Six Wives of Henry VIIIBack in early 2011, I wrote a series of posts on the “six wives’ stereotypes”, the various stereotypes, labels, myths and downright lies which surround Henry VIII’s six wives. Fiction, films, TV series and even history books have led to people having very warped ideas of these women and to some feeling that they have to pick sides/teams, to put one wife on a pedestal while shooting down another. I may spend my time writing about Anne Boleyn and her family, but all six wives (and Henry himself) fascinate me and they don’t deserve to be pigeon-holed and misrepresented.

For those of you who missed the series of post in 2011, here they are and I do hope you enjoy my thoughts. Do feel free to comment on them and share your views.

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11 thoughts on “The Six Wives of Henry VIII and their Labels”
  1. Good afternoon

    I’m a Spanish living in Scotland and I always felt interested and loved this period, both in UK and Spain, so for me is exciting to have found this blog, I really love it!!
    You got me more than ready to deepen into this period and especially, with Catherine of Aragon, who we think now is not that boring nor Anne is the maligned etc etc

    As Spanish and passionate about history I must say that Anne Boleyn was never seen with benevolent eyes (mostly the contrary) and our hearts were/are with Catalina, daughter of our famous monarchs Fernando and Isabel

    However as women – and I don’t want to seem too extremist – is a pity how they were used (the 6 of them) by men and lived under the pressure of being a woman in that time


  2. Anne is my favorite Of Henry’s wives. So should I start taking her side (Anne B) and hate Katherine,becuase she was the premiere enemy of Anne? Should I call Jane Seymour a milk toast, who got what she deserved and that was her karma? I THINK NOT! Now if ppl would like to choose sides or go with the Team KOA,Team Anne,Team Jane stuff:fine.-That is their chioce,but I dont think that way. I find all of Henry’s wives to be fascinating and courageuos in her own way. But most of all I find them all to be far to complex to be reduced to a single, certain stereotype.

    1. I totally agree with you, Leandra, at the same time I think, as you said, that you cannot help having “favorites” I mean, you like some of them (like happens in the real world) more than other – because of whatever the reason, sometimes people like one actress and dislike another that other people love

      I want to learn about all of them

  3. Recently, I read Antonia Fraser’s book on Henry’s wives. She notes in the Introduction that she heard some kids talking about “the ugly one” — Anne of Cleves — but the portrait they were discussing was that of “the temptress” — Anne Boleyn.

    1. I happen to be reading that book now – for the 4-5th time, might I add! She also mentions the childish rhyme, “divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived”.

      It’s a fine book; detailed, dignified, straight-forward, never dull, even when twisting in the complex politics and religious battles of the time. Fraser breathes life into each of those ladies, portraying each one as beautiful, intelligent and brave.

  4. Catherine of Aragon is definately not boring. She was extremely intelligent and wise and clever. She recieved an excellent education from Isabella of Castille as did all Isabella of Castille’s children, Isabella of Portugal, Juana of Castile, the Infante Juan, Maria of Portugal. Isabella of Castille had a very limited education herself and she made sure her children had a very, very good education. England loved Catherine of Aragon. She was kind and considerate to the peasants. She made alter cloths for the churchs and she encouraged education among women.

    As for Jane Seymour, I do not think she was meek. She was scared of Henry the Eight. She tried to speak up for the monastries but Henry the Eight told her it is not women’s business. And we also know so little of her. So how can any say she is meek.

  5. You bring up an interesting point, Claire. These women are linked by a common thread (King Henry VIII), but there’s more to them than meets the eye. They had convictions in an environment that was generally harsh for women. They had both admirable and undesirable qualities, just like anyone else. Personally, I think the simplest way to distinguish them is numerically, because any other labels, when applied to anyone, can be harsh. At the end of the day, they were human beings who held a unique place in history.

  6. Perhaps this is not quite the best location to address this question, but it was the only location that might work…
    I began researching for a new ren costume for a formal dress (our ren faire is set in Tudor times with Queen Anne Boleyn and King Henry) but became more and more curious about the German style of the times.
    The photos I’ve seen, especially of the Saxon Cranach dress, seemed like a curvy feminine silhouette, and the hats seemed like something more out of the early 1900’s with their wide brims and feathers…
    I realize that the French/Spanish style had the two triangle effect, but the oft commented “heavy” or “hideous” or “frumpy” description of the German style just does not compute with me. (And I understand that the English or French might have viewed the Germanic style as not ‘up to par’ in that oh so snobish way…or ‘it doesn’t look like us so we just don’t like it’ response)

    But really; Is there something I am missing?

    Mainly I’m perplexed by the current descriptions when people speak of the fashion (which also seemed more closely aligned with Italian fashions of the time)…

    Any insight you or others would be appreciated.

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