5. Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII
Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand, married Arthur, Prince of Wales and elder brother of the future Henry VIII, in 1501. Arthur died after just five months of wedded life, and in 1509 Catherine married the newly crowned King Henry VIII. After 16 years of marriage, with no surviving son to serve as his heir, Henry tired of Catherine, and fell passionately in love with one of her ladies in waiting, Anne Boleyn. Henry decided to have his marriage annulled, to be free to marry Anne. The Pope, Clement VII, refused to grant the annulment, citing religious grounds, though political pressures from Spain certainly influenced his decision. An infuriated Henry broke with the Catholic Church, established the English Reformation, and installed himself as the head of the Church of England.
The act rocked Europe for more than a century, as well as the British Isles. Wars of religion marked the 16th and 17th century, involving the Catholic nations against those Protestant, and affecting the succession of kings and queens in the European Monarchies, as well as the papacy. Religious exiles fled to the New World, establishing colonies there. Anne’s marriage to Henry lasted from 1532 to 1536, when she became embroiled in political scheming in the court. She also found Henry’s affections had been shifted to another, younger, woman, Jane Seymour. Charges made against Anne included incest with her own brother, and other adulterous relationships. She, as well as her alleged sexual partners, were beheaded in May, 1536. Her daughter with Henry became Queen Elizabeth I.