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King Henry VIII (1509 - 1547)

Name: King Henry VIII
Born: June 28, 1491 at Greenwich Palace
Parents: Henry VII and Elizabeth of York
Relation to Charles III: 13th great-granduncle
House of: Tudor
Ascended to the throne: April 21, 1509 aged 17 years
Crowned: June 24, 1509 at Westminster Abbey
Married: (1) Catherine of Aragon 1509-1533 Divorced
(2) Anne Boleyn 1533-1536 Beheaded
(3) Jane Seymour 1536-1537 Died
(4) Anne of Cleves 1540 Divorced
(5) Catherine Howard 1540-1542 Beheaded
(6) Catherine Parr 1543-1547 Survived
Children: Three legitimate who survived infancy; Mary, Elizabeth and Edward, and at least one illegitimate child Henry Fitzroy.
Died: January 28, 1547 at Whitehall Palace, London, aged 55 years, 7 months,
Buried at: Windsor
Reigned for: 37 years, 9 months, 7 days
Succeeded by: his son Edward VI

King of England from 1509, when he succeeded his father Henry VII and married Catherine of Aragon, the widow of his elder brother Arthur. During the period 1513–29 Henry pursued an active foreign policy, largely under the guidance of his Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, who shared Henry's desire to make England stronger. Wolsey was replaced by Thomas More in 1529 for failing to persuade the Pope to grant Henry a divorce.

By this time Henry's policy had become dominated by his desire to divorce Catherine because she was too old to give him an heir and he was determined to marry Anne Boleyn. At first there seemed a possibility that the divorce might be granted. The papal legate journeyed to England to hear the case, but Catherine appealed direct to the pope and the court was adjourned. The position was complicated by the fact that Charles V, Catherine's nephew, controlled Rome. Henry then proceeded to act through Parliament, and had the entire body of the clergy in England declared guilty of treason in 1531. The clergy were suitably cowed and agreed to repudiate papal supremacy and recognize Henry as supreme head of the church in England. The English ecclesiastical courts then pronounced his marriage to Catherine null and void and he married Anne Boleyn in 1533

Henry through Thomas Cromwell continued his attack on the church with the suppression of the monasteries (1536–39); their lands were confiscated and granted to his supporters. However, although he laid the ground for the English Reformation by the separation from Rome, he had little sympathy with Protestant dogmas. As early as 1521 a pamphlet which he had written against Lutheranism had won him the title of Fidei Defensor from the Pope, and Henry's own religious views are quite clearly expressed in the Statute of Six Articles in 1539 which instituted the orthodox Catholic tenets as necessary conditions for Christian belief. As a result Protestants were being burnt for heresy even while Catholics were being executed for refusing to take the oath of supremacy.

Anne Boleyn was beheaded in 1536, ostensibly for adultery. Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, died in 1537. He married Anne of Cleves in 1540 in pursuance of Thomas Cromwell's policy of allying with the German Protestants, but rapidly abandoned this policy, divorced Anne, and beheaded Cromwell. His fifth wife, Catherine Howard, was beheaded in 1542, and the following year he married Catherine Parr, who survived him. Henry ended his reign with the reputation of a tyrant, despite the promise of his earlier years – in 1536 the rebellion known as the Pilgrimage of Grace was viciously suppressed, and advisers of the calibre of More and Bishop John Fisher had died rather than sacrifice their own principles to Henry's will. But the power of the crown had been considerably strengthened by Henry's ecclesiastical policy, and the monastic confiscations gave impetus to the rise of a new nobility which was to become influential in succeeding reigns.

King Henry VIII's Signature


‘We are, by the sufferance of God, King of England; and the Kings of England in times past never had any superior but God’ – Henry VIII

'If a man shall take his brother's wife it is an unclean thing... they shall be childless' – King Henry VIII (quoting The Bible, Leviticus, XX,21, as justification for seeking divorce from Catherine of Aragon who had previously been married to his brother Prince Arthur)

‘ wish myself (specially an evening) in my sweetheart's arms, whose pretty ducks [breasts] I trust shortly to kiss’  - King Henry VIII (love letter to Ann Boleyn)

‘You have sent me a Flanders mare!’ - King Henry VIII (on first meeting Anne of Cleves who was about to become his 4th wife)

Timeline for King Henry VIII

Year Event
1509Henry accedes to the throne on the death of his father, Henry VII.
1509Henry marries Catherine of Aragon, daughter of the Spanish King and Queen, and widow of his elder brother, Arthur
1511Henry joins the Holy League against the French. All men under the age of 40 are required to practise archery.
1513The English defeat the Scots at the Battle of Flodden Field. James IV of Scotland is killed.
1515Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York, becomes Chancellor and Cardinal.
1516Catherine gives birth to Princess Mary (later Mary I).
1517Martin Luther publishes his 95 theses against the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church.
1518The Pope and the Kings of England, France, and Spain pledge peace in Europe
1520Henry holds peace talks with Francis I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, but fails to get support against Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire.
1525Hampton Court Palace is completed. William Tyndale publishes The New Testament in English.
1526Cardinal Wolsey re-establishes the Council of the North
1527Henry seeks permission from the Pope to divorce Catherine of Aragon but is refused.
1529Cardinal Wolsey is accused of high treason for failing to get the Pope's consent for the divorce, but dies before he can be brought to trial.
1529Sir Thomas More becomes Chancellor. Henry starts to cut ties with the Church of Rome.
1531The appearance in the sky of Halley's comet causes widespread panic and talk of holy retribution
1532Sir Thomas More resigns from the Chancellorship over the erosion of Papal authority.
1533Thomas Cranmer is appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and annuls Henry’s 24-year marriage to Catherine of Aragon.
1533Henry marries Anne Boleyn.
1533Princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I) is born.
1533Pope Clement VII excommunicates Henry
1534The Act of Supremacy is passed, establishing Henry as head of the Church of England.
1535Sir Thomas More is executed after refusing to recognize Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England.
1535Thomas Cromwell is made Vicar-General and starts plans to seize the Church's wealth.
1535First complete English translation of the Bible by Miles Coverdale
1536Anne Boleyn is executed and Henry marries Jane Seymour
1536The Act of Union between Wales and England.
1536Thomas Cromwell begins the dissolution of the monasteries under the 'Reformation'. .
1536Great northern rising, known as the Pilgrimage of Grace against the dissolution of monasteries.
1537Jane Seymour dies giving birth to Edward (later Edward VI).
1539Parliament passes the Act for the 'Dissolution of the Greater Monasteries'. The abbots of Colchester, Glastonbury and Reading are executed for treason.
1540The last of the monasteries to be dissolved is Waltham Abbey.
1540Henry marries Anne of Cleves in January but the marriage is annulled in July
1540Execution of Thomas Cromwell on a charge of treason.
1540Henry marries Catherine Howard.
1541Beginning of the Reformation in Scotland under John Knox.
1542Catherine Howard is executed for treason.
1542James V of Scotland dies and is succeeded by his 6 day old daughter Mary Queen of Scots.
1543Henry marries the twice-widowed Catherine Parr, his sixth and last wife.
1543Treaty of Greenwich proposes marriage between Henry's son Edward and Mary Queen of Scots. However it is repudiated by the Scots 6 months later who want an alliance with France.
1545Henry's flagship The Mary Rose sinks in the Solent
1546Henry becomes increasingly ill with what is now believed to be syphilis and cirrhosis.
1547Death of Henry at the age of 55, survived by Catherine Parr