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This Week In History

Henry VIII of England and Anne of Cleves – July 9, 1540 AD

Henry Tudor was born on June 28, 1491, the third child and second son of King Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York. His childhood was a steady stream of appointments and titles. Before his third birthday in 1493, he was appointed Constable of Dover Castle and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. Within the next year, he was appointed Earl Marshal of England and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and inducted to the Order of the Bath. The day after being in the Order, he was made Duke of York. About a month later, he was made Warden of the Scottish Marshes. In 1495, he was appointed to the Order of the Garter. Despite all of education and titles, his older brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales, was expected to be crowned King of England.

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King Henry VIII of England, c.1537

In 1502, Arthur died suddenly of “English sweating sickness”, less than two years after he married Catherine of Aragon, daughter of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile. Shortly after Arthur’s death, Prince Henry was appointed Duke of Cornwall. In February 1503, he became Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester. King Henry wanted to retain the relationship with Spain, so he and Isabella agreed to betroth Prince Henry to Catherine to be married when Henry became of age. He was only 11 at the time.

In 1504, Isabella died and matters of succession became problematic in Castile. Catherine was living in England and was allowed to stay after her father appointed he ambassador. When Prince Henry turned 14, he rejected his arranged marriage. However, after King Henry died on April 21, 1507, Prince Henry became King Henry VIII of England and decided in May he would go through with the marriage to Catherine of Aragon after all. They were married on June 11, 1509 at the friar’s church in Greenwich. On June 23, Henry and Catherine processed from Tower of London to Westminster Abbey, where she was crowned the following day.

Henry and Catherine had six children from 1510-1518, three stillborn, one son, Henry, who died seven days after birth, the fifth was Mary and the six another stillborn daughter. During this entire time, Henry was having affairs and one with Elizabeth Blount produced a son in 1519 – Henry FitzRoy. King Henry was also having an affair with Catherine’s lady-in-waiting, Mary Boleyn. She had two children, but King Henry never accepted them as his as he had with FitzRoy. By 1527, Henry had given up hope of having a son with Catherine and approached Pope Clement VII to annul the marriage, but was denied. Henry and the Pope went back and forth on matters until in 1531, Catherine was banished from court and Henry gave her rooms to Anne Boleyn, sister of Mary.

Henry met with King Francis I of France in Winter 1532 to lobby support for his new marriage against the Pope and Catholic Church. Henry and Anne were secretly married and a public wedding was held in January 1533. Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, declared the marriage of Henry and Catherine annulled during a special meeting in May 1533, making Anne Boleyn Henry’s official second wife. All while this was going on, Reformation Parliament was working on rules and passing acts, among which Henry was declared head of the church in England and the Pope excommunicated him. Anne had several miscarriages and failed to give Henry a son during their marriage. She miscarried a boy after receiving news of Henry being badly injured during a jousting tournament a month after the death of Catherine of Aragon and on the day of Catherine’s funeral January 29, 1536. Between April and May, Henry accused five men of adultery with Anne, despite having no real evidence. He used this to have the men executed, and Anne beheaded on May 19, 1536.

The following day, Henry engaged Jane Seymour, one of Anne’s ladies-in-waiting. They married on May 30, 1536. In October the following year, Jane gave birth to a son – Prince Edward, the future King Edward VI. Sadly, the birth was difficult and Jane contracted an infection after labor and died on October 24, 1537.

Henry immediately sought another wife, looking to the continent for someone of the right attractiveness and position. However, news from Thomas Cromwell as spymaster, made Henry paranoid about problems within England. Cromwell suggested Henry marry Anne of Cleves, the sister of the Duke of Cleves, as the Duke was centrist in the topic between Lutheranism and Catholicism in the event of a Roman Catholic invasion and would be a good ally. Despite Anne already being betrothed to the son of the Duke of Lorraine, Henry and Anne agreed to marry. They married on January 6, 1540, however Henry shortly afterward wanted to get the marriage annulled as he had found someone else. Anne didn’t argue and on July 9, 1540, the marriage was dissolved as it was never consummated and Anne was given a generous settlement. Cromwell didn’t fare as well – he was accused of various crimes and was beheaded on July 28.

The same day as Cromwell’s execution, Henry married his fifth wife – Catherine Howard, a lady-in-waiting of Anne Boleyn. Henry was very happy with the marriage and gifted Catherine the lands previously held by Cromwell, along with an array of jewelry. Unfortunately, the new young queen wasn’t faithful in return and had two affairs – one with her previous fiancé, Francis Dereham, and the other with courtier Thomas Culpeper. Evidence was brought forth to Henry by a council and Catherine claimed Dereham forced her into the affair, to which Dereham responded in exposing the affair she was having with Culpeper. The men were both executed and Catherine was beheaded on February 13, 1542.

On July 12, 1543, Henry married his sixth and final wife – the wealthy widow, Catherine Parr. She was part of the household of Mary, the daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon when she caught the king’s attention. They remained married until Henry’s death on January 28, 1547.

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