The king, directly after, married Jane Seymour; but she lived only a very short time, dying immediately after the christening of her first son, who was named Edward.
Then the king was persuaded by Lord Crumwell to marry a foreign princess called Anne of Cleves. A great painter was sent to bring her picture, and made her very beautiful in it; but when she arrived, she proved to be not only plain-featured but large and clumsy, and the king could not bear the sight of her, and said they had sent him a great Flanders mare by way of queen. So he made Cranmer find some foolish excuse for breaking this marriage also, and was so angry with Thomas Crumwell for having led him into it, that this favorite was in turn thrown into prison and beheaded.
The king chose another English wife, named Katharine Howard; but, after he had married her, it was found out that she had been very ill brought up, and the bad people with whom she had been left came and accused her of the evil into which they had led her. So the king cut off her head, likewise, and then wanted to find another wife; but no foreign princess would take a husband who had put away two wives and beheaded two more, and one Italian lady actually answered that she was much obliged to him, but she could not venture to marry him, because she had only one neck.
At last he found an English widow, Lady Latimer, whose maiden name was Katharine Parr, and married her. He was diseased now, lame with gout, and very large and fat; and she nursed him kindly, and being a good-natured woman, persuaded him to be kinder to his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, than he had ever been since the disgrace of their mothers; and she did her best to keep him in good humor, but he went on doing cruel things, even to the end of his life; and, at the very last, had in prison the very same Duke of Norfolk who had won the battle of Flodden, and would have put him to death in a few days’ time, only that his own death prevented it.
Yet, strange to say, Henry VIII. was not hated as might have been expected. His cruelties were chiefly to the nobles, not to the common people; and he would do good-natured things, and speak with a frank, open manner, that was much liked. England was prosperous, too, and shopkeepers, farmers, and all were well off; there was plenty of bread and meat for all, and the foreign nations were afraid to go to war with us. So the English people, on the whole, loved “Bluff King Hal,” as they called him, and did not think much about his many wickednesses, or care how many heads he cut off. He died in the year 1547. The changes in his time are generally called the beginning of the Reformation.
Edward VI. A.D. 1547—1553.
The little son of Henry VIII. and Jane Seymour of course reigned after him as Edward VI. He was a quiet, gentle boy exceedingly fond of learning and study, and there were great expectations of him; but, as he was only nine years old, the affairs of state were managed by his council.