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How Many Wives Did King Henry VIII Have?

King Henry VIII had six wives! It is what is taught in history classes throughout the world. Although it is true, technically speaking it is not accurate. On a technicality, King Henry VIII only had two wives. Read on to find out more.

King Henry VIII had six wives! It is what is taught in history classes throughout the world. Although it is true, technically speaking it is not accurate. On a technicality, King Henry VIII only had two wives. Read on to find out more.

King Henry VIII’s fourth marriage, to Anne of Cleves was annulled – this meant something totally different from a divorce, from a legal point an annulled marriage, to all intents and purposes, never happened. The two main reasons for the annulment was that Anne and Henry never consummated their marriage and that Anne was betrothed to Francis, Duke of Lorraine, when she married Henry. In those days, the formal act of betrothal was a legal bar to marrying someone else. As such, all parties, on annulment, agreed no legal marriage had taken place.

 

(Image via Wikipedia)

Henry’s second marriage, to Anne Boleyn, was declared illegal by the Pope because Henry was still married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. To twist that round, Henry, as head of the newly formed Church of England, declared that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was illegal because a man could not sleep with his brother’s law. Henry was citing from the Old Testament, which he claimed as ‘God’s Law’.

Everyone is aware that Henry had his wife Anne Boleyn executed for adultery, but what is less well known is that Henry had their marriage annulled before her execution. In legalistic terms, Anne Boleyn could not have been executed for betraying their marriage if an annulment meant the marriage had not really taken place!

Henry did the exact same thing to his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, although there was one slight difference; Henry passed a special act which made it treasonable for a queen to commit adultery.

Henry VIII’s last wife, Catherine Parr, was the only one to get off quite lightly when it came to the King, but that is probably because she had the fortune to outlive him. Third wife, Jayne Seymour, was lucky in that their marriage was not annulled, but very much unlucky in that she died soon after giving birth to the King’s son.

When you look at the six woman that Henry VIII married, four of the marriages were annulled, leaving only two that were incontestably legal marriages. Technically speaking, if an annulled marriage is akin to the marriage having never taken place (in the eyes of the law) then it could be argued that King Henry VIII only had two wives. However, what is undeniable is that Henry did get married six times to six different woman, so no matter what technicalities there are, Henry VIII did have six wives.

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Comments (2)
Ranked #4 in History

Great article! It seems like Henry played pretty fast and loose with the law, but kings got to do that in those days.

Ranked #13 in History

The king in those days can do anything he wants and get away out of it, great post.

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