- early years
- Catherine of Aragon
- henry as monarch
- Anne Boleyn
- Jane Seymour
- anne of cleves
- death and legacy
Henry VIII ruled England for 36 years, presiding over sweeping changes that led his nation to the Protestant Reformation. he married a series of six wives in his search for political alliance, marital happiness, and a healthy male heir. His desire to annul his first marriage without papal approval led to the creation of a separate Church of England. of his marriages, two ended in annulment, two in natural deaths and two with beheadings of their wives for adultery and treason. His children Edward Vi, Mary I and Elizabeth I would take his turn as monarch of England.
see: britain: blood and steel in the vault of history
Henry was born in Greenwich, England, on June 28, 1491, the second son of Henry VII, the first English ruler of the House of Tudors. As his older brother, Arthur, prepared for the throne, Henry was steered toward a career in the church, with a broad education in theology, music, languages, poetry, and sports.
did you know? An accomplished musician, Henry VIII of England wrote a song titled “Pastime in Good Company” that was popular throughout Renaissance Europe.
As a young man, Henry displayed an admirable degree of intellectual curiosity, religious devotion, and athletic achievement. one observer described a young man who “speaks French, Latin and Spanish well; he is very religious; he listened to three masses a day when he hunted…he is very fond of hunting, and never has fun without tiring eight or ten horses…he also likes tennis.”
Catherine of Aragon
Enrique’s brother and heir apparent Arturo had been engaged since he was 2 years old to Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of Spanish rulers Ferdinand and Isabel. in November 1501, the teenage couple were married.
months later, however, arthur died of a sudden illness. Henry became next in line to the throne and in 1503 he became betrothed to his brother’s widow.
Henry VIII ascended the throne in 1509 at age 17 and married Catherine of Aragon six weeks later. Over the next 15 years, while Henry fought three wars with France, Catherine bore him three sons and three daughters, all but one of whom died in infancy. The sole survivor was Mary (later Mary I), born in 1516.
henry as monarch
Henry was an active king who ruled a prosperous kingdom in those years and a leader in the English renaissance. he dominated a festive court as he hunted, jousted, wrote and played music.
henry launched a book-length attack on martin luther’s church reforms that earned him the title “defender of the faith” from pope leo x (a somewhat ironic accolade, given his eventual break with the Roman Catholicism).
He made a significant investment in the royal navy, increasing its size from just 5 ships to 53. But the lack of a male heir, especially after he fathered a healthy illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, in 1519, ate away at the young man. king.
By the 1520s, Henry had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn, a young woman in his wife’s entourage. He was also concerned that his marriage to Catherine had been cursed by God because of the Old Testament prohibition against marrying his brother’s widow. the king decided to seek a papal annulment that would free him to remarry.
With the help of his powerful adviser, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Henry petitioned Pope Clement VII but was turned down due to pressure from Catherine’s nephew, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Wolsey was forced from power by his failure and died in 1530 awaiting trial for treason.
With the backing of the British Parliament, led in large part by Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s top adviser, and the English clergy, Henry eventually decided that he did not need the pope’s permission to speak on matters affecting the church. from England. in 1533 henri and anna bolena married and their daughter isabel was born.
These actions linked Enrique to the growing reform movement then sweeping across Northern Europe; They also earned him the enmity of Pope Clement VII. In response, the Vatican excommunicated Henry in 1533.
However, Enrique’s other daughter, Mary, was declared illegitimate and Elizabeth was named his rightful heir. then during the dissolution of the monasteries england’s monasteries were closed and in most cases sold to increase henry’s wealth
In January 1536, Henry was thrown from his horse and injured during a jousting tournament. When news of her accident reached the pregnant Anne, she miscarried and gave birth to a stillborn son. Henry then rejected her, turning his affections on another woman of his court, Jane Seymour.
Within six months, Henry had Anne executed for treason and incest. He then married Jane, who promptly bore him a son (the future Edward Vi), though she died 12 days after giving birth.
Anne of Cleves
Henry’s fourth marriage had similarities to his first. Anne of Cleves was a political bride, chosen to cement an alliance with her brother, the ruler of a Protestant duchy in Germany. The marriage only lasted a few days before Henry annulled it. He later married Catherine Howard, but two years later she, too, was beheaded for treason and adultery.
In the last years of his reign, Henry became moody, suspicious, and famously obese, limping from personal intrigues and from the nagging leg wound from his jousting injury. His final marriage, to the widowed Catherine Parr in 1543, saw his reconciliation with Maria and Elizabeth, both of whom were restored to the line of succession.
read more: who were the six wives of henry viii?
death and legacy
Henry VIII died at age 55 on January 28, 1547. His 9-year-old son, Edward VI, succeeded him as king, but died six years later. Mary I spent her five-year reign bringing England back to the Catholic fold, but Elizabeth I, the longest-reigning Tudor monarch, restored her father’s Protestant religious reforms.
Henry VIII (r.1509-1547). the royal family. facts about henry viii. royal museums greenwich.henry viii: renaissance prince or terrible tudor? who was the real henry viii? historic royal palaces. Henry VIII, King of England (1491-1547). royal collection trust.