Contents: Introduction Henry VIII Katharine of Aragon Anne Boleyn Jane Seymour Anne of Cleves Catherine Howard Katharine Parr
The Tudor dynasty ruled England from 1485 to 1603. Their story encompasses some of the most dramatic and unforgettable events in European history. And they remain the most famous and controversial of royal families contents
Henry VIII When Henry VIII succeeded his father, Henry VII, he was only 18. He was a typical Renaissance prince who maintained a magnificent court. Henry was vigorous and handsome. He was an incredible athlete and loved jousting and hunting.
"His Majesty is the handsomest potentate I ever set eyes on; above the usual height, with an extremely fine calf to his leg, his complexion fair and bright, with auburn hair, combed straight and short in the French fashion, and a round face so very beautiful that it would become a pretty woman, his throat was rather long and thick“
"He is very fond of hunting, and never takes his diversion without tiring eight or ten horses which he causes to be stationed beforehand along the line of country he means to take, and when one is tired he mounts another, and before he gets home they are all exhausted. He is extremely fond of tennis, at which game it is the prettiest thing in the world to see him play, his fair skin glowing through a shirt of the finest texture."
Henry VIII was more ambitious than his father and spent money on warships and guns, making the English fighting fleet the best in Europe. Clearly another victim of Henry's policy was the Church. He broke with Rome and declared himself "Supreme Head of the Church". Lands belonged to the Church and monasteries came under the power of English state.
contents The last years of Henry’s life were dangerous and many were afraid of a return to the disorders of a civil war. Henry died in St James's Palace, Westminster, around 2 am on Friday 28 January 1547, aged 55 years. He was buried at Windsor Castle beside his third wife, Jane Seymour.
Katharine of Aragon Katharine was born on 16 December 1485, the same year that Henry VII established the Tudor dynasty. Henry became king in 1509 and married Katharine and they lived together happily for many years. Their marriage produced just one daughter called Mary, and Henry was desperate for a male heir. Katharine was banished from court and died on 7 January 1536, broken-hearted but still defiant. contents
Anne Boleyn Anne Boleyn is one of the most famous queens in English history, though she ruled for just three years. Anne spent her adolescence in France. When she returned to England, she caught the eye of Henry VIII. She waited seven years for Henry to obtain an annulment before they wed in 1533. She was unable to give Henry the son. She was executed on 19 May 1536 contents
Jane Seymour Henry VIII had six wives but only one gave him a son. Jane Seymour fulfilled her most important duty as queen, but she was never crowned and died just twelve days after the long and arduous birth. Her meek and circumspect manner was in distinct contrast to Henry's second wife, the sharp-tongued Anne Boleyn. contents
Anne of Cleves Anne of Cleves was the fourth wife of King Henry VIII; it was a very brief marriage, to the astonishment of all observers but the relief of both spouses. Anne remains a mysterious figure about whom too little is known. Had she and Henry remained married and had children, the course of English history might have changed dramatically. contents
Catherine Howard Catherine Howard was a cousin of Henry VIII's ill-fated second queen, Anne Boleyn. She was more attracted to men her own age and, after just seventeen months of marriage to the king, she was arrested for adultery. She was beheaded on 13 February 1542, only nineteen or twenty years old. The drama of her execution lends gravity to a brief life which would otherwise pass unnoticed. contents
Katharine Parr Katharine Parr was the sixth and last wife of King Henry VIII, destined to outlive the mercurial ruler. She was an admirable wife to Henry and a loving stepmother to his two youngest children, Elizabeth and Edward. She was the most intellectual of Henry's wives, caught up in the turbulent religious climate of the times. Her greatest achievement was the popularity of her devotional works. contents