Off with Their Heads

By Beacon Staff

There are plenty of stories about Henry VIII and his many women. Of his six wives, two were beheaded.

Many of the stories conflict, so we may never know exactly what happened. Still, don’t you want to know the gritty, mostly true details about how they died?

Anne Boleyn. It’s 1533. Anne is about 30 years old, and she’s the king’s second wife. Henry is 42. Anne fails to give birth to a son. A lot of Henry’s marital troubles stem from not having a son…and doing whatever the heck he wants, because he’s the king.

Anne is accused of adultery, incest and plotting to kill the king. Also witchcraft, for good measure. Anne denies the charges but is found guilty anyway.

An expert swordsman is brought in to perform the execution, which makes Anne happy because she has “a little neck.” At the executioner’s block, the sword comes down quickly and severs her neck in one stroke.

Catherine Howard. Henry’s fifth wife, Catherine is only about 18 and likes to flirt. Henry is nearly 50.

It comes out that Catherine is having an affair with the king’s groom. She also tells the king about a previous lover. Catherine is locked away for months before being executed.

The night before her beheading, Catherine has the execution block brought to her so she can practice laying her head on it. In the morning, a single stroke takes off her head.

For more stories about these infamous queens, look for books by Alison Weir, Carolly Erickson, Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel.

A wide selection of books, music and films is available at the Flathead County Library System in Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Bigfork and Marion. For more information, visit

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