Anne Boleyn? Katharine of Aragon? Katherine Parr? We all have our own favourite when it comes to Henry’s wives. So we asked the experts, authors and historians who work in this field, who was their favourite…………..
My favourite wife is Katherine Parr. To me this attractive, vivacious and affectionate woman is simply the most likeable of the six. She is also a perfect example of the cultured and intellectually aware women whose importance in the history of the sixteenth century is only now being fully appreciated. And it is impossible not to be charmed by her sense of style. The queen who had a red velvet toilet seat and decked out her spaniel, Rig, in ‘a collar of crimson velvet embroidered with damask gold’ gets my vote.
Linda Porter, Historical Consultant to BBC One's 'Six Wives with Lucy Worsley'
Anne of Cleves has traditionally been dismissed as ‘the ugly wife’, but I think she was the most successful. A shrewd and pragmatic woman, she had learned from the example of her predecessors and was not about to sacrifice her future in the interests of principle. She gave Henry an annulment with minimum fuss and was rewarded with a handsome endowment, several fine properties and was welcomed back to court as ‘the king’s sister’. She, more than any other wife, knew how to handle Henry.
As the first Englishwoman to publish under her own name, Catherine Parr is a hugely significant figure. She also played an important role in the spread of the Reformation. Catherine comes across as very human in the sources. She was Henry VIII's reluctant bride, while her fourth marriage to Thomas Seymour ended tragically.
Jane Seymour was Henry VIII’s favourite, but this icy, ruthless woman wouldn’t win the popular vote. Anne Boleyn would take those laurels today. But for contemporaries Katherine of Aragon was Queen of Hearts. She also gets my vote as the only wife Henry VIII expressed real fear of. Go girl.
Leanda de Lisle
Anne Boleyn was the wife who changed the course of English history - and, as essentially a self-made woman, the one with most resonance for our own day. Plus, we're all still dying to know just what she had that so fascinated Henry!
Sarah Gristwood, author of 'Game of Queens: the Women who made Sixteenth Century Europe'
My favourite is Katherine Parr, linguist, writer, patron, loving (and loved) stepmother to the royal children, and effective regent for Henry VIII when he was in France in 1544. A woman of sincere and thoughtful Protestant convictions who also had a taste for milk baths, rose water scent and high fashion.
Dominic Pearce, author of 'Henrietta Maria'
I’ve always had great admiration for Katherine of Aragon as a woman of high integrity and principle – I even named my daughter for her. She deserves to be celebrated as one of the most courageous and loved queens of England.
While I find Katherine of Aragon and Katherine Parr utterly fascinating, I feel most connected to Anne Boleyn. I greatly admire her fierce intelligence and courage, and often draw inspiration and strength from Anne’s determination to voice her opinions and be heard, in a time when men were considered intellectually superior.
Natalie Greuninger, co-author of 'In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII'
I think my favourite has to be Anne of Cleves. To me she had this charming combination of being both naive, but also intelligent enough to survive a foreign court where her presence was becoming less desired each day. She had the air of someone who made lemonade out of lemons, and was resourceful enough to find happiness where she could. I admire that.
Heather Teysko, Renaissance English History Podcast
Catherine of Aragon, the beautiful, well-educated daughter of a wealthy warrior queen, swore on oath she was a virgin when she married Henry. She led England as Queen Regent when Henry left to fight the French - and they were married for twenty-four years, making Catherine Henry’s most devoted queen.
Tony Riches, author of The Tudor Trilogy
Katherine Parr is by far my favourite wife – she was highly intelligent and could have taught Henry a thing or two about the business of ruling, and she was a best-selling author. Plus she loved clothes, beauty products and jewels – what’s not to love?!
Nicola Tallis, author of 'Crown of Blood: the Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey'
For me, the most intriguing aspect of Katherine Parr’s character is the essential contradiction at her core: that she, an intelligent and shrewd woman who had negotiated such dangerous territory with aplomb, was capable of falling blindly for a man, her fourth husband, Thomas Seymour, who was shallow, ambitious, dangerous and far from worthy of her. As with Japanese Kintsugi pottery, in which cracks and imperfections are mended and highlighted in gold, rendering them all the more beautiful, it is this flaw that makes Parr so fascinating to me, and is why she was the subject of my first novel.
Elizabeth Fremantle, author of 'Queen’s Gambit', about Katherine Parr, and three other novels set in the Tudor, Elizabethan and Jacobean court