Henry VIII

Portrait_of_Henry_VIII_-_Google_Art_Project

Henry VIII,

1509-1547

Born:

28 June 1491, son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, at Greenwich Palace

Crowned:

24 June 1509 at Westminster Abbey, London

Died:

28 January 1547 at Whitehall Palace, London

Buried:

St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Palace

Married:

  1. 11 June 1509 Katherine of Aragon at the Franciscan church in Greenwich
  2. 25 January 1533 Anne Boleyn, secretly at Whitehall Palace
  3. 30 May 1536 Jane Seymour at Whitehall Palace
  4. 6 January 1540 Anne of Cleves at Greenwich Palace
  5. 28 July 1540 Katherine Howard at Oatlands Palace, Surrey
  6. 12 July 1543 Katherine Parr at Hampton Court Palace

Succeeded by:

Edward VI (son)

oung Henry VIII was handsome, athletic, energetic, well educated, talented and insecure. He craved respect – international, intellectual, cultural and dynastic. So he reopened the war with France, opposed the theology of Martin Luther, created a sophisticated court, and moved heaven and earth to have a son. The resulting multiplicity of wives is infamous. (NOTE: Henry’s marital adventures are outlined in the individual biographies of his queens).

Henry was impatient with the details of governance and policy. He delegated responsibility to powerful ministers but always watched events closely, intervening in matters of interest.

In his early years, he worked through Thomas, Cardinal Wolsey. Wolsey and Henry focused on diplomacy and strategic alliances to leverage England’s international position. Wolsey’s inability to obtain Henry a divorce from his first wife, however, led to his downfall.

Thomas Cranmer and Thomas Cromwell now emerged. They gained Henry his marital freedom from Katherine of Aragon by separating the English church from Rome. Henry’s next step, the dissolution of the monasteries, was popular with the nobility (who profited) but, to Henry’s shock and fury, provoked a northern uprising. He firmly quashed it. Without the counterbalance of a powerful clergy, Henry now grew increasingly autocratic, manipulating both church and Parliament.

As Henry’s religious and political affairs (and marital problems) became even more complicated, he grew increasing egotistical, self-righteous and suspicious.

In his later years, Henry’s thoughts turned to conquest. He invaded Scotland, seeking unsuccessfully to force a marriage between its infant heiress, Mary, and his own son, Edward. He also mounted a massively expensive and ineffective invasion of France.

An ailing Henry, in his will, outlined the succession: Edward, then his sisters Mary and Elizabeth. To his young heir, he left a country deeply in debt, with a privy council divided among scheming factions. Henry died at Whitehall, an old man at the age of 55.

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