top of page

The Six Wives of Henry VIII

It doesn’t take a great amount of knowledge on the royal history of England to know that Henry VIII was one of the most revered and powerful King’s England has ever seen. His 38 year reign saw the dissolution of monasteries and religious structures, thousands of executions, pretender threats, and a largely unsupportive crowd from both England and Scotland. However, Henry did have six notable supporters – his wives. Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. I personally feel as though the personalities and achievements of each of his wives was overshadowed by Henry and the fear he implemented into general society, so I am writing a blog post to explore some of their traits, hobbies, passions, personalities, and characteristics.

1.       Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536)

Catherine was well known for her drive, ambition, and determination. Being a woman of class, she also remained steadfast and humble when it came to goals and achievements. While being the Queen Consort of England was a major achievement in itself, she was also an influential patron of education and the arts, advocating for the greatness of knowledge and creativity. She was a highly educated and persuasive individual, with a wealth of knowledge on militaristic issues and diplomacy, and she had a knack for coming up with original ideas. Alongside a passion for education, she was also a devout Catholic who prayed to God daily. Her devotion to her Catholic faith was adorned on by her husband, Henry, who was also brought up Catholic. Catherine enjoyed music, dancing, and reading to keep herself educated, and was literate in Spanish, Latin, and English. With red-golden hair, and a pale complexion, she was the image of youth and charm.


2.       Anne Boleyn (1501/07-1536)

Anne Boleyn was a rather witty figure who actually looked up to Henry’s previous wife, Catherine of Aragon. Her intelligence came from her interesting and excellent educational journey, where she began her studies in the Netherlands at the court of Margaret of Austria, where she learned manners, languages, and music. From then, she also spent several years studying n France. Here, she became fluent in French and developed a passion for French culture and fashion. During her time as Queen, she played a significant role in the English Reformation and the establishment of the Church of England – mainly to have Henry divorced properly from Catherine of Aragon. Aside from all of this, she was also known for her beauty, charisma, charm, unwavering opinions and stubbornness. She was not afraid to speak her mind, which was out of place for a woman of that time, however it was something that evolved in women in the coming centuries. Anne enjoyed poetry, music, and reading too. Anne was the woman to birth Elizabeth 1, who would be the longest reigning monarch of the Tudor era.


3.       Jane Seymour (1509-1537)

Jane was well known for being a gentle, forgiving woman. Her kind-heartedness and modesty won the heart of Henry and kept her likeable amongst the general public. While Jane’s life was only short, she was admirable. She is best known for giving birth to Henry’s only male heir – Edward VI – who unfortunately passed away at just fifteen. She was also known for her beauty, grace, and her devotion to her religious beliefs. She would often be found praying or reading her bible. Aside from religion, she also devoted her time to hunting, embroidery, and the great outdoors. While there is limited knowledge on the education of Jane, we do know that she received a basic level that allowed her the ability to read, write, and manage basic household chores, which was a pretty standard level of education amongst noblewomen at the time. Jane had a pale complexion, with almond shaped eyes, compressed lips, and a head of dark-golden hair.


4.       Anne of Cleves (1515-1557)

Anne of Cleves was best known for her successes and for being the wealthiest woman in the world at one point, with an estimated worth of £5 million (£2 billion today!). She was a reserved, quiet, and practical woman, who enjoyed needlework, music, and board games. Henry saw her as rather boring, however I have to disagree. She was well educated, modest, and she was also well read. She always maintained her composure, and she was well liked among noblewomen and the public for her gentle and kind nature. Additionally, she also had a strong sense of duty – she could handle any task that was thrown her way with a calm, yet strategic mindset. Despite her short marriage to Henry, she maintained good relations with the King and actually went on to outlive him by nine years. Anne was described by the French ambassador Charles de Marillac as ‘tall and slim, with middling beauty and of resolute countenance’. She was fair-haired, with a pale complexion and a pretty face, despite many people nowadays thinking she was ‘ugly’.


5.       Katherine Howard (1524-1542)

Being Henry’s youngest spouse who was beheaded aged just eighteen, there is not much we know about Katherine. She was vivacious, bold, and flirtatious, with a passion for fashion, music, and dancing - much like many seventeen year olds today. Katherine’s ‘immaturity’ led to her making some reckless decisions, however given the age gap between her and Henry, it becomes obvious that her ‘immaturity’ was simply just her growing up – after all, there were thirty-seven years between them. With Henry being much older, opinions of her being childish were to be expected. Despite her recklessness, Katherine was still widely known for her beauty and charm. Her youthful and pale skin coupled with her auburn hair and dark eyebrows made her stand out. It is believed that her education was not as interesting or rigorous as Anne Boleyn’s was, however she did procure literacy and household skills during her childhood.


6.       Catherine Parr (1512-1548)

Catherine Parr was Henry’s last wife, who saw him through his final days. She was an intelligent, well-educated individual with a politically astute and ambitious mindset. She also played a significant role in educating and bringing up Henry’s children. Catherine was a nurturing, gentle, and kind-hearted woman who was well known for her intellectual pursuits and dedication to education. She formed a particularly good bond with Elizabeth 1, Anne Boleyn’s daughter. Catherine was also well-known for the enjoyment she got from reading, writing, and promoting the arts. She was a lady of splendour, with reddish-gold hair and hazel eyes. Draped in sumptuous Italian and French gowns, laden with jewels, she was also a royal fashion icon. In one year, she ordered forty-seven pairs of shoes! As Henry progressed through to his final years of life, she remained faithful and modest, and dedicated significant amounts of her time and efforts to him before he passed away.


With Henry VIII being such a powerful royal image, the excellency and personalities of his six wives were lost throughout the ages, and their mentions in the history books are always brief and disregarding of their characteristics, hobbies, and their humanity. This blog post only scratches the surface of who these women really were, but I am hoping it might provide more of an understanding of each of them and what made up their personalities. Which one are you most like?





bottom of page