Henry VIII is best known for marrying six women. There were other accomplishments, sure, like inventing a religion, uniting England and Wales, and founding the Royal Navy, but mostly the six wives thing. This guy loved himself some strange.
Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain (yea, those two, the ones with Columbus and everything) was married to Henry VIII's older brother Arthur. Arthur, being the product of English royalty and therefore horribly diseased, died a few months later. As was custom, Catherine was then betrothed to young Henry, who was, like, 12, so she had to wait a few years to remarry. By the time Henry was old enough to wed, an English/Spanish alliance wasn't such a big deal, so the current king called off the engagement.
In the time honored tradition of 18 year-olds everywhere, Henry VIII didn't give a shit what his dad said, because this was HIS life and he was going to do whatever the hell he wanted. Apparently what he wanted was to marry this cougar and totally piss off his dad. They were married and crowned before Henry VII's coffin was nailed shut. That sure showed him.
After a series of miscarriages, stillbirths, and a daughter who would grow up to be called "Bloody Mary," Henry turned his sights on a young attendant named Anne. This is where the new religion comes in. See, in order to get an annulment, Henry needed the Pope. Catherine had a nephew who was the Holy Roman Emperor. To avoid this tricky family matter, Henry up and invented the Church of England and had his shiny new bishop grant the annulment. Problem solved!
New problem! Anne Boleyn was already pregnant. She and Henry were married some time around January 1533, about four months before Henry's marriage to Catherine was dissolved. A move like that requires some Empire-sized balls.
Anne was not some naÃ¯ve lady-in-waiting seduced by the king. From the thoroughly evil geniusy family, the Howards, Anne had made herself known and loved in the courts of France and England. While her older sister was a mistress of Henry VIII, Anne was having profitable affairs with heirs and nobles. When the King fell for her, Anne refused to put out until he put a ring on it. Oh, the "it," by the way, was probably her weird sixth finger.
After a series of miscarriages, stillbirths, and a daughter, Elizabeth, who would grow up to rule a half-century known as The Golden Age, Henry decided Anne was really not living up to her "giving the king a son" duties. Also some nobles were getting kind of sick of her shit (apparently she was way too smart and charming to be tolerated), and an investigation of treason was opened against her. Shortly thereafter she was charged with adultery, incest, witchcraft, and unpaid parking tickets, and was beheaded.
Because it had worked out so god-damned well the last time, Henry married another lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour, ten days after Anne Boleyn was executed. Unlike his crafty previous Queens, Jane was sort of plain and endearing, which is probably why no one knows jack shit about her. A few months after the wedding she got pregnant, and in October 1537 Jane gave birth to a son. The baby was named Edward, but there's not too much else to say about him because, like his long-dead uncle Arthur, he was a sickly product of royal inbreeding and died a few years later. Not that Jane would be around for that. She never quite recovered from labor, and died only two weeks after the prince was born.
Married 1540 (Jan. to Jul.)
Now a single dad with a son to look out for, Henry waited a few years before going out and looking for Edward's new mommy. He assumed those two girls were getting along okay, what with their mothers being exiled and executed or something. It was fairly important that England gain some political allies, and so artists were sent out to various advantageous courts and asked to return with paintings of the cutest available ladies.
Given all of these options, Henry picked Anne of Cleves, from a small kingdom near Holland, but when she showed up he decided she was a fat cow. Also he was already in love with someone else. Also Anne absolutely hated being in England and didn't know anything about life at court.
In an unbelievable twist in Henry's life story, Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII were amicably divorced after just six months of marriage. As a gesture of friendship, Henry gave Anne an honorary title and Anne Boleyn's old county estate. Everyone thought this was a really smart move, because they had gotten in to the habit of calling it "Anne's house" anyway.
Let's face facts here: Henry VIII wasn't having much luck in the marriage department. Political alliances didn't work, marrying for love didn't work, trying to knock up these ladies for kids was getting him nowhere, and he was, like, 50 at this point. So this time he just found some perky teenager to bang.
Kathryn Howard, lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves, was Anne Boleyn's first cousin. See how tangled these royal family trees can get? Kathryn was showered with jewels and went on great vacations, and all she had to do was dote upon her fat, old husband, who by the by, was the fucking King of England. Still, because she was 18, and as we have established before, 18 year-olds have fantastic long term plans, she decided to have some secret affairs. These didn't stay so secret, and Kathryn was imprisoned and eventually executed.
Katherine Parr was born while Henry was still married to Catherine of Aragon. Parr's mother was a lady-in-waiting to Catherine, and named her daughter after this Queen. So Henry's last wife was named after his first. Isn't that some shit?
Henry was in his 50's at this point, but Katherine was 30, so it's safe to say Henry was over his midlife crisis. Katherine's biggest scandal had something to do with banning some books and being outspoken about the reform faith, which her husband has invented, so basically she kept her head down and didn't screw around with anyone else. Finally.