Within weeks, Henry married the very young Catherine Howard, a first cousin to Anne Boleyn. Henry, 49, and Catherine, 19, started out a happy pair. Henry was now dealing with tremendous weight gain and a bad leg. His new wife gave him zest for life, and he repaid her with a lavish gifts. But happiness would not last long for the couple. A pretty woman, Catherine began seeking the attention of men her own age—a tremendously dangerous endeavor for the queen of England. After an investigation into her behavior, she was deemed guilty of adultery. On February 13, 1542, Henry had Catherine executed on the Tower Green.
During his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon , Henry conducted an affair with Mary Boleyn , Catherine's lady-in-waiting . There has been speculation that Mary's two children, Henry and Catherine Carey , were fathered by Henry, but this has never been proved, and the King never acknowledged them as he did Henry FitzRoy.  In 1525, as Henry grew more impatient with Catherine's inability to produce the male heir he desired,   he became enamoured of Mary Boleyn's sister, Anne , then a charismatic young woman of 25 in the Queen's entourage.  Anne, however, resisted his attempts to seduce her, and refused to become his mistress as her sister Mary Boleyn had.  [nb 1] It was in this context that Henry considered his three options for finding a dynastic successor and hence resolving what came to be described at court as the King's "great matter" . These options were legitimising Henry FitzRoy, which would take the intervention of the pope and would be open to challenge; marrying off Mary as soon as possible and hoping for a grandson to inherit directly, but Mary was considered unlikely to conceive before Henry's death; or somehow rejecting Catherine and marrying someone else of child-bearing age. Probably seeing the possibility of marrying Anne, the third was ultimately the most attractive possibility to the 34-year-old Henry,  and it soon became the King's absorbing desire to annul his marriage to the now 40-year-old Catherine.  It was a decision that would lead Henry to reject papal authority and initiate the English Reformation .
The execution of Catherine Howard had sunk the king into a deep depression. Catherine Parr, twice widowed, was entering a relationship with Thomas Seymour, brother of Jane Seymour, Henry’s third wife, when Henry noticed her. She was 31 years old, well educated and very intelligent. Fluent in French, she learnt Italian, could read and write in Latin and was competent in Greek. Catherine was a reformist and loved to debate religious questions. This nearly led to her downfall: a particularly vigorous religious argument between king and queen so angered Henry, it led to his signing a warrant for Catherine’s arrest on grounds of heresy. On receiving the warrant, Catherine at first panicked but then drew on all her reserves of courage and intelligence. Ordering her ladies to discard all banned books on religion, she hastened to the king, claiming that she had argued with him purely to take his mind off the pain of his ulcerated legs.