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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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)
January 31, 1510
January 31, 1510
Henry, Duke of Cornwall
1 January 1511
22 February 1511
Henry, Duke of Cornwall
Queen Mary I
18 February 1516
13 September 1558
married 1554, Philip II of Spain; no issue
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
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.
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
By Catherine Howard (married July 28, 1540 annulled 1541; she was executed
February 13, 1542)
By Catherine Parr (married July 12, 1543; he died January 28, 1547;
she remarried and died September 5, 1548)
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)
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
August 4, 1578
reputed illegitimate; married Anne Curtis; had issue
Sir John Perrot
reputed illegitimate; married (1) Ann Cheyney and (2) Jane Pruet; had
By Joan Dyngley
reputed illegitimate; married 1546–1548 to John Harrington; no
* 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
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.'
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 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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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'
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
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.