Henry VIII
Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005


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Henry VIII—King of England: (1491-1547)

June 28 1491, Greenwich, England, 8:45 AM, LMT. (Source: according to LMR, Martin Harvey quotes the birth record.) Died of hepatic dropsy on January 28, 1547, OS, February 7, 1547, NS, Westminster, England.

Ascendant, Virgo with Mars in Virgo, H1; MC, late Taurus with Venus in Gemini conjunct MC; Sun in Cancer; Moon in Aries; Mercury in Leo; Jupiter in Gemini; Saturn in Aquarius; Uranus in Capricorn; Neptune in Sagittarius; Pluto in Scorpio.

Henry VIII took the helm of the English church because the Pope would not let him divorce his first wife. He dissolved the monasteries and took over their property but allowed church services to continue in their old form.

Handsome and popular when young, as Henry grew older he became renowned for his tyrannical ways.


I am very sorry to know and hear how unreverently that most precious jewel, the Word of God, is disputed, rhymed, sung and jangled in every ale-house and tavern, contrary to the true meaning and doctrine of the same.
Henry VIII (1491–1547), British monarch, King of England. speech, Dec. 24, 1545, to Parliament.

I see and hear daily that you of the Clergy preach one against another, teach one contrary to another, inveigh one against another without charity or discretion. Some be too stiff in their old mumpsimus, others be too busy and curious in their new sumpsimus. Thus all men almost be in variety and discord.
ATTRIBUTION: Henry VIII (1491–1547), British monarch, King of England (1509-1547). speech, Dec. 24, 1545, to Parliament.

from Shakespear's Play Henry XIII

If Love now Reigned as it hath been

1If love now reigned as it hath been
2And were rewarded as it hath sin,

3Noble men then would sure ensearch
4All ways whereby they might it reach,

5But envy reigneth with such disdain
6And causeth lovers outwardly to refrain,

7Which puts them to more and more
8Inwardly most grievous and sore.

9The fault in whom I cannot set,
10But let them tell which love doth get--

11To lovers I put now sure this case:
12Which of their loves doth get them grace?

13And unto them which doth it know
14Better than do I, I think it so.

Lusty Youth should us ensue

1Lusty Youth should us ensue,
2His merry heart shall sure all rue.
3For whatsoever they do him tell,
4It is not for him, we know it well.

5For they would have him his Liberty refrain
6And all merry company for to disdain,
7But I will not so whatsoever they say,
8But follow his mind in all that we may.

9How should Youth himself best use
10But all disdainers for to refuse?
11Youth has, as chief assurance,
12Honest Mirth with Virtue's pastance.

13For in them consisteth great honour,
14Though that disdainers would therein put error,
15For they do sue to get them grace
16All only riches to purchase.

17With Good Order, Counsel, and Equity,
18Good Lord, grant us our mansion to be!
19For without their good guidance
20Youth should fall in great mischance.

21For Youth is frail and prompt to do,
22As well vices as virtues to ensue.
23Wherefore by these he must be guided
24And Virtue's pastance must be therein used.

25Now unto God this prayer we make,
26That this rude play may well be take,
27And that we may our faults amend,
28An bliss obtain at our last end.

Though some Saith that Youth Ruleth me

1Though some saith that youth ruleth me,
2 I trust in age to tarry.
3God and my right and my duty,
4 From them I shall never vary,
5 Though some say that youth ruleth me.

6I pray you all that aged be,
7 How well did ye your youth carry?
8I think some worse, of each degree:
9 Therein a wager lay dare I,
10 Though some saith that youth ruleth me.

11Pastimes of youth sometime among,
12 None can say but necessary.
13I hurt no man, I do no wrong,
14 I love true where I did marry,
15 Though some saith that youth ruleth me.

16Then soon discuss that hence we must.
17 Pray we to God and Saint Mary
18That all amend, and here an end,
19 Thus saith the king, the eighth Harry,
20 Though some saith that youth ruleth me.

(Venus in Gemini conjunct South Node & MC)

The Time of Youth is to be Spent

1The time of youth is to be spent
2But vice in it should be forfent.

3Pastimes there be, I nought truly,
4Which one may use and vice deny.

5And they be pleasant to God and man,
6Those should we covet, win who can,

7As feats of arms and such other
8Whereby activeness one may utter.

9Comparisons in them may lawfully be set,
10For thereby courage is surely out fet.

11Virtue it is then youth for to spend
12In good disports which it doth fend.


Alas, what shall I do for love?
Alas, what shall I do for love?
For love, alas, what shall I do?
Since now so kind
I do you find
To kepe you me unto.

Oh my heart
Oh my heart, and oh my heart,
My hart it is so sore.
Since I must from my love depart,
And know no cause wherefore.

Alac! Alac! What shall I do?
Alac! Alac! What shall I do?
For care is cast in to my heart,
And true love locked thereto.


Who so that will all feats obtain
In love he must be without disdain.
For love enforces all noble kind,
And disdain discourages all gentle mind.
Wherefore, to love and be not loved
Is worse than death? Let it be proved!
Love encourages, and makes one bold;
Disdain abates and makes him cold.
Love is given to God and man;
To woman also, I think the same.
But disdain is vice, and should be refused,
Yet never the less it is too much used.
Great pity it were, love for to compel
With disdain, both false and subtle.


Departure is my chief pain
Departure is my chief pain
I trust right well of return again.



Henry VIII (28 June 1491 – 28 January 1547) was King of England and Lord of Ireland (later King of Ireland) from 22 April 1509 until his death. He was the second monarch of the Tudor dynasty, succeeding his father, Henry VII. He is famous for having been married six times and for wielding the most untrammeled power of any English monarch. Notable events during his reign included the break with Rome and the subsequent establishment of the independent Church of England, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the union of England and Wales.

Several significant pieces of legislation were enacted during Henry VIII's reign. They included the several Acts which severed the English Church from the Roman Catholic Church and established Henry as the supreme head of the Church in England, the Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542 (which united England and Wales into one nation), the Buggery Act 1533, the first anti-sodomy enactment in England; and the Witchcraft Act 1542, which punished 'invoking or conjuring an evil spirit' with death.

Henry VIII is known to have been an avid gambler and dice player. In his youth, he excelled at sport, especially jousting, hunting, and royal tennis. He was also an accomplished musician, author, and poet; his best known piece of music is Pastyme With Good Company (The Kynges Ballade). Henry VIII was also involved in the construction-from-scratch and improvement of several significant buildings, including Nonsuch Palace, King's College Chapel in Cambridge and Westminster Abbey in London - the existing buildings improved were often properties confiscated from Wolsey (such as Christ Church, Oxford, Hampton Court Palace, palace of Whitehall) and Trinity College, Cambridge.

The future Henry VIII was born at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich in 1491.Born at the Palace of Placentia at Greenwich, Henry VIII was the third child of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Only three of Henry VIII's six siblings: Arthur (the Prince of Wales), Margaret and Mary, survived infancy. His Lancastrian father acquired the throne by right of conquest, his army defeating and killing the last Plantagenet king Richard III, but further solidified his hold by marrying Elizabeth, the daughter of the Yorkist king Edward IV. In 1493, the young Henry was appointed Constable of Dover Castle 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, though still a child.

In 1501 he attended the wedding of his elder brother Arthur and Catherine of Aragon, who were at the time only about fifteen and sixteen years old, respectively. The two were sent to spend time in Wales, as was customary for the heir-apparent and his wife, but Arthur caught an infection and died. Consequently, at the age of eleven, Henry, Duke of York, found himself heir-apparent to the Throne. Soon thereafter, he was created Prince of Wales.

Henry VII was still eager to maintain the marital alliance between England and Spain through a marriage between Henry, Prince of Wales, and Catherine. Since the Prince of Wales sought to marry his brother's widow, he first had to obtain a dispensation from the Pope from the impediment of affinity. Catherine maintained that her first marriage was never consummated; if she were correct, no papal dispensation would have been necessary, but merely a dissolution of ratified marriage. Nonetheless, both the English and Spanish parties agreed on the necessity of a papal dispensation for the removal of all doubts regarding the legitimacy of the marriage. Due to the impatience of Catherine's mother, Queen Isabella, the Pope hastily granted his dispensation in a Papal Bull. Thus, fourteen months after her husband's death, Catherine found herself engaged to his brother, the Prince of Wales. By 1505, however, Henry VII lost interest in an alliance with Spain, and the young Prince of Wales was forced to declare that his betrothal had been arranged without his assent.

Henry VIII ascended the throne in 1509 upon his father's death. Catherine's father, the Aragonese King Ferdinand II, sought to control England through his daughter, and consequently insisted on her marriage to the new English King. Henry VIII wed Catherine of Aragon about nine weeks after his accession on June 11, 1509 at Greenwich, despite the concerns of Pope Julius II and William Warham, the Archbishop of Canterbury, regarding the marriage's validity. They were both crowned at Westminster Abbey on 24 June 1509. Que

Upon his accession, Henry was faced with the problematic issues posed by Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley, two nobles of Henry VII's reign who imposed heavy arbitrary taxes on the nobility. In one of the many ways in which he tried to separate himself from the principles of his father's reign, he had them imprisoned in the Tower of London and later beheaded. Henry's constant willingness for war would prove to be another way in which he undertook to distance himself from Henry VII's reign; his predecessor favouring peace.

Anonymous portrait of Henry VIII c. 1509For two years after Henry's accession, Richard Fox, the Bishop of Winchesterand Lord Privy Seal, and William Warham controlled matters of state. From 1511 onwards, however, power was held by the ecclesiastic Thomas Wolsey. In 1511, Henry joined the Holy League, a body of European rulers opposed to the French King Louis XII. The League also included such European rulers as Pope Julius II, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and Ferdinand II, with whom Henry also signed the Treaty of Westminster. Henry personally joined the English Army as they crossed the English Channelinto France, and took part in sieges and battles. In 1514, however, Ferdinand left the alliance, and the other parties made peace with the French. Irritation towards Spain led to discussion of a divorce with Queen Catherine. However, upon the accession of the French King Francis Iin 1515, England and France grew antagonistic, and Henry became reconciled with Ferdinand. In 1516, Queen Catherine gave birth to a girl, Mary, encouraging Henry in the belief that he could still have a male heir despite his wife's previous failed pregnancies (one stillbirth, one miscarriage, and two short-lived infants). Ferdinand died in 1516, to be succeeded by his grandson (Queen Catherine's nephew) Charles V. By October 1518, Wolsey had engineered the Papacy-led Treaty of London to resemble an English triumph of foreign diplomacy, placing England at the centre of a new European alliance with the ostensible aim of repelling Moorish invasions through Spain, which was the Pope's original aim. In 1519, when Maximilian also died, Wolsey, who was by that time a Cardinal, secretly proposed Henry as a candidate for the post of Holy Roman Emperor, though supporting the French King Francis in public. In the end, however, the prince-electorssettled on Charles. The subsequent rivalry between Francis and Charles allowed Henry to act as a mediator between them. Henry came to hold the balance of power in Europe. Both Francis and Charles sought Henry's favour, the former in a dazzling and spectacular manner at the Field of Cloth of Gold, and the latter more solemnly at Kent. After 1521, however, England's influence in Europe began to wane. Henry entered into an alliance with Charles V through the Treaty of Bruges, and Francis I was defeated by Charles' imperial armies at the Battle of Paviain February 1525. Charles' reliance on Henry subsided, as did England's power in Europe, and Henry was refused help to acquire the Fleur-de-Lys, despite Charles' guarantees. This lead to the Treaty of Westminsterin 1527. Henry's interest in European affairs extended to the attack on Luther's German revolution. In 1521, he dedicated his Defence of the Seven Sacraments, which earned him the title of "Defender of the Faith" (Defensor Fidei). Prior to this, his title had been "inclitissimus", meaning "most illustrious". The later title was maintained even after his break with Rome, and it is still used by the British monarch today.

Henry VIII's accession was the first peaceful one England had witnessed in many years; however, the new Tudor dynasty's legitimacy could yet be tested. The English people seemed distrustful of female rulers, and Henry felt that only a male heir could secure the throne. Although Queen Catherine had been pregnant at least seven times (for the last time in 1518), only one child, the Princess Mary, had survived beyond infancy. Henry had previously been happy with mistresses, including Mary Boleyn and Elizabeth Blount, with whom he had had an illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. In 1526, when it became clear that Queen Catherine could have no further children, he began to pursue Mary Boleyn's sister, Anne. Although it was almost certainly Henry's desire for a male heir that made him determined to divorce Catherine, he was very infatuated with Anne, despite her child-bearing inexperience and famously plain looks.

Henry's long and arduous attempt to end his marriage to Queen Catherine became known as "The King's Great Matter". Cardinal Wolsey and William Warham quietly began an inquiry into the validity of her marriage to Henry. Queen Catherine, however, testified that her marriage to Arthur, Prince of Wales had never been consummated, and that there was therefore no impediment to her subsequent marriage to Henry. The inquiry could proceed no further, and was dropped.

Without informing Cardinal Wolsey, Henry directly appealed to the Holy See. He sent his secretary William Knight to Rome to argue that Julius II's Bull was obtained by trickery, and consequently void. In addition, he requested Pope Clement VII (1523–34) to grant a dispensation allowing him to marry any woman, even in the first degree of affinity; such a dispensation was necessary because Henry had previously had intercourse with Anne Boleyn's sister Mary. Knight found that Pope Clement VII was practically the prisoner of the Emperor Charles V. He had difficulty gaining access to the Pope, and when he finally did, he could accomplish little. Clement VII did not agree to annul the marriage, but he did grant the desired dispensation, probably presuming that the dispensation would be of no effect as long as Henry remained married to Catherine.

Being advised of the King's predicament, Cardinal Wolsey sent Stephen Gardiner and Edward Fox to Rome. Perhaps fearing Queen Catherine's nephew, Charles V, Pope Clement VII initially demurred. Fox was sent back with a commission authorising the commencement of proceedings, but the restrictions imposed made it practically meaningless. Gardiner strove for a "decretal commission", which decided the points of law beforehand, and left only questions of fact to be decided. Clement VII was persuaded to accept Gardiner's proposal, and permitted Cardinal Wolsey and Lorenzo Cardinal Campeggio to try the case jointly. His decretal commission was issued in secret; it was not to be shown to anybody, and was to always remain in Cardinal Campeggio's possession. Points of law were already settled in the commission; the Papal Bull authorising Henry's marriage to Catherine was to be declared void if the grounds alleged therein were false. For instance, the Bull would be void if it falsely asserted that the marriage was absolutely necessary to maintain the Anglo-Spanish alliance.

Cardinal Campeggio arrived in England in 1528. Proceedings, however, were brought to a halt when the Spanish produced a second document allegedly granting the necessary dispensation. It was asserted that, a few months before he had granted papal dispensation in a public Bull, Pope Julius II had secretly granted the same in a private Brief sent to Spain. The decretal commission, however, only made mention of the Bull; it did not authorise Cardinal Campeggio and Cardinal Wolsey to determine the validity of the Brief and for eight months, the parties wrangled over its authenticity. During the spring of 1529, Henry's legal team assembled the libelus (the summary of Henry's royal arguments, including Lev: 2021) that was presented before the papal legates, where the following may be observed: 18 June, 1529 'The Queen was summoned to the great hall of the Black Friar's convent in London. The King, on a raised platform, sat at the upper end. Some distance away Catherine was given her place. The Cardinals, sitting lower than the King, flanked the royal presence, and near them the Archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops were given position. Doctor Richard Sampson, afterwards Bishop of Chichester, and Doctor John Bell, afterwards Bishop of Worcester, led those who pleaded for the King. Representing the Queen was John Fisher Bishop of Rochester, and Doctor Standish, a Gray Friar and Bishop of St. Asaph.' Following a series of deliberations, the matter was appealed to Rome, primarily after Catherine's nephew, Charles V, pressured the Pope into recalling Cardinal Campeggio and Catherine was then placed in the care of Sir Edmund Bedingfield at Kimbolton Castle.

Angered with Cardinal Wolsey for the delay, Henry stripped him of his wealth and power. He was charged with præmunire — undermining the King's authority by agreeing to represent the Pope — but died on his way to trial. With Cardinal Wolsey fell other powerful ecclesiastics in England; laymen were appointed to offices such as those of Lord Chancellor and Lord Privy Seal, which were formerly confined to clergymen.

Power then passed to Sir Thomas More (the new Lord Chancellor), Thomas Cranmer (the Archbishop of Canterbury), and Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex (the Secretary of State). On 25 January 1533, Cranmer participated in the wedding of Henry and Anne Boleyn. In May, Cranmer pronounced Henry's marriage to Catherine void, and shortly thereafter declared the marriage to Anne valid. The Princess Mary was deemed illegitimate, and was replaced as heiress-presumptive by Queen Anne's new daughter, the Princess Elizabeth. Catherine lost the title "Queen", and became the Dowager Princess of Wales; Mary was no longer a "Princess", but a mere "Lady". The Dowager Princess of Wales would die of cancer in 1536.

Sir Thomas More, who had left office in 1532, accepted that Parliament could make Anne queen, but refused to acknowledge its religious authority. Instead, he held that the Pope remained the head of the Church. As a result, he was charged with high treason, and beheaded in 1535. Judging him to be a martyr, the Catholic Church later made him a saint.

The Pope responded to these events by excommunicating Henry in July 1533. Considerable religious upheaval followed. Urged by Thomas Cromwell, Parliament passed several Acts that sealed the breach with Rome in the spring of 1534. The Statute in Restraint of Appeals prohibited appeals from English ecclesiastical courts to the Pope. It also prevented the Church from making any regulations without the King's consent. The Ecclesiastical Appointments Act 1534 required the clergy to elect Bishops nominated by the Sovereign. The Act of Supremacy 1534 declared that the King was "the only Supreme Head in Earth of the Church of England"; the Treasons Act 1534 made it high treason, punishable by death, to refuse to acknowledge the King as such. The Pope was denied sources of revenue such as Peter's Pence.

Rejecting the decisions of the Pope, Parliament validated the marriage between Henry and Anne with the Act of Succession 1534. Catherine's daughter, the Lady Mary, was declared illegitimate, and Anne's issue were declared next in the line of succession. All adults were required to acknowledge the Act's provisions; those who refused to do so were liable to imprisonment for life. The publisher or printer of any literature alleging that Henry's marriage to Anne was invalid was automatically guilty of high treason, and could be punished by death.

Opposition to Henry's religious policies was quickly suppressed. Several dissenting monks were tortured and executed. Cromwell, for whom was created the post of "Vicegerent in Spirituals", was authorised to visit monasteries, ostensibly to ensure that they followed royal instructions, but in reality to assess their wealth. In 1536, an Act of Parliament allowed Henry to seize the possessions of the lesser monasteries (those with annual incomes of £200 or less).

In 1536, Queen Anne began to lose Henry's favour. After the Princess Elizabeth's birth, Queen Anne had two pregnancies that ended in either miscarriage or stillbirth. Henry VIII, meanwhile, had begun to turn his attentions to another lady of his court, Jane Seymour. Perhaps encouraged by Thomas Cromwell, Henry had Anne arrested on charges of using witchcraft to trap Henry into marrying her, of having adulterous relationships with five other men, of incest with her brother George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford, of injuring the King and of conspiring to kill him, which amounted to treason; the charges were most likely fabricated. The court trying the case was presided over by Anne's own uncle, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. In May 1536, the Court condemned Anne and her brother to death, either by burning at the stake or by decapitation, whichever the King pleased. The other four men Queen Anne had allegedly been involved with were to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Lord Rochford was beheaded soon after the trial ended; the four others implicated had their sentences commuted from hanging, drawing and quartering to decapitation. Anne was also beheaded soon thereafter.

Only days after Anne's execution in 1536, Henry married Jane Seymour. The Act of Succession 1536 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. The King was granted the power to further determine the line of succession in his will. Jane gave birth to a son, the Prince Edward, in 1537, and died two weeks thereafter. After Jane's death, the entire court mourned with Henry for some time. Henry also considered her to be his only "true" wife, being the only one who had given him the male heir he so desperately sought.

At about the same time as his marriage to Jane Seymour, Henry granted his assent to the Laws in Wales Act 1535, which legally annexed Wales, uniting England and Wales into one nation. The Act provided for the sole use of English in official proceedings in Wales, inconveniencing the numerous speakers of the Welsh language.

Henry continued with his persecution of his religious opponents. In 1536, an uprising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace broke out in Northern England. To appease the rebellious Roman Catholics, Henry agreed to allow Parliament to address their concerns. Furthermore, he agreed to grant a general pardon to all those involved. He kept neither promise, and a second uprising occurred in 1537. As a result, the leaders of the rebellion were convicted of treason and executed. In 1538, Henry sanctioned the destruction of shrines to Roman Catholic Saints. In 1539, England's remaining monasteries were all dissolved, and their property transferred to the Crown. As a reward for his role, Thomas Cromwell was created Earl of Essex. Abbots and priors lost their seats in the House of Lords; 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 Lords were known, were for the first time outnumbered by the Lords Temporal.

Henry was shown the above picture of Anne of Cleves.Henry's only surviving son, the Prince Edward, Duke of Cornwall, was not a healthy child. Therefore, Henry desired to marry once again to ensure that a male could succeed him. Thomas Cromwell, 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. After regarding Holbein's flattering 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". She was painted totally without any signs of her pockmarked face. Nevertheless, he married her on 6 January 1540.

Soon thereafter, however, Henry desired to end the marriage, not only because of his personal feelings but also because of political considerations. 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. She testified that her marriage was never consummated. Henry was said to have come into the room each night and merely kissed his new bride on the forehead before sleeping. The marriage was subsequently annulled on the grounds that Anne had previously been contracted to marry another European nobleman. She received the title of "The King's Sister", and was granted Hever Castle, the former residence of Anne Boleyn's family. The Earl of Essex, meanwhile, fell out of favour for his role in arranging the marriage, and was subsequently attainted and beheaded. The office of Vicegerent in Spirituals, which had been specifically created for him, was not filled, and still remains vacant.

On 28 July 1540 (the same day Lord Essex was executed) Henry married the young Catherine Howard, Anne Boleyn's first cousin. Soon after her marriage, however, Queen Catherine may have 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 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.

In December 1541, Culpeper and Dereham were executed. Catherine was condemned not by a trial, but by an Act of Attainder passed by Parliament. The Act recited the evidence against the Queen, and Henry would have been obliged to listen to the entire text before granting the Royal Assent. Because "the repetition of so grievous a Story and the recital of so infamous a crime" in the King's presence "might reopen a Wound already closing in the Royal Bosom", a special clause permitting Commissioners to grant the Royal Assent on the King's behalf was inserted in the Act. This method of granting the Royal Assent had never been used before, but, in later reigns, it came to replace the traditional personal appearance of the Sovereign in Parliament.

Catherine's marriage was annulled shortly before her execution. As was the case with Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard could not have technically 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 only about eighteen years old at the time.

Henry married his last wife, the wealthy widow Catherine Parr, in 1543. She argued with Henry over religion; she was a Protestant, but Henry remained a Catholic. This behaviour almost led to her undoing, but she saved herself by a show of submissiveness. She helped reconcile Henry with his first two daughters, the Lady Mary and the Lady Elizabeth. In 1544, an Act of Parliament put them back in the line of succession after the Prince Edward, Duke of Cornwall, 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". The doggerel, however, may be misleading. Firstly, Henry was never divorced from any of his wives; rather, his marriages to them were annulled. Secondly, four marriages — not two — ended in annulments. The marriages to Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were annulled shortly before their executions. Ironically the annulments undermined the process under which Boleyn and Howard were executed: annulments operate on the basis that there had never been a marriage. If they had never been married to him, they could not have committed adultery, one of the central charges brought against them. However this technicality did not stop their execution.

King Henry VIII died in the Palace of Whitehall in 1547.Later in life, Henry was grossly overweight, with a waist measurement of 54 inches (137 cm), and possibly suffered from gout. The well known theory that he suffered from syphilis was first promoted approximately 100 years after his death. More recent support for this idea has come from a greater understanding of the disease and has led to the suggestion that Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I all displayed symptoms characteristic of congenital syphilis. Henry's increased size dates from a jousting accident in 1536. He suffered a thigh wound which not only prevented him from taking exercise, but also gradually became ulcerated and may have indirectly led to his death, which occurred on 28 January 1547 at the Palace of Whitehall. He died on what would have been his father's 90th birthday. Henry VIII was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, next to his wife Jane Seymour. Within a little more than a decade after his death, all three of his children sat on the English throne.

Under the Act of Succession 1544, Henry's only surviving son, Edward, inherited the Crown, becoming Edward VI. Edward was the first Protestant monarch to rule England. Since Edward was only nine years old at the time, he could not exercise actual power. Henry's will designated sixteen executors to serve on a council of regency until Edward reached the age of eighteen. The executors chose Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, Jane Seymour's elder brother, to be Lord Protector of the Realm. In the event of a death without children, Edward was to be succeeded (in default of his issue) by Henry VIII's daughter by Catherine of Aragon, the Lady Mary. If the Lady Mary did not have children, she was to be succeeded by his daughter by Anne Boleyn, the Lady Elizabeth. Finally, if the Lady Elizabeth also did not have children, she was to be followed by the descendants of Henry VIII's deceased sister, Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk.

In modern times, Henry VIII has become one of the most popular historical kings of the English monarchy. This is mainly based on the common perception of his larger than life character as an over-eating, womanising bon vivant, which in turn is based on somewhat exaggerated or apocryphal stories of his life. In 2002, Henry VIII placed 40th in a BBC-sponsored poll on the 100 Greatest Britons.

Along with Alfred the Great, Henry is traditionally called one of the founders of the Royal Navy. There are good reasons for this - his reign featured some naval warfare and, more significantly, large royal investment in shipbuilding (including a few spectacular 'great ships' such as the Mary Rose), dockyards (such as HMNB Portsmouth) and naval innovations (eg the use of cannon onboard 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 cannon were used). However, it is a misnomer since Henry did not bequeath to his immediate successors a 'navy' in the sense of a formalised organisation with structures, ranks, formalised munitioning structures etc, but only in the sense of a set of ships (albeit some spectacular ones). Elizabeth I still had to cobble together a set of privately-owned ships to fight off the Spanish Armada and in the former, formal sense the modern British navy, the Royal Navy, is largely a product of the naval side of the Napoleonic wars).

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

Henry VIII was the subject of William Shakespeare's historical play, Henry VIII: All Is True, written once it was safe to do so (once his daughter Elizabeth I had died). The play, however, has never been one of Shakespeare's more popular plays. Henry VIII was playing on June 29, 1613 when the Globe Theatre burnt down. Ironically, in another Renaissance play in which Henry might be expected to appear - the Elizabethan play Sir Thomas More, he is always an offstage presence, mentioned but never seen.

The most notable modern example is Robert Bolt's play and film A Man for All Seasons (see also 'Cinematic films', below).

Henry VIII was also the subject of a best-selling fictional autobiography written by Margaret George.

There have been many films about Henry and his court. Two that bear mention are The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), starring Charles Laughton, whose performance earned him an Academy Award, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1972), starring Keith Michell. Richard Burton and Genevieve Bujold were nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Actress for their roles as Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969). Henry, played by Robert Shaw, also appears as one of the main characters in the multiple-Oscar-winning movie about Thomas More, A Man for All Seasons (1966), based upon Robert Bolt's play of the same name.

Sid James played Henry in the movie Carry On Henry (1970), which portrayed the relationship between the King and two fictitious wives ("Marie of Normandy" and "Bettina", a mistress).

He has also been a TV stalwart, both in drama and documentary, and in America and the UK. In drama, one notable example is the 1970 BBC series 'the Six Wives of Henry VIII', made up of six television plays, one per wife, each by a different author. Another is the 2003 ITV feature-length Henry VIII, with Ray Winstone as Henry VIII, critically panned for Henry as an East End gangster, spoken in Winstone's usual Cockney tones, surrounded entirely by a court speaking in Received Pronunciation, such as David Suchet as Wolsey.

An episode of the 1960s American sitcom Bewitched had Samantha Stevens staving off a lustful Henry's intentions to make her his next wife. Henry's life was the subject of the famous but inaccurate Simpsons television episode named "Margical History Tour" in 2004, in which Homer Simpson played the King.

In Homecoming: A Shot in D'Arc, an episode of Clone High, a dolphin impersonated Henry VIII to play on the basketball team. The writers chose Henry VIII because they viewed him as someone recognizable as a real historical figure yet someone that most North Americans know almost nothing about.

In documentary, the leading academic on Henry, David Starkey leads the field, with Channel 4 series entitled 'Henry VIII' and 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII' - the latter gave one episode each to Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, one jointly to Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves, and another jointly to Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr. Henry also has an episode to himself in his more recent series 'Monarchy' (Monarchy TV series).

In 2002, Henry VIII placed 40th in a BBC-sponsored poll on the 100 Greatest Britons.

Henry was almost certainly the inspiration for the title of the popular song "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am" (1911), recorded by Harry Champion and later by Herman's Hermits; the actual song, however, is about a man named Henry whose wife has been married to seven different individuals, all named Henry.

In 1973, Rick Wakeman released a rock concept album on The Six Wives of Henry VIII, his first solo album after splitting from Yes.

Henry VIII was the first English monarch to regularly use the style "Majesty", though the alternatives "Highness" and "Grace" were also used from time to time.

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 attacking Martin Luther and defending Catholicism, 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". After the breach with Rome, Pope Paul III rescinded the grant of the title "Defender of the Faith", but an Act of Parliament declared that it remained valid.

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 1542, Henry changed the title "Lord of Ireland" to "King of Ireland" 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 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 'loyall'. His emblem was the Tudor rose and the Beaufort portcullis.

Henry VIII'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).

By Catherine of Aragon (married June 11, 1509 annulled 1533; she died January 6, 1536)
Miscarried daughter
January 31, 1510
January 31, 1510
Henry, Duke of Cornwall
1 January 1511
22 February 1511
Unnamed son
November 1513
November 1513
Henry, Duke of Cornwall
December 1514
December 1514
Queen Mary I
18 February 1516
13 September 1558
married 1554, Philip II of Spain; no issue
Unnamed child
November 10, 1518
November 10, 1518
By Anne Boleyn (married January 25, 1533 annulled 1536; she was executed May 19, 1536)
Queen Elizabeth I
7 September 1533
24 March 1603
  never married, no issue
"Henry Tudor"
Historians are uncertain if the child was born and died shortly after birth, or if it was a miscarriage. The affair was hushed up and we cannot even be certain of the child's sex.
"Edward Tudor"
29 January 1536
29 January 1536
By Jane Seymour (married May 20, 1536; she died October 25, 1537)
King Edward VI
12 October 1537
6 July 1553
By Anne of Cleves (married January 6, 1540 annulled 1540; she died July 17, 1557)
no issue
By Catherine Howard (married July 28, 1540 annulled 1541; she was executed February 13, 1542)
no issue
By Catherine Parr (married July 12, 1543; he died January 28, 1547; she remarried and died September 5, 1548)
no issue
By Elizabeth Blount
Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset
15 June 1519
18 June 1536
illegitimate; married 1533, the Lady Mary Howard; no issue
By The Lady Mary Boleyn (most historians now reject the legend that the following two children were fathered by Henry VIII)
Catherine Carey
c. 1524
15 January 1568
reputed illegitimate; married Sir Francis Knollys; had issue
Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon
4 March 1526
23 July 1596
reputed illegitimate; married 1545, Ann Morgan; had issue
By Mary Berkeley
Sir Thomas Stucley
c. 1525
August 4, 1578
reputed illegitimate; married Anne Curtis; had issue
Sir John Perrot
c. 1527
September 1592
reputed illegitimate; married (1) Ann Cheyney and (2) Jane Pruet; had issue
By Joan Dyngley
Etheldreda Malte
c. 1529
aft. 1555
reputed illegitimate; married 1546–1548 to John Harrington; no known issue
* Note: Of Henry VIII's reputedly illegitimate children, only the Duke of Richmond and Somerset was formally acknowledged by the King. The paternity of his other alleged illegitimate children is not fully established. There may also have been other illegitimate children born to short-term unidentified mistresses.


HENRY VIII (r. 1509-1547)

Henry VIII was born at Greenwich on 28 June 1491, the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. He became heir to the throne on the death of his elder brother, Prince Arthur, in 1502 and succeeded in 1509.

In his youth he was athletic and highly intelligent. A contemporary observer described him thus: 'he speaks good French, Latin and Spanish; is very religious; heard three masses daily when he hunted ... He is extremely fond of hunting, and never takes that diversion without tiring eight or ten horses ... He is also fond of tennis.'

Henry's scholarly interests included writing both books and music, and he was a lavish patron of the arts.

He was an accomplished player of many instruments and a composer. Greensleeves, the popular melody frequently attributed to him is, however, almost certainly not one of his compositions.

As the author of a best-selling book (it went through some 20 editions in England and Europe) attacking Martin Luther and supporting the Roman Catholic church, in 1521 Henry was given the title 'Defender of the Faith' by the Pope.

From his father, Henry VIII inherited a stable realm with the monarch's finances in healthy surplus - on his accession, Parliament had not been summoned for supplies for five years. Henry's varied interests and lack of application to government business and administration increased the influence of Thomas Wolsey, an Ipswich butcher's son, who became Lord Chancellor in 1515.

Wolsey became one of the most powerful ministers in British history (symbolised by his building of Hampton Court Palace - on a greater scale than anything the king possessed). Wolsey exercised his powers vigorously in his own court of Chancery and in the increased use of the Council's judicial authority in the court of the Star Chamber.

Wolsey was also appointed Cardinal in 1515 and given papal legate powers which enabled him to by-pass the Archbishop of Canterbury and 'govern' the Church in England.

Henry's interest in foreign policy was focused on Western Europe, which was a shifting pattern of alliances centred round the kings of Spain and France, and the Holy Roman Emperor. (Henry was related by marriage to all three - his wife Catherine was Ferdinand of Aragon's daughter, his sister Mary married Louis XII of France in 1514, and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was Catherine's nephew.)

An example of these shifts was Henry's unsuccessful Anglo-Spanish campaigns against France, ending in peace with France in 1520, when he spent huge sums on displays and tournaments at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

Henry also invested in the navy, and increased its size from 5 to 53 ships (including the Mary Rose, the remains of which lie in the Portsmouth Naval Museum).

The second half of Henry's reign was dominated by two issues very important for the later history of England and the monarchy: the succession and the Protestant Reformation, which led to the formation of the Church of England.

Henry had married his brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon, in 1509. Catherine had produced only one surviving child - a girl, Princess Mary, born in 1516. By the end of the 1520s, Henry's wife was in her forties and he was desperate for a son.

The Tudor dynasty had been established by conquest in 1485 and Henry was only its second monarch. England had not so far had a ruling queen, and the dynasty was not secure enough to run the risk of handing the Crown on to a woman, risking disputed succession or domination of a foreign power through marriage.

Henry had anyway fallen in love with Anne Boleyn, the sister of one of his many mistresses, and tried to persuade the Pope to grant him an annulment of his marriage on the grounds that it had never been legal.

Royal divorces had happened before: Louis XII had been granted a divorce in 1499, and in 1527 James IV's widow Margaret (Henry's sister) had also been granted one. However, a previous Pope had specifically granted Henry a licence to marry his brother's widow in 1509.

In May 1529, Wolsey failed to gain the Pope's agreement to resolve Henry's case in England. All the efforts of Henry and his advisers came to nothing; Wolsey was dismissed and arrested, but died before he could be brought to trial.

Since the attempts to obtain the divorce through pressure on the papacy had failed, Wolsey's eventual successor Thomas Cromwell (Henry's chief adviser from 1532 onwards) turned to Parliament, using its powers and anti-clerical attitude (encouraged by Wolsey's excesses) to decide the issue.

The result was a series of Acts cutting back papal power and influence in England and bringing about the English Reformation.

In 1532, an Act against Annates - although suspended during 'the king's pleasure' - was a clear warning to the Pope that ecclesiastical revenues were under threat.

In 1532, Cranmer was promoted to Archbishop of Canterbury and, following the Pope's confirmation of his appointment, in May 1533 Cranmer declared Henry's marriage invalid; Anne Boleyn was crowned queen a week later.

The Pope responded with excommunication, and Parliamentary legislation enacting Henry's decision to break with the Roman Catholic Church soon followed. An Act in restraint of appeals forbade appeals to Rome, stating that England was an empire, governed by one supreme head and king who possessed 'whole and entire' authority within the realm, and that no judgements or excommunications from Rome were valid.

An Act of Submission of the Clergy and an Act of Succession followed, together with an Act of Supremacy (1534) which recognised that the king was 'the only supreme head of the Church of England called Anglicana Ecclesia'.

The breach between the king and the Pope forced clergy, office-holders and others to choose their allegiance - the most famous being Sir Thomas More, who was executed for treason in 1535.

The other effect of the English Protestant Reformation was the Dissolution of Monasteries, under which monastic lands and possessions were broken up and sold off. In the 1520s, Wolsey had closed down some of the small monastic communities to pay for his new foundations (he had colleges built at Oxford and Ipswich).

In 1535-6, another 200 smaller monasteries were dissolved by statute, followed by the remaining greater houses in 1538-40; as a result, Crown revenues doubled for a few years.

Henry's second marriage had raised hopes for a male heir. Anne Boleyn, however, produced another daughter, Princess Elizabeth, and failed to produce a male child. Henry got rid of Anne on charges of treason (presided over by Thomas Cromwell) which were almost certainly false, and she was executed in 1536. In 1537 her replacement, Henry's third wife Jane Seymour, finally bore him a son, who was later to become Edward VI. Jane died in childbed, 12 days after the birth in 1537.

Although Cromwell had proved an effective minister in bringing about the royal divorce and the English Reformation, his position was insecure. The Pilgrimage of Grace, an insurrection in 1536, called for Cromwell's dismissal (the rebels were put down) but it was Henry's fourth, abortive and short-lived marriage to Anne of Cleves that led to Cromwell's downfall. Despite being made Earl of Essex in 1540, three months later he was arrested and executed.

Henry made two more marriages, to Katherine Howard (executed on grounds of adultery in 1542) and Catherine Parr (who survived Henry to die in 1548).

None produced any children. Henry made sure that his sole male heir, Edward, was educated by people who believed in Protestantism rather than Catholicism because he wanted the anti-papal nature of his reformation and his dynasty to become more firmly established.

After Cromwell's execution, no leading minister emerged in the last seven years of Henry's reign. Overweight, irascible and in failing health, Henry turned his attention to France once more.

Despite assembling an army of 40,000 men, only the town of Boulogne was captured and the French campaign failed. Although more than half the monastic properties had been sold off, forced loans and currency depreciation also had to be used to pay for the war, which contributed to increased inflation. Henry died in London on 28 January 1547.

To some, Henry VIII was a strong and ruthless ruler, forcing through changes to the Church-State relationship which excluded the papacy and brought the clergy under control, thus strengthening the Crown's position and acquiring the monasteries' wealth.

However, Henry's reformation had produced dangerous Protestant-Roman Catholic differences in the kingdom. The monasteries' wealth had been spent on wars and had also built up the economic strength of the aristocracy and other families in the counties, which in turn was to encourage ambitious Tudor court factions.

Significantly, Parliament's involvement in making religious and dynastic changes had been firmly established. For all his concern over establishing his dynasty and the resulting religious upheaval, Henry's six marriages had produced one sickly son and an insecure succession with two princesses (Mary and Elizabeth) who at one stage had been declared illegitimate - none of whom were to have children.






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