18 January 2021

Henry VIII's Most Beloved Wife

Henry VIII had six wives, but did he love any of them? After I recently re-shared my 20009 post, The Most Neglected Princess, in which I assert my belief that he loved Catherine of Aragon, a Twitter dialogue was sparked. While some agreed with me, others offered up different views. So, I decided to put the question to a Twitter poll, asking people to name Henry's most beloved wife. Since Twitter polls only allow up to four options, I opted not to include his fourth wife Anne of Cleves, whom he rejected upon first sight, as well as his last wife Catherine Parr. Although I told respondents they could "write in" either of these two, no one did.

Here are the results of this very unscientific survey:

Coming in fourth place is Henry's fifth wife the teenaged Catherine Howard, whose nubile youth attracted the lecherous older man. Alas, the girl's flirtatious and flighty nature proved her downfall. She (unlike her first cousin Anne Boleyn) likely was guilty of the infidelity that cost her her head. She garnered only 2.5% of the votes. 

In third place is said older cousin Anne Boleyn, the woman for whom Henry changed the nation's relationship with God. His infatuation for the sophisticated young woman, who had been trained in the continental courts of France and Burgundy, burned for years as she denied him access to her person while he remained married to his first wife. Unable to secure an annulment from the Pope in Rome after trying everything he and his advisors could conceive. He broke with Rome, declared himself the head of Church of England, and (not surprisingly) agreed when his new Church decided that his first marriage was invalid. Despite his long wait and indefatigable battle to marry her, Henry quickly grew tired of Anne's screeching demands and inability to quickly manufacture a son for him and believed the very likely trumped-up charges of infidelity that were brought to him. Anne was the first of his queen's to be executed. This complex affair led 22.5% of respondents believe Henry loved Anne more than his other wives.

To Royal Bearing (@RoyalBearing), Henry's relationships seemed "More like lust with Anne B and Catherine H."

Second place, with 27.5% of the votes, went to my personal favorite Catherine (read my post The Love Story of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon). Widowed by his older brother when Henry was just a child, Catherine lived in a kind of limbo waiting for their father's to decide her marital fate. She was engaged to Henry and then unengaged. When he inherited the throne as a teenager, he imagined himself as her knight errant and, having rescued her from genteel neglect, married her in a fit of romance. The daughter of Isabella of Castile, Catherine made a fit political partner for him. However, unlike her mother, she was unable to produce more than one living child. Over the years, Henry started to grow concerned about the fitness of that child, the Princess Mary, to succeed him because of her gender. After decades of marriage with a generally pleasant and obedient wife, he expected Catherine to agree that God was punishing him for marrying his brother's widow. She shocked the devil out of him when she didn't and went even further, using all of her political and familial connections to oppose him. By the time, he finally declared himself free of her, his once abundant love had become a seething rage.

RoyalistSupporter (@ProRoyalFamily) called Henry's relationship with Catherine of Aragon real love that wasn't colored by the kind of ulterior motives of his other marriages. "Also I felt he still cared about her after the divorce."

Royal Bearing (@RoyalBearing) wrote, "Catherine of A definitely the closest he seemed to come [to love], especially for reciprocated love."

The Royal Watcher (@saadsalman719) agrees. "I think C of A was the most compatible wife for him and he truly loved her. Had he accepted that she wasn't going to have sons and trained Mary to be a capable ruler then history would have certainly been different today!" (Indeed, imagine new Elizabethan Age.)

Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour
by Remigius van Leemput (after Hans Holbein the Younger)
from the Royal Collection via Wikimedia Commons

Earning nearly half of the votes, Henry's third wife, the docile Jane Seymour earned the crown as his most beloved. Calmer and much more complaisant than her two predecessors, Jane did something both of them had failed to do: she gave Henry a son. Then, she promptly succumbed to childbed fever leaving Henry to grieve her loss just 18 months after he had married her. He himself seemed devoted to her sanctified memory, even painting her into a family portraits for years after she had died.

As Cheryl Shifflet (@cheryl_shifflet) commented, "Jane Seymour for sure. She gave Henry his much desired and needed son. I also read her mourned her quite a bit." 

Royal Bearing (@RoyalBearing) sees it differently: "Jane S might have been love but giving him his heir & her early death turned her into a saint so difficult to tell his feelings beneath for her."

So, what do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

2 comments:

  1. I also agree Jane Seymour was the only Princess that was in King Henry's Heart. Having a son,Edward and she died at the birth of Her Son. Henry and Jane were buried together. I don't think Henry knew Her very Well!!🥰😘😊💟🌼🌷🌻

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  2. I think he loved Jane the most AFTER she died. I don't think there was any great passion and love for her before that. I think she was a needed change - personality wise - after Anne but I never felt she was his great love while she was alive.

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