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Who were the 6 wives of King Henry VIII? - A Guide for Children

Updated: Jun 7, 2022

King Henry VIII is likely one of the most famous kings ever to don a pair of royal breeches. School kids all over the country can regale you with Henry facts and figures.

He had six wives, though not all at the same time – that would have been very confusing for everyone. Those wives were: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jayne Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr.

The fates of these women is remembered in a popular children’s rhyme: “Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived.”

The thing is, there’s so much more fascinating drama to their lives than that simple rhyme suggests. We’ve been learning all about these exciting exploits in a Tudorriffic new book by Historian Dominic Sandbrook: ‘Adventures in Time: The Six Wives of Henry VIII’.

In the Adventures in Time series, Dominic brings the past to life for twenty-first century children. The Six Wives of Henry VIII allows a new generation to discover the thrills and spills of history. It’s an exhilarating adventure, every bit as exciting as classic children’s fiction.

We loved this book and regularly hugged it like a dear friend - which resulted in terrible paper cuts but that’s a story for another day. We learnt all sorts of awesome stuff, like how brave monks went cheerfully to their deaths, why Anne Boleyn was called a ‘naughty, google-eyed witch’, and what Henry VIII ate to end up with a supremely epic 54-inch waistline.

For this article then, we thought we’d whet your appetite by giving you some quick-fire rapid-punch info on each of Henry's wives before ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ is released on the 1st of July 2021. We’ll let Dominic tell the rest of the tale in his adventurous style!

Catherine of Aragon

Who was she?

Catherine was Henry’s first wife. They were married for an impressive 24 years. Which is saying something, as Henry’s remaining marriages only lasted 10 years in total!

Did they have children?

Yes, but only one survived. This baby girl would one day become Queen Mary I.

What happened to Catherine?

Henry was desperate for a male heir and, controversially, divorced Catherine. Which caused all sorts of problems, including one very angry Pope.

Anne Boleyn

Who was she?

Anne was Henry’s second wife. Henry married soon after he and Catherine of Aragon went their separate ways.

Did they have children?

They sure did, a baby girl who would grow up to be the most famous English Queen of them all: Elizabeth I.

What happened to Anne?

Henry was not impressed that Anne hadn’t provided him with a male heir. So, through duplicitous means, he connived to have Anne executed. Her head was chopped off in 1536.

Jayne Seymour

Who was she?

Jayne was one of Anne Boleyn’s ladies in waiting (a bit like her personal assistant). Henry didn’t waste any time. He married Jayne a mere 13 days after Anne Boleyn’s head was separated from her shoulders.

Did they have children?

Yes, one. This time, to Henry’s great relief, it was a boy: Edward.

What happened to Jayne?

She died 12 days after Edward was born, likely due to complication from giving birth. It is said that Henry was heartbroken and mourned Jayne for three months.


To find out more about the lives of the 6 Wives of Henry VIII,

check out Dominic Sandbrook's new book series:

'Adventures in Time'.


Anne of Cleves

Who was she?

Anne was the 25-year-old sister of the Duke of Cleves, a powerful ally of King Henry VIII. Having seen a rather flattering portrait of her, Henry jumped – and possibly fist-pumped, the historical record is unclear – at the chance of marriage.

Did they have children?

Nope, Henry changed his mind upon meeting Anne and decided to marry someone else. Their marriage lasted a scant six months.

What happened to Anne?

Things went pretty well for Anne of Cleves. Being the sister of a powerful ally meant that Henry VIII gave her a good deal of money and stuff. She became known as ‘The King’s Sister’ and was given two houses and a stonking income. Anne of Cleves was an independent and powerful woman during a time when that was very rare indeed.

Catherine Howard

Who was she?

Catherine was a teenager when she caught Henry’s eye. She had been a lady in waiting to Anne Bolyen.

Did they have children?

No time for children, they were only married for a year.

What happened to Anne?

She was accused of having an affair with Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham. Though Henry didn’t want to believe the accusation at first he soon changed his mind and Catherine – and Thomas and Francis – were all executed.

Catherine Parr

Who was she?

Catherine was Henry’s sixth – and final – wife. She was also the third of his wives called Catherine, which is unnecessarily confusing. Catherine was a wealthy land owner and was trusted by the king, ruling as his regent whilst he was in France.

Did they have children?

That’s a big nope.

What happened to the third Catherine? Catherine Parr survived Henry VIII (very well done we say!). Three years after they were married, Henry died. This allowed her to marry a fella called Thomas Seymour. Yes, from the same family of Seymour's. Thomas was the brother of Jayne Seymour, Henry's third wife.

That’s just a peek at the fascinating history to be discovered and terrific tales to be told in Adventures in Time: The Six Wives of Henry VIII. If you like, you can pre-order the book here:

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