Six Wives of One King

Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived.What is the story behind this famous mnemonic? What of the women themselves? How did these women live and how did they become the Consort to the most notorious King of England? Find out on this fully escorted tour to discover the life and loves of Henry VIII’s six wives.

This historic tour is a fascinating journey in search of all the six wives of Henry VIII. Over 11 days and 10 nights we visit famous places in London such as Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London but also some of the hidden places in England that tourists generally do not see. An exciting addition to our itinerary is an exclusive guided tour of Kimbolton Castle by special appointment to Tudor History Tours as it is not generally open to the public. This is where Catherine of Aragon died and is said to haunt. We also visit the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the family home of Catherine Parr, the divorce settlement houses of Anne of Cleves and see a tantalising image of Catherine Howard at Kings College Chapel, Cambridge. Our tour takes you on a pilgrimage to the final resting places of all six wives. Some are interred in isolation and disgrace, others in splendour and one in the company of Henry VIII.

Over 11 days and ten nights the tour takes you through the glorious English countryside in search of the six wives. The maximum journey times between venues or stops is approximately 90 minutes and so you will have plenty of time to explore and relive the life and times of the six wives with your enthusiastic guide. Each tour starts and finishes in London. Transfers will be arranged to pick you up and take you a mainline London railway station.

As with all our tours, the hotels at which we stay are specially chosen for their historic importance, character and charm. Typically they have low oak beamed ceilings, inglenook fireplaces and some even allegedly have ghosts. Some of the hotels have feature rooms with four poster beds which can be chosen as an addition to the standard cost. The tour cost includes bed and breakfast accommodation at all hotels, transport and entry to venues and all evening meals are included with a final end of tour dinner at a sumptuous Tudor banquet. Airport transfers to either Gatwick or Heathrow can be arranged at additional cost. See the full terms and conditions of Tudor History Tours.

 

Day One

We gather at the start of the tour at a riverside hotel in South West London for a tour briefing. Nearby we first visit Syon House where Catherine Howard was taken after her arrest in 1542 and before she was taken to the Tower of London.

Syon House is a magnificent Thames-side stately home. It had a turbulent history during the Tudor period. Originally an Abbey built in 1415 by Henry V, in 1539 it became Crown property before finally ending up as the family home of the Duke of Northumberland in 1594.

Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen here in 1553 by her father-in-law the Duke of Northumberland.

Day Two

Hampton Court Palace is perhaps the most famous Palace in the English speaking world. It is the only surviving palace out of the 60 that Henry VIII built or confiscated. Henry married two of his wives here. After time spent exploring these magnificent buildings we travel to Windsor to spend the night at a Thames-side hotel, where feature rooms are available. Here we can attend evensong at St George’s Chapel within the walls of Windsor Castle. Henry VIII and his favourite wife are buried under a simple black marble slab in the Chancel.

Day Three

After watching the Changing of the Guard at 11.00am, there will be time to wander around Windsor and visit the Castle. Windsor Castle is the largest inhabited Castle in Europe and still home to our present sovereign Queen Elizabeth II. There are many exhibitions to see here and the fabulous State Apartments hold many original portraits of the Tudors. We then go to Hungerford, a small market town deep in the heart of Berkshire where we stay at an old coaching inn given to Anne of Cleves as part of her divorce settlement from Henry VIII.

Day Four

We travel to Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire , a grand manor house and the family home of Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife. Catherine is buried in a peaceful setting in St Mary’s church within the wonderful grounds. This splendid Castle was largely ruined by Oliver Cromwell’s forces, but a part is still occupied and is in private ownership. There are numerous unusual scultpures within the grounds.

We journey to Coughton Court, home of the Throckmorton family for over 600 years. They were one of the premier Catholic families of England and have a Bishop’s cope made by Catherine of Aragon and her ladies. We then travel to Kenilworth in Warwickshire to spend the night in a 16th century hotel built around an oak tree.

Day Five

After breakfast we take a short walk to Kennilworth Castle where the Earl of Dudley attempted to woo Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Elizabeth. Unlike her parents, this romance never resulted in marriage. We then travel to Buckden Towers, the Bishop’s Palace where Catherine or Aragon lived before she was forcibly taken to Kimbolton Castle near Huntingdon and where she later died. Henry VIII and Catherine Howard also visited this Palace. Kimbolton is not generally open to the public but a special guided tour has been arranged by appointment to Tudor History Tours.

We spend the night at a charming riverside hotel established in 947 in Stamford where the Knights Hospitallers slept on their way to the Holy Land nearly a thousand years ago.

 

Day Six

In the morning we go to Peterborough Cathedral, unique in all of Christendom for its great West facade, where Catherine of Aragon is buried. Fresh flowers are always to be found laid on the simple marble slab marking her last resting place. Mary, Queen of Scots was also buried here before being exhumed and re-interred at Westminster Abbey. We then travel to Cambridge to see the Kings College Chapel. This building has the largest fan valuted roof construction still standing in the world. Also the chapel has another unique claim to fame, two of the wives can be found here. Anne Boleyn’s initials are carved in the Provost stall and it has a tantalising image of Catherine Howard on a stained glass window placed here. There will be time to wander around the centre of Cambridge to view some of the other famous colleges, like Queens College which is associated with Catherine or Aragon before we head off to spend the night in a London hotel.

 

Day Seven

We visit the Tower of London, steeped in the nation’s history for 1,000 years. Two of Henry’s queens, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were executed in the Tower and their last resting places are in the chapel of St Peter and Vincula within the Tower. Also within the Tower of London are the Bloody Tower, the Wakefield Tower and the magnificant Crown Jewels of England.

Westminster Abbey, the coronation site of all the Kings and Queens since William the Conqueror, and also where ten of our sovereigns are buried, is our next port of call. Elizabeth I is there and, somewhat hard to find, is the tomb of Anne of Cleves. Anne of Cleves was perhaps Henry VIII’s least favoured wife when married, but they remained on friendly terms for the rest of his life. She outlived all of them and a grand funeral took her to her last resting place here at the Abbey.

We spend another night at the hotel by the river Thames near the Globe theatre. In the evening we see a play here, in the lovingly created replica of Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre. The season commences on Shakespeare’s birthday 23 April so, performances permitting, we will see a play set in original environment for which it was written. This will be a seasonal production and there is no guarantee that a particular play will be performed. Before the season commences, a guided tour of the Globe will take place instead of a peformance. We enjoy a fish and chip supper at the last galleried pub in London where Shakespeare met his friends and colleagues.

 

Day Eight

We travel south out of London to visit Hever Castle in Kent, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. Perhaps one of the most famous love stories in history, Anne was considered a vivacious courtier by some, a witch by others. Thanks to her influence Henry broke from the Catholic church and the Reformation followed.

Hever reflects the atmosphere of the Tudor period and there is jousting held on some days during the season. This is followed by a stop at nearby Penshurst Place, an important house in the Tudor story. It was given to Anne of Cleves as part of her divorce settlement from Henry VIII before subsequently being exchanged for another. At Penshurst and group numbers permitting Hands-on-History will present a demonstration of what it was like in Tudor times with authentic weapons, armour, clothing and food preparation. You can experience and enjoy the life-styles, skills and activities of the Tudors.

 

Day Nine

We travel to Lewes where we see Anne of Cleve’s House, also part of her divorce settlement from Henry VIII. Close by are the Priory ruins, part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII and Lewes Castle, scene of the Battle between Henry III and Simon De Montford in 1264. Both are within easy walking distance in this medieval County town of East Sussex. There will be the opportunity to see other notable landmarks such as the famous Harvey’s brewery and the monument to the Protestant martyrs burnt at the stake by Mary. We spend the night in Lewes in a town centre hotel that was originally a coaching Inn and where feature rooms are available.

 

Day Ten

You have some free time to wander around the beautiful County town of Lewes before we travel to Arundel where we visit the grand castle, ancestral home of the Howard family. Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, was uncle to both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Curiously both these wives were executed and Thomas was also due to be executed but Henry VIII died the night before Thomas’s appointment with the block. Arundel castle is the second largest inhabited castle in Britain and was the inspiration behind Mervyn Peake’s Gothic novel, Gormenghast.

We spend the last night of the tour in a fine Victorian hotel in Central London. An end of tour sumptuous Tudor banquet will be our final event together.

Day Eleven

The tour finishes after a leisurely breakfast when transport is arranged to a London mainline railway station. Extra visits to other London sites such as the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery can be arranged if requested before the tour starts.

 

This tour is operated by Tudor History Tours sold by Special Group Tours with permission

 

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