Henry VIII (28 June 1491 – 28 January 1547) was King of England and Lord of Ireland, later King of Ireland and claimant to the Kingdom of France, from 21 April 1509 until his death. Henry was the second monarch of the House of Tudor, succeeding his father, Henry VII.
Henry VIII was a significant figure in the history of the English monarchy. Although in the first parts of his reign he energetically suppressed the Protestant revolt against the Roman Catholic Church, a revolt which traced some of its roots back to John Wycliffe of the 14th century, he is more often known for his ecclesiastical struggles with Rome. These struggles ultimately led to him separating the Anglican Church from Roman authority, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and establishing the English monarch as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. Although some claim he became a Protestant on his death-bed, he advocated Catholic ceremony and doctrine throughout his life; royal backing of the English Reformation was left to his heirs, Edward VI and Elizabeth I, while his daughter Mary I fought to return papal authority over the church. Henry also oversaw the legal union of England and Wales (see Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542). He is noted for being married six times.
Born in Greenwich Palace, 'Henry VIII was the third child of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Of the young Henry's six siblings, only three — Arthur (the Prince of Wales), Margaret, and Mary — survived infancy. In 1493, 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. Henry was given a first-rate education from leading tutors, becoming fluent in Latin, French, and Spanish. As it was expected that the throne would pass to Prince Arthur, Henry's older brother, Henry was prepared for a career in the Church.
In order for the new Prince of Wales to marry his brother's widow, a dispensation from the Pope was normally required to overrule the impediment of affinity. Catherine swore that her marriage to Prince Arthur had been unconsummated. Still, both the English and Spanish parties agreed that an additional papal dispensation of affinity would be prudent to remove all doubt regarding the legitimacy of the marriage.
The impatience of Catherine's mother, Queen Isabella, induced Pope Julius II to grant dispensation in the form of a Papal bull. So, 14 months after her young husband's death, Catherine found herself betrothed to his even younger brother, Henry. Yet by 1505, Henry VII lost interest in a Spanish alliance, and the younger Henry declared that his betrothal had been arranged without his consent.
Continued diplomatic maneuvering over the fate of the proposed marriage lingered until the death of Henry VII in 1509. Only 17 years old, Henry married Catherine on 11 June 1509, and on 24 June 1509, the two were crowned at Westminster Abbey. Two days later, he arrested his father's two most unpopular ministers, Sir Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley. They were groundlessly charged with high treason and in 1510 were executed. This was to become Henry's primary tactic for dealing with those who stood in his way.
Henry was a Renaissance Man and his court was a center of scholarly and artistic innovation and glamourous excess, epitomised by The Field of the Cloth of Gold. He was an accomplished musician, author, and poet. His best known musical composition is Pastime with Good Company or The Kynges Ballade. He was also known to have been an avid gambler and dice player. He excelled at sports, especially jousting, hunting, and real tennis. He was also known for his strong dedication to Christianity.
In 1511, Pope Julius II proclaimed a Holy League against France. This new alliance rapidly grew to include not only Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, but also England. Henry decided to use the occasion as an excuse to expand his holdings in northern France. He concluded the Treaty of Westminster, a pledge of mutual aid with Spain against France, in November 1511 and prepared for involvement in the War of the League of Cambrai. In 1513, Henry invaded France and his troops defeated a French army at the Battle of the Spurs. His brother-in-law James IV of Scotland invaded England at the behest of Louis XII of France, but failed to draw Henry's attention from France. The Scots were disastrously defeated at the Battle of Flodden Field on 9 September 1513. Among the dead were the Scottish King and the battle ended Scotland's brief involvement in the war.
On 18 February 1516, Queen Catherine bore Henry his first child, Princess Mary of England, who later reigned as Mary I of England.
Blount gave birth to Henry's illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy. The young boy was made Duke of Richmond in June 1525 in what some thought was one step on the path to legitimatizing him. In 1533, FitzRoy married Mary Howard, Anne Boleyn's first cousin, but died three years later without any successors. At the time of FitzRoy's death, the king was trying to pass a law that would allow his otherwise illegitimate son to become king. Mary Boleyn was the sister of Anne Boleyn who later married Henry. She is thought to have been his mistress at some point between 1519 and 1526. There has been speculation that Mary's two children, Catherine and Henry were fathered by Henry, but this has never been proven and the King never acknowledged them as he did Henry Fitzroy.
Henry also seems to have had an affair with one of the Shelton sisters in 1535. It was traditionally assumed that this was Margaret, but recent research has led to the claim that this was actually Mary.
There are also grounds for suspecting that he had an affair with one of the duke of Buckingham's sisters in 1510, and an unknown woman in 1534. Alison Weir has argued that, aside from these five affairs, there were also numerous other short-term and secret liaisons, most of them conducted in the king's river-side mansion of Jordan House.
Meanwhile, the House of Commons had forbidden all appeals to Rome and exacted the penalties of præmunire against all who introduced papal bulls into England. The Commons also prevented the Church from making any regulations without the King's consent. It was only then that Pope Clement at last took the step of launching sentences of excommunication against the King and Cranmer, declaring at the same time the archbishop's decree of annulment to be invalid and the marriage with Anne null and void. The papal nuncio was withdrawn from England and diplomatic relations with Rome were broken off. Several more laws were passed in England. The Ecclesiastical Appointments Act 1534 required the clergy to elect bishops nominated by the Sovereign. The Act of Supremacy 1534 declared that the King was "the only Supreme Head in Earth of the Church of England" and the Treasons Act 1534 made it high treason, punishable by death, to refuse to acknowledge the King as such. In response to the excommunications, the Peter's Pence Act was passed in and it reiterated that England had "no superior under God, but only your Grace" and that Henry's "imperial crown" had been diminished by "the unreasonable and uncharitable usurpations and exactions" of the Pope. In defiance of the Pope, the Church of England was now under Henry’s control, not Rome's.
Opposition to Henry's religious policies was quickly suppressed in England. A number of dissenting monks were tortured and executed. The most prominent resisters included John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Sir Thomas More, Henry's former Lord Chancellor, both of whom refused to take the oath to the King and were subsequently convicted of high treason and beheaded at Tower Hill, just outside the Tower of London, while the usual punishment for such traitors would have been to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. These suppressions in turn contributed to further resistance among the English people, most notably in the Pilgrimage of Grace, a large uprising in northern England in October of the same year. Henry VIII promised the rebels he would pardon them and thanked them for raising the issues to his attention, then invited the rebel leader, Robert Aske to a royal banquet. At the banquet, Henry asked Aske to write down what had happened so he could have a better idea of the problems he would 'change'. Aske did what the King asked, although what he had written would later be used against him as a confession. The King's word could not be questioned (as he was held as God's chosen, and second only to God himself) so Aske told the rebels they had been successful and they could disperse and go home. However, because Henry saw the rebels as traitors, he did not feel obliged to keep his promises. The rebels realised that the King was not keeping his promises and rebelled again later that year, but their strength was less in the second attempt and the King ordered the rebellion crushed. The leaders, including Aske, were arrested and executed for treason. Dissolution of the remaining, larger monasteries followed a subsequent authorising act by Parliament in May 1539. [This last sentence seems misplaced in the context of the paragraph. e.g. 'Dissolution of the remaining, larger monasteries...'; what monasteries?]
Given the King's desperate desire for a son, the sequence of Anne's pregnancies has attracted much interest. Author Mike Ashley speculated that Anne had two stillborn children after Elizabeth's birth and before the birth of the male child she miscarried in 1536. Most sources attest only to the birth of Elizabeth in September 1533, a possible miscarriage in the summer of 1534, and the miscarriage of a male child, of almost four months gestation, in January 1536. As Anne recovered from what would be her final miscarriage, Henry declared that his marriage had been the product of witchcraft. The King's new mistress, Jane Seymour, was quickly moved into new quarters. This was followed by Anne's brother being refused a prestigious court honour, the Order of the Garter, which was instead given to Jane Seymour's brother.
Five men, including Anne's own brother, were arrested on charges of incest and treason, accused of having sexual relationships with the queen. On 2 May 1536 Anne was arrested and taken to the Tower of London. She was accused of adultery, incest and high treason. Although the evidence against them was unconvincing, the accused were found guilty and condemned to death by the peers. George Boleyn and the other accused men were executed on 17 May 1536. On the morning of 19 May 1536 at 8 o'clock, the queen was executed before the public. This was the first public execution of an English queen. She knelt upright, in the French style of executions. The execution was swift and consisted of a single stroke.
Henry wished to annul the marriage in order to marry another. The Duke of Cleves had become engaged in a dispute with the Holy Roman Emperor, with whom Henry had no desire to quarrel. Queen Anne was intelligent enough not to impede Henry's quest for an annulment. Upon the question of marital sex, she testified that her marriage had never been consummated. Henry was said to have come into the room each night and merely kissed his new bride on the forehead before retiring. All impediments to an annulment were thus removed.
The marriage was subsequently dissolved and Anne received the title of "The King's Sister," and was granted Hever Castle, the former residence of the Boleyn family. Cromwell, meanwhile, fell out of favour for his role in arranging the marriage and was subsequently attainted and beheaded. The office of Viceregent in Spirituals, which had been specifically created for him, was not filled.
On 28 July 1540, (the same day Cromwell was executed) Henry married the young Catherine Howard (also found as Katherine), Anne Boleyn's first cousin. He was absolutely delighted with his new queen. Soon after her marriage, however, Queen Catherine had an affair with the courtier, Thomas Culpeper. She also employed Francis Dereham, who was previously informally engaged to her and had an affair with her prior to her marriage, as her secretary. Thomas Cranmer, who was opposed to the powerful Roman Catholic Howard family, brought evidence of Queen Catherine's activities to the king's notice. Though Henry originally refused to believe the allegations, he allowed Cranmer to conduct an investigation, which resulted in Queen Catherine's implication. When questioned, the queen could have admitted a prior contract to marry Dereham, which would have made her subsequent marriage to Henry invalid, but she instead claimed that Dereham had forced her to enter into an adulterous relationship. Dereham, meanwhile, exposed Queen Catherine's relationship with Thomas Culpeper. As was the case with Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard could not technically have been guilty of adultery, as the marriage was officially null and void from the beginning. Again, this point was ignored, and Catherine was executed on 13 February 1542. She was aged between 17 and 22 when she died (opinions differ as to her year of birth). That same year, England's remaining monasteries were all dissolved, and their property transferred to the Crown. Abbots and priors lost their seats in the House of 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 married his last wife, the wealthy widow Catherine Parr, in 1543. She argued with Henry over religion; she was a reformer, but Henry remained a conservative. This behaviour nearly proved her undoing, but she saved herself by a show of submissiveness. She helped reconcile Henry with his first two daughters, the Princess Mary and the Lady Elizabeth. In 1544, an Act of Parliament put the daughters back in the line of succession after Edward, Prince of Wales, though they were still deemed illegitimate. The same act allowed Henry to determine further succession to the throne in his will.
A mnemonic for the fates of Henry's wives is "divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived". An alternative version is "King Henry the Eighth, to six wives he was wedded: One died, one survived, two divorced, two beheaded". (Or, more succinctly, "Two beheaded, one died, two divorced, one survived.") The phrase may be misleading. Firstly, Henry was never divorced from any of his wives; rather, his marriages to them were annulled. Secondly, four marriages—not two—ended in annulments. The marriages to Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were annulled shortly before their executions and, although her marriage to Henry was annulled, Anne of Cleves survived him, as did Catherine Parr.
The cruelty and tyrannical egotism of Henry became more apparent as he advanced in years and his health began to fail. A wave of political executions, which had commenced with that of Edmund de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk in 1513, ended with Henry Earl of Surrey, in January, 1547, underlined it. According to Holinshed, the number of executions in this reign amounted to 72,000—higher figures are given by some authorities.
Late in life, Henry became grossly overweight (with a waist measurement of 54 inches/137 cm) and had to be moved about with the help of mechanical inventions. He was covered with suppurating boils and possibly suffered from gout. His obesity dates from a jousting accident in 1536 in which he suffered a leg wound. This prevented him from exercising and gradually became ulcerated. It undoubtedly hastened his death at the age of 55, which occurred on 28 January 1547 in the Palace of Whitehall, on what would have been his father's 90th birthday. He expired soon after uttering these last words: "Monks! Monks! Monks!
The well known theory that Henry suffered from syphilis was first promoted approximately 100 years after his death, but has been disregarded by most serious historians. Syphilis was a well-known disease in Henry's time, and although his contemporary, Francis I of France was treated for it, the notes left from Henry's physicians do not indicate that the English king was.
A more recent and credible theory suggests that Henry's medical symptoms, and those of his older sister Margaret Tudor, are also characteristic of untreated Type II diabetes. Henry VIII was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, next to his wife Jane Seymour. Over a hundred years later Charles I was buried in the same vault. Within a little more than a decade after his death, all three of his royal heirs sat on the English throne, and all three left no descendants.
Under the Act of Succession 1543, Henry's only surviving legitimate son, Edward, inherited the Crown, becoming Edward VI. Since Edward was only nine years old at the time, he could not exercise actual power. Henry's will designated 16 executors to serve on a council of regency until Edward reached the age of 18. The executors chose Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, Jane Seymour's elder brother, to be Lord Protector of the Realm. In default of heirs to Edward, the throne was to pass to Henry VIII's daughter by Catherine of Aragon, the Princess Mary and her heirs. If Mary's issue also failed, the crown was to go to Henry's daughter by Anne Boleyn, Princess Elizabeth, and her heirs. Finally, if Elizabeth's line also became extinct, the crown was to be inherited by the descendants of Henry VIII's deceased younger sister, Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk. The descendants of Henry's sister Margaret Tudor - the royal family of Scotland - were therefore excluded from succession according to this act.
He fostered humanist learning and yet was responsible for the deaths of several outstanding English humanists. Obsessed with securing the succession to the throne, he left no legitimate heirs but a young son (who died before his sixteenth birthday) and two daughters adhering to adversarial religions. The power of the state was magnified, yet so too (at least after Henry's death) were demands for increased political participation by the middle class. Henry worked with some success to make England once again a major player on the European scene but depleted his treasury in the course of doing so, a legacy that has remained an issue for English monarchs ever since.
Henry's break with Rome incurred the threat of a large-scale French or Spanish invasion. To guard against this he strengthened existing coastal defence fortresses (such as Dover Castle and, also at Dover, Moat Bulwark and Archcliffe Fort which he personally visited for a few months to supervise, as is commemorated in the modern exhibition in the keep of Dover Castle). He also built a chain of new 'castles' (in fact, large bastioned and garrisoned gun batteries) along Britain's southern and eastern coasts from East Anglia to Cornwall, largely built of material gained from the demolition of monasteries. These were also known as Henry VIII's Device Forts.
Henry VIII was the first English monarch to regularly use the style "Majesty", though the alternatives "Highness" and "Grace" were also used.
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, the royal style became "Henry the Eighth, by the Grace of God, King of England and France, Defender of the Faith and Lord of Ireland". Following Henry's excommunication, Pope Paul III rescinded the grant of the title "Defender of the Faith", but an Act of Parliament declared that it remained valid; and it continues in royal usage to the present day.
In 1535, Henry added the "supremacy phrase" to the royal style, which became "Henry the Eighth, by the Grace of God, King of England and France, Defender of the Faith, Lord of Ireland and of the Church of England in Earth Supreme Head". In 1536, the phrase "of the Church of England" changed to "of the Church of England and also of Ireland".
In 1541, Henry had the Irish Parliament change the title "Lord of Ireland" to "King of Ireland" with the Crown of Ireland Act 1542, after being advised that many Irish people regarded the Pope as the true head of their country, with the Lord acting as a mere representative. The reason the Irish regarded the Pope as their overlord was that Ireland had originally been given to the King Henry II of England by Pope Adrian IV in the twelfth century as a feudal territory under papal overlordship. The meeting of Irish Parliament that proclaimed Henry VIII King of Ireland was the first meeting attended by the Gaelic Irish chieftains as well as the Anglo-Irish aristocrats. The style "Henry the Eighth, by the Grace of God, King of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith and of the Church of England and also of Ireland in Earth Supreme Head" remained in use until the end of Henry's reign.
Henry's motto was Coeur Loyal (true heart) and he had this embroidered on his clothes in the form of a heart symbol and with the word "loyal". His emblem was the Tudor rose and the Beaufort portcullis.
As Duke of York, Henry used the arms of his father (i.e. those of the kingdom), differenced by a label of three points ermine. As king, Henry 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 11 June 1509 annulled 23 May 1533)|
|Henry, Duke of Cornwall||1 January 1511||22 February 1511|
|Henry, Duke of Cornwall||December 1514||died within one month of birth|
|Queen Mary I||18 February 1516||17 November 1558||married 1554, Philip II of Spain; no issue|
|By Anne Boleyn (married 25 January 1533 annulled 1536) beheaded|
|Queen Elizabeth I||7 September 1533||24 March 1603||never married, no issue|
|By Jane Seymour (married 30 May 1536; died 25 October 1537)|
|King Edward VI||12 October 1537||6 July 1553|
|By Anne of Cleves (married 6 January 1540 annulled 1540)|
|By Catherine Howard (married 28 July 1540 annulled 1541) beheaded|
|By Catherine Parr (married 12 July 1543; died 5 September 1548)|
|By Elizabeth Blount|
|Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset||15 June 1519||18 June 1536||illegitimate; married 1533, the Lady Mary Howard; no issue|
|By Mary Boleyn |
(Some writers, such as Alison Weir, now question whether Henry Carey was fathered by Henry VIII. )
|Catherine Carey, Lady Knollys||c. 1524||15 January 1568||married Sir Francis Knollys; had issue|
|Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon||4 March 1526||23 July 1596||married 1545, Ann Morgan; had issue|
|By Mary Berkeley |
(There is no evidence to prove he was Henry's son except through eye witness accounts, who claimed a resemblance to the King.)
|John Perrott||c. 1527||3 November 1592||married 1. Anne Cheney; 2. Jane Pruet, both of whom produced issue. He also had issue with his mistress Sybil Jones.|