Where are Henry VIII’s six wives buried?

Where is Katherine of Aragon buried?

Katherine of Aragon was the first wife of King Henry VIII of England. Born in 1485, in the Archbishop’s Palace of Alcalá de Henares, she first married Henry’s older brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales, who died six months after their wedding. Katherine then married Henry VIII in 1509. Despite multiple pregnancies, only one daughter – Mary – survived into adulthood. The struggle for a male heir led Henry to seek an annulment from Katherine. 

She died on 7 January 1536, at Kimbolton Castle, and until her death professed herself to be the true queen of England. 

When news reached court of Katherine’s passing, Henry was reportedly so relieved that he spared no effort in providing his late wife with a magnificent state funeral. He selected Peterborough Abbey (the nearest religious house befitting Katherine’s status) as her final resting place, despite Katherine’s request to be buried in a monastery belonging to the Franciscan Observant Friars. Henry also insisted that she should be buried as a Dowager Princess of Wales and not as a Queen of England. 

Commemoration Service for Katherine of Aragon at Peterborough Cathedral

For this reason, Katherine’s long-time confidant, Ambassador Eustace Chapuys, chose not to attend her funeral. Henry himself remained at Greenwich, and prohibited their daughter Mary from attending. 

Henry spared no expense, providing black cloth for the apparel of the ladies present, including linen for their mourning veils. He also pledged to erect a splendid monument in Katherine’s memory, which was indeed constructed but unfortunately destroyed by parliamentary troops in the Civil War. 

Lady Eleanor Brandon, the daughter of the late Mary Tudor Queen of France, served as chief mourner at Katherine’s funeral. After a mass was held, Catherine’s body was buried ‘in a grave at the lowest step of the high altar, over which they put a simple black cloth’. 

The Queen remains buried at Peterborough Abbey. Katherine is remembered with services and festivals at the Cathedral on the anniversary of her internment. 

Visitors continue to place pomegranates – the Queen’s heraldic symbol – on her tomb.

Where is Anne Boleyn buried?

Anne Boleyn, born in 1501, was the second wife of King Henry VIII of England. She caught the King’s eye while serving as a lady in Queen Katherine of Aragon’s entourage and, following a seven year struggle to free from the shackles of his first marriage, eventually became Henry’s wife. She was crowned Queen in 1533, but failed to provide the King with a male heir and eventually fell out of favour with Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell. 

In May of 1536, Anne was tried and arrested on trumped up charges of treason and adultery, and executed.

Anne Boleyn in the Tower by Edouard Cibot

At the time of her death, no provisions had been made for her burial. The task of burying Anne’s remains fell to her ladies, who carried their Queen’s broken body to the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London – a short distance from the site of her execution – where she is today buried. Although Anne was executed at 9 o’clock on the morning of 19 May, it was not until later in the afternoon that her body was buried. The delay was thought to have been caused by the King’s failure to elect someone to dig a grave for Anne. 

Given how swiftly the Queen fell, no provisions were made for a grave or, as it turned out, even a coffin. 

Anne’s remains, ‘wrapped in a white covering’, were then deposited into an elm trunk – traditionally used to store arrows – and laid to rest in a shallow grave before the high altar of the chapel, alongside the decapitated body of her brother, George Boleyn, who had been buried there just two days previously.

Visitors to the Tower of London can today pay their respects to the site of Anne Boleyn’s burial. Every year on the anniversary of Anne’s execution, an anonymous donor delivers a bouquet of red roses to adorn her tragic tomb.

Where is Jane Seymour buried?

Queen Jane Seymour, the third wife of King Henry VIII, is buried at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. 

Jane died on 24 October 1537, likely of puerperal fever, shortly after giving birth to her only child, Prince Edward, who later became King Edward VI. Jane was the only wife of Henry VIII to receive a queen’s funeral, during which her stepdaughter, Mary Tudor, acted as chief mourner.

When Henry VIII died in 1547, he was buried beside Jane, his “true wife”. Although the vault in which their bodies were interred was intended to be a temporary resting place, none of Henry’s children fulfilled their father’s lofty wishes to finish the construction of a grand tomb in his memory. 

Portions of a partially constructed tomb, which began construction during Henry’s reign but remained incomplete at the time of his death, were later sold during the Civil War to raise funds for the royal family. 

The tomb of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour

Jane and Henry’s remains were later joined by those of King Charles I and an infant child of Queen Anne. Their burial place was marked by a modest marble slab during the reign of King William IV. 

Where is Anne of Cleves buried?

Anne of Cleves, born in 1515, was the daughter of John III, Duke of Cleves, and Maria of Jülich-Berg. She was married to Henry VIII from 6 January to 12 July 1540. Disappointed with the match, Henry sought an annulment, claiming that the marriage had not been consummated. Anne was rewarded for her compliance with several properties – including Hever Castle – and was granted the title of “The King’s Sister.” She outlived Henry VIII and lived into the reigns of two of his children, Edward VI and Mary I, remaining in England until her death on 16 July 1557. She is buried at Westminster Abbey.

The tomb of Anne of Cleves

Anne died at Chelsea Manor – which the King had granted to Catherine Parr as part of her dowry in 1544 – most likely of cancer. Anne’s former stepdaughter, Queen Marry, arranged for her to be laid to rest at Westminster Abbey, making her the sole wife of Henry VIII to be buried within the hallowed grounds of the Abbey. Her funeral was conducted according to Catholic rites, per Anne’s request. 

The Queen’s tomb is, however, far from ostentatious – and is notably hard to find, even for seasoned Abbey goers. Located on the south side of the high altar, it is decorated with carvings of her initials, flanked by symbols of death, including lions’ heads, skulls, and crossed bones.

Where is Katherine Howard buried?

On the day of her execution, the remains of Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Katherine Howard, were interred near to those of her disgraced cousin, Anne Boleyn, in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London. Katherine, some thirty years younger than her kingly husband, was Queen of England from 28 July 1540 to 23 November 1541. Later accused of having engaged in extramarital affairs, Katherine was stripped of her title as Queen and lodged at Syon Abbey, where she remained imprisoned throughout the winter of 1541.

She was executed for treason alongside her lady, Jane Boleyn Lady Rochford, at the Tower of London. It is said that the night prior to her execution, Katherine made a request for the block to be brought to her chambers so she could rehearse laying her head upon it. As soon as the Queen’s head was stricken off, her remaining ladies laid black cloth over over her body to protect her dignity. 

The remains of both Katherine Howard and Lady Rochford were then interred in an unmarked grave within the nearby chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, where the bodies of Catherine’s cousins, Anne and George Boleyn, were also laid to rest. 

The tomb Katheryn Howard, near to the site of Anne Boleyn, at The Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula

Victorian era excavations of the Chapel failed to find the exact location of Katherine’s body. It has been postulated that the Queen’s young bones had not fully ossified and thus deteriorated. Others have proposed that lime was poured over her grave to hasten the process of decomposition. She was around 22 at the time of her death.

Nothing of Katherine Howard’s remains survive today. A commemorative plaque dedicated to all those who lost their lives in the Tower stands on the western wall, honoring the lives of Katherine Howard, Jane Rochford, and Anne Boleyn. 

Where is Catherine Parr buried? 

Catherine Parr, the sixth and final wife of Henry VIII – and the Queen who famously “survived” him – died on 5 September 1548. 

Catherine and Henry were wed at Hampton Court Palace on 12 July 1543, and remained married until the latter’s passing. Just four months after Henry’s death, thirty-five year old Catherine remarried. Aware that the new King’s council would disapprove of such a hasty union, the Queen and her new husband, Thomas Seymour, wed in secret, with Catherine facilitating clandestine visits with her amour by leaving Chelsea Manor’s garden gate unlocked.

The tomb of Catherine Parr

In the spring of 1548, Catherine found herself pregnant for the first time. In anticipation of the birth of her child, the couple retreated to Sudeley Castle, their countryside residence in Gloucestershire, in June. 

In late August, Catherine gave birth to a daughter, Mary Seymour. Tragically, the Queen soon contracted puerperal fever and died on 5 September. 

Her funeral took place only days later, during which Lady Jane Grey assumed the role of chief mourner. Catherine was laid to rest in St. Mary’s Church at Sudeley Castle, “in what is now the finest coffin of any of Henry’s wives” .

Although her tomb was later victim to neglect, looting, and desecration, Sudeley Castle remains the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within the grounds.

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Sources & Suggested Reading

  1. Darsie, Heather R. Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s “Beloved Sister.” Amberley Publishing Limited, 2019.
  2. Fox, Julia. Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford. Hachette UK, 2019.
  3. Tremlett, Giles. Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen. Faber & Faber Non Fiction, 2011.
  4. Grueninger, Natalie. “Where Is Anne Boleyn Buried?” On The Tudor Trail, April 21, 2011. https://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/2011/04/21/where-is-anne-boleyn-buried/.
  5. Novakovic, Daniella. “Coffin Break – The Dramatic Afterlife of Katharine Parr.” Historic UK, November 8, 2022. https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/Dramatic-Afterlife-Katherine-Parr/.
  6. Weir, Alison. The Six Wives of Henry VIII: Find out the Truth about Henry VIII’s Wives. Random House, 2011.

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