Henry VIII

Henry VIII

Henry VIII was King of England from 1509 until his death in 1547. The second Tudor monarch, he is famous for having six wives - Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Kateryn Parr, who survived him. King Henry rebuilt Hampton Court, having taken it from Thomas Wolsey, and his break with the papacy in Rome established the Church of England, beginning the Reformation. Shop our collection of Tudor gifts, homewares and jewellery inspired by Henry VIII and his reign.
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Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace

Henry Tudor was born at Greenwich Palace on 28 June 1491. The second son of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, he was crowned King Henry VIII in 1509. A popular King once described as "the best-dressed sovereign in the world", Henry was known for his love of hunting and feasting. Having taken Hampton Court Palace from Cardinal Wolsey in 1529, Henry remodelled the palace to create huge kitchens, elaborate formal gardens and commissioned the finest craftsmen to decorate his magnificent apartments with rich tapestries, paintings and carvings.

 

On Henry's death in 1547, he was succeeded by his son, King Edward VI.

 

Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived

The fate of each of Tudor King Henry VIII's six wives can be remembered with this famous rhyme:

 

Katherine of Aragon (divorced)

Henry VIII married the Spanish princess, Katherine of Aragon, in December 1485. She bore Henry six children (three sons and three daughters) but only one daughter, Mary (later Mary I), survived. Unable to produce a male heir, Henry established the Church of England in order to divorce Katherine and marry her lady-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn.

 

Anne Boleyn (beheaded)

Henry married his second Queen, Anne Boleyn in 1533 and their daughter, Elizabeth I was born later that year. When no more healthy children followed Henry blamed Anne for their misfortune, considering the marriage cursed. Anne Boleyn was accused on trumped up charges of adultery and treason. She was found guilty and executed at the Tower of London in May 1536.

 

Jane Seymour (died)

Henry's third wedding took place only 11 days after Anne Boleyn's execution, to Anne's lady-in-waiting Jane Seymour. Jane provided Henry VIII with his much-wanted son and heir, Edward, in 1537. She survived to witness some of Edward's elaborate christening procession from her apartments at Hampton Court Palace, but sadly died from the complications of childbirth less than 2 weeks later, leaving King Henry heartbroken.

 

Anne of Cleves (divorced)

Henry's fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves in 1540 was a political union designed to increase Henry's power and influence in Europe and he famously chose Anne from her portrait. Disappointed by the real Anne, and preferring to choose his own wives, their marriage was annulled after six months, leaving King Henry free to marry his fifth wife.

 

Catherine Howard (beheaded)

Catherine Howard attracted the attention of a middle-aged King Henry VIII when she was still a teenager and they married in July 1540. The besotted King Henry at first ignored rumours of his young wife's infidelity but when her lover, Thomas Culpeper, confessed to clandestine meetings with the Queen, she was arrested and taken to the Tower of London, where she was executed in February 1542. Catherine's ghost is still said to haunt the gallery at Hampton Court Palace where she ran to King Henry, begging for his mercy.

 

Kateryn Parr (survived)

Henry married his sixth and final wife, Kateryn Parr, in 1543 at Hampton Court Palace. She was a good stepmother to the three Tudor children and a loyal and devoted Queen. She survived the King by a year, marrying her childhood sweetheart, Thomas Seymour after Henry's death in 1547.

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