Henry-VIII

4

She took after the English royal house as well, with reddish golden hair, a fair skin and bright blue eyes.

The Englishness of her name and appearance proved prophetic. After a happy, secure childhood, Catherine’s life was to become a series of struggles: to get married, to have a child and, above all, to protect her marriage and her child against her husband’s determination to annul the one and bastardise the other. And the scene of these struggles was England.

David Starkey “Six Wives”

You can’t read The Six Wives Of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser and NOT feel the worst for Katherine Howard out of all of them.

Granted, Anne got killed too, but at least she was smart and savvy and old enough to know what she was getting into.

Katherine Howard was just a ditsy, silly, unintelligent teenage girl in way over her head.  That’s why her story is so sad. 

If Henry had been one bit of the good Christian he claimed to be, he’d have just had her banished or sent to a convent.  

That he insisted on her death basically tells you what a frigging sociopath he was. 

6

All of Henry VIII’s six wives were related to each other–and to Henry–by a common ancestor, King Edward I (“Longshanks”). Henry was Edward’s seven- and nine-times great-grandson on his mother’s side and his six-times great-grandson on his father’s, while all of his wives–including the Spanish-born Katherine of Aragon and the German-born Anne of Cleves–were Edward’s seven-, eight-, or nine-times great-granddaughters.*

To the best of my ability, here are the wives’ ancestry dating back to Edward I.

Edward I → Edward II → Edward III → John of Gaunt → Philippa of Lancaster → Infante John of Portugal → Isabel of Portugal → Isabel of Castile → Katherine of Aragon

Edward I → Thomas of Brotherton → Margaret, Duchess of Norfolk → Elizabeth de Segrave → Thomas Mowbray → Margaret Mowbray → John Howard → Thomas Howard → Elizabeth Howard → Anne Boleyn

Edward I → Edward II → Edward III → Lionel, Duke of Clarence → Phillippa of Clarence →  Elizabeth Mortimer → Elizabeth Percy → Mary Clifford → Henry Wentworth → Margaret Wentwoth → Jane Seymour

Edward I → Margaret, Duchess of Brabant → John III of Brabant → Margaret of Brabant → Margaret III of Flanders → John I of Burgundy → Marie of Burgundy → John I, Duke of Cleves → John II, Duke of Cleves → John III, Duke of Cleves → Anne of Cleves

Edward I → Thomas of Brotherton → Margaret, Duchess of Norfolk → Elizabeth de Segrave → Thomas Mowbray → Margaret Mowbray → John Howard → Thomas Howard → Edmund Howard → Kathryn Howard

Edward I → Edward II → Edward III → John of Gaunt → Joan Beaufort → Richard Neville → Alice Neville → Elizabeth FitzHugh → Thomas Parr → Katherine Parr

While Anne Boleyn and Kathryn Howard were famously the most closely related of Henry’s wives as first cousins, (Anne’s mother was a sister of Kathryn’s father), Katherine of Aragon, Jane Seymour, and Katherine Parr all share a closer common ancestor in Edward III, and the first and last of Henry’s Katherines were both descended from John of Gaunt, who was Aragon’s three- and Parr’s four-times great-grandfather, respectively.

It’s also possible that some or all of these women were descended from other members of the English royal family in yet more ways, but these are the lines that I was able to follow. Until very recently I had no idea that all of Henry’s wives, even Anne of Cleves, were related to him; I thought it was kind of wild!

* This may not be the precisely correct terminology, as I’m no genealogist.