There is nothing like an association with a past royal scandal to endear a house to generations of owners. Partly this is because such a history gives the building a stamp of approval - it must be old and worthy - but in a more subtle way, it adds a rakishness that dull old bricks and mortar usually lack.
The houses here all have close associations with the wives of Henry VIII and, over the years, the connections have been lovingly cherished. In two cases, the houses were named after the unfortunate former owners, who, on the whole, were not lovingly cherished.
Anne Boleyn's Cottage
The first is a pretty cottage that once belonged to a courtier who caught the king's eye. Before long, the couple were carrying on shamelessly, despite the fact that the king was still married to another. He started to shower gifts on her, including a black and white thatched cottage in the pleasant Buckinghamshire market town of Wendover.
She was eventually crowned amid great splendor in Westminster Hall but remained enormously unpopular with the mob. Within three months, Henry's passion had cooled; three years later, she was beheaded at the Tower of London after being found guilty of trumped-up charges of adultery and high treason.
The cottage is supposed to have been given to poor Anne Boleyn in 1533 as part of her present from her betrothed at the time of their secret marriage. It was part of a hospital at the time and was converted into the present form in the 18th century.
The cottage looks charming in its row of similarly decorated dwellings, which had been used for the care of lepers before the time of Henry's gift. There is a cozy but not uncramped drawing room, a kitchen and garden room downstairs, and a bedroom and bathroom above. The guide price is £125,000 through Christopher Pallet in Wendover.
Catherine of Aragon's House
Our second house is far grander, and Anne's predecessor as queen stayed there in 1501.
Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was hugely popular with the people but he still forced her to spend her last years isolated from public life, and after their divorce she went into a long decline.
Catherine of Aragon at Dogmersfield in Hampshire is a large country house, built of mellow brick, which dates from the 15th century. There is a fine drawing room, with floor-to-ceiling oak paneling and an inglenook fireplace. The dining room is nearly 23ft by 19ft and comes with a heavily beamed ceiling. There are five bedrooms, a cottage and three acres of grounds.
It is the sort of house that sells very easily, and which buyers complain they can never find. It was last on the market two years ago, when the guide price was £500,000, and sold through Hamptons and Lane Fox.
Jane Seymour's House
Just 11 days after Anne Boleyn was executed, Henry married one of her ladies-in-waiting, Jane Seymour, whose family lived in a house called Wolfhall near the Savernake Forest. Wolfhall apparently burnt down during the 17th century and was replaced with a massive Palladian palace known as Tottenham House, built in the 1820s.
The Seymour connection still features prominently in the historical note in Knight Frank and Rutley's brochure for the house, which, with 37 acres of grounds, is for sale at an asking price of #1.5 million (for a very long lease).
The house carries a Grade I listing and is faced in ashlar stone. Most of the house is on two floors, with a rusticated basement peeping above the lawn. It served as home to Hawtreys school for many years, and much of the fine stucco and plaster interior remains in good condition.
The building is very large and is likely to find itself either re-used for institutional use, if a profitable one can be found, or converted in some way, depending on what the planning authorities will allow.
Jane Seymour died shortly after providing Henry with his only male heir.
Catherine Howard's Old Sulehay Lodge
Catherine Howard never seemed to master the plotting that characterized Henry's court by the time she came to be his fifth queen in 1540. A year later, she was caught meeting Henry Mannock, the musician, and Thomas Culpepper, whom she had known before her marriage.
She was charged by Thomas Cranmer, Henry's archdeacon, with having sexual intercourse before her marriage, and was beheaded after confessing. Henry had given her Old Sulehay Lodge, near Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, as part of her wedding gift. Little of the home she would have known survives, but the stables were converted into the present house, which is for sale through Carter Jonas at £395,000.
The stone house, under a slate roof, has six bedrooms. There were originally three large archways through which coaches could pass, and these arches are still visible in the entrance hall.
The kitchen is supposed to be Elizabethan, and a winding oak staircase, rising to the first floor, looks original. There is a range of outbuildings - including a double-height barn dated 1642 - which could be converted into more accommodation, and a garden of 51/2 acres.
Last Revised: 02 Jan 2015