Henry VIII

Henry and his Wives

Summary Henry and his Wives

Jane Seymour was, it seems, the most beloved of Henry's wives. He mourned her 1537 death for a very long time. That her death resulted from the birth of Henry's only surviving son adds particular drama to the story. It may be precisely because of Edward's birth that Henry loved Jane as dearly, and mourned her so grievously, as he did. Very likely his grief was affected by occasional pangs of guilt that his overarching desire to secure a male heir for his throne was, in part, the cause of death to his favorite queen.

The political dimensions of Henry's marriages were integral to their personal dimensions. Catherine of Aragon's fate was bound intricately with that of the English Reformation. Anne Boleyn's daughter Elizabeth, though often looked upon unkindly by her father–who cared to remember her mother as an evil woman who had bewitched him–grew up to wear the crown of England and reign as one of that nation's strongest, and most famous monarchs. Jane, married for love, bore Henry the son he so single-mindedly desired, and the political influence of her family, the Seymours, was considerable at the time of Henry's death and Edward's succession. Anne of Cleves, though not in the manner intended, sealed the fate of Thomas Cromwell, who after losing the king's favor early in 1540, was tried and executed for treason that summer. Katherine Howard's uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, was the major figure of the conservative, catholic faction in Henry's later years, and his star fell not long after his niece's, being arrested at the close of 1546, saved from the scaffold only by Henry's demise. Finally, Katherine Parr was crucial to the salvaging of some domestic tranquility in Henry's final years, tranquility which cannot be underestimated politically.

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