King Henry VIII is probably one of the most well-known Kings of England, famous for having six wives and establishing the Church of England.
But England’s most married monarch was obsessed with producing a male heir to protect the Tudor dynasty, which is why he had such a turbulent love life!
But did King Henry VIII have a son?
King Henry VIII had several children with different women, but only three were legitimate: two daughters, Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I, and one son, King Edward VI. He also had an illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy, the only child born out of wedlock that the King acknowledged.
In this article, I’ll discuss Henry’s sons, both legitimate and illegitimate, the offspring of his various wives, and the fates of all his male children.
Who Was King Henry VIII?
Henry was born at Greenwich Palace on the 28th of June in 1491 to parents King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York and was their second son.
He became the heir to the throne after his older brother, Arthur, the Prince of Wales, died in 1502 from a mysterious “sweating” illness.
Henry married his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, and became King of England in 1509, aged 17, after his father, King Henry VII, died from tuberculosis.
King Henry VIII would go on to marry five more wives.
Here is a full run-down of his sons, both legitimate and illegitimate.
Did Henry VIII Have an Illegitimate Son?
King Henry VIII had an illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, with Elizabeth Blount, the lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon. He was born in 1519.
After the premature deaths of the sons born to Queen Catherine, Henry officially acknowledged Henry as his son.
“Fitzroy” is a Norman term meaning “Son of the King.”
Their relationship became more significant following his divorce from Catherine and the failure of Anne Boleyn to produce a son.
King Henry VIII made the young Henry Knight of the Garter and Earl of Nottingham at age six, and later Duke of Richmond and Somerset.
Henry heaped more titles on Fitzroy, including Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
Henry put his chief minister, Thomas Wolsey, in charge of Henry Fitzroy’s upbringing, with his education entrusted to the classical scholar Richard Croke.
What Happened to Henry Fitzroy?
Henry Fitzroy was proof that King Henry VIII could father a son and a walking rebuke to Catherine of Aragon, who, despite being pregnant six times, only had one daughter, Mary I, to show for it.
Catherine resented the young Henry, and the relationship between Fitzroy and Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, was no better.
On the 26th of November 1533, Henry Fitzroy married Mary Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, both aged 14.
It appears the union was a political one rather than a love match and the idea of King Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn.
Could Henry Fitzroy Have been King?
Many believed that King Henry VIII was grooming Fitzroy for succession to the throne.
But although Henry never legitimized Henry Fitzroy as his son, according to the 1536 Act of Succession, his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, were deemed illegitimate too.
As a male, Fitzroy would be the monarch’s preferred choice.
However, despite enjoying good health and the life of a prince, Fitzroy died at age 17, most likely from tuberculosis.
He was buried in Norfolk at Thetford Priory with little pomp and few people in attendance.
Did King Henry VIII Have a Legitimate Son?
King Henry VIII had only one legitimate son who survived infancy despite having six wives.
Edward was born on the 12th of October 1537 at Hampton Court and would be the last Tudor baby. His mother was Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour.
Edward was the first King to receive an intensive education, which included Greek and Latin, with scholars training him to think and write clearly.
At 14, he started to take an interest in government, sometimes attending privy council meetings, examining council documents and writing white papers.
When Edward was six, he married Mary, the young Queen of Scotland, who was only seven months old, as Henry VIII wanted to bring Scotland under English control.
However, six months later, Lords in Scotland annulled the agreement, and Edward would go on to marry Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry II of France.
How Did Edward VI Become King?
Edward became King on the death of his father, King Henry VIII, who died in 1547 from natural causes, aged 55. As Edward was only nine years old, he needed a regency.
Under the influence of his advisors, Edward steered England towards becoming a Protestant nation.
However, his regency did not dominate Edward; he had strong opinions and ideas showing all the makings of a tyrant like his father, King Henry VIII and allowed the execution of two of his uncles.
Why is King Edward VI Important?
Although Edward would reign for just six and a half years, his reign heralded some of the most significant religious reforms in English history, with the First Book of Common Prayer published in January 1549.
Edward established Protestantism in England, introducing reforms that included the abolition of Mass and clerical celibacy.
The Six Wives Of Henry VIII – Which Had Children And Sons?
1. Catherine of Aragon
Offspring – Two Sons, Both name Henry Duke of Cornwall (living only a few months). One daughter – Queen Mary 1.
Catherine of Aragon was born in Spain on the 16th of December 1485, the youngest daughter of Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
Catherine married Henry’s elder brother Arthur when they were both 15, but Arthur died just a few months after the wedding.
Catherine testified that their marriage was never consummated, which allowed her eight years later, aged 23, to marry Henry, who was five years her junior.
Henry loved Catherine, and she matched him intellectually. The two enjoyed a happy marriage, and they would ride and hunt together.
Catherine became pregnant six times, producing one daughter and two sons, with the other children dying at birth.
However, the two sons, both named Henry Duke of Cornwall, lived only a few months. The surviving daughter would later become Queen Mary I.
Henry became desperate for a son, and because Catherine had failed to provide him with one in their 23-year marriage, Henry sought an annulment, but the Pope refused.
Henry became head of the Church of England, divorced Catherine, and married her lady-in-waiting Anne Boleyn.
2. Anne Boleyn
Offspring – Queen Elizabeth 1
Anne Boleyn is probably King Henry VIII’s most famous wife, even though the marriage lasted only three years and three months.
Anne, the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire and Lady Elizabeth Howard, spent her adolescent years in France.
When she returned to England, she entered the service of Catherine of Aragon and had a circle of male admirers.
Anne was secretly engaged to Henry Percy but soon caught the eye of King Henry VIII, who ordered Percy from court and pursued Anne in an attempt to make her his mistress, but she refused.
Anne demanded that King Henry VIII marry her but had to wait seven years for him to obtain an annulment for his marriage to Catherine.
The couple wed in 1533, but Anne, too, failed to provide Henry with a son, producing a daughter who would go on to become Queen Elizabeth I.
The marriage would end tragically for Anne. Henry had her executed on false charges of incest, adultery and witchcraft on the 19th of May 1536.
3. Jane Seymour
Offspring – One son, Edward VI.
Just days after the execution of Anne, Henry married Jane Seymour, who had served as lady-in-waiting to both Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon.
But although Jane was willing to marry Henry, she refused to be his mistress, which undoubtedly led to Anne Boleyn’s downfall and, ultimately, her execution.
Jane was instrumental in bringing Henry’s estranged daughter, Princess Mary, back to court.
But Jane’s most important duty as Queen was finally providing Henry with the son he had always wanted, giving birth to Edward VI on the 12th of October 1537.
Sadly, Jane died several weeks after the birth from complications, much to Henry’s genuine sorrow, and he gave her a solemn state funeral.
It would be two years before Henry married again.
4. Anne of Cleves
Offspring – None
Anne of Cleves was the sister of William, Duke of Cleves and leader of the Protestants of western Germany.
Henry’s chief minister suggested he seek a European alliance to bring him political support and power in Europe.
Henry chose Anne of Cleves from her portrait but was extremely disappointed when he saw her in the flesh.
Anne was only 24 when she married 48-year-old Henry in January 1540. They never consummated the marriage, which lasted just six months.
Anne accepted a divorce and received a generous settlement which included Hever Castle.
Henry’s next wife would be another lady-in-waiting!
5. Catherine Howard
Offspring – None
After the collapse of his brief marriage to Anne of Cleves, the young and beautiful Catherine Howard drew Henry’s attention. She was the lady-in-waiting to Anne and a cousin of Anne Boleyn.
The couple married three weeks after Henry divorced his fourth wife, Anne, although many believed it was a poor match due to the 30-year age gap.
Henry had become significantly overweight and unable to walk, and it wasn’t long after their marriage that rumours of Catherine’s infidelities began to surface.
Henry also discovered Catherine’s promiscuous past before their marriage. He had her executed for adultery and treason at the Tower of London on the 10th of February 1542.
King Henry VIII would go on to marry one more time before his death.
6. Catherine Parr
Offspring – None with Henry
Henry married his sixth and final wife, twice-widowed Catherine Parr, in July 1543.
At 30 years old, Catherine was a more mature contrast to Catherine Howard, being vibrant, beautiful and a scholar and a sensible choice for an ailing king.
She was the first queen to author her own books and was a significant influence in various areas, including the role of women, religion and the education of her step-children.
Catherine was a loving stepmother and persuaded Henry to have his daughters Mary and Elizabeth restored to the line of succession.
Catherine developed a bond with Princess Elizabeth, taking custody of her after Henry’s death. Her influential leadership would shape the Princess’ ideas when she became queen.
Catherine remained a loyal and devoted wife to Henry throughout their five-year marriage.
After Henry died in 1547, Catherine married her sweetheart, Thomas Seymour, but tragically died in 1548 after giving birth to a daughter.
What Happened To King Edward VI Following Henry’s Death?
Unfortunately, Edward VI lived and died as a child King. His death was untimely and tragic, caused by tuberculosis which developed after he had measles.
As Edward’s health deteriorated, it became evident that the disease was fatal.
As the young King had no heirs, he worked alongside John Dudley, soon to be the Duke of Northumberland, to exclude his two half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, from inheriting the throne.
Edward feared they would undo all his hard work and reimpose Catholicism.
Instead, he put his cousin and Northumberland’s daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, as Queen and her male heirs in direct line to the throne.
Edward died on the 6th of July 1553, aged just fifteen.
What Happened After the Death of Edward VI?
After Edward’s death, Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen but would rule for just nine days after her Catholic cousin and Edward’s half-sister, Mary, claimed the throne as hers.
Queen Mary I had Jane executed on Tower Green in February 1554.
Under Queen Mary I, England returned to Catholicism, and the Queen became known as “Bloody Mary” due to her persecution of Protestants.
Mary died from cancer in 1558. As she had no children, her half-sister Elizabeth took over the throne.
Elizabeth returned England as a Protestant nation, defeated the Spanish Armada and brought peace to a divided country.
Her 45-year reign is considered one of the greatest in English history.
Elizabeth never married and had no children, so the Tudor Dynasty ended when she died in 1603, something her father, King Henry VIII, had desperately wanted to avoid.
The throne was passed to her cousins, the Scottish Stuarts, unifying England and Scotland.
XXVII.–Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, and his connexion with Ireland, 1529–30
The Death of Young King Edward VI