The (lack of) coronations of Henry VIII’s wives

Tomorrow (6th May 2023), Charles III with be crowned and annointed in Westminster Abbey. Alongside him will be his second wife, Camilla, who will be crowned as Queen Consort. It seemed an apt time to consider the coronations, or rather, lack of coronations of four of Henry VIII’s wives.

Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was crowned alongside him in a ceremony that took place on 24th June 1509, just 13 days after they had married. His second wife, Anne Boleyn, was crowned in a solo ceremony on 1st June 1533. They would be the only two of his wives to be crowned. So, why did the other women not get a coronation?

His third wife, Jane Seymour, was supposed to be crowned in 1536. However, the ceremony was postponed until the following year. On 3rd October 1536, the Holy Roman Emperor’s ambassador to England, Eustace Chapuys, wrote to Emperor Charles V saying that the coronation was delayed to the following summer “and some doubt it will not take place at all”. He then added that there was no sign that she would have children. The implication was clear, he believed that Henry would not crown his wife until he had a male heir. Queen Jane did eventually have the desired son but, as she died shortly after, she was never crowned.

Over the next ten years, Henry would have three further weddings but there would be no more coronations. The marriage to Anne of Cleves was annulled as soon as possible, Katherine Howard was executed for treason without children, and Katherine Parr also had no children with Henry VIII.

It does seem likely that Henry was once bitten, twice shy (or rather twice bitten, three times shy) when it came to crowning the women he married. His marriages to both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn were both annulled meaning that, legally, neither of them had been his wife. Therefore, neither of them should have been crowned as a Queen. The fact that the coronations had taken place was an embarrassment. An embarrassment that he was not prepared to risk happening again.

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