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Henry VIII (28 June 1491 – 28 January 1547) was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was also Lord of Ireland (later King of Ireland) and claimant to the Kingdom of France. Henry was the second monarch of the House of Tudor, succeeding his father, Henry VII.

Henry VIII was a significant figure in the history of the English monarchy. Although in the great part of his reign he brutally suppressed the influence of the Protestant Reformation in England, a movement having some roots with John Wycliffe in the 14th century, he is more popularly known for his role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. Henry's struggles with Rome ultimately led to the separation of the Church of England from papal authority, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and establishing himself as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. Although some claim that Henry became a Protestant on his death-bed, he remained an advocate for traditional Catholic ceremony and doctrine throughout his life, even after his excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church following the annulment of his marriage to first wife Catherine of Aragon and the marriage to his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Royal support for the English Reformation began with his heirs, the devout Edward VI and the renowned Elizabeth I, whilst daughter Mary I temporarily reinstated papal authority over England. Henry also oversaw the legal union of England and Walesmarker with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542. He is also noted for his six wives, two of whom were beheaded.

Early years: 1491-1509

Born in Greenwich Palacemarker, Henry VIII was the sixth child of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Of the young Henry's six siblings, only three — Arthur, Prince of Wales; Margaret; and Mary — survived infancy. In 1493, at the age of two, Henry was appointed Constable of Dover Castlemarker and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. In 1494, he was created Duke of York. He was subsequently appointed Earl Marshal of England and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Henry was given a first-rate education from leading tutors, becoming fluent in Latin, French, and Spanish. As it was expected that the throne would pass to Prince Arthur, Henry's older brother, Henry was prepared for a life in the church.

Death of Arthur

In 1502, Arthur died aged 15. His death thrust all his duties upon his younger brother Henry, who then became Prince of Wales. Henry VII renewed his efforts to seal a marital alliance between England and Spain, by offering Henry, Prince of Wales, in marriage to Prince Arthur's widow, Catherine of Aragon, the youngest surviving child of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile.
In order for the new Prince of Wales to marry his brother's widow, a papal dispensation from the Pope was normally required to overrule the impediment of affinity because as told in the book of Leviticus "If a brother is to marry the wife of a brother they will remain childless". Catherine swore that her marriage to Prince Arthur had not been consummated. Still, both the English and Spanish parties agreed that an additional papal dispensation of affinity would be prudent to remove all doubt regarding the legitimacy of the marriage.

The impatience of Catherine's mother, Queen Isabella I, induced Pope Julius II to grant dispensation in the form of a Papal bull. So, 14 months after her young husband's death, Catherine found herself betrothed to his even younger brother, Henry. Yet by 1505, Henry VII lost interest in a Spanish alliance and the younger Henry declared that his betrothal had been arranged without his consent.

Continued diplomatic manoeuvring over the fate of the proposed marriage lingered until the death of Henry VII in 1509. Only 17 years old, Henry married Catherine on 11 June 1509 and, on 24 June 1509, the two were crowned at Westminster Abbeymarker.

Early Reign: 1509-1525

Two days after his coronation he arrested his father's two most unpopular ministers, Sir Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley. They were groundlessly charged with high treason and were executed in 1510. This was to become Henry's primary tactic for dealing with those who stood in his way.

Eighteen year-old Henry after his coronation in 1509.
Henry was a Renaissance Man and his court was a centre of scholarly and artistic innovation and glamorous excess, epitomised by The Field of the Cloth of Gold. He was an accomplished musician, author, and poet. His best known musical composition is Pastime with Good Company or The Kynges Ballade. He was also an avid gambler and dice player, and excelled at sports, especially jousting, hunting, and real tennis. He was also known for his strong dedication to Christianity.

France and the Habsburgs

In 1511, Pope Julius II proclaimed a Holy League against France. This new alliance rapidly grew to include not only Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, but also England. Henry decided to use the occasion as an excuse to expand his holdings in northern France. He concluded the Treaty of Westminster, a pledge of mutual aid with Spain against France, in November 1511 and prepared for involvement in the War of the League of Cambrai. In 1513, Henry invaded France and his troops defeated a French army at the Battle of the Spurs. His brother-in-law James IV of Scotland invaded England at the behest of Louis XII of France, but failed to draw Henry's attention from France. The Scots were disastrously defeated at the Battle of Flodden Fieldmarker on 9 September 1513. Among the dead were the Scottish King and the battle ended Scotland's brief involvement in the war.

On 18 February 1516, Queen Catherine bore Henry his first child to survive infancy, Princess Mary of England, who later reigned as Mary I of England. (A son, Henry, Duke of Cornwall, was born in 1511 but lived only a few weeks).


Contrary to his popular image, Henry may not have had many affairs outside marriage and, apart from women he later married, the identities of only two mistresses are completely undisputed: Bessie Blount and Mary Boleyn.

Blount gave birth to Henry's illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy. The young boy was made Duke of Richmond in June 1525 in what some thought was one step on the path to legitimatising him. In 1533, FitzRoy married Mary Howard, Anne Boleyn's first cousin, but died three years later without any successors. At the time of FitzRoy's death the king was trying to pass a law that would allow his otherwise illegitimate son to become king.

Mary Boleyn was the sister of Anne Boleyn who later married Henry. She is thought to have been Catherine's "lady in waiting" at some point between 1519 and 1526. There has been speculation that Mary's two children, Catherine and Henry, were fathered by Henry, but this has never been proven and the King never acknowledged them, as he did Henry FitzRoy.

In 1510 it was reported that Henry was conducting an affair with one of the sisters of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, either Elizabeth or Anne Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon. Chapuys wrote that: the husband of that lady went away, carried her off and placed her in a convent sixty miles from here, that no one may see her..

Henry also seems to have had an affair with one of the Shelton sisters in 1535. Traditionally it has been believed that this was Margaret, but recent research has led to the claim that this was actually Mary.

There are also grounds for suspecting that he had an affair with an unknown woman in 1534. Alison Weir has argued that, aside from these five affairs, there were also numerous other short-term and secret liaisons, most of them conducted in the king's river-side mansion of Jordan House.

The King's Great Matter: 1525-1533

Henry became impatient with what he perceived as Catherine's inability to produce the heir he desired. All of Catherine's children died in infancy except his daughter Mary. Henry wanted a male heir, to avoid rival claims to the crown like those which had caused the Wars of the Roses before Henry's father, Henry VII, became king. The disastrous reign of Matilda, England's only ruling Queen to that point, may also have weighed on Henry's mind.

In 1525, as Henry grew more impatient, he became enamoured of a charismatic young woman in the Queen's entourage, Anne Boleyn. Anne at first resisted his attempts to seduce her, and refused to become his mistress as her sister Mary Boleyn had. She said "I beseech your highness most earnestly to desist, and to this my answer in good part. I would rather lose my life than my honesty." This refusal made Henry even more attracted, and he pursued her relentlessly.

Eventually, Anne saw her opportunity in Henry's infatuation and determined that she would only yield to his embraces as his acknowledged queen. It soon became the King's absorbing desire to annul his marriage to Catherine. It is possible that the idea of annulment had suggested itself to the King much before he noticed Anne, and it was most probably motivated by his desire for a male heir.

Henry appealed directly to the Holy See, independently from Cardinal Thomas Wolsey from whom he kept his plans for Anne secret. Instead, Henry's secretary, William Knight, was sent to Pope Clement VII to sue for the annulment. The grounds were that the bull of Pope Julius II was obtained by false pretences, because Catherine's brief marriage to the sickly Arthur had been consummated. Henry also petitioned, in the event of annulment, a dispensation to marry again to any woman even in the first degree of affinity, whether the affinity was contracted by lawful or unlawful connection. This clearly had reference to Anne.
However, as the pope was at that time imprisoned by Emperor Charles V, Knight had difficulty in getting access to him, and so only managed to obtain the conditional dispensation for a new marriage. Henry now had no choice but to put the matter into the hands of Wolsey. Wolsey did all he could to secure a decision in the King's favour, going so far as to arrange an ecclesiastical court to meet in England, with a representative from the Pope. Shakespeare's play, Henry VIII, accurately records Catherine of Aragon's astounding coup in that remarkable courtroom in Act II, scene iv. She bows low to Henry, put herself at his mercy, states her case with irrefutable eloquence and then sweeps out of the courtroom, a woman both formidable and clearly wronged. However much this moment swayed those present and the rest of the world to her side, the Pope had never had any intention of empowering his legate. Charles V resisted the annulment of his aunt's marriage, but it is not clear how far this influenced the pope. But it is clear that Henry saw that the Pope was unlikely to give him an annulment from the Emperor's aunt. The pope forbade Henry to proceed to a new marriage before a decision was given in Rome, not in England. Wolsey bore the blame. Convinced that he was treacherous, Anne Boleyn maintained pressure until Wolsey was dismissed from public office in 1529. After being dismissed, the cardinal begged her to help him return to power, but she refused. He then began a secret plot to have Anne forced into exile and began communication with Queen Catherine and the Pope to that end. When this was discovered, Henry ordered Wolsey's arrest and had it not been for his death from a terminal illness in 1530, he might have been executed for treason. His replacement, Sir Thomas More, initially cooperated with the king's new policy, denouncing Wolsey in Parliament and proclaiming the opinion of the theologians at Oxford and Cambridge that the marriage of Henry to Catherine had been unlawful. As Henry began to deny the authority of the Pope, More's qualms grew.

A year later, Queen Catherine was banished from court and her old rooms were given to Anne. With Wolsey gone, Anne now had considerable power over government appointments and political matters. She was an unusually educated and intellectual woman for her age, and was a keenly absorbed and engaged with the ideas of the Protestant Reformers. When Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham died, Anne had the Boleyn family's chaplain, Thomas Cranmer, appointed to the vacant position. Through the intervention of the King of France, this was conceded by Rome, the pallium being granted to him by Clement.

The breaking of the power of Rome in England proceeded slowly. In 1532, a lawyer who was a supporter of Anne, Thomas Cromwell, brought before Parliament a number of acts including the Supplication against the Ordinaries and the Submission of the Clergy, which recognised Royal Supremacy over the church. Following these acts, Thomas More resigned as Chancellor, leaving Cromwell as Henry's chief minister.

Second marriage

Henry attended a meeting with the French king at Calaismarker in the winter of 1532, in which he enlisted the support of Francis I of France for his new marriage. Immediately upon returning to Dovermarker in England, Henry and Anne went through a secret wedding service. She soon became pregnant and there was a second wedding service, which took place in London on 25 January 1533. Events now began to move quickly. On 23 May 1533, Cranmer, sitting in judgment at a special court convened at Dunstable Priorymarker to rule on the validity of the king's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, declared the marriage of Henry and Catherine null and void. Five days later, on 28 May 1533, Cranmer declared the marriage of Henry and Anne to be good and valid.

Catherine was formally stripped of her title as queen, and Anne was consequently crowned queen consort on 1 June 1533. The queen gave birth slightly prematurely on 7 September 1533. Anne had given birth to a girl who was christened Elizabeth, in honour of Henry's mother, Elizabeth of York. Rejecting the decisions of the Pope, Parliament validated the marriage of Henry and Anne with the Act of Succession 1533. Catherine's daughter, Lady Mary, was declared illegitimate, and Anne's issue were declared next in the line of succession. Most notable in this declaration was a clause repudiating "any foreign authority, prince or potentate". All adults in the Kingdom were required to acknowledge the Act's provisions by oath and those who refused were subject to imprisonment for life. Any publisher or printer of any literature alleging that the marriage was invalid was automatically guilty of high treason and could be punished by death.

Separation from Rome: 1533-1540

Meanwhile, the House of Commons had forbidden all appeals to Rome and exacted the penalties of praemunire against all who introduced papal bulls into England. The House of Commons also prevented the Church from making any regulations without the king's consent. It was only then that Pope Clement at last took the step of launching sentences of excommunication against Henry and Thomas Cranmer, declaring at the same time the archbishop's decree of annulment to be invalid and the marriage with Anne null and papal nuncio was withdrawn from England and diplomatic relations with Rome were broken off. Several more laws were passed in England. The Ecclesiastical Appointments Act 1534 required the clergy to elect bishops nominated by the Sovereign. The Act of Supremacy in 1534 declared that the King was "the only Supreme Head in Earth of the Church of England" and the Treasons Act 1534 made it high treason, punishable by death, to refuse to acknowledge the King as such. In response to the excommunications, the Peter's Pence Act was passed in and it reiterated that England had "no superior under God, but only your Grace" and that Henry's "imperial crown" had been diminished by "the unreasonable and uncharitable usurpations and exactions" of the Pope.

In defiance of the Pope the Church of England was now under Henry’s control, not Rome's. Protestant Reformers still faced persecution, particularly over objections to Henry's annulment. Many fled abroad where they met further difficulties, including the influential William Tyndale, who was eventually burned at King Henry's behest. Theological and practical reforms would follow only under Henry's successors (see end of section).

Personal troubles

The king and queen were not pleased with married life. The royal couple enjoyed periods of calm and affection, but Anne refused to play the submissive role expected of her. The vivacity and opinionated intellect that had made her so attractive as an illicit lover made her too independent for the largely ceremonial role of a royal wife, given that Henry expected absolute obedience from those who interacted with him in an official capacity at court. It also made her many enemies. For his part, Henry disliked Anne’s constant irritability and violent temper. After a false pregnancy or miscarriage in 1534, he saw her failure to give him a son as a betrayal. As early as Christmas 1534, Henry was discussing with Cranmer and Cromwell the chances of leaving Anne without having to return to Catherine.

Opposition to Henry's religious policies was quickly suppressed in England. A number of dissenting monks were tortured and executed. The most prominent resisters included John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Sir Thomas More, Henry's former Lord Chancellor, both of whom refused to take the oath to the King and were subsequently convicted of high treason and beheaded at Tower Hill, just outside the Tower of Londonmarker, while the usual punishment for such traitors would have been to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.

These suppressions in turn contributed to further resistance among the English people, most notably in the Pilgrimage of Grace, a large uprising in northern England in October, 1536. Henry VIII promised the rebels he would pardon them and thanked them for raising the issues to his attention, then invited the rebel leader, Robert Aske to a royal banquet. At the banquet, Henry asked Aske to write down what had happened so he could have a better idea of the problems he would 'change'. Aske did what the King asked, although what he had written would later be used against him as a confession. The King's word could not be questioned (as he was held as God's chosen, and second only to God himself) so Aske told the rebels they had been successful and they could disperse and go home. However, because Henry saw the rebels as traitors, he did not feel obliged to keep his promises. The rebels realised that the King was not keeping his promises and rebelled again later that year, but their strength was less in the second attempt and the King ordered the rebellion crushed. The leaders, including Aske, were arrested and executed for treason.

Execution of Anne Boleyn

On 8 January 1536 news reached the king and the queen that Catherine of Aragon had died. Upon hearing the news of her death, Henry and Anne reportedly decked themselves in bright yellow clothing, yellow being the colour of mourning in Spain at the time. Henry called for public displays of joy regarding Catherine's death. The queen was pregnant again, and she was aware of the consequences if she failed to give birth to a son. Her life could be in danger, as with both wives dead, Henry would be free to remarry and no one could claim that the union was illegal. Later that month, the King was unhorsed in a tournament and was badly injured. It seemed for a time that the King's life was in danger. When news of this accident reached the queen she was sent into shock and miscarried a male child that was about 15 weeks old. This happened on the very day of Catherine’s funeral, 29 January 1536. For most observers, this personal loss was the beginning of the end of the royal marriage.

Given the King's desperate desire for a son, the sequence of Anne's pregnancies has attracted much interest. Author Mike Ashley speculated that Anne had two stillborn children after Elizabeth's birth and before the birth of the male child she miscarried in 1536. Most sources attest only to the birth of Elizabeth in September 1533, a possible miscarriage in the summer of 1534, and the miscarriage of a male child, of almost four months gestation, in January 1536. As Anne recovered from what would be her final miscarriage, Henry declared that his marriage had been the product of witchcraft. The King's new mistress, Jane Seymour, was quickly moved into new quarters. This was followed by Anne's brother, George Boleyn, being refused a prestigious court honour, the Order of the Garter, which was instead given to Jane Seymour's brother.

Five men, including Anne's own brother, were arrested on charges of incest and treason, accused of having sexual relationships with the queen. On 2 May 1536 Anne was arrested and taken to the Tower of Londonmarker. She was accused of adultery, incest and high treason. Although the evidence against them was unconvincing, the accused were found guilty and condemned to death by the peers. George Boleyn and the other accused men were executed on 17 May 1536. At 8 a.m. on 19 May 1536, the queen was executed on Tower Greenmarker. She knelt upright, in the French style of executions. The execution was swift and consisted of a single stroke.

Birth of a prince

One day after Anne's execution in 1536 Henry became engaged to Jane Seymour, one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting to whom the king had been showing favour for some time. They were married 10 days later. At about the same time as this, his third marriage, Henry granted his assent to the Laws in Wales Act 1535, which legally annexed Walesmarker, uniting Englandmarker and Wales into one unified nation. This was followed by the Act of Succession 1536, which declared Henry's children by Queen Jane to be next in the line of succession and declared both the Lady Mary and the Lady Elizabeth illegitimate, thus excluding them from the throne. The king was granted the power to further determine the line of succession in his will. In 1537, Jane gave birth to a son, Prince Edward, the future Edward VI. The birth was difficult and the queen died at Hampton Court Palacemarker on 24 October 1537 from an infection. After Jane's death, the entire court mourned with Henry for an extended period. Henry considered Jane to be his "true" wife, being the only one who had given him the male heir he so desperately sought. He was later to be buried next to her at his death.

Martyrdom of William Tyndale

Henry's reach stretched beyond England's shores. In 1530, the great Protestant Bible-translator, Doctor William Tyndale, had written The Practyse of Prelates, opposing Henry VIII's divorce with his first wife Catherine on the grounds that it wasn't scriptural. Thereafter, Tyndale fled to Antwerp, which was known for its gracious tolerance and where he carried on the work of the Reformation, prolifically writing essays and books that were smuggled back over the Channel. However, around 6 October 1536, Tyndale was tried on a charge of heresy and summarily condemned to death, despite Thomas Cromwell's intercession with Henry on his behalf. He "was strangled to death while tied at the stake, and then his dead body was burned".

Tyndale's famous last words, spoken "at the stake with a fervent zeal, and a loud voice", are reported as "Lord! Open the King of England's eyes!"

By the reign of Henry's successor, Edward VI, England would be a thoroughly Protestant and Reformed nation.

Final years: 1540-1547

In 1540, Henry sanctioned the destruction of shrines to saints. At this time, Henry desired to marry once again to ensure the succession. Thomas Cromwell, promoted to 1st Earl of Essex, suggested Anne, the sister of the Protestant Duke of Cleves, who was seen as an important ally in case of a Roman Catholic attack on England. Hans Holbein the Younger was dispatched to Cleves to paint a portrait of Anne for the king. Although it has been said that he painted her in a more flattering light, it is unlikely that the portrait was highly inaccurate, since Holbein remained in favour at court. After regarding Holbein's portrayal, and urged by the complimentary description of Anne given by his courtiers, Henry agreed to wed Anne. On Anne's arrival in England, Henry is said to have found her utterly unattractive, privately calling her a "Flanders Mare".

Henry wished to annul the marriage in order to marry another. The Duke of Cleves had become engaged in a dispute with the Holy Roman Emperor, with whom Henry had no desire to quarrel. Queen Anne was intelligent enough not to impede Henry's quest for an annulment. Upon the question of marital sex, she testified that her marriage had never been consummated. Henry was said to have come into the room each night and merely kissed his new bride on the forehead before retiring. All impediments to an annulment were thus removed.

The marriage was subsequently dissolved and Anne received the title of "The King's Sister", and was granted Hever Castlemarker, the former residence of the Boleyn family. Cromwell, meanwhile, fell out of favour for his role in arranging the marriage and was subsequently attainted and beheaded. The office of Viceregent in Spirituals, which had been specifically created for him, was not filled.

Miniature Portrait of Catherine Howard by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1540.
On 28 July 1540, (the same day Cromwell was executed) Henry married the young Catherine Howard (also Katherine), Anne Boleyn's first cousin and a lady-in-waiting of Anne's. He was absolutely delighted with his new queen. Soon after her marriage, however, Queen Catherine had an affair with the courtier Thomas Culpeper. She also employed Francis Dereham, who was previously informally engaged to her and had an affair with her prior to her marriage, as her secretary. Thomas Cranmer, who was opposed to the powerful Roman Catholic Howard family, brought evidence of Queen Catherine's activities to the king's notice. Though Henry originally refused to believe the allegations, he allowed Cranmer to conduct an investigation, which resulted in Queen Catherine's implication. When questioned, the queen could have admitted a prior contract to marry Dereham, which would have made her subsequent marriage to Henry invalid, but she instead claimed that Dereham had forced her to enter into an adulterous relationship. Dereham, meanwhile, exposed Queen Catherine's relationship with Thomas Culpeper. As was the case with Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard could not technically have been guilty of adultery, as the marriage was officially null and void from the beginning. Again, this point was ignored, and Catherine was executed on 13 February 1542. She was aged between 17 and 22 when she died (opinions differ as to her year of birth). That same year, England's remaining monasteries were all dissolved, and their property transferred to the Crown. Abbots and priors lost their seats in the House of Lordsmarker; only archbishops and bishops came to comprise the ecclesiastical element of the body. The Lords Spiritual, as members of the clergy with seats in the House of Lordsmarker were known, were for the first time outnumbered by the Lords Temporal.

Henry married his last wife, the wealthy widow Catherine Parr, in 1543. She argued with Henry over religion; she was a reformer, but Henry remained a conservative. This behaviour nearly proved her undoing, but she saved herself by a show of submissiveness. She helped reconcile Henry with his first two daughters, the Princess Mary and the Lady Elizabeth. In 1544, an Act of Parliament put the daughters back in the line of succession after Edward, Prince of Wales, though they were still deemed illegitimate.The same act allowed Henry to determine further succession to the throne in his will.

A mnemonic for the fates of Henry's wives is "divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived". An alternative version is "King Henry the Eighth, to six wives he was wedded: One died, one survived, two divorced, two beheaded". (Or, more succinctly, "Two beheaded, one died, two divorced, one survived.") The phrase may be misleading. Firstly, Henry was never divorced from any of his wives; rather, his marriages to them were annulled by the Church of England. Secondly, four marriages — not two — ended in annulments. The marriages to Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were annulled shortly before their executions and, although her marriage to Henry was annulled, Anne of Cleves survived him, as did Catherine Parr.

The cruelty and tyrannical egotism of Henry became more apparent as he advanced in years and his health began to fail. A wave of political executions which had commenced with that of Edmund de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk in 1513 ended with Henry Earl of Surrey in January, 1547. Although some sources claim that according to Holinshed the number of executions in this reign amounted to 72,000, the figure referred to "great thieves, petty thieves, and rogues" and the source is not Holinshed but the English clergyman William Harrison. This inflated figure came from Gerolamo Cardano who in turn got it from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Lisieux.

Death and succession

Late in life, Henry became obese (with a waist measurement of 54 inches/137 cm) and had to be moved about with the help of mechanical inventions. He was covered with painful, suppurating boils and possibly suffered from gout. His obesity dates from a jousting accident in 1536 in which he suffered a leg wound. This prevented him from exercising and gradually became ulcerated. It undoubtedly hastened his death at the age of 55, which occurred on 28 January 1547 in the Palace of Whitehallmarker, on what would have been his father's 90th birthday. He expired soon after allegedly uttering these last words: "Monks! Monks! Monks!"

The theory that Henry suffered from syphilis was first promoted approximately 100 years after his death , but has been disregarded by most serious historians. Syphilis was a well-known disease in Henry's time, and although his contemporary, Francis I of France was treated for it, the notes left from Henry's physicians do not indicate that the English king was. A more recent and credible theory suggests that Henry's medical symptoms, and those of his older sister Margaret Tudor, are also characteristic of untreated Type II diabetes.
Henry VIII was buried in St George's Chapelmarker in Windsor Castlemarker, next to his wife Jane Seymour.Over a hundred years later Charles I was buried in the same vault.

Within a little more than a decade after his death, all three of his royal heirs sat on the English throne, and all three left no descendants. Under the Act of Succession 1543, Henry's only surviving legitimate son, Edward, inherited the Crown, becoming Edward VI. Since Edward was only nine years old at the time, he could not exercise actual power. Henry's will designated 16 executors to serve on a council of regency until Edward reached the age of 18. The executors chose Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, Jane Seymour's elder brother, to be Lord Protector of the Realm. In default of heirs to Edward, the throne was to pass to Henry VIII's daughter by Catherine of Aragon, the Princess Mary and her heirs. If Mary's issue also failed, the crown was to go to Henry's daughter by Anne Boleyn, Princess Elizabeth, and her heirs. Finally, if Elizabeth's line also became extinct, the crown was to be inherited by the descendants of Henry VIII's deceased younger sister, Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk. The descendants of Henry's sister Margaret Tudor - the royal family of Scotlandmarker - were therefore excluded from succession according to this act.


File:Mary_I_by_Master_John.jpg|Mary I, daughter of Catherine of Aragon.File:Fitzroy.jpg|Henry FitzRoy, son of Henry's mistress, Elizabeth Blount.File:El bieta I lat 13.jpg|Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn.File:Edward VI of England c. 1546.jpg|Edward VI, son of Jane Seymour.


Henry VIII is known to have been an avid gambler and dice player. In his youth, he excelled at sports, especially jousting, hunting, and real tennis. He was also an accomplished musician, author, and poet; his best known piece of music is Pastime with Good Company ('The Kynges Ballade'). He is often reputed to have written Greensleeves but probably did not. The King was also involved in the original construction and improvement of several significant buildings, including Nonsuch Palacemarker, King's College Chapel, Cambridgemarker and Westminster Abbeymarker in Londonmarker. Many of the existing buildings Henry improved were properties confiscated from Wolsey, such as Christ Church, Oxfordmarker, Hampton Court Palacemarker, the Palace of Whitehallmarker, and Trinity College, Cambridgemarker. He founded Christ Church Cathedral Schoolmarker, Oxford in 1546. The only surviving piece of clothing worn by Henry VIII is a cap of maintenance awarded to the Mayor of Waterfordmarker, along with a bearing sword, in 1536. It currently resides in the Waterford Museum of Treasures. A suit of Henry's armour is on display in the Tower of London. In the centuries since his death, Henry has inspired or been mentioned in numerous artistic and cultural works.

Royal finances

Henry inherited a vast fortune from his father Henry VII who had, in contrast to his son, been frugal and careful with money. This fortune was estimated to £1,250,000 (£375 million by today's standards). Much of this wealth was spent by Henry on maintaining his court and household, including many of the building works he undertook on royal palaces. Tudor monarchs had to fund all the expenses of government out of their own income. This income came from the Crown lands that Henry owned as well as from customs duties like tonnage and poundage, granted by parliament to the king for life. During Henry's reign the revenues of the Crown remained constant (around £100,000), but were eroded by inflation and rising prices brought about by war. Indeed it was war and Henry's dynastic ambitions in Europe that meant that the surplus he had inherited from his father was exhausted by the mid-1520s. Whereas Henry VII had not involved Parliament in his affairs very much, Henry VIII had to turn to Parliament during his reign for money, in particular for grants of subsidies to fund his wars. The Dissolution of the Monasteries also provided a means to replenish the treasury and as a result the Crown took possession of monastic lands worth £120,000 (£36 million) a year. But Henry had to debase the coinage in 1526 and 1539 in order to solve his financial problems and despite efforts by his ministers to reduce the costs and wastage at court, Henry died in debt.


Though mainly motivated by dynastic and personal concerns, and despite never really abandoning the fundamentals of the Roman Catholic Church, Henry ensured that the greatest act of his reign would be one of the most radical and decisive of any English monarch. His break with Rome in 1533-34 was an act with enormous consequences for the subsequent course of English history beyond the Tudor dynasty. Not only in making possible the transformation of England into a powerful (albeit very distinctive) nation; but also in the seizing of economic and political power from the Church by the aristocracy, chiefly through the acquisition of monastic lands and assets - a short-term strategy with long-term social consequences. Henry's decision to entrust the regency of his son Edward's minor years to a decidedly reform-oriented regency council, dominated by Edward Seymour, most likely for the simple tactical reason that Seymour seemed likely to provide the strongest leadership for the kingdom, ensured that the English Reformation would be consolidated and even furthered during his son's reign. Such ironies marked other aspects of his legacy.

He fostered humanist learning and yet was responsible for the deaths of several outstanding English humanists. During the reign of Henry VIII, as many as 72,000 people are estimated to have been executed. Obsessed with securing the succession to the throne, he left as his only heirs a young son (who died before his 16th birthday) and two daughters adhering to different religions. The power of the state was magnified, yet so too (at least after Henry's death) were demands for increased political participation by the middle class. Henry worked with some success to make England once again a major player on the European scene but depleted his treasury in the course of doing so, a legacy that has remained an issue for English monarchs ever since.

English navy

Together with Alfred the Great and Charles II, Henry is traditionally cited as one of the founders of the Royal Navy. His reign featured some naval warfare and, more significantly, large royal investment in shipbuilding (including a few spectacular great ships such as Mary Rosemarker), dockyards (such as HMNB Portsmouthmarker) and naval innovations (such as the use of cannon on board ship - although archers were still deployed on medieval-style forecastles and bowcastles as the ship's primary armament on large ships, or co-armament where cannons were used). However, in some ways this is a misconception since Henry did not bequeath to his immediate successors a navy in the sense of a formalised organisation with structures, ranks, and formalised munitioning structures but only in the sense of a set of ships. Elizabeth I still had to cobble together a set of privately owned ships to fight off the Spanish Armada (which consisted of about 130 warships and converted merchant ships) and in the former, formal sense the modern British navy, the Royal Navy, is largely a product of the Anglo-Dutch naval rivalry of the seventeenth century. Still, Henry's reign marked the birth of English naval power and was a key factor in England's later victory over the Spanish Armada.

Henry's break with Rome incurred the threat of a large-scale French or Spanish invasion. To guard against this he strengthened existing coastal defence fortresses (such as Dover Castlemarker and, also at Dovermarker, Moat Bulwark and Archcliffe Fort which he personally visited for a few months to supervise, as is commemorated in the modern exhibition in the keep of Dover Castle). He also built a chain of new 'castles' (in fact, large bastioned and garrisoned gun batteries) along Britain's southern and eastern coasts from East Angliamarker to Cornwallmarker, largely built of material gained from the demolition of monasteries. These were also known as Henry VIII's Device Forts.

Style and arms

Several changes were made to the royal style during his reign. Henry originally used the style "Henry the Eighth, by the Grace of God, King of England, France and Lord of Ireland". In 1521, pursuant to a grant from Pope Leo X rewarding a book by Henry, the Defence of the Seven Sacraments, attacking Martin Luther, the royal style became "Henry the Eighth, by the Grace of God, King of England and France, Defender of the Faith and Lord of Ireland". Following Henry's excommunication, Pope Paul III rescinded the grant of the title "Defender of the Faith", but an Act of Parliament declared that it remained valid; and it continues in royal usage to the present day.

In 1535, Henry added the "supremacy phrase" to the royal style, which became "Henry the Eighth, by the Grace of God, King of England and France, Defender of the Faith, Lord of Ireland and of the Church of England in Earth Supreme Head". In 1536, the phrase "of the Church of England" changed to "of the Church of England and also of Ireland".

In 1541, Henry had the Irish Parliament change the title 'Lord of Ireland' to 'King of Ireland' with the Crown of Ireland Act 1542, after being advised that many Irish people regarded the Pope as the true head of their country, with the Lord acting as a mere representative. The reason the Irish regarded the Pope as their overlord was that Ireland had originally been given to the King Henry II of England by Pope Adrian IV in the twelfth century as a feudal territory under papal overlordship. The meeting of Irish Parliament that proclaimed Henry VIII as King of Ireland was the first meeting attended by the Gaelic Irish chieftains as well as the Anglo-Irish aristocrats. The style "Henry the Eighth, by the Grace of God, King of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith and of the Church of England and also of Ireland in Earth Supreme Head" remained in use until the end of Henry's reign.

Henry's motto was 'Coeur Loyal' (true heart) and he had this embroidered on his clothes in the form of a heart symbol and with the word "loyal". His emblem was the Tudor rose and the Beaufort portcullis.

As Duke of York, Henry used the arms of his father (i.e. those of the kingdom), differenced by a label of three points ermine. As king, Henry's arms were the same as those used by his predecessors since Henry IV: Quarterly, Azure three fleurs-de-lys Or (for France) and Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or (for England).

Current celebrations

An exhibition called Henry VIII: Man and Monarch, curated by David Starkey, was held at the British Librarymarker in 2009.


Marriages and issue

Name Birth Death Notes
By Catherine of Aragon (married 11 June 1509; annulled 23 May 1533)
Henry, Duke of Cornwall 1 January 1511 22 February 1511
Henry, Duke of Cornwall December 1514 died within one month of birth
Queen Mary I 18 February 1516 17 November 1558 married 1554, Philip II of Spain; no issue
Unnamed Daughter November 1518 died within one week of birth
By Anne Boleyn (married 25 January 1533; annulled 17 May 1536) beheaded on 19 May 1536
Queen Elizabeth I 7 September 1533 24 March 1603 never married; no issue
By Jane Seymour (married 30 May 1536; Jane Seymour died 24 October 1537)
King Edward VI 12 October 1537 6 July 1553 unmarried; no issue
By Anne of Cleves (married 6 January 1540; annulled 9 July 1540)
no issue
By Catherine Howard (married 28 July 1540; annulled 23 November 1541) beheaded on 13 February 1542
no issue
By Catherine Parr (married 12 July 1543; Henry VIII died 28 January 1547)
no issue
By Elizabeth Blount
Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset 15 June 1519 23 July 1536 illegitimate; married 1533, the Lady Mary Howard; no issue
By Mary Boleyn

(Some writers, such as Alison Weir, question whether Henry Carey was fathered by Henry VIII. )
Catherine Carey, Lady Knollys c. 1524 15 January 1569 married Sir Francis Knollys; had issue
Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon 4 March 1526 23 July 1596 married 1545, Ann Morgan; had issue
By Mary Berkeley

(There is no evidence to prove he was Henry's son except through eye witness accounts, who claimed a resemblance to the King.)
John Perrott c. 1527 3 November 1592 married 1. Anne Cheney; 2. Jane Pruet, both of whom produced issue. He also had issue with his mistress Sybil Jones.

Film and television

See also



  • The New World by Winston Churchill (1966).
  • The Reformation Parliament, 1529-1536 by Stanford E. Lehmberg (1970).
  • Henry VIII and his Court by Neville Williams (1971).
  • The Life and Times of Henry VIII by Robert Lacey (1972).
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir (1991) ISBN 0802136834.
  • English Reformations by Christopher Haigh (1993).
  • Europe: A history by Norman Davies (1998) ISBN 978-0060974688.
  • Europe and England in the Sixteenth Century by T. A. Morris (1998).
  • New Worlds, Lost Worlds by Susan Brigden (2000).
  • Henry VIII: The King and His Court by Alison Weir (2001).
  • British Kings & Queens by Mike Ashley (2002) ISBN 0-7867-1104-3.
  • Henry VIII: The King and His Court by Alison Weir (2002) ISBN 034543708X.
  • Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey (2003) ISBN 0060005505.
  • The Kings and Queens of England by Ian Crofton (2006).

Further reading

  • John Sherren Brewer; Robert Henry Brodie; James Gairdner. Letters and papers, foreign and domestic, of the reign of Henry VIII, preserved in the Public Record Officemarker, the British Museummarker, and elsewhere. 1965 2d ed. ( TannerRitchie Publishing)
  • Childs, Jessie. Henry VIII's Last Victim: The Life and Times of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. London: Jonathan Cape, 2006 (hardback, ISBN 0-224-06325-1).
  • Luther, Martin. Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, 2 vols., tr. and ed. by Preserved Smith, Charles Michael Jacobs, The Lutheran Publication Society, Philadelphia, Pa. 1913, 1918. vol. 1 (1507–1521) and vol. 2 (1521–1530) from Google Books. Reprint of Vol.1, Wipf & Stock Publishers (March 2006). ISBN 1-59752-601-0
  • Wagner, John A. "Bosworth Field to Bloody Mary: An Encyclopedia of the Early Tudors." Greenwood, 2003.
  • Bowle, John. Henry VIII: A Study of Power in Action Little, Brown, 1964.
  • Bryant, M. Private Lives. Cassell, 2001.
  • Farrow, John V. The Story of Thomas More. Collins, 1956.
  • Kranes, Marsha et al. Know It All. New York: Tess Press, 1998.
  • Moorhouse, Geoffrey. Great Harry's Navy: How Henry VIII Gave England Seapower
  • Wagner, John A. (2003). "Bosworth Field to Bloody Mary: An Encyclopedia of the Early Tudors." (Greenwood). ISBN 1-57356-540-7.
  • Henry VIII, "Assertio septem sacramentorum aduersus Martin. Luther" (1521) Treasure 9 National Library of Vatican City displayed via The European Library
  • Buchanan, E. S., Luther's reply to King Henry VIII: Now First Englished After the Lapse of Four Centuries,, (Martinus Lutherus contra Henricum Regem Angliæ, Martin Luther against Henry King of England), Charles A. Swift, New York,1928.

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