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Find out about Henry VIII, the Tudor dynasty and the famous story of his six wives with these Henry VIII Facts for Kids:
Henry VIII is one of the most famous kings in British history. He was the second of the Tudor monarchs, taking the throne when his father, Henry VII, died.
The Tudors were a family who came to power in 1485 when Henry Tudor defeated King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. This was the last battle in the Wars of the Roses which saw the Lancastrians and Yorkists battle for the crown. Henry Tudor became King Henry VII, and his children and grandchildren ruled the country for 118 years.
Henry VIII was born on 28th June 1491 in Greenwich, England.
Henry VIII became king on 24th June 1509, and reigned until his death on 28th January 1547 at the age of 55. He was king for almost 38 years.
One of the reasons Henry VIII is so famous is for having six wives… although not all at the same time! During the Tudor period, the crown was passed down from father to son. When Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, failed to give him a son after 24 years of marriage, he divorced her in the hopes that a new wife would give him the son he was so desperate for.
Catherine of Aragon had been the wife of Henry’s older brother, Arthur, but he died less than six months after their wedding. She then married Henry in 1509 when she was 23, and Henry was just 17.
Catherine had six children with Henry but only one, Mary, survived. By 1525, Henry started to believe that his marriage to Catherine was cursed, and that he shouldn’t have married his brother’s widow. In addition to wanting the son that Catherine couldn’t give him, he also had his eye on another woman. He tried to get a divorce but the Pope wouldn’t allow it, so he broke away from the Roman Catholic church to create the Church of England.
Once he was head of the church, he was able to divorce Catherine. Their marriage was finally annulled in 1533 after 24 years as man and wife.
Anne Boleyn was brought up in the French court, but returned to England in 1522. She immediately caught the eye of King Henry. At this time, he was still married to Catherine of Aragon. Henry wanting to be with Anne was one of the main reasons why he wanted a divorce.
After his marriage to Catherine was annulled, he married Anne Boleyn. Anne was pregnant, and Henry very much hoped she would give him the son and heir he so desperately wanted. On September 7th, 1533, Anne gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth. Henry was bitterly disappointed.
He turned his attention to another lady of the court, Jane Seymour. Henry wanted to marry Jane, but of course he was still married to Anne. Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s secretary, looked for a way to solve this problem. Cromwell accused Anne of having affairs with other men whilst married to the king. She was put on trial and found guilty of treason. Anne Boleyn was executed on 19th May 1536 at the Tower of London.
Jane and Henry became engaged the day after Anne Boleyn’s execution, and were married ten days later, on May 30th 1536.
In October of the following year, Jane gave birth to a son, named Edward. Henry was overjoyed, although his happiness was short-lived, as Jane became very ill, and died later that month. Although they were only married for less than two years, and Henry would go on to marry three more times, Jane was the wife he loved the most. He gave instructions that he was to be buried next to her when he died.
After the death of Jane, Henry’s advisors thought that he should re-marry. They suggested that he take a woman named Anne of Cleves for his new wife, as her family would be a good political alliance to have. Anne lived in Germany. Henry wanted to see what she looked like before he agreed to marry her, so he sent his court painter, Hans Holbein, to paint her picture. On seeing the portrait, Henry decided to marry Anne.
Anne arrived in England at the beginning of 1540, and she and Henry were married. However, Henry was not happy. He thought that Anne wasn’t as pretty as her portrait had made her seem. In addition, she didn’t speak much English, and was too quiet and reserved for him. Henry instead became attracted to one of Anne’s ladies-in-waiting, Catherine Howard. In July 1540, after only six months, the marriage between Henry and Anne of Cleves was annulled. Henry, relieved that Anne did not fight this decision, gave her a large income and let her live in Hever Castle in Kent.
Catherine Howard was the cousin of Anne Boleyn. She became a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves when she was around 18 years old. She soon caught the almost 50-year-old Henry’s eye. After his marriage to Anne of Cleves was annulled, Henry married Catherine Howard. Henry was infatuated with his young bride, and spoilt her with expensive presents.
However, Catherine was not happy - Henry was more than double her age, overweight, and had an ulcer on his leg. Rumours began to spread at court that Catherine was being unfaithful. This was investigated and in 1541, she was charged with treason, just like her cousin, Anne Boleyn. Henry was heartbroken. He ordered her execution.
When Catherine was told of her impending death, she asked to see the executioner’s block so that she could practise laying her head upon it. She died on 13th February, 1542, with a single blow of the executioner's axe.
Catherine Parr was Henry’s sixth and final wife. She had been married twice before, but both of her husbands had died. Henry was attracted to Catherine as soon as he met her. They were married on 12th July 1543 at Hampton Court. By this time, Henry was old, ill and bad-tempered due to the pain caused by his ulcer. However, Catherine was a patient, tactful wife, who also got on well with Henry’s three children from his earlier marriages.
Catherine was well-educated, and very interested in religious studies - she wrote and published three books.
Just before he died on 28th January 1547, Henry ordered that Catherine was to be given £7,000 a year to support herself, and that she should continue to be treated with the same respect of a queen even after his death.
Henry VIII had three legitimate children that survived past infancy: Mary, (the daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon), Elizabeth (the daughter of Henry and Anne Boleyn) and Edward (the son of Henry and Jane Seymour).
All three children became monarch of England in turn after their father’s death:
Elizabeth I was the final Tudor monarch. She had no children. The throne passed to the House of Stuart.
If you’re looking for some engaging, ready-to-teach lessons about the Tudors, take a look at PlanBee’s Tudor-related resources here!
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