5 Easy Ways to Remember the Order of King Henry VIII's Wives

King Henry the Eighth of England has to this day held the record of the English king with the most wives. While his royal European cousins were busy accumulating mistresses, Henry was occupied with changing the ladies sitting on the throne next to him. He had six wives which meant England had six queens during his reign, and this figure has been infamously deemed too many. So it is not uncommon to hear many remarked that it's so easy to forget the order of Henry's wives, especially when there are three Katherines and two Annes. Here are five manners that can be used to easily remember the sequence of Henry's wives. Read on and pick the one that works best for you.

Left to right: Katherine of Aragon; Anne Boleyn; Jane Seymour; Anne of Cleves; Katherine Howard; Catherine Parr.
Left to right: Katherine of Aragon; Anne Boleyn; Jane Seymour; Anne of Cleves; Katherine Howard; Catherine Parr. | Source

Alphabetical Sequence

One of the most popular and employed manner of organizing data is to order them alphabetically. It works with the last names of these ladies with A for Aragon, B for Boleyn, and so on, with the exception of Jane Seymour's 'S' in the third slot. However, by simply remembering this exception the alphabetical sequence is a fairly easy aid.


Another way to aid remembrance is to employ a mnemonic. A mnemonic is a phrase or a verse which is intended to help the memory. Recall the phase used in music to remember the order of the circle-of-fifths? It goes like this - Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle - using the first letter of each word to do the trick. For this mnemonic concerning Henry's wives, I'll employ the similar method of applying first letters and create a sentence with words and ambient fitting to the subject - A Big Secret Concealing Her Past - as the Tudor court is famously known for its fair share of rival factions, mistrusts, scandals and betrayals, while two of Henry's wives and many in the royal household had a past or a life they needed to conceal, secrets bouncing off the walls at every corner was aplenty.

Rhyme Scheme

There is a certain satisfaction triggered in us when we hear words that rhyme. This method is in fact another version of a mnemonic which uses words that rhyme closely with the six wives' respective names and that pertains to the matter as well.

The first word arrogant rhymes almost perfectly with Aragon. For Anne Boleyn I used Anne even though there are two Annes in the picture as Anne Boleyn is the more famous, controversial, and carries the larger baggage of the two.

Seemed more goes well with Seymour while clever will certainly evoke Cleves due to the almost identical spelling of replacing the 's' with a 'r'. I am aware that the comparison adjective for clever is cleverer, but as grammar does not hold weight in this area, I say it's alright to ignore the rules of English composition solely for this matter.

As can be seen from the image above, the parts in bold extracted from the name Katherine Howard are used. At for Kat, as the shortened form of the name Katherine is Kat, while how is palpably a great reminder of Howard.

For the six wife, Catherine Parr, the words catch the ring represent Catherine. In many articles and books, though not all, on the Tudors, the Katherines of Aragon and Howard begin with a 'K' whilst the first letter of Catherine Parr's first name begins with a 'C' and that is how I've been spelling their names all this while. My initial intention was that the 'c' in catch the ring would distinguished Catherine Parr from the other two Katherines, but for those who do not conform to this rule concerning the spelling it does not matter as after naming Katherine of Aragon and Katherine Howard, Catherine Parr is the only Catherine left.

The context of this mnemonic aptly reflects on Anne Boleyn as she was the one who wanted the ring so badly among the six wives and was devious in procuring it by telling Henry 'the crown or no love'.

Destinies' Pattern

This method actually functions both ways.

The first works for those who have knowledge about the fates of each of these six ladies and are just a little confused about the sequence. All there is to remember then is the pattern - divorced, beheaded, died - with the second repetition substituting died with the opposite, survived. As mentioned, this manner would only operate for those who know the destinies of Henry's wives well.

The second way works for those who know the sequence of these queens by heart but just cannot recall how each of them ended up. Then, again, by remembering the pattern of divorced, beheaded and died, coming up with the fate of each will be a piece of cake.

Katherine of Aragon
Anne Boleyn
Jane Seymour
Anne of Cleves
Katherine Howard
Catherine Parr

Earth's Gravity

Graphic by Carmen H
Graphic by Carmen H

This is my favorite way of the five and the one that I've been using since the day I created it on day 1 when I discovered the Tudors. This fun concept is based on the structure of the earth, taking into account the crust, mantel, and core.

Leaving Catherine Parr aside in the beginning, the crust, as can be seen from the graphic above, is filled with Katherines - Katherine of Aragon above with a reflection of Katherine Howard below. In the inner ring, the mantel, are the two Annes - Anne Boleyn on top mirroring Anne of Cleves beneath. Then for the core, it's Jane Seymour, as it is a universally known fact that gravity is pulled towards the earth's center, so Jane is the core being compressed by the mantel and the crust; that's the reason she died naturally, from the forces of nature, which was in reality due to childbirth.

Bringing Catherine Parr into the picture now, I have her standing on the earth's crust as she was the one who outlived King Henry with a crown still on her head.

Which of the ways above do you find the most useful?

  • Alphabetical order
  • Mnemonic
  • Rhyme sheme
  • Destinies' pattern
  • Earth's gravity
See results without voting

© 2012 Carmen Beth

Comments 12 comments

4 months ago


ozzyherminz12 4 months ago

hey guys i'm doing my exams and the mnemonic way to remember is awesome i never knew it existed all i knew was the destinies way lol

Steven Jeffers profile image

Steven Jeffers 7 months ago from Jellico

Interesting post, and I have been studying Tudor England for years. The story of the 6 wives of King Henry VIII is very well known, and I never imagined a certain way that I remembered their names in order. Cameron, I believe you should research some other women of English History such as Matilda. Another group of articles I think you would enjoy is the Anne Boleyn Files. There is a great conflict with some people believing that Anne Boleyn was the cause of the downfall of the Catholic Church in England. Again, very good hub, and I really enjoyed reading it.

Missy'am84 profile image

Missy'am84 13 months ago

Like Georgie I always remember the destiny patterns of each wife myself but I always thought that the allegations of incest and infidelity against Boelyn were false, he only had her beheaded in order to marry Seymour and he had Howard beheaded because he felt like she used him for the throne in which I believe she did because she was 8 years younger than her stepdaughter Princess Mary and no teen wants to be with a man in his 40s so I believe the allegations towards Howard but not Boleyn plus it was very sad that Jane didn't leave long enough to be in her son's life VERY SAD.

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

why they all almost the same, twin sisters?

Silkekarina 3 years ago from Germany

As an English person who went to school in England, there was only one way to remember the sequence of Henry VIIIs wives and that was :

Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived. There was no debate about this and we certainly didn't put it to a vote throughout the world. Oh!! and at the age of 68 I still remember it.

Carmen H profile image

Carmen H 4 years ago Author

Hi Emma,

I'm happy that the video offered you some enjoyment and I'm glad that you have been so resourceful. The discrepancy you noted would be of great benefit to others - I appreciate it.:-) Keep up your interest with the Tudor queens and thank you for your time and comment.

Emma 4 years ago

I loved the video! I just find it easiest to remember by recalling it as a story. Rather then thinking of them just by their names and basic facts, I researched each one and learned about who she was. The video was slightly inaccurate though, it was a rumor that Katherine Howard said "I die a queen but would much rather be the wife of Culpepper." this myth has since been mostly dispelled by historians. Also it was uncertain wether or not she really did have an affair. Anyway, sorry to be so critical. Great article!

Carmen H profile image

Carmen H 4 years ago Author

Yeah, LetitiaFT, these fortitudinous ladies deserve prompt recognition given what Henry VIII put them through. I hope you would be able to remember the order tomorrow and into the future, then my intention would be accomplished. I appreciate your comment and am happy to know that you enjoyed the video too.

LetitiaFT profile image

LetitiaFT 4 years ago from Paris via California

At last! Not just one way to remember these poor gentlewomen, but many. Every time I think of Henry the VIII I try to remember his wive's names. Maybe now I can. At any rate, I will check to see if I still remember them tomorrow... Thanks

PS the video is absolutely fabulous!

Carmen H profile image

Carmen H 4 years ago Author

Well, I think there are many more ways than these five to remember the sequence - they just have to thought of by more creative minds. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Georgie: )

Georgie Lowery profile image

Georgie Lowery 4 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

I've always remembered divorced, beheaded, died - divorced, beheaded, survived. I never knew there were other ways to remember it! Interesting Hub!

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