Born: 28 June 1491
Crowned: 24 June 1509
Died: 28 January 1546, aged 55.
Poor Henry is probably most well-known for his obsession with finding a wife who would give him a male heir. This was a search which caused him to go through six separate marriages, as well as break away from the Catholic Church to start a new one. All he wanted was to make sure that his line would be continued.
In 1509, Henry married Katherine of Aragon, his brother’s widow, who gave birth to Henry’s first daughter, Mary. Despite many more attempts, Katherine was never able to give him the son he so desired, much to his despair. Henry decided to ask the Pope for a divorce so he could find a better wife, but this was refused. Refusing to let this stop him, Henry decided to begin his own church, the Church of England, which would be more willing to grant him a divorce. Next, he decided to marry the young Anne Boleyn, but this marriage also only resulted in the birth of a daughter, Elizabeth I.
By the time Anne was executed for treason in 1536, Henry had already started working on securing his next wife. He began sending gifts to Jane Seymour, preparing her to become his next Queen. Henry and Jane got engaged the day after Anne’s execution, and married 10 days later.
It was announced in February 1537 that Jane, Henry’s new Queen, was pregnant. She withdrew from court that September to prepare for her child’s arrival. The pregnancy was fairly uneventful, but the same cannot be said for the birth. Jane was in labour for 2 days and 3 nights, finally giving birth to Henry’s long-awaited son on 12 October.
The birth of his son, however, was not the positive experience it was expected to be. After her long labour, Jane had fallen very ill with what historians now believe to have been puerperal fever, or complications associated with the retention of parts of the placenta, which may have caused serious haemorrhaging. Whichever was the case, septicemia kicked in and Jane died on the 24th of October, just under 18 months after becoming Queen.
Divine Providence has mingled my joy with the bitterness of the death of her who brought me this happiness.
As happy as Henry was to finally have his son, he was also completely grief-stricken by the death of his wife – contrary to the image many have of him as a heartless womanizer. The one light in this new darkness was the christening of his son and heir, Edward VI.