Henry VIII was born June 28, 1491, the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Henry VIII was appointed Earl Marshal of England and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland all before his fifth birthday. As a child he was considered an excellent sportsman and an intelligent student. Since Henry's older brother was meant to be appointed King of England Henry was preparing through his childhood and young adult life for a life in the church. Henry became Prince of Wales, after the death of his brother Prince Arthur, in 1502 and was appointed King of England upon the death of their father in 1509. Henry VIII took six wives and several mistresses during his reign as King of England but is also well known for his formation of the Church of England, a church over which with King Henry himself was the leader of.
Henry married Catherine of Aragon, his brother’s widow, in 1509 solidifying strategic ties with Spain. Henry was only 17. Catherine gave birth to son Henry in 1511. The infant died after only a few weeks. Catherine had several other pregnancies which either miscarried or resulted in stillborn or weak infants who didn't live much past birth. In 1516, Catherine gave birth to Mary I, who would later hold the throne for 5 years. Henry had mistresses during his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. His affair with Bessie Blount resulted in the birth of Henry Fitzroy whom Henry VIII loved dearly and who he hoped he could one day hold the throne. Fitzroy however died at the age of 17. Henry had an affair with Mary Boleyn after his affair with Bessie and she is said to have given birth to two of Henry VII's children.
Because of Catherine's inability to give birth to a son that survived infancy, and Henry's infatuation with Anne Bolyn, one of Catherine's junior attendants, Henry attempted to have his marriage to Catherine annulled. When the Pope refused Henry decided to separate from the Roman Catholic Church and create the Church of England. The Church of England was essentially at the time a modified version of the Catholic church in that it emphasises the teachings found in the Nicene, Apostles', and Athanasian creeds.
Before the annulment from Catherine was final, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn conceived Elizabeth I. She was born only a few months after Henry and Anne were married in 1533. The Act of Succession 1533 named Anne’s children heir to the throne. In 1536 Anne was pregnant again with a son. She had a miscarriage upon hearing news that Henry had been injured in a tournament. After three miscarriages Henry began claiming the marriage was a result of being bewitched. The charges against Anne were furthered by accusations of adultery and treason. Anne was beheaded in May 1536 at Tower Green.
Henry’s most well known mistress while married to Anne is Jane Seymour, Anne’s first cousin. Henry married Jane less than two weeks after the death of Anne. The Act of Succession 1536 passed ensuring Jane’s child as the sole heir. Prince Edward VI was born in 1537. Jane died in childbirth. Prince Edward VI was King of England from the age of 9, until his death 6 years later.
In 1540, the shrines of saints were destroyed by request of Henry. His 1540 marriage to Anne of Cleves was seen as a strategic maneuver. Henry found Anne unattractive and annulled the marriage but kept Anne in his good graces appointing upon her the title of the Kings Sister. She was given Hever Castle as a parting gift. The man who had arranged the marriage was beheaded.
Later in 1540 Henry married another former lady-in-waiting of Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard. She was young and quite beautiful however she was also quite promiscuous for a girl in those days. She was repulsed by her much older, overweight husband and was accused of many affairs. In 1542 Henry learned of her adultery and had her executed. Along with the dissolving of yet another marriage, so also were the monasteries of England dissolved.
Henry married Catherine Parr in 1543. Catherine had been married twice prior to her marriage to the King but both her previous husbands died. She had no children with the aging King of England but she helped Henry salvage his relationships with his daughters Mary and Elizabeth, both of whom were reinstated into the line of succession. Henry VIII died January 28, 1547 of what is recently believed to be untreated Type II Diabetes. Catherine would later marry Thomas Seymour and give birth to a daughter.
While Henry VIII spent much of his time desiring a son to be the heir to the Tudor Dynasty it was his daughter Elizabeth I, born of his marriage with Anne Boleyn, who proved to be his longest reigning successor. Henry VIII left a lasting impression on England. There is an abundance of information to be learned about the Tudor Dynasty, Henry VIII’s influences and life in 16th century England. To learn more, view the resources below.
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