Overly Enthusiastic History Lesson: The Wives of Henry VIII, Part Deux

ALL RIGHT KIDS, IT'S TIME FOR ROUND TWO OF HENRY TUDOR IS A BAG OF DICK.

When we last saw our hero, he had divorced his first wife, and the Catholic Church, because they didn't have a grasp of basic biology, and had shacked up with wifey numero dos, Anne Boleyn.  Anne had given birth to Elizabeth I, who is arguably the greatest monarch in English history, but it wasn't good enough for ol' Hank, so he started checking out the hot blonde number that had come to court, Jane Seymour.

"Hot" being a relative term here...

"Hot" being a relative term here...

Henry began courting and seducing Jane here ^, which did not sit well with Anne, let me tell you.  It didn't help that Henry gave Jane a locket with his picture in it, and Jane began flaunting it in front of Anne, who ripped the locket off of her rival with so much force that her FREAKING HANDS BLED.

Don't fuck with Anne Boleyn, yo, she's got no chill.

Naturally, Anne is pretty pissed off at this point, and tells her husband so, so Henry does what any sane, understanding husband would do.

He charged her with adultery, incest, and treason, and had her decapitated. But not before she gave the bravest and simultaneously most passive aggressive death speech ever.

This left Henry free to marry sweet, passive, submissive Jane, who was pretty much everything that Anne was not. The Seymour's were longtime rivals of the Boleyn's, so this was quite a fun kick to the crotch for Anne's family on top of their kinswoman being publicly murdered because she had a daughter instead of a son.

Jane actually had quite a happy marriage to Henry, to be honest. She was arguably his favorite wife, not only because of her sweet demeanor, but because she was the only wife to give him a son who survived past infancy, Edward VI, though this young prince (and short-time king upon the death of his father) died at age fifteen of illness.  

They just didn't make boys like they did girls back then, AMIRITE, MARY AND ELIZABETH?

Jane, however, didn't get to see her boy grow up. The labor had lasted more than 48 hours, and Jane fell ill due to labor complications, and died just 12 days after Edward's birth.

Henry suddenly became a good husband, wearing mourning clothes for three months and refusing to marry for three years. Jane is the only wife buried with Henry, clearly a sign that she was his favorite.

BUT DON'T WORRY, BIG DADDY DOUCHE IS BACK.

After three years, England was getting a bit antsy for a queen (and more importantly, more male heirs, because most kids only lived to the ripe old age of potty training and they weren't putting all their egg's in Edward VI's basket, nosireebob).  I believe that contemporaries described it as such:

England:  Dude, you just sit in your room eating Cheetos all day.  You're getting gross and fat and so you might want to hitch up to some noble broad before you have nothing to offer anymore.

Henry:  OMG FINE SHIP A BITCH IN FROM GERMANY, FUCK.

Royal portrait artist Hans Holbein was sent off to what is now Germany to get some sketches of the two unmarried daughters of the Duke of Cleves, Anne and Amalia.  Henry didn't want any funny business, and told Hans not to "flatter" the women (NO MYSPACE ANGLES, HANS).  Henry checked out the pics, and went with Bachelorette Number One, Anne of Cleves.

Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII and advocate for bold shoulders in fashion

Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII and advocate for bold shoulders in fashion

Now, here's where it gets weird.  Anne of Cleves was said to be an attractive woman by contemporaries: tall, slim, pretty face, beautiful blonde hair.

So what did ol' Henry think?

He dubbed her the "Flanders Mare."

Yup.  Called her a horse.  Mature.

Henry was entirely unattracted to Anne both physically and mentally.  Henry prized wit and education in women, which Anne lacked; she'd received a more "traditional" upbringing; needlework, cleaning, and only enough literacy to read and write in German.

So, it wasn't happy union.  Union....is actually a stretch.

The marriage was never consummated, as Henry described her as having a foul body odor (everyone did back then pre-deodorant) and sagging breasts (which is unlikely in a 25-year-old woman who was considered "slim") and he couldn't get it up.  Of course, he claimed he wasn't impotent since he had two wet dreams that night (no, really, this is historically documented, kings have zero privacy, man...).

And yet, Anne was probably the happiest ending of all.

Since she agreed to a divorce, she got a massive settlement with multiple palaces, riches, and a friendly place at court, being referred to as the "King's Beloved Sister" (weird) and living to the age of forty-one as a wealthy woman, outliving Henry and all of his other wives.

Yeah. Anne of Cleves totes wins.

STAY TUNED NEXT TIME FOR THE THRILLING CONCLUSION OF HENRY IS A MISOGYNISTIC GIT.