The Darts of Love

The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Everyone knows the popular rhyme: ‘divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived’, which refers to the six wives of Henry VIII. The second Tudor king is rightly famous as England’s most married monarch, with one contemporary exclaiming, after the end of only his fourth marriage: ‘what a man is this king! How many wives will he have?’

The lives of the six women who had the misfortune to marry Henry VIII are less well known than their ultimate fates. The pious Catherine of Aragon, who arrived in England to marry Henry’s older brother, failed to bear a healthy son. She ended her life, discarded at Kimbolton Castle. Catherine was supplanted by the famous Anne Boleyn, who also failed to produce a male heir, and was beheaded in the Tower of London on trumped up charges of adultery. Jane Seymour, who had been a lady in waiting to both her predecessors, gave birth to a son at Hampton Court, but died only twelve days’ later.

Following Jane Seymour’s death, few wanted to venture into matrimony with Henry VIII. In December 1539, Anne of Cleves arrived to marry the king, but he took an instant dislike to her at their first meeting at Rochester Castle. His fifth marriage, to Catherine Howard, also ended on the executioner’s block, with the queen reputedly entertaining a lover during the court’s progress to Lincolnshire in the summer of 1541. Lastly, the twice widowed Catherine Parr married the king. This sixth queen, who was the first Englishwoman to publish a book under her own name, died only eighteen months after Henry at Sudeley Castle.

Many of the sites most associated with the six wives survive. This tour tells the story of Henry’s unfortunate queens through the places most associated with them.


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Itinerary 2017

Day 1

Rochester Castle and Allington Castle

After meeting at London Victoria, we drive to Rochester Castle in Kent, where Henry VIII met his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, for the first time. Rumour has it that he declared that he had been brought a ‘Flanders Mare’ instead of a woman, when he first met his bride. We then travel to Allington Castle for lunch, before a private tour in the home of Sir Thomas Wyatt, who was rumoured to be a lover of Anne Boleyn’s. We then drive over to Hever Castle, where we have dinner and spend the night.

Day 2

Hever Castle and Penshurst Place

In the morning, we enjoy a private tour of Hever Castle, which was the childhood home of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. After lunch, we will head over to nearby Penshurst Place, which was granted to Anne of Cleves following the annulment of her marriage to Henry VIII. Overnight at the Lensbury, Teddington.

Day 3

Hampton Court

Heading up towards London, we will spend the day at Hampton Court, which was one of Henry VIII’s favourite palaces. He spent time there with all of his six wives, with his last five particularly associated with the palace. In particular, we will the spectacular Tudor state apartments, including the haunted gallery where the ghost of the unfortunate Catherine Howard is reputed to walk. We will also visit the chapel royal, where Prince Edward – the son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour – was christened. We will spend the night at the four star Lensbury Hotel in nearby Teddington.

Day 4

Windsor Castle and Great Bedwyn Parish Church

The morning will be spent at Windsor Castle, the oldest continuously occupied castle in the world. Henry VIII is buried there with Jane Seymour, while he also spent time with his other wives in the castle. We will then drive to Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire, which was a few miles from the Seymour family home of Wolf Hall. The tombs of Jane Seymour’s father, Sir John Seymour, and her brother, can be viewed, as can stained glass from the original Wolf Hall. We will spend the night near Sudeley in Gloucestershire.

Day 5

Sudeley Castle and the Bosworth Battlefield Centre

We will spend the morning exploring Sudeley Castle, which was the final home of Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Catherine Parr. She died there in September 1548, after the birth of her only child. We will then drive to Lincoln, stopping at the Bosworth Battlefield Centre, which witnessed the birth of the Tudor dynasty. We will stay in Lincoln for the next two nights.

Day 6

Gainsborough Old Hall, Lincoln Bishop’s Palace and Lincoln Cathedral

We will drive over to Gainsborough Old Hall in the morning, which is the well preserved home of Catherine Parr during her first marriage to Edward Burgh. In the afternoon, we will visit the ruins of the Bishop’s Palace at Lincoln, where Henry VIII and Catherine Howard stayed in 1541. This was one of the places that Catherine secretly met with her lover, Thomas Culpeper. There will also be time to explore Lincoln Cathedral.

Day 7

Peterborough Cathedral and Kimbolton Castle

In the morning, we drive southwards to Peterborough Cathedral, to visit the final resting place of Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon. We will then enjoy a private tour of Kimbolton Castle in Cambridgeshire, which was Catherine’s final residence. She died there in January 1536. We will spend the night near Kimbolton.

Day 8

Tower of London

After driving to London, we end our tour at the Tower of London, where both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were executed. We will visit the scaffold site, as well as the graves of the two queens in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower. We will then return to London Victoria in the afternoon.

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer
  2. Historical Trips Tour Manager
  3. Meals - All meals included with water (wine with dinners)
  4. Hotels - Accommodation in hand-picked hotels.
  5. Local Travel - Private a/c coach
  6. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included

Hotel Info

7 nights in 4* Hotels in the U.K.

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