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Henry's Wives

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Henry's Wives

Artist Unknown. Henry VIII and his Six Wives. Engraving, 19th century


In Hans Holbein’s famous painting of Henry VIII (shown at right), the king looms large and domineering, magnificently attired, ever magisterial, with his procreative power clearly suggested. Henry married six times, but he was not the lustful libertine often portrayed in modern fiction. According to the king’s knowledge and belief, he needed a male heir to assure continuation of a Tudor dynasty, justifying his divorce of Catherine of Aragon (his first wife). Wives two and five (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard) were executed for alleged infidelity, wife three (Jane Seymour) died of childbed fever, wife four (Anne of Cleves) was divorced for what today would be termed “incompatability.” Wife six, Catherine Parr, survived Henry. All told, his wives bore Henry three children who survived him: Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, each of whom came to rule England.


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Artist Unknown. Henry VIII. Lithograph, 19th century

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