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- Henry’s character
- Henry as King of England
- Henry and his relations with the Church
- Matrimonial involvements of Henry VIII
Key Facts And Information
Let’s find out more about Henry VIII!
- Henry VIII was the second Tudor king of England. His reign presided over the beginning of the English Reformation. His matrimonial involvements, particularly with Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, led to England’s split from Rome. Given the title Head of the Church of England, Henry VIII consolidated a new concept of kingship in England.
- One of Henry’s main aims to secure the throne was to find a wife that could provide him with a male heir. Henry VIII ruled England for 38 years, from 1509 until 1547. Amongst the English monarchs, Henry VIII became known for his controversial six wives.
- Henry VIII was known as a jovial and chivalrous king who possessed great knowledge of the humanities. He always wanted to impress others and to stand out. According to some, he was charming and interesting.
- He could speak fluent Latin, French and Spanish. He also had a genuine interest in theology thanks to the strong religious education he received during his childhood.
- In fact, before he became the heir to the throne, Henry was destined for an ecclesiastical career. He was regarded as a true Renaissance man and was gifted in many areas. He was a very talented musician and composer. He wrote poetry and his dancing skills were notable.
- He loved eating, drinking and hunting. Since he felt the need to make a good impression on everyone around him, Henry lived in lavish abundance: his court was decorated with expensive artwork and furniture. He felt the need to be second to none.
Henry’s succession as king of England
- In 1509, King Henry VII died and his son, Henry VIII, ascended to the throne. About nine weeks later, under the impetus of Spain, Henry married Catherine of Aragon.
- Catherine was previously married to Henry VIII’s brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales. However, Arthur died of sweating sickness only a few months later. Therefore, they never consummated their marriage. Considering Catherine’s circumstances, Pope Julius II and the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham, doubted the validity of this union and allowed the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine.
- Henry VIII inherited the throne from his father, who left the kingdom with firm foundations and in a relatively secure position. His consistent aims throughout his reign were:
- Maintain England’s stability and security
- Establish England as a well-respected power within Europe
- Preserve the Tudor dynasty
- Display strength as a warrior and gain glory through war
- Henry VIII initially continued to depend on his father’s trusted advisors, Sir Thomas Lovell, Richard Foxe and Archbishop Warham, appointing them to important positions in his government. However, he soon grew tired of their conservative ideologies and preferred like-minded people who would carry out a great deal of his work. In 1515, Thomas Wolsey was appointed as Lord Chancellor.
- Wolsey’s success in delivering a well-equipped and supplied army for war with France allowed him to gain the king’s trust and the top position in the government.
- Wolsey’s position in the government and multiple appointments in the Church resulted in him being referred to as an Alter Rex, or ‘second king’.
- He encouraged the king’s attitude towards administration and carried out the tedious tasks that Henry VIII wanted to avoid. Wolsey tried to find a solution for the problem brought by enclosure, the practice of individual landowners fencing off land for profitable sheep rearing.
- In 1525, Wolsey approved a tax called the Amicable Grant, which secured one-third of the proceeds of clerical and secular institutions.
- Wolsey introduced reforms in the domestic and political aspects of the king’s household by establishing a set of rules at the court, which came to be known as the Eltham Ordinances. His attempts to improve the legal system were criticised, especially by the nobility, who felt that the Lord Chancellor was motivated to get back at them.
- Wolsey played a key role in negotiating the Anglo-French treaty of 1514, which secured a temporary peace between the two nations. The treaty was further sealed with the marriage of Louis XII and Henry VIII’s younger sister, Mary.
- The Treaty of London was a pact of non-aggression designed by Wolsey and signed in 1518 by 20 European nations. The kingdom of France, the kingdom of England, the kingdom of Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, the Papal States, the Duchy of Burgundy, and the Netherlands were the signatories.
- The Field of the Cloth of Gold was another example of Wolsey’s diplomatic policy. Wolsey organised this grand meeting between Francis I of France and Henry VIII: about 5,000 followers accompanied him.
- Although it seemed to open the door to peace negotiations with France, it was an opportunity for the English court to show Europe its wealth and power through celebrations and flamboyant events.
- Initially, reform was not needed in the government of Wales, but Henry VIII was threatened by some of the remaining Marcher lords. Cromwell was tasked to create a solution to this perceived threat. Thomas Cromwell’s solution was the annexation of Wales along with other significant changes through passing the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542, which have been known as the Acts of Union.
- Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540) was an English lawyer and statesman. He was appointed chief minister to Henry VIII in 1532. He was a strong supporter of the English Reformation and successfully secured the annulment of the king’s first marriage.
- Unlike his father, Henry VIII left the details of day-to-day government to his trusted ministers while enforcing that he was in charge. Parliament’s role of granting taxation continued but this time to fund the Crown’s military campaigns against its traditional enemies, Scotland and France.
- Due to the shifts in the 1530s, the notion of ‘king and parliament’ changed to ‘king in parliament’. In essence, the king acting in conjunction with parliament became the most important institution in the kingdom and had the authority over the Church in England. Without the parliament, Henry VIII had less power.
- The Privy Council was created out of necessity in 1536, in which a serious rebellion required a small council of trusted men to come up with an action plan.
- In 1540, the Privy Council turned itself into a ‘chief minister’, that way, power would not be concentrated on one individual. In essence, the members of the newly formed council took the roles and duties previously held by Wolsey and Cromwell.
- In 1509, Henry VIII created the Troop of Gentlemen to escort the sovereign in battles. Mounted escorts were composed of cadets of noble families and the highest order of gentry. In 1526, they became dismounted bodyguards.
- He asserted his power over the nobility with the executions for treason of the Yorkists Duke of Buckingham (1521), Henry Pole and Henry Courtenay (1538) at the cost of losing control of the regions held by these men.
Henry and his relations with the Church
- The English Reformation was spearheaded by Henry VIII. He was a devout Catholic and even denounced Martin Luther’s ideas, earning him the title “Defender of the Faith”. But because he was being denied an annulment from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, his sentiments changed. For this reason, some historians regard the origins of the English Reformation as a political affair more than a religious issue.
- The king sought an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, who gave him a daughter, Mary, but failed to provide a male heir. He believed that a female rule in England would be contested and could lead to civil wars such as those that happened during the Wars of the Roses. To have a male heir, Henry VIII wanted an annulment to pursue his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Wolsey was tasked to find a solution to the king’s ‘great matter’.
- The Reformation Parliament sat from November 1529 to April 1536. During this period, major laws were passed to facilitate the break from Rome, and the creation of the Church of England. Much of the legal changes were orchestrated by Cromwell.
- During the early years of Henry VIII’s reign (1509-1529), parliament was summoned only four times specifically in 1510, 1512–14, 1515 and 1523.
- Between 1532 and 1534, a series of acts were passed by Parliament, including the 1534 Act of Supremacy, which made Henry VIII, not the Pope, the head of the Church of England. The king had the final say in matters concerning legal disputes and doctrine.
- Aside from the Act of Supremacy of 1534, Henry VIII’s royal power was further reinforced with the passage of these acts:
- 1532 Act in Conditional Restraint of Annates Submission of the Clergy
- 1533 Act in Restraint of Appeals
- 1534 Succession Act Treason Act
- 1536 Act for Extinguishing the Authority of the Bishop of Rome
- The early Protestant Reformation in England is known as the Henrician reformation. Henry VIII’s split from Rome brought about many changes to aspects of religious and secular life. Traditional Catholic practices were replaced by new customs, which caused dissent from objectors.
- Monasteries were dissolved, books destroyed, treasures claimed by the crown, and money diverted to military campaigns overseas rather than seeing to the growing problem of the poor, sick and needy.
- Two of the biggest issues of contention were the introduction of the English Bible, and the Book of Common Prayer, something which would previously be seen as an act of heresy.
- One of the challenges during his reign was the Pilgrimage of Grace. This rebellion included the common people, clergy, and even some lords and gentry. They were against the king’s break with Rome, dissolution of the lesser monasteries, the rise of Thomas Cromwell and his policies, and the lack of political representation in the north of England.
Matrimonial involvements of Henry VIII
- Henry VIII’s wives were Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Catherine Parr.
- Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon’s marriage was carried out in order to strengthen the relationship between England and Spain. Amidst a number of pregnancies, only one daughter survived, Mary I of England. Their divorce led to England’s split from Rome.
- In 1526, Henry VIII was struck by Anne’s beauty and charm. The king tried to seduce the young woman numerous times, but she rejected his advances since she did not want to become a mistress. After giving birth to Elizabeth, all her following pregnancies were miscarriages.
- In April 1536, Anne Boleyn was arrested for high treason: she was charged with ‘adultery, incest, and plotting to kill the king’. Although Anne had not committed any of the accusations, she was executed, and her last words were ‘Jesus receive my soul; O Lord God have pity on my soul’.
- Following the execution of Anne, Henry VIII married Jane Seymour, a lady-in-waiting. Anne soon gave birth to the king’s greatest wish: a male heir, Edward. According to some historians, Jane died because of puerperal sepsis, i.e. childbed fever.
- Upon her death, Jane received a solemn funeral, and her body was embalmed. Henry was devastated. When Henry VIII died in 1547, his body was interred next to Jane at St. George’s Chapel.
- Arranged by Thomas Cromwell, Henry refused to consummate his marriage to Anne of Cleves in 1540. According to Cromwell, Anne’s German background and Protestant upbringing would strengthen the Reformation in England. After 4 months of marriage, Henry VIII divorced Anne. Cromwell was executed.
- On the same day of Cromwell’s execution, Henry married Katherine Howard. On 2 November 1541, Katherine’s reckless behaviour was denounced by Archbishop Cranmer to Henry VIII. She was charged of unchastity before marriage, treason and adultery. Katherine was beheaded along with her said lovers in February 1542.
- On 12 July 1543, Catherine Parr became Henry VIII’s final wife. Thanks to her influence, Henry VIII passed an act that gave his daughters the right of succession to the throne of England.
- In his absence, Henry even appointed the queen as his successor by naming her Queen Regent. The Third Succession Act of 1543, put back Mary and Elizabeth in the line of succession after Edward.
- In 1547, upon the death of his father, Edward VI became King of England. He was Henry’s only son. Due to his age (9 years old), Henry created a regent to rule England on behalf of Edward. After few years of reign, he died from tuberculosis. His advisors had Edward approve the new order of succession which declared Mary an illegitimate child of Henry, thus, passing the throne to Lady Jane Grey.
- For only nine days, Lady Jane ruled as queen but was immediately deposed and executed by Mary I. Mary I became the first female ruler of England. Her aggressive and violent imposition of Catholicism earned her the title “Bloody Mary”.
- Commonly known as the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth, successor of Mary I, was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth I ruled England for 44 years and asserted the kingdom’s power in Europe.