The Weddings of Henry VII
Having married six wives Henry VIII was no stranger to the wedding ceremony. Given his importance there was no opportunity for eloping, even if there had been such a thing during his reign. The takingof a wife and therefore giving Tudor England a Queen to his King was something that affected the entire country. Though typically news of a wedding is greeted with excitement it is likely that by thetime of Henry’s 4th, 5th and 6th weddings his people were less than enthusiastic, particularly given the fates of his previous wives.
Wedding ceremonies were influenced largely by the Roman Catholic Church and in stark contrast to Royal wedding ceremonies today were quietly conducted with only two witnesses required to see the couple marry. Only three of Henry’s weddings were publicly celebrated afterwards.
Henry married his first wife Katherine of Aragon in 1509 at Greenwich Palace, and although they had six children together, only one survived – Mary. Despite their marriage lasting almost twenty four years, Catherine’s failure to produce a living male heir led to Henry demanding an annulment of the marriage against the wishes of the Roman Catholic Church and the lady herself. Although history reports Henry as having a deep love for Katherine his fear of dying without a male heir was stronger.
His second wife, Ann Boleyn, gave her hand in marriage to Henry in a private ceremony. It has been said that Henry was besotted with Ann but that she would not agree to share a bed with the King until she had a ring on her finger. Unfortunately her marriage, and indeed her life, were both cut short when Ann was accused of committing adultery, a charge that was never proven. Henry demanded an annulment of the marriage and ordered Ann be executed by public beheading. Their marriage produced Queen Elizabeth I.
Wife No. 3, Jane Seymour, was finally able to provide Henry with the living male heir he was so desperate for – Edward VI. How long this marriage would have lasted was never to be known as Jane passed away just days after birthing their son, her death thought to be as a result of a difficult labor causing complications.
Anne of Cleves was given the honor of becoming the fourth wife of Henry VIII but after a short marriage Henry appeared to grow bored with her and longed for ‘the greener grass on the other side of the fence’. Fortunately for Anne Henry was only interested in annulling their marriage and allowing her to live out the rest of her years, which she did, outliving Henry himself. In fact, Anne was the longest living of all the wives of Henry VIII.
Off with the old and on with the new, wife number 5 was Catherine Howard. Unfortunately for Catherine, as had happened to her predecessor Ann Boleyn just a short number of years earlier, accusations of adultery spread across the land. Henry’s response to this alleged infidelity was to have Catherine beheaded.The last wife of Henry VIII was Catherine Parr, who remained his wife up until his passing left her widowed. Catherine went on to remarry, taking William Seymour as her new husband. She lived to a good age, but if Henry VIII had not died while married to her she may have been tossed aside as lightly as the five wives before her.
Of the six weddings of Henry VIII, his marriage to Katherine of Aragon lasted the longest at almost 24years. The combined total number of years of marriage to his other five wives was less than 10 years.