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Who Were the Six Wives of Henry VIII?

January 28, 2020 in History

By Crystal Ponti

The monarch’s chaotic love life led to an unstable succession, foreign policy changes and a break with Rome.

King Henry VIII ruled England for 36 years (1509-1547), presiding over the beginnings of the English Renaissance and Protestant Reformation. But it’s the monarch’s tumultuous romantic life, rather than his politics, that have kept him in the spotlight.

Henry VIII is best known for his six wives, and several mistresses he kept on the side. The monarch’s desperate quest for political unification and a healthy male heir drove him to annul two marriages and have two wives beheaded. His chaotic love life caused an unstable succession, foreign policy implications and even led to the break with Rome.

Here’s a look at the lives and, in several instances, the untimely demise of Henry VIII’s wives along with the impact this real-life melodrama had on England.

Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536): Demoted for Bearing No Son

Catherine of Aragon

Henry took the throne in 1509, at age 17. Six weeks later, he married Catherine of Aragon, daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain and the widow of his elder brother, Arthur. From the moment young Henry took his nuptials, he obsessed over continuing the Tudor line. Of multiple pregnancies and several births, the only child to survive was Henry and Catherine’s daughter, Mary, born in February 1516.

Catherine remained at Henry’s side for 23 years and is even thought to be the only woman the king ever truly loved. “Henry viewed her as a model wife in every respect bar one… her failure to give him a son,” says Tudor historian Tracy Borman. Frustrated at the lack of a male heir, Henry’s eyes wandered.

He had a brief extra-marital affair with Elizabeth “Bessie” Blount, one of Catherine’s ladies-in-waiting. In 1519, Bessie was taken in secret to the Essex countryside where she gave birth to Henry Fitzroy, Henry’s only acknowledged illegitimate child.

By the 1520s, Henry had developed a fondness for Anne Boleyn, another lady-in-waiting to the queen, and eventually sought the Pope’s approval for an annulment. “He argued that his marriage to Catherine was invalid because her marriage to his brother Arthur had been consummated, but she always contested this,” Borman explains. When the Pope refused Henry’s request, the king divorced Catherine against the will of the Roman Catholic Church and established the Church of England—ushering in the …read more


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Federalist Papers

January 28, 2020 in History

By Editors

In October 1787, the first in a series of 85 essays arguing for ratification of the proposed (Penguin, 2004)

Pauline Maier, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 (Simon & Schuster, 2010)

“If Men Were Angels: Teaching the Constitution with the Federalist Papers.” Constitutional Rights Foundation.

Dan T. Coenen, “Fifteen Curious Facts About the Federalist Papers.” University of Georgia School of Law, April 1, 2007.

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