England - Periods - Tudor 1485-1603

Henry VIII

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Henry VIII was born on June 28, 1491, at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, England. He was the second son of King Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York. At the time of his birth, Henry was not expected to become king as he had an older brother, Arthur, who was next in line to the throne.

Henry was baptized in the Catholic faith and named after his father, but he was also known as "Prince Hal" among his family and close friends. In his early years, Henry received a traditional education, studying subjects such as Latin, French, and theology.

When Henry was 10 years old, his brother Arthur died, making him the new heir to the throne. This unexpected turn of events thrust Henry into a position he had not been prepared for, and he was now being groomed to become the next king of England.

Henry's early years as heir to the throne were marked by political turmoil and instability. His father, King Henry VII, was paranoid about potential threats to his reign and kept a close eye on his son's activities, often denying him the opportunity to take on any meaningful responsibilities.

As a young prince, Henry VIII had a close relationship with his older brother, Arthur, who was his mentor and role model. However, after Arthur's sudden death in 1502, Henry's life changed dramatically. He was now the heir apparent to the throne, and his father, King Henry VII, began to focus more on his education and training as a future monarch.



Henry's friends during his youth included men such as William Compton and Charles Brandon, who later became prominent figures in his court. He also had close relationships with his sisters, Margaret and Mary, and with his mother, Elizabeth of York.

As heir apparent, Henry's life became more focused on the duties and responsibilities of kingship. He was expected to participate in court ceremonies, attend council meetings, and learn about the workings of government. He also began to receive instruction in the art of warfare, as it was believed that a king should be a competent military leader.

Despite the increased pressure and scrutiny that came with being heir to the throne, Henry maintained his love of sports, music, and the arts, and he continued to cultivate friendships and social connections throughout his life.

When Henry VIII became king in 1509, he was young, handsome, and full of energy. He had a reputation as a skilled athlete, musician, and scholar, and many people had high hopes for his reign.

In his early years as king, Henry was eager to establish himself as a strong and decisive ruler. He took an active role in government and surrounded himself with trusted advisors who shared his vision for the future of England. He also embarked on a number of ambitious military campaigns, hoping to expand England's influence on the European continent.

One of the most significant changes that Henry made early in his reign was his decision to break with the Catholic Church and establish the Church of England. This move was driven in large part by his desire to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, who had failed to produce a male heir.

The break with Rome and the establishment of the Church of England was a dramatic move that had far-reaching consequences for England and the rest of Europe. It led to years of religious turmoil, as Henry and his successors struggled to establish a stable religious settlement in England.

In addition to his religious reforms, Henry also made significant changes to the legal and economic systems of England. He introduced new laws and policies aimed at strengthening the power of the monarchy and expanding trade and commerce.

The establishment of the Church of England, also known as the Anglican Church, was a significant event in the reign of Henry VIII. The process of breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church and establishing a new church in England was a complex one, and it was driven by a variety of political, religious, and personal factors.

One of the key factors that led to the establishment of the Church of England was Henry's desire to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Catherine had failed to produce a male heir, and Henry was convinced that he needed a new wife in order to secure the future of the Tudor dynasty. However, the Catholic Church did not grant divorces, and Henry was unable to get permission to annul his marriage.



In order to circumvent the Church's authority and divorce Catherine, Henry began to look for ways to break away from Rome and establish a new church in England. He was also influenced by the ideas of the Protestant Reformation, which were gaining popularity in Europe at the time.

To this end, Henry passed a series of laws that asserted the supremacy of the English monarch over the Catholic Church. In 1534, he passed the Act of Supremacy, which declared him to be the "Supreme Head" of the Church of England, and effectively severed the ties between the English church and Rome.

Henry's decision to break with Rome was supported by a number of influential advisors and religious figures, including Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer. These men helped to shape the new church's doctrines and practices, and worked to establish it as a viable alternative to the Catholic Church.

After his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII went on to marry five more times, with varying degrees of success.

Henry's second wife was Anne Boleyn, whom he had been pursuing for several years before his divorce from Catherine was finalized. Anne was a controversial figure, as she was seen as a threat to the stability of the monarchy and the established church. She was accused of adultery and treason, and was eventually executed in 1536, after only three years of marriage.

Henry's third wife was Jane Seymour, who was his favorite and most successful marriage. She gave him a son, Edward VI, but died shortly after giving birth.

Henry's fourth wife was Anne of Cleves, whom he married for political reasons. However, he found her unattractive and had the marriage annulled after only six months.

Henry's fifth wife was Catherine Howard, whom he married when he was in his fifties and she was in her twenties. Catherine was accused of adultery, and like Anne Boleyn, was executed.

Henry's sixth and final wife was Catherine Parr, who was a widow and already had two previous marriages. Catherine acted as a stepmother to Henry's children and helped to reconcile him with his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. She outlived Henry and went on to marry again after his death.

The marriages of Henry VIII were significant not only for their personal dramas, but also for their impact on English history. The instability caused by Henry's marital and religious policies contributed to the Protestant Reformation, and helped to establish England as a Protestant nation.

The later years of Henry VIII's life were marked by declining health, political upheaval, and personal turmoil. Despite his early successes as king, Henry became increasingly isolated and unpredictable as he aged, and his later years were marred by a series of setbacks and tragedies.

One of the major setbacks that Henry suffered was the failure of his marriage to Anne of Cleves, which led to a loss of political support and damaged his reputation as a successful statesman. He also faced opposition from his own advisors, who were concerned about his erratic behavior and the financial and political costs of his military campaigns.

In addition to these challenges, Henry also suffered from a number of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and a painful leg ulcer that made it difficult for him to move around. These health issues made him increasingly irritable and prone to mood swings, and contributed to his reputation as a difficult and unpredictable ruler.

Despite these challenges, Henry continued to pursue his ambitions and to exert his authority over his court and his country. He embarked on a number of major building projects, including the construction of the massive Nonsuch Palace, and continued to expand England's influence on the international stage.

However, as his health declined and his personal life grew increasingly complicated, Henry became more isolated and paranoid, and he grew increasingly suspicious of those around him. He executed a number of his closest advisors and confidants, including Thomas Cromwell, who had been instrumental in the establishment of the Church of England.

Henry VIII died on January 28, 1547, at the age of 55. The official cause of death was a stroke, but his health had been in decline for some time, and he had suffered from a number of serious medical conditions in his later years. Despite his many accomplishments as king, Henry's legacy remains a complex and controversial one, marked by both achievement and tragedy.

Thomas Moore

Henry VIII and Thomas More had a complicated relationship that was shaped by their shared love of learning and their very different views on religion and politics.

In the early years of Henry's reign, More served as one of the king's most trusted advisors and played a key role in the establishment of the Church of England. He was a devout Catholic and opposed Henry's decision to break with Rome, but he nevertheless remained loyal to the king and continued to serve in his court.

More and Henry worked closely together on a number of projects, including the publication of several of More's most famous works, including "Utopia." More was also involved in the creation of the royal court, where he helped to establish a code of conduct for the king and his courtiers.

However, as the religious and political landscape of England began to shift in the years following the establishment of the Church of England, More and Henry found themselves increasingly at odds. More was a staunch defender of the Catholic faith, and he opposed many of the reforms that Henry was pushing through.

The break between More and Henry came to a head in 1532, when More resigned his post as Lord Chancellor in protest against Henry's efforts to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. More was ultimately imprisoned for his opposition to the king's policies, and was executed in 1535.

The Reformation, which saw the rise of Protestantism in England and the rest of Europe, had a profound impact on the relationship between Henry and More. More's Catholic beliefs put him at odds with the new religious order that Henry was attempting to establish, and his opposition to the king's policies ultimately cost him his life.

Despite their differences, however, Henry and More remain two of the most important figures in English history, and their contributions to politics, literature, and religion continue to be celebrated and studied to this day.

Thomas More was charged with treason and heresy, in connection with his refusal to acknowledge Henry VIII as the head of the Church of England and his opposition to the king's efforts to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. More was arrested in April 1534, and was subsequently held in the Tower of London for over a year.

More's trial was held in July 1535, and was marked by a number of dramatic moments. More was accused of denying the king's authority over the Church of England, and was also accused of speaking out against the royal marriage and the new religious settlement.

Despite More's eloquent defense of his beliefs and his right to follow his conscience, he was found guilty of treason and was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. However, the king commuted his sentence to beheading, in recognition of his previous service to the crown.

More was executed on July 6, 1535, on Tower Hill in London. He maintained his composure and dignity throughout his final moments, and is reported to have said, "I die the king's good servant, but God's first." His execution was a stark reminder of the dangers of opposing the authority of the king, and helped to cement Henry's reputation as a powerful and ruthless ruler.



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Reference: Article by Greg Scott (Staff Historian), 2023

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