Few rulers had as much of an impact on England’s history as that of Henry VIII, the second Monarch of the House of Tudor, and his daughter Mary I.
For the record, Henry married six times. His first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was the youngest child of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. Her parents betrothed her to Henry VII’s son, Arthur, when he was two years old. Apparently, there were no dating services in those days. In 1501, she married Arthur, who died about six months later and Henry VII betrothed her instead to Henry VIII. After Henry VII died, Henry VIII quickly married Catherine, crowning her Queen in 1509. Between 1510 and 1518, Catherine became pregnant eight times. She had a stillborn daughter and two sons who died in infancy. She suffered four miscarriages and had a living daughter, Mary.
Around 1526, Henry fell in love with Anne Boleyn. Henry petitioned the Pope for a divorce, insisting that the texts of Leviticus stated that if a man took his brother’s wife, they would remain childless forever and thus, his marriage was destined to never produce an heir. For six years, the political debate raged on. Then, Anne Boleyn got pregnant. In 1533, he rejected the power of the Roman Pope in England and turned to Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, to grant him a divorce. Afterwards, Catherine was forced out from the court and she died in 1536.
The divorce had a profound effect on England, which broke away from the Catholic Church. Henry formed his own Church and installed himself as the head. While it was still Catholic, it was no longer under the control of the Roman Pope.
After their marriage in 1533, Anne Boleyn gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth. Desperate for a son, she quickly became pregnant again but her next two pregnancies were miscarriages. At this time, Henry was becoming enamored with Jane Seymour and people wanted Anne out of the court. She was arrested and charged with incest, adultery, and a plot to murder the king. Anne and her brother were put on trial and found guilty. Shortly afterwards, her marriage to Henry was declared “invalid” and she was executed in 1536.
A day after Anne’s execution, Henry married Jane, who became pregnant in 1537. Edward was born in October. Two weeks later, Jane died from complications. Henry next married Anne of Cleves in a political marriage. However, Henry was not attracted to her at all, chasing after a certain Kathryn Howard instead. When Henry sought an annulment, Anne did not protest. She virtually disappeared afterwards.
Henry married Kathryn Howard in 1540. It’s said she brought the “zest” back into the aging King’s life. However, by 1541, it was discovered that she was having an affair. In 1542, she was executed for her crimes. Henry’s last wife was Katherine Parr. By 31, she had been widowed twice and Henry was so enamored with her that he asked her to marry him. They were married in 1543. In 1546, a plot was launched against her but ultimately failed. She was closer to all her stepchildren and after Henry died in 1547, she married Thomas Seymour.
While Henry’s romantic scandals are known throughout history, it’s the exploits of his daughter, Mary, that are truly remembered.
Mary became Queen Mary I in 1553 after Edward VI died. She only reigned five years but in that time she was known as “Bloody Mary.” She did this by her persecution of Protestants in an attempt to restore Roman Catholicism in England. During her reign, nearly 300 religious dissenters were burned at the stake on her orders. These included Thomas Cranmer, John Rogers, reformist Hugh Latimer, and Nicholas Ridley, a former Bishop of London. Her attempts were ultimately unsuccessful.
The Tudor Rulers
More Resources on the Tudors
Henry VIII and Mary I are still remembered as some of the most scandalous rulers to ever sit on a throne.
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