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King Henry VIII

Updated: Aug 16, 2022


King Henry VIII of England

Henry VIII was King of England from 22 April 1509 until his death in 1547.


Coronation: 24 June 1509, Westminster Abbey, London.


Born: Henry Tudor was born on 28 June 1491, at the Palace of Placentia, Greenwich, Kent, England.


The Palace of Placentia, after it was rebuilt around 1500 by Henry VII
The Palace of Placentia, after it was rebuilt around 1500 by Henry VII

The Palace of Placentia, also known as Greenwich Palace, was a royal residence that was initially built by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, in 1443. It was located at Greenwich on the bank of the River Thames, downstream from London. The original residence was extensively rebuilt around 1500 by Henry VII. A detached residence the Queen's House was built on the estate in the early 1600s & still survives. In 1660, the main palace was demolished by Charles II to make way for a proposed new palace, which was never constructed. Nearly forty years later, the Greenwich Hospital (now called the Old Royal Naval College) was built on the site.


Parents: Henry was the third child & second son Henry VII & Elizabeth of York.


King Henry VII of England

Henry VII (28 January 1457 – 21 April 1509) was King of England from his seizure of the crown from Richard III on 22 August 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth until his death in 1509. He was the first monarch of the House of Tudor. Henry's mother, Margaret Beaufort, was a descendant of the Lancastrian branch of the House of Plantagenet. Henry's father, Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, a half-brother of Henry VI of England & descendant of the Welsh Tudors of Penmynydd, died three months before his son Henry was born.


Did you know? Henry VII established the pound avoirdupois as a standard of weight; it later became part of the Imperial & customary systems of units.


Elizabeth of York, Queen of England

Elizabeth of York (11 February 1466 – 11 February 1503) was Queen of England from her marriage to King Henry VII on 18 January 1486 until her death in 1503. Elizabeth married Henry after his victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field, which marked the end of the Wars of the Roses. Elizabeth was the eldest child of King Edward IV & his wife, Elizabeth Woodville.


Did you know? Elizabeth of York was renowned as a great beauty for her time; with regular features, tall (five feet six inches (168 cm), & a fair complexion, inheriting many traits from her father & her mother Elizabeth Woodville, who was considered at one point the most beautiful woman in the British Isles. All other Tudor monarchs inherited her reddish gold hair & the trait became synonymous with the dynasty.


House of Tudor symbol, the Tudor Rose
House of Tudor

Portrait of Henry VIII of England attributed to Meynnart Wewyck, ca. 1509
Portrait of Henry VIII, attributed to Meynnart Wewyck, ca.1509

Henry is known for his six marriages, in particular his efforts to have his first marriage (to Katharine of Aragon) annulled. His disagreement with Pope Clement VII on the question of such an annulment led Henry to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority. Until the break with Rome, the Pope & general councils of the church decided doctrine. Church law was governed by canon law with final jurisdiction in Rome. Church taxes were paid straight to Rome & the Pope had the final word in the appointment of bishops. The break with Rome was affected by a series of Acts of Parliament passed between 1532 & 1534, among them the 1534 Act of Supremacy, which declared that Henry was the "Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England"


The signature of king Henry VIII
The signature of king Henry VIII

Henry is also known as "the father of the Royal Navy," as he invested heavily in the navy, increasing its size from a few to more than 50 ships, & established the Navy Board. Among his ships was the Mary Rose, a carrack-type warship. She served for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland, & Brittany. After being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she saw her last action on 19 July 1545. She led the attack on the galleys of a French invasion fleet, but she sank in the Solent, the straits north of the Isle of Wight. The wreck of the Mary Rose was discovered in 1971 & was raised on 11 October 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust in one of the most complex & expensive maritime salvage projects in history. Visit https://maryrose.org/ for more information


Portrait of Henry VIII by Joos van Cleve, c. 1531
Portrait of Henry VIII by Joos van Cleve, c. 1531

Domestically, Henry is known for his radical changes to the English Constitution, ushering in the theory of the divine right of kings. He also greatly expanded royal power during his reign. He frequently used charges of treason & heresy to quell dissent, & those accused were often executed without a formal trial by means of bills of attainder. He achieved many of his political aims through the work of his chief ministers, some of whom were banished or executed when they fell out of his favour. Thomas Wolsey, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, Richard Rich, & Thomas Cranmer all figured prominently in his administration.


Henry VIII Portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1537
Henry VIII portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1537

Henry was an extravagant spender, using the proceeds from the dissolution of the monasteries & acts of the Reformation Parliament. He also converted the money that was formerly paid to Rome into royal revenue. Despite the money from these sources, he was continually on the verge of financial ruin due to his personal extravagance, as well as his numerous costly & largely unsuccessful wars, particularly with King Francis I of France, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, James V of Scotland & the Scottish regency under the Earl of Arran & Mary of Guise. At home, he oversaw the legal union of England & Wales with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 & 1542, & he was the first English monarch to rule as King of Ireland following the Crown of Ireland Act 1542.


Henry's contemporaries considered him an attractive, educated, & accomplished king. He has been described as "one of the most charismatic rulers to sit on the English throne". He was an author & composer. As he aged, however, he became severely obese & his health suffered, contributing to his death in 1547. He is frequently characterised in his later life as a lustful, egotistical, harsh, & insecure king. He was succeeded by his son Edward VI.


Jane Seymour (left) became Henry's third wife, pictured at right with Henry and the young Prince Edward, c. 1545, by an unknown artist. At the time that this was painted, Henry was married to his sixth wife, Catherine Parr.

Jane Seymour became Henry's third wife, pictured at right with Henry & the young Prince Edward, c. 1545, by an unknown artist. At the time that this was painted, Henry was married to his sixth wife, Catherine Parr.


 

Henry's marriages & children;


The wives of Henry VIII were the six queens consort wedded to Henry between 1509 & his death in 1547. In legal terms, King Henry VIII of England had only three wives, because three of his marriages were annulled by the Church of England. However, he was never granted an Annulment from the Pope, as he desired for Katharine of Aragon, his first wife. Annulments declare that a true marriage never took place, unlike a divorce, in which a married couple end their union. Along with his six wives, Henry took several mistresses.


Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII.

Katharine of Aragon (16 December 1485 – 7 January 1536), the daughter of Isabella I of Castile & Ferdinand II of Aragon, they married on 11 June 1509, Palace of Placentia. The marriage was annulled on 23 May 1533. Children;


  1. Unnamed daughter (31 January 1510 - stillborn).

  2. Henry, Duke of Cornwall (1 January 1511 - 22 February 1511) He died aged almost two months.

  3. Unnamed son (17 September 1513) He either was stillborn or died shortly after birth.

  4. Unnamed son (8 January 1515 – stillborn).

  5. Queen Mary I (18 February 1516 - 17 November 1558), She married Philip II of Spain in 1554. Mary was Queen of England & Ireland from July 1553 until her death in 1558.

  6. Unnamed daughter (10 November 1518) stillbirth in the 8th month of pregnancy or lived at least one week.


Queen Mary I (18 February 1516 - 17 November 1558)

Mary was Queen of England & Ireland from July 1553 until her death in 1558.



 

Anne Boleyn, Queen of England as the second wife of Henry VIII

Anne Boleyn (c. 1501 – 19 May 1536). Anne was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, & his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard. Henry married Anne on 25 January 1533, Westminster Abbey. The marriage was annulled on 17 May 1536. Anne was beheaded 19 May 1536 at the Tower of London, on charges of high treason. Modern historians view the charges against her, which included adultery, incest & plotting to kill the king, as unconvincing.



Children by Anne;


  1. Queen Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 - 24 March 1603).

  2. Unnamed son (Christmas, 1534), miscarriage or false pregnancy.

  3. Unnamed son (1535), Miscarried son.

  4. Unnamed son, (29 January 1536) miscarriage of a child, believed male, in the fourth month of pregnancy.


Queen Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 - 24 March 1603)

Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death in 1603.


 

Jane Seymour, the third wife of king Henry VIII

Jane Seymour, (c. 1508 – 24 October 1537). Jane, was the daughter of Sir John Seymour & Margery Wentworth. Henry married Jane on 30 May 1536, at the Palace of Whitehall. Seymour died on 24 October 1537, due to complications twelve days after giving birth.


Children by Jane Seymour; King Edward VI (12 October 1537 - 6 July 1553).


King Edward VI (12 October 1537 - 6 July 1553).

Edward VI was King of England & Ireland from 28 January 1547 until his death in 1553.



 

Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of king Henry VIII

Anne of Cleves (1515 – 16 July 1557). Anne was the second daughter of John III of the House of La Marck, Duke of Jülich jure uxoris, Cleves, Berg jure uxoris, Count of Mark, also known as de la Marck & Ravensberg jure uxoris (often referred to as Duke of Cleves) who died in 1538, & his wife Maria, Duchess of Jülich-Berg. Henry married Anne on 6 January 1540, Palace of Placentia. Marriage annulled on 9 July 1540. No children from this marriage.


 

Catherine Howard, fifth wife of king Henry VIII

Catherine Howard, (c. 1521 – 13 February 1542). She was the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard & Joyce Culpeper, & niece to Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Henry married Catherine on 28 July 1540, Oatlands. The marriage was ended with Howard's arrest on 23 November 1541 on the grounds of treason for committing adultery with her distant cousin Thomas Culpeper.. She was beheaded 13 February 1542 at the Tower of London.


 

Catherine Parr, sixth wife of king Henry VIII

Catherine Parr (c. August 1512 – 5 September 1548). Parr was the eldest child of Sir Thomas Parr, lord of the manor of Kendal in Westmorland, (now Cumbria), & Maud Green. Sir Thomas Parr was a descendant of King Edward III, & the Parrs were a substantial northern family which included many knights. Henry married Catherine Parr on 12 July 1543, Hampton Court Palace Marriage ended with Henry's death on 28 January 1547. She later married Thomas Seymour. She died on 5 September 1548.


 

Henry VIII had one acknowledged illegitimate child, as well as several others who are suspected to be his, by his mistresses.


Henry FitzRoy, Duke of Richmond & Somerset, (1519 – 1536), was the son of King Henry VIII & his mistress, Elizabeth Blount
Henry FitzRoy (1519 – 1536), was the son of Henry VIII & his mistress, Elizabeth Blount

He acknowledged Henry Fitzroy (15 June 1519 – 23 July 1536), the son of his mistress Elizabeth Blount, & granted him a dukedom; married Mary FitzRoy, Duchess of Richmond & Somerset.


Others suspected of being his include:


  • Thomas Stukeley (c. 1520 – 4 August 1578), his mother being Jane Pollard the wife of Sir Hugh Stukeley.

  • Richard Edwardes (1523? – 1566), born to Mrs. Agnes Edwardes.

  • Catherine Carey (c. 1524 – 15 January 1569), daughter of his mistress Mary Boleyn, the sister of his second wife, Anne Boleyn, & wife of William Carey.

  • Henry Carey (4 March 1526 – 23 July 1596), brother of Catherine.

  • Ethelreda Malte (born c. 1527 – c. January 1559), born to Joan Dingley, alias Dobson. Paternity was claimed by John Malte.

  • John Perrot (November 1528 – 3 November 1592), his mother being Mary Berkeley the wife of Sir Thomas Perrot.


 

Henry VIII Died: 28 January 1547 (aged 55), Palace of Whitehall, London, England.

Burial: 16 February 1547, St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, Berkshire.


Did you know? The tomb Henry had planned (with components taken from the tomb intended for Cardinal Wolsey) was only partly constructed & was never completed. (The sarcophagus & its base were later removed & used for Lord Nelson's tomb in the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral.) Henry was interred in a vault at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, next to Jane Seymour. Over 100 years later, King Charles I (r. 1625–1649) was buried in the same vault.


How is Henry VIII related to Queen Elizabeth II? Henry VIII is the 12th great grand uncle of Queen Elizabeth II, & Queen Elizabeth II is the 12th great grand niece of Henry VIII. Their common ancestor is Henry VII.


 

Henry VIII timeline


  • 1491 - 28 June Henry is born at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, Kent, Henry Tudor was the third child & second son of King Henry VII & Elizabeth of York.

  • 1493 - Aged two, Henry is appointed Constable of Dover Castle & Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. He was subsequently appointed Earl Marshal of England & Lord Lieutenant of Ireland at age three & was made a Knight of the Bath soon after. The day after the ceremony, he was created Duke of York & a month or so later made Warden of the Scottish Marches.

  • 1495 - In May, Henry is appointed to the Order of the Garter.


Henry VIII: The Charismatic King Who Reforged a Nation Paperback book

  • 1501 - November, Henry plays a part in the ceremonies surrounding his brother Arthur's marriage to Katharine of Aragon.

  • 1502 - Arthur died at the age of 15, possibly of sweating sickness, leaving Henry as the heir to the throne.

  • 1504 - In February, The 10-year-old Henry became the new Duke of Cornwall, & the new Prince of Wales & Earl of Chester.

  • 1506 - 9 February, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, makes him a Knight of the Golden Fleece.

  • 1509 - Henry accedes to the throne on the death of his father, Henry VII.

  • 1509 - Henry marries Katharine of Aragon, daughter of the Spanish King & Queen, & widow of his elder brother, Arthur on 11 June.

  • 1509 - On 23 June Henry & Katharine are crowned King & Queen of England.


Henry & Katharine enthroned


The royal couple left the Tower of London for Westminster, travelling along streets decked with tapestries & cloths of gold. Henry wore a doublet of crimson velvet trimmed with ermine & a jacket of gold encrusted with jewels. Katharine's gown was embroidered white satin, a coronet set with many rich pearls sat on her head, her hair hung down her back 'of very great length, beautiful & goodly to behold.


The morrow following being Sunday, and also Midsummer's day (1509), this noble prince with his queen, at time convenient, under their canopies borne by the barons of the five ports (the Cinque Ports) went from the said palace, to Westminster Abbey upon cloth.... the which cloth was cut and spoiled (taken), by the rude and common people, immediately after their repair into the abbey, where, according to the sacred observance, and ancient custom his grace with the queen were anointed and crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, with other prelates of the realm there present, and the nobility, with a great multitude of commons of the same. It was demanded by the people whether they would receive, obey, and take the same noble prince for their king, who with great reverence, love and desire, said and cried 'yea, yea'. After the which solemnity and coronation finished, the lords spiritual and temporal did to him homage, and returned to Westminster Hall.... What should I speak or write, of the sumptuous fine and delicate meats, prepared for this honourable coronation, provided for as well in the parties beyond the sea, as in many and sundry places, within the realm, where God so abundantly hath sent such plenty.....? - {Henry VIII (Hall's Chronicle), edited by Charles Whibley vol. 1 pp. 7-8}


  • 1511 - New Year's Day, a son Henry was born. After the grief of losing their first child, the couple were pleased to have a boy & festivities were held, including a two-day joust known as the Westminster Tournament. However, the child died seven weeks later.


Catherine of Aragon watching Henry jousting in her honour after giving birth to a son
Katharine of Aragon watching Henry jousting in her honour after giving birth to a son

  • 1511 - Henry joins the Holy League against the French. All men under the age of 40 are required to practise archery.

  • 1513 - Henry invades France, & his troops defeat a French army at the Battle of the Spurs (16 August) – a relatively minor result, but one which was seized on by the English for propaganda purposes.

  • 1513 -The English defeat the Scots at the Battle of Flodden Field (9 September). James IV of Scotland (husband of Henry’s sister Margaret) is killed.

  • 1515 - Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York, becomes Chancellor & Cardinal.

  • 1516 - Henry begins his affair with Elizabeth Blount.

  • 1516 - Katharine gives birth to Princess Mary (later Mary I) on 18 February.

  • 1517 - A summer outbreak of sweating sickness hits London. It's victims died so suddenly that it was said they might be 'merry at dinner and dead by supper'. The royal court left the city for the country. Cardinal Wolsey stayed in London, became seriously ill but survived.

  • 1517 - Martin Luther publishes his 95 theses against the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church (31 October).

  • 1518 - The Pope & the Kings of England, France, & Spain pledge peace in Europe.

  • 1519 - Blount gave birth in June 1519 to Henry's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy.


Henry VIII and his fleet setting sail from Dover to Calais on 31 May 1520 on the way to meet Francis I at The Field of Cloth of Gold.

Henry VIII & his fleet setting sail from Dover to Calais on 31 May 1520 on the way to meet Francis I at The Field of Cloth of Gold.


  • 1520 - Henry holds peace talks with Francis I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold (7 June) but fails to get support against Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire.


The meeting of Francis I and Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520
The meeting of Francis I and Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520

  • 1525 - Hampton Court Palace is completed. William Tyndale publishes The New Testament in English.

  • 1526 - Cardinal Wolsey re-establishes the Council of the North

  • 1527 - Henry seeks permission from the Pope to divorce Catherine of Aragon but is refused.

  • 1528 - Sweating sickness returns to London, many die withing 5 or 6 hours.

  • 1529 - Cardinal 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.

  • 1529 - Sir Thomas More becomes Chancellor. Henry starts to cut ties with the Church of Rome.


A 16th-century depiction of the Parliament of King Henry VIII
A 16th-century depiction of the Parliament of King Henry VIII

  • 1531 - The appearance in the sky of Halley's comet causes widespread panic & talk of holy retribution

  • 1532 - Sir Thomas More resigns from the Chancellorship over the erosion of Papal authority.

  • 1533 - Thomas Cranmer is appointed Archbishop of Canterbury & annuls Henry’s 24-year marriage to Katharine of Aragon (on 23 May).

  • 1533 - Henry marries Anne Boleyn (25 January).

  • 1533 - Anne Boleyn coronation (1 June).

  • 1533 - Princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I) is born (7 September).

  • 1533 - Pope Clement VII excommunicates Henry

  • 1534 - The Act of Supremacy is passed, establishing Henry as head of the Church of England.

  • 1535 - Sir Thomas More is executed after refusing to recognize Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England.

  • 1535 - Thomas Cromwell is made Vicar-General and starts plans to seize the Church's wealth.

  • 1535 - First complete English translation of the Bible by Miles Coverdale

  • 1536 - Anne Boleyn is executed (19 May) and Henry marries Jane Seymour (30 May).

  • 1536 - The Act of Union between Wales & England.

  • 1536 - Thomas Cromwell begins the dissolution of the monasteries under the 'Reformation'.

  • 1536 - Great northern rising, known as the Pilgrimage of Grace against the dissolution of monasteries.

  • 1537 - Jane Seymour gives birth to the coveted male heir, the future King Edward VI, at two o'clock in the morning on 12 October 1537 at Hampton Court Palace.

  • 1537 - Jane's labour had been difficult, lasting two days & three nights, probably because the baby was not well positioned, & she died on 24 October 1537

  • 1539 - Parliament passes the Act for the 'Dissolution of the Greater Monasteries'. The abbots of Colchester, Glastonbury & Reading are executed for treason.


Henry VIII in 1540, by Hans Holbein the Younger
Henry VIII in 1540, by Hans Holbein the Younger

  • 1540 - The last of the monasteries to be dissolved is Waltham Abbey.

  • 1540 - Henry marries Anne of Cleves on 6 January but the marriage is annulled on 9 July.

  • 1540 - Execution of Thomas Cromwell on a charge of treason (28 July), the same day Henry marries Catherine Howard.

  • 1541 - Beginning of the Reformation in Scotland under John Knox.

  • 1542 - Catherine Howard is executed for treason (13 February).

  • 1542 - The Scots were defeated at Battle of Solway Moss (24 November).

  • 1542 - James V of Scotland dies on 15 December & is succeeded by his 6 day old daughter Mary Queen of Scots.



  • 1543 - Henry marries the twice-widowed Catherine Parr on 12 July, his sixth & last wife.

  • 1543 - Treaty of Greenwich proposes marriage between Henry's son Edward & Mary Queen of Scots. However it is repudiated by the Scots 6 months later who want an alliance with France.

  • 1544 - On 18 September Henry captures Boulogne after a siege that began in July.

  • 1545 - At the Battle of the Solent (18-19 July) Henry's flagship The Mary Rose sinks in the Solent.

  • 1546 - Henry becomes increasingly ill with what is now believed to be syphilis & cirrhosis. Henry became obese, with a waist measurement of 54 inches (140 cm). He was covered with painful, pus-filled boils & possibly suffered from gout. His obesity & other medical problems can be traced to the jousting accident in 1536 in which he suffered a leg wound. . The chronic wound festered for the remainder of his life & became ulcerated, preventing him from maintaining the level of physical activity he had previously enjoyed. The jousting accident is also believed to have caused Henry's mood swings, which may have had a dramatic effect on his personality & temperament.

  • 1547 - Death of Henry at the age of 55, survived by Catherine Parr



Gold crown of Henry VIII, minted c. 1544–1547. The reverse depicts the quartered arms of England and France.
Gold crown of Henry VIII, minted c. 1544–1547. The reverse depicts the quartered arms of England & France.


 

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