him she could not be his mistress, for her own honor.

Jane Seymour

Ten days after the execution of Anne Boleyn, Jane became the third queen consort of Henry VIII. We don’t know what feelings, if any, Jane had for Henry but what we do know is that she finally presented the king with the surviving male heir he so desperately wanted.

Jane Seymour died twelve days after the long delivery of her son Edward on the 24th of October 1537.

anne of cleves – naive

Anne of Cleves was the daughter ofJohn III, Duke of Cleves andMaria of Jlich-Berg.

After Henry VIII’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon, which was his choice yet still a political match, he moved to Anne Boleyn, who was a love match, followed by Jane Seymour who was also a love match. When it came time to find a fourth queen it became imperative once again to marry for political reasons – this is why Anne of Cleves became a candidate and eventually wife of the King of England.

Anne of Cleves



Unfortunately the marriage alliance would not be a success for Henry. The king did not wish to marry Anne, he was upset for multiple reasons but most believe it’s because she did not recognize him when he was in disguise to greet her at Dover. This bruised the overweight king’s ego and he began to say things like, “I like her not!” and by saying such blasphemous things like her breasts were loose and she was no virgin.

Anne and Henry were only married for six months but Anne had learned from Henry’s prior relationships. When the time came she willfully accepted his offer of annulment/divorce and became the “king’s sister”. Anne outlived Henry VIII and all of his wives, including his last, Katherine Parr.

katheryn howard – outgoing and provocative

Katheryn Howard was the daughter of Edmund Howard and Joyce Culpeper – Edmund Howard was the son of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and younger brother of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. In a nutshell, Katheryn Howard came from the prestigious Howard family. Unfortunately, not long after the death of her mother (at about age five) Katheryn was sent to live with her step-grandmother the dowager Duchess of Norfolk, Agnes Tilney. Tilney had many wards under her roof but also seen often at court. With the dowager duchess being away at court so often it appears that she had little direct involvement in the upbringing and education of her wards.

On the 28th of July 1540, Katheryn Howard became Henry VIII’s fifth queen consort during a secret ceremony at Oatlands Palace. Their nuptials were kept secret for ten days before returning to the insanity of court life. The king, who was infatuated with his new bride, wanted to spend quality time alone with her before returning to his courtly duties.

Katherine Howard

In Katheryn, Henry found what represented the qualities that he admired most in a woman: Beauty, charm, a pleasant disposition, obedience and virtue. All of which were much like his mother, Elizabeth of York…unfortunately Katheryn Howard was not the virtuous wife Henry had hoped for.

Katheryn Howard’s “loose” past with the dowager duchess and with her poor decision making while queen, particularly when it came to Dereham and Culpeper, ultimately led to her downfall.

On 10 February 1542 Queen Katheryn Howard entered the Tower and three days later she was executed.

kateryn parr – the perfect queen

Kateryn Parr was born in 1512 to Sir Thomas Parr and Maud Green.

Kateryn is usually seen as the Queen who came from nowhere, a nobody. Actually, Katherine was the daughter of a substantial northern knightly family who like the Boleyns had gone up in the world due to royal favor and advantageous marriages. According to David Starkey, Katherine was most likely better educated than Anne Boleyn and her lineage was better than the Boleyns. –TudorQueen6.com

Henry VIII set his eyes on Kateryn Parr while she was in the household of his daughter, Lady Mary. Around the same time Kateryn had become a widow after the death of her second husband, Lord Latimer. Kateryn and Thomas Seymour had fallen in love and were hoping to marry when Henry swooped in and proposed to her. She could not refuse the King and believed it was God’s doing for her to become queen consort.

Katherine Parr

Kateryn married Henry VIII on the 12th July 1543, atHampton Court Palace. She had never imagined being queen – Henry was her third husband.

Kateryn was exactly what Henry VIII needed. She was great with his children and knew much better than previous wives (for the most part) when to speak and when not to.

Kateryn did not marry for love with her first three marriages, but she did find love in the children of her husbands – Katherine was a marvelous step-mother.

It wasn’t until she married Thomas Seymour that she finally found love and was blessed with a daughter, Mary Seymour.

Kateryn Parr died on the 5th of September 1548, only days after giving birth to her daughter, Mary.

Here is my podcast on the same subject:

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