2 – He Was No Ladies Man (Compared To Other Kings)
Surely the fact he had six wives meant he was adept at wooing the fairer sex and also suggested a voracious sexual appetite? Not so according to historians who suggest that having so many wives was a sign that he did not fare well with the ladies. On the surface, Henry was something of a ‘catch.’ The young Henry was tall, attractive and muscular with stunning reddish-gold hair. As well as being athletic and brave, Henry enjoyed singing and playing instruments such as the lute.
However, Henry was a long way from being a lothario. Although he had six wives, his marriage to Katherine of Aragon lasted for 22 years and didn’t end until 1533 when she had failed to produce a son. In other words, most of Henry’s prime was spent married to the same woman. This isn’t to say that he didn’t have affairs. He had dalliances with women of the court including Lady Elizabeth Blount who gave birth to an illegitimate son called Henry FitzRoy. But by the standards of European monarchs of the age, he was relatively subdued when it came to women. The illegitimate son convinced him that his inability to produce a male heir was his wife’s fault. As a result, he actively sought a divorce by any means necessary.
Meanwhile, he had become enamored by a woman named Anne Boleyn in 1525, but she initially rejected his advances. It was a strategic move by Boleyn as she knew it would only serve to deepen the king’s fascination with her. The plan worked as Henry pushed Cardinal Wolsey into helping him secure the divorce. He executed the cardinal and replaced him with Sir Thomas More even though More was also against the idea. By 1533, it was clear that nothing would stop Henry having his way. He broke from the Church of England and demoted the Pope, so he became the supreme leader of the church. With his new ‘power,’ he annulled his marriage to Katherine.
When Henry persuaded Boleyn to become his mistress, he was apparently shocked by the sexual knowledge she possessed. She claimed to be a virgin, but Henry was convinced that she was not. By 1536, Henry had moved on to Jane Seymour so to get Anne out of the way; he had her executed on charges of adultery; mainly because Anne was unable to produce a male heir. By all accounts, Henry truly loved Jane but his joy at the birth of a male heir, Edward, was short lived as Jane died a few weeks afterward due to complications with the childbirth.
After a short and unhappy political marriage to Anne of Cleves who he married in 1540, Henry fell for Catherine Howard and divorced Anne. Unfortunately for him, Catherine, a woman he called “a rose without a thorn,” conducted extramarital affairs with at least two men. Along with two of these men, she was executed. Henry’s sixth and final marriage, in 1543, was to Catherine Parr who was in love with Sir Thomas Seymour. Fortunately for her, she did not cavort with Seymour while married to Henry and survived their four-year marriage which ended with Henry’s death in 1547.
In many ways, Henry could be seen as a ladies’ man as he had six wives and a number of mistresses. However, he was apparently a prude behind closed doors, and his slew of sexual conquests paled into comparison with the norm for monarchs of the 16th century.