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The Six Wives of Henry VIII
Catherine of Aragon Anne Boleyn Jane Seymour Anne of Cleves Catherine Howard Catherine Parr
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henry VIII

Suspicion was second nature to Henry VIII, shown here in 1544. ©Hulton Archive

H
enry played his anger like a musical instrument, knowing exactly when to pause and when to act for the desired response. Contemporaries noted that, enraged, the king became "the most dangerous and cruel man in the world." Not to mention, one of the more callous. He wrote a play about Anne Boleyn after her death and amused himself by granting stays of execution minutes before axes fell. Could you bring out the kinder, gentler Henry VIII? -- Cast your vote A suspiciousness of others bordering on paranoia became more noticeable as the king aged. His father, Henry VII, had demonstrated similar traits, physically fighting with his children until servants feared for their lives. In Henry's case, old friends fell by the wayside. Old allies were executed. Thomas Cromwell, broker for Henry's failed marriage to Anne of Cleves and architect of the English Reformation, was one of the more sensational victims. After botching Rome's support for Henry's first divorce, 20-year-plus retainer Cardinal Thomas Wolsey only escaped execution through a natural death.

"The king never made a man, but he destroyed him again with displeasure or with the sword," commented Henry Pole, brother of the king's longtime enemy, Reginald Pole. Even Henry's friends could not but agree.