Henry VIII

Henry VIII wasn't a bad King. He made many improvements to his country. He created the Church of England, with Thomas Wolsey as it's original head. He ditched the pope because he needed to annul his marriage with Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn.

Besides a new religion, he also fought several battles. Henry invaded the France, de3feated Scottish forces at the Battle of Foldden Field, and all in the early part of his reign. Around that time, he also wrote a treatise denouncing Martin Luther and his reformation of the Catholic Church, for which he was awarded the title of "Defender of the Faith" from the pope.

But Henry also enforced his absolute power. He wanted more than just to be political leader; he wanted to be the ideological icon of the State. By 1536, all of his staff and court were required to take oaths swearing allegiance to him, and support him in all circumstances, the penalty for not following this falls under the category of high treason.

After that, though, he didn't do much of importance of England. He shut down the monasteries, so that nobility could have more money, probably backed by Thomas Cromwell (his most trusted advisor), and Thomas Cranmer (who took Wolsey's place after Wolsey was banned from court because he refused to take an oath against the Catholic Church). By backed, it is meant that they came up with the idea and then persuaded King Henry to follow through with it.

Henry was not always king. He was born on June 28, 1491 at Greenwich Castle to King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. He had an elder brother, Arthur, who died before he could become king. Henry was very spoilt, and when his brother died, became even more spoilt.

He was an allegedly handsome man. Here is an account* of someone who say him in 1509: " His Majesty is the handsomest potentate I ever set eyes on; above the usual height, with an extremely fine calf to his leg, his complexion fair and bright, with auburn hair, combed straight and short in the French fashion, and a round face so very beautiful that it would become a pretty woman, his throat was rather long and thick."

Henry's accomplishments were important, but the most well known fact about him was that he had many wives. Six wives, to be exact. Catherine of Aragon was his betrothed to his brother, and when Arthur died, the betrothal was passed to him. He married her at his coronation. She was the youngest daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, and her cousin was Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. She was also the only wife of Henry who was older than him. It is believed that, for the first years of marriage, the couple was in love, but when it became evident that Cath4ering was not going to give him a male heir, he started searching for attentions elsewhere. He fell in love with Anne Boleyn, one of Catherine's ladies in waiting that had been fostered at the French court. Her sister, Mary, had been one of Henry's mistresses. He created the Church of England, so that he could annul Catherine legally and Marry Anne. He did so, creating Mary Tudor, the childe he had with Catherine, an illegitimate bastard. Catherine died on January 7, 1536, approximately 3 years after the annulment of her marriage with Henry.

Henry fell in love with Anne Boleyn's vivacity, and tried to make her one of his mistresses, like he had her sister. Anne refused him. She was betrothed to Harry Percy, but the king employed Wolsey to prevent their marriage from taking place. He spent money, wrote love letters, and even changed the religion of his country, just to win her love. Sometime in December 1532, she gave in to his urging to come to bed with him. Directly after he found out that she was pregnant a month later, he married her, on January 25, 1533. He annulled the marriage with Catherine that June.

Anne had promised Henry sons. When princess Elizabeth was born on September 7, 1533, it was a big letdown for Henry. He began to look elsewhere for a son, namely with Jane Seymour, one of Catherine's and then Anne's ladies-in- waiting. Meanwhile he still bedded Anne, but all of her sons were born dead of miscarried. Henry became impatient and asked Cromwell to start searching for a way to annul the marriage.

He would have one less obstacle this time: the people hated Anne, because she had taken the place of Catherine, whom they loved. They called her the great whore. That nickname gave Henry an idea. He pressed her with false charges of adultery. They arrested her supposed "lovers" and tortured them into making statements against her. She was then arrested and put in the Tower, in the same room where she stayed the night before her coronation. It is said that she went mad when she was thrown in there, and she used her witch powers to kill three of the King's servants. But this is only a rumor, of course.

She was tried by a biased court, found guilty, and beheaded. Les than 24 hours after her execution, Henry was married to Jane, and had bedded her. Alas, Jane did not get pregnant until early 1537, and during her pregnancy, Henry showered her with gifts and jumped at her every whim. On October 15, 1537, Edward VI was born and christened. Two weeks later, on October 24, Jane died of complications of childbirth. Henry was heartbroken. He stayed away from women for quite a while.

Cromwell was worried about the state of political matters in England. France and Rome, usually at odds with each other, had formed a sort of temporary truce, and rumors said they were going to war against the people who broke away from the Catholic Church, mainly the Lutherans and the Church of England. So Cromwell suggested to King Henry that he marry one of the daughters of countries that supported Reformist religions. He sent a painter, Holbein Harr, to paint portraits of the daughters of the German Prince of Cleves. Anne, one of the daughters, was portrayed as beautiful, so he decided to marry her. Alas, when she arrived at court, he found her plain and said so. Evidently Holbein had exaggerated his painting, trying to make Anne of Cleves prettier.

But, as the marriage had already been contracted, it had to occur. Even before the wedding, though, Henry was looking for ways to annul his marriage. Because of this, the marriage was never consummated. Anne was smart enough to know that she would only cause trouble for herself and her country if she resisted Henry's attempt at annulment. She testified that her previous betrothal had not been properly ended and that she had not bedded with Henry. For this, she was given lands and a title. Henry also had other reasons to divorce Anne. Politically, what had seemed like a good match had lost most of its credit, for even though France and Rome were against each other, on of them was planning a war against Germany, and Henry wanted nothing to do with it. He had also become attracted to one of Anne's ladies-in-waiting, Kathryn Howard.

The spelling of Kathryn's name is controversial. While the first Catherine was invariably spelled "Catherine," and Katherine Parr's name has two spellings that only differ by one letter, Kathryn Howard's name was spelled a multitude of different ways. For purposes of recognition, their names will be spelled as follows: Catherine of Aragon, Kathryn Howard, and Katherine Parr.

Kathryn was only 19 when she married then 49-year-old Henry. It is said that she loved him well enough, and was very helpful to Henry's well being. He had grown rather fat, and had a leg with gout, causing him to display a rather foul temper almost all the time. But when he married Kathryn, her youth and beauty were a great source of happiness, and his spirits improved immensely. If he had been younger, all would have progressed smoothly for quite some time. But Kathryn was 30 years younger than him, and even the King of England was not enough to satisfy her. She began flirting with (and possibly sleeping with) men closer to her own age, which one must say is entirely understandable. Since Henry was still very much in love with her, and he had his son he was in no hurry to get rid of her. Cromwell had heard rumors of Kathryn's adulterous nature, but was reluctant to bring matters to the attention of the King. Eventually, the rumors were strong enough that they had to be passed on to the King. At first, Henry did not believe these rumors. Eventually, though, he let Cromwell investigate the case, and enough evidence was found to condemn her in a court of law, even without the King's support. After the court found her guilty, he had no choice but to sign a warrant for her execution, which took place on February 13, 1542.

Meanwhile, Henry's health was getting worse and worse. A nurse named Katherine Parr, twice a widow and highly educated, was sent to be his caretaker. Not much is known about his courtship of her, though he did have her refuse the hand of Thomas Seymour, brother to the late Jane. He married Katherine on July 12, 1543, about 18 months after Kathryn's execution. Katherine was a very responsible person. She became a mother to Mary (almost as old as Katherine herself by this point), Elizabeth, and Edward, and she and Henry got on reasonably well, especially considering the fact that his health was failing and his temper with it.

Katherine was a Protestant, which was a source of controversy, because the King was against Protestantism and wanted any wife of his to follow him completely in thought and action. This included having the same religion. Cromwell and Cranmer completed an investigation concerning her religious practices, and presented their findings to the King. He went directly to confront Katherine, who submitted to him totally and completely, undoubtedly saving her own life.

In the last six years of Henry's life, when Katherine was his wife, the Tudor family renewed long-forgotten family bonds and virtual amiability. She united the family, a remarkable feat which most likely prevented a war upon the death of the King. She made sure that the children were well educated, well mannered, and not too spoiled. She also tried to keep Henry's health from failing completely. They were together 6½ years, and then, from a combination of various illnesses, Henry died on January 28, 1547. Edward VI became King of England, with Edward Seymour, one of Jane's brothers, as his guardian. Katherine married Thomas Seymour, whose proposal she had originally turned down at the King's request. She had one child by him, but died shortly after its birth from complications of childbirth on September 5, 1548. There end the great legacy of Henry VIII.

~gail