The English king Henry VIII is famous for many things: the Reformation, when he separated the English Church from Roman Catholic Church; the closing of the monasteries and persecution of non-conformists; being a great jouster and general sportsman of his time; and in later years feasting himself to humongous proportions. However, he is probably best remembered for having six wives. Each was very different, and each made her own indelible mark on English history.
The first was Catherine of Aragon who was queen from 1509 until 1533. Of Spanish descent, she was a strict Catholic and by all accounts a determined and formidable woman. For example, she took a leading role in politics, acting as regent while Henry was absent in France, and even played an important role in one of the most decisive English victories of the reign when her strategy helped beat the Scots at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Perhaps, however, she was too strong a woman for Henry to handle, for he ultimately decided to be rid of her. Most of all, Henry desperately needed a male heir, and sadly all but one of Catherine’s children had been stillborn. In fact, the King came to believe that this was God’s punishment for marrying the woman who had once been his dead brother’s wife. At first Henry tried to persuade the Pope to annul the marriage on grounds of illegality. Eventually, he took the radical step of formally breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church and making himself head of the new Church of England; promptly getting his newly appointed archbishop, Thomas Cranmer, to annul the marriage. There does, though, seem to have been a futher, if not ulterior motive for Henry’s actions. Just five days later, Henry got Cranmer to endorse his marriage to his mistress Anne Boleyn.
Anne Boleyn was of lesser birth than Catherine; indeed she had been the Queen’s lady-in-waiting. Anne was something of a court beauty, but cleverly manipulated her way into Henry’s wedding