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Henry VIII

Henry VIII

Henry VIII (1491-1547) was king of England from 1509 to 1547. As a consequence of the Pope's refusal to nullify his first marriage, Henry withdrew from the Roman Church and created the Church of England.

The second son of Henry VII, Henry VIII was born on June 28, 1491, at Greenwich Palace. He was a precocious student; he learned Latin, Spanish, French, and Italian and studied mathematics, music, and theology. He became an accomplished musician and played the lute, organ, and harpsichord. He composed hymns, ballads, and two Masses. He also liked to hunt, wrestle, and joust and drew "the bow with greater strength than any man in England."

On his father's death on April 21, 1509, Henry succeeded to a peaceful kingdom. He married Catherine of Aragon, widow of his brother Arthur, on June 11, and 13 days later they were crowned at Westminster Abbey. He enthused to his father-in-law, Ferdinand, that "the love he bears to Catherine is such, that if he were still free he would choose her in preference to all others."

Foreign Policy

In short order Henry set course on a pro-Spanish and anti-French policy. In 1511 he joined Spain, the papacy, and Venice in the Holy League, directed against France. He claimed the French crown and sent troops to aid the Spanish in 1512 and determined to invade France. The bulk of the preparatory work fell to Thomas Wolsey, the royal almoner, who became Henry's war minister. Despite the objections of councilors like Thomas Howard, the Earl of Surrey, Henry went ahead. He was rewarded by a smashing victory at Guinegate (Battle of the Spurs, Aug. 13, 1513) and the capture of Tournai and Théorouanne.

Peace was made in 1514 with the Scots, who had invaded England and been defeated at Flodden (Sept. 9, 1513), as well as with France. The marriage of Henry's sister Mary to Louis XII sealed the French treaty. This diplomatic revolution resulted from Henry's anger at the Hapsburg rejection of Mary, who was to have married Charles, the heir to both Ferdinand and Maximilian I, the Holy Roman emperor. Soon the new French king, Francis I, decisively defeated the Swiss at Marignano (Sept. 13-14, 1515). When Henry heard about Francis's victory, he burst into tears of rage. Increasingly, Wolsey handled state affairs; he became archbishop of York in 1514, chancellor and papal legate in 1515. Not even his genius, however, could win Henry the coveted crown of the Holy Roman Empire. With deep disappointment he saw it bestowed in 1519 on Charles, the Spanish king. During 1520 Henry met Emperor Charles V at Dover and Calais, and Francis at the Field of Cloth of Gold, near Calais, where Francis mortified Henry by throwing him in an impromptu wrestling match. In 1521 Henry joyfully received the papally bestowed title "Defender of the Faith" as a reward for writing the Assertion of the Seven Sacraments, a criticism of Lutheran doctrine. He tried to secure Wolsey's election as pope in 1523 but failed.

English Reformation

Catherine was 40 in 1525. Her seven pregnancies produced but one healthy child, Mary, born May 18, 1516. Despairing of having a legitimate male heir, Henry created Henry Fitzroy, his natural son by Elizabeth Blount, Duke of Richmond and Somerset. More and more, he conceived Catherine's misfortunes as a judgment from God. Did not Leviticus say that if a brother marry his brother's widow, it is an unclean thing and they shall be childless? Since Catherine was Arthur's widow, the matter was apparent.

The Reformation proceeded haphazardly from Henry's negotiations to nullify his marriage. Catherine would not retire to a nunnery, nor would Anne Boleyn consent to be Henry's mistress as had her sister Mary; she grimly demanded marriage. A court sitting in June 1529 under Wolsey and Cardinal Campeggio heard the case. Pope Clement VII instructed Campeggio to delay. When the Peace of Cambrai was declared between Spain and France in August 1529, leaving Charles V, Catherine's nephew, still powerful in Italy, clement revoked the case to Rome. He dared not antagonize Charles, whose troops had sacked Rome in 1527 and briefly held him prisoner.

Henry removed Wolsey from office. Actually, Wolsey's diplomacy had been undermined by Henry's sending emissaries with different proposals to Clement. Catherine had a valid dispensation for her marriage to Henry from Pope Julius II; furthermore, she claimed that she came a virgin to Henry. She was a popular queen, deeply hurt by Henry's forsaking her bed in 1526. Henry's strategy matured when Thomas Cromwell became a privy councilor and his chief minister. Cromwell forced the clergy in convocation in 1531 to accept Henry's headship of the Church "as far as the law of Christ allows."

Anne's pregnancy in January 1533 brought matters to a head. In a fever of activity Henry married her on Jan. 25, 1533, secured papal approval to Thomas Cranmer's election as archbishop of Canterbury in March, had a court convened under Cranmer declare his marriage to Catherine invalid in May, and waited triumphantly for the birth of a son. His waiting was for naught. On Sept. 7, 1533, Elizabeth was born. Henry was so disappointed that he did not attend her christening. By the Act of Succession (1534) his issue by Anne was declared legitimate and his daughter Mary illegitimate. The Act of Supremacy (1534) required an oath affirming Henry's headship of the Church and, with other acts preventing appeals to Rome and cutting off the flow of annates and Peter's Pence, completed the break. Individual unwilling to subscribe to the Acts of Succession and Supremacy suffered, the two most notable victims being John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Thomas More (1535). Their executions led to the publication of the papal bull excommunicating Henry.

Although Henry allowed the publication of an English Bible (1538), the Henrician Reformation was basically conservative. Major liturgical and theological revisions came under his son, Edward VI. Henry's financial need, however, made him receptive to Cromwell's plan for monastic dissolutions via parliamentary acts in 1536 and 1539, in which the Crown became proprietor of the dissolved monasteries. The scale of monastic properties led to important social and economic consequences.

Later Marriages

Anne's haughty demeanor and moody temperament suited Henry ill, and her failure to produce a male heir rankled. She miscarried of a baby boy on Jan. 27, 1536, 6 days after fainting at the news that Henry had been knocked unconscious in a jousting accident in which the king fell under his mailed horse. It was a costly miscarriage, for Henry was already interested in Jane Seymour. He determined on a second divorce. He brought charges of treason against Anne for alleged adultery and incest; she was executed on May 19. The following day Henry betrothed himself to Jane and married her 10 days later. Jane brought a measure of comfort to Henry's personal life; she also produced a son and heir, Edward, on Oct. 12, 1537, but survived his birth a scant 12 days.

Henry was deeply grieved, and he did not remarry for 3 years. He was not in good health. Headaches plagued him intermittently; they may have originated from a jousting accident of 1524, in which Charles Brandon's lance splintered on striking Henry's open helmet. Moreover his ulcerated leg, which first afflicted him in 1528, occasionally troubled. Both legs were infected in 1537. In May 1538 he had a clot blockage in his lungs which made him speechless, but he recovered.

The course of diplomatic events, particularly the fear that Charles V might attempt an invasion of England, led Henry to seek an alliance with Continental Protestant powers; hence, his marriage to the Protestant princess Anne of Cleves on Jan. 12, 1540. His realization that Charles did not intend to attack, coupled with his distaste for Anne, led to Cromwell's dismissal and execution in June 1540 and to the annulment of his marriage to Anne on July 9, 1540.

Cromwell's fall was engineered by the conservative leaders of his Council, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, and Bishop Gardiner. They thrust forward the 19-year-old niece of Norfolk, Catherine Howard, and Henry found her pleasing. He married Catherine within 3 weeks of his annulment and entered into the Indian summer of his life. He bore his by now tremendous girth lightly and was completely captivated, but his happiness was short-lived. Catherine's indiscretions as queen consort combined with her sexual misdemeanors as a protégé of the old dowager Duchess of Norfolk ensured her ruin. Inquiry into her behavior in October 1541 led to house arrest and her execution on Feb. 13, 1542, by means of a bill of attainder.

Henry's disillusionment with Catherine plus preoccupation with the Scottish war, begun in 1542, and plans for renewal of hostilities with France delayed remarriage. The French war commenced in 1543 and dragged on for 3 years, achieving a solitary triumph before Boulogne (1545). Henry married the twice-widowed Catherine Parr on July 12, 1543. Though she bore him no children, she made him happy. Her religious views were somewhat more radical than those of Henry, who had revised the conservative Six Articles (1539) with his own hand. During his last years he attempted to stem the radical religious impulses unleashed by the formal break with Rome.

No minister during Henry's last 7 years approached the power of Wolsey or Cromwell. Henry bitterly reflected that Cromwell was the most faithful servant that he had ever had. He ruled by dividing his Council into conservative and radical factions. When Norfolk's faction became too powerful, he imprisoned him and executed his son the poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. The King was unwell in late 1546 and early 1547, suffering from a fever brought on by his ulcerated leg. Before he died on Jan. 28, 1547, Henry reflected that "the mercy of Christ [is] able to pardon me all my sins, though they were greater than they be."

Appearance and Assessment

A contemporary described Henry in his prime as "the handsomest potentate I have ever set eyes on; above the usual height, with an extremely fine calf to his leg; his complexion fair and bright, with auburn hair … and a round face so very beautiful that it would become a pretty woman. … He is much handsomer than any other sovereign in Christendom; a great deal handsomer than the King of France." Henry was "a capital horseman, a fine jouster," and "very fond of hunting," tiring 8 or 10 horses in the course of a day's hunting. "He is extremely fond of tennis, at which game it is the prettiest thing in the world to see him play, his fair skin glowing through a shirt of the finest texture."

Henry came to the throne with great gifts and high hopes. Ministers like Wolsey and Cromwell freed him from the burdensome chores of government and made policy, but only with Henry's approval. His relentless search for an heir led him into an accidental reformation of the Church not entirely to his liking. Ironically, had he waited until Catherine of Aragon died in 1536, he would have been free to pursue a solution to the succession problem without recourse to a reformation. His desire to cut a figure on the European battlefields led him into costly wars. To pay the piper, it was necessary to debase the coinage, thus increasing inflationary pressures already stimulated by the influx of Spanish silver, and to use the tremendous revenues from the sale of monastic properties. Had the properties been kept in the royal hand, the revenue could have made the Crown self-sufficient—perhaps so self-sufficient that it could have achieved an absolutism comparable to that of Louis XIV.

Though personally interested in education, Henry sponsored no far-reaching educational statutes. However, his avid interest in naval matters resulted in a larger navy and a modernization of naval administration. He brought Wales more fully into union with the English by the Statute of Wales (1536) and made Ireland a kingdom (1542). Through the Statute of Uses (1536) he attempted to close off his subjects' attempts to deny him his feudal dues, but this was resisted and modified in 1540. The great innovations came out of the Reformation Statutes, not the least of which was the Act in Restraint of Appeals, in which England was declared an empire, and the Act of Supremacy, in which Henry became supreme head of the Anglican Church. The politically inspired Henrician Reformation became a religiously inspired one under his son, Edward VI, and thus Henry's reign became the first step in the forging of the Anglican Church.

Henry ruled ruthlessly in a ruthless age; he cut down the enemies of the Crown, like the Duke of Buckingham in 1521 and the Earl of Surrey. He stamped out the Pilgrimage of Grace (1536-1537), which issued from economic discontent, and set up a council in the north to ensure that there would be no more disorder. Though he had political gifts of a high order, he was neither Machiavelli's prince in action nor Bismarck's man of blood and iron. He was a king who wished to be succeeded by a son, and for this cause he bravely and rashly risked the anger of his fellow sovereigns. That he did what he did is a testament to his will, personal gifts, and good fortune.

Further Reading

A. F. Pollard, Henry VIII (1902; new ed. 1913), the traditional interpretation of Henry VIII, has been challenged in recent years by G. R. Elton, Henry VIII: An Essay in Revision (1962), and J. J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (1968). Scarisbrick, unlike Pollard, does not view Henry as England's savior. He believes that Henry created England's difficulties and censures him for his lack of social responsibility. He also provides a detailed analysis of the technical aspects of the divorce. Lacey Baldwin Smith, Henry VIII: The Mask of Royalty (1971), concentrates on Henry's last years and brilliantly portrays his personal despotism and naked pride and power. Melvin J. Tucker, The Life of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, Second Duke of Norfolk, 1443-1524 (1964), gives a good case study of Henry's relationship to his aristocracy. Joycelyne G. Russell, The Field of Cloth of Gold (1969), supplies an interesting analysis of the pageantry that accompanied state affairs. Lacey Baldwin Smith, Tudor Prelates and Politics, 1536-1558 (1953), effectively deals with conciliar factions. A variety of studies deal with the historical background: J. W.

Allen, A History of Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century (1928; 3d ed. 1951), ably handles political theory; S. T. Bindoff, Tudor England (1951), is a brilliantly written general survey and is good on economics; G. R. Elton, ed., The Tudor Constitution: Documents and Commentary (1960), unravels complicated constitutional matters; A. G. Dickens, The English Reformation (1964; rev. ed. 1967), deals incisively with the Henrician Reformation; and R. B. Wernham, Before the Armada: The Emergence of the English Nation, 1485-1588 (1966), is essential on Tudor foreign policy. □

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Henry VIII

Henry VIII (1491–1547), king of England (1509–47). Henry VIII was born on 23 June 1491 at Greenwich, the third child and second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. On the death of his elder brother Arthur in April 1502 he became heir apparent; a few days after the death of his (by then) deeply unpopular father, he was proclaimed king on 23 April 1509.

1. The early years to c.1514

Despite being only 17, Henry acted as king in his own right at once. Shortly after his accession he solemnized his fateful marriage to Catherine, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain and widow of his brother Arthur. In these first years Henry reversed many of his father's more obnoxious policies: he relaxed control over the aristocracy and allowed revenue to decline through neglect. However, apart from sacrificing Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley, his father's two most detested apparitors, he made few changes among his leading advisers. He began to play the European game of military alliances almost at once: a disastrous campaign in the Pyrenees in 1512 was followed in 1513 by the more successful seizure of Tournai and Thérouanne and the earl of Surrey's demolition of the Scottish aristocracy at Flodden. Peace was made in 1514.

2. The ascendancy of Wolsey c.1514–c.1527

The political scene was transformed by the arrival of a clergyman-academic turned administrator, Thomas Wolsey, who used his position as royal chaplain and almoner to build up a formidable collection of church and government posts, becoming lord chancellor in 1515 and papal cardinal-legate a latere in 1518. He and Henry communicated via their secretaries; Henry attended to business fitfully and occasionally intervened in details, but mostly left Wolsey to find the means to carry out the royal designs. With the accession of Francis I of France (1515–47) Henry found a rival whom he both disliked and imitated. For several years he manœuvred in the diplomatic game, until in 1518 he and Wolsey stage-managed the great European peace treaty of London (1518). The next year another charismatic leader, Charles V of Austria, Burgundy, and Spain, became Holy Roman emperor, and Henry began meddling in the endless duel between Charles and Francis. He attacked France in 1522–3, but withdrew from the alliance just too soon to profit from Francis's defeat and capture at Pavia (1525); in that year he renounced the imperial connection and began to court French support. Within England, the power-play plunged the crown deep into debt and forced highly unpopular increases in taxation, culminating in the taxpayers' strike against an illegal benevolence, the ‘Amicable Grant’, in 1525.

3. The marriage question, 1527–1532

During the 1520s Henry's marriage to Catherine had deteriorated for reasons both personal and diplomatic. After bearing a princess (the future Mary I) in 1516, the queen had suffered a series of miscarriages and still-births which reawakened Henry's early misgivings about the marriage and raised the spectre of his dying without a male heir. When Charles V dropped his plan to marry Mary in 1525, the Aragonese-cum-Habsburg alliance lost its political rationale. By early 1527 an annulment of the marriage was openly discussed. However, in that year Charles V's troops sacked Rome and forced Pope Clement VII to seek protection from Charles V. While in the emperor's hands, the pope would not shame his captor's aunt by annulling her marriage and thereby freeing Henry, it was supposed, to marry a French princess. Wolsey tried unsuccessfully to persuade the pope to allow him to resolve the issue in England. When the final failure of this effort became apparent, Wolsey was stripped of his offices; after negotiating unofficially with foreign powers he only escaped treason charges by his own death (1530).

Henry was now adrift among rival groups of advisers: some, like Thomas More, urged him to abandon the divorce and take back the queen; others carefully nurtured in him the belief that papal authority was, in any case, an illegitimate usurpation and might be rejected unilaterally. Henry subjected the English bishops and clergy to costly ritual humiliations, ostensibly because their support for Wolsey's legatine status had infringed English law; this tactic may have paved the way for forcing them to oppose papal authority. By May 1532 the king seems to have chosen an anti-papal solution to the marriage crisis, and several of his leading pro-Aragonese advisers resigned.

4. The supremacy and the ‘Henrician Reformation’, 1533–1540

The king's belief in his status as God's representative, supreme over all his subjects, now became a very potent political factor. It was exploited by a group of political theorists managed by the new rising minister, a former client of Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell (1485–1540). They devised an argument against papal authority which, unlike those advanced by the Lutherans in Germany, rested not on reformed theology but on a rewriting of the history of Anglo-papal relations. In the Act in Restraint of Appeals (24 Hen. VIII c. 12, 1533), the preamble enunciated Henry's claim to ‘imperial’ authority, without earthly superior, over clergy and laity alike; the text merely rejected appeals to Rome in matrimonial, testamentary, and other lawsuits. Henry secretly married Anne Boleyn in January 1533, and was formally separated from Catherine the following May. Having then been excommunicated by the pope, however, Henry's regime enacted further statutes up to 1536, which cut all fiscal, legal, and spiritual ties to Rome and left the English church in schism.

The English church having now broken with the papacy, the question of its doctrine could not be evaded. Henry had a queen, Anne Boleyn, an archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, and a leading minister, Cromwell, all of whom were in varying degrees Lutheran sympathizers. Many others at court, however, were either zealous conservatives or, like one nobleman, boasted of never having read the Bible and never intending to. Henry's personal detestation of Luther, with whom he had exchanged polemics in the 1520s, and his horror of what he called ‘sacramentarian’ heresy made the two forms of emerging protestantism unacceptable, and left religious policy the plaything of factions. Nevertheless, enough innovations, both religious and fiscal, were introduced to enrage the population of the northern counties of England and bring about the complex of revolts known as the Pilgrimage of Grace’ in autumn 1536. The regime survived these by biding its time and retaining the loyalty of the nobility and the south. Up to 1537 Henry accepted and endorsed cautious moves, disguised as ‘humanist’ purifications of religion, to abolish parts of the old cult. An official English Bible was authorized in 1538 and issued in 1539. However, the Act of Six Articles of 1539 marked a reaffirmation of certain traditional shibboleths and a hunt for ‘heretics’. Meanwhile, and without overt religious logic, the regime plundered the church, taxing the seculars heavily while abolishing the regular orders entirely and confiscating their wealth (1536–40).

Instability in official doctrine was matched by increasingly sanguinary feuds at court. In May 1536, after the birth of a daughter (the future Elizabeth I) and a miscarriage, the temperamental Anne Boleyn, with her brother and several of her attendants, were executed for alleged acts of treasonable adultery, which varied from the implausible to the impossible. By the end of the month the king had married Jane Seymour, who bore him his only son, the future Edward VI, on 12 October 1537 and died twelve days afterwards. Cromwell, having disposed of religious and political opponents of the supremacy, embarked on legal purges of those families he regarded as suspect or a threat, notably the Poles and Courtenays. Court rivalry and religious instability combined in the king's search for a fourth wife. Despite the reactionary strain then evident in religious policy, Henry was cajoled into a marriage-contract with Anne, sister of the duke of Cleves, a reforming sympathizer. Henry accepted her on the strength of a flattering portrait, and married her, with already too evident distaste, on 6 January 1540. Thomas Cromwell survived this disastrous marriage for a few months, but when he tried a pre-emptive strike against several conservatives, he was swiftly attainted of treason and executed.

5. The years of faction and failing powers

Henry seems to have regretted the execution of Cromwell soon afterwards, and thereafter no minister wielded the same sort of authority. Government became more ‘conciliar’: the Privy Council, adumbrated as early as 1536 and filled with opponents of Cromwell, began to work more effectively as an executive cabinet from 1540. In his final years the king became more unpredictable and vulnerable. Catherine Howard, niece of the duke of Norfolk, whom Henry had married on the day of Cromwell's execution, proved unfaithful and indiscreet. Her fall and execution on 13 February 1542 left the king devastated. He threw himself once more into diplomacy and war. A successful campaign in 1542 by Lord Wharton in Scotland left Scotland's army broken and accelerated the death of its king: but Henry did not follow up the victory. Instead he made fresh overtures to Charles V and in June 1544 invaded France again, capturing Boulogne at huge cost shortly before Charles V made a separate peace with Francis I. A retaliatory attack by the French on the south coast in 1545 saw an embarrassing spectacle when the second largest ship in the fleet, the Mary Rose, sank spontaneously before the king's eyes; but a reasonable peace was made in 1546. In these final years Henry wavered between a campaign against ‘heresy’, which reached peaks in 1543 (when it threatened Cranmer) and 1546 (when it briefly threatened Henry's last queen, Catherine Parr), and periods when Henry allowed Cranmer to embark on cautious, partial reform of the so far barely altered old liturgy. In the dying months of the reign the reformers, led by the earl of Hertford (Somerset) and the Seymour family, secured the near-total defeat of the conservative Howards; the duke of Norfolk was awaiting execution when the king himself died on 28 January 1547. The education of the young Edward VI had been committed to reforming humanist tutors, so the old king's conservative legacy would not last into the new reign.

6. Assessment

Few kings of England set so consciously to glorify the style and splendour of the monarchy. Henry was the first to be addressed as ‘Majesty’ and the first defender of the faith and supreme head of the church. He presided over a spectacular court and built Nonsuch palace in Surrey in ‘the highest point of ostentation’. He had great athletic strength, a real talent for music, and an enthusiasm for theology (although his tendency to regard doctrines as unconnected building-blocks led to confusion and inconsistency). He enjoyed the windfall of the largely unchallenged plunder of the church and the service of talented and energetic ministers. In this light, the overwhelming impression is of advantages squandered. He came to the throne rich and bequeathed debts, a corrupt coinage, and roaring inflation; much of the newly acquired land was sold to the gentry and aristocracy by his death. Few monarchs before and none after were so ready to listen to, or to concoct, spurious charges of treason to get rid of unhelpful ministers or discarded wives. He showed little sign of that gift for managing the squabbles of courtier-politicians displayed by his daughter Elizabeth. His impact on the history of his time was colossal; yet nearly every part of his legacy was either disowned or significantly reinvented under his successors.

Euan Cameron

Bibliography

Scarisbrick, J. , Henry VIII (1968);
Smith, L. B. , Henry VIII: The Mask of Royalty (1971);
Starkey, D. , The Reign of Henry VIII (1985).

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Henry VIII (England) (1491–1547; Ruled 1509–1547)

HENRY VIII (ENGLAND) (14911547; ruled 15091547)

HENRY VIII (ENGLAND) (14911547; ruled 15091547), king of England. Henry VIII has a good claim to be regarded as England's most important monarch. It was he who initiated and pushed through the seminal event in the nation's history, the break with the church of Rome. Though historians have long debated the king's motivations and the depth of his control over the policy-making process, few would question his fundamental importance to the English Reformation; nor indeed that of the English Reformation to the subsequent historical development of England, Britain, and the British Empire.

Born at Greenwich Palace on 28 June 1491, the child of Henry VII (Henry Tudor; ruled 14851509) and Elizabeth of York, Henry was second in line to the throne. He became heir apparent after his elder brother, Arthur, died of consumption in 1502. On 22 April 1509 Henry's respected but unloved father died; the young prince ascended the throne amid popular rejoicing, the first uncontested succession in over half a century.

The new king quickly disposed of his father's chief ministers, Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley (both executed for constructive treason in 1510). Their place was taken by the brilliant and ostentatious commoner Thomas Wolsey (c. 14751530). Henry ruled through Wolsey, who became his lord chancellor, from 1514 to 1529, making him the principal influence on the formulation of royal policy and giving him authority over the day-to-day affairs of government. The main focus of policy during the first half of the reign was foreign affairs. The early years were taken up by war with France and Scotland (15111514). In France, Henry achieved his first success on the field of battle (the Battle of the Spurs, 1513); in the same year King James IV of Scotland (ruled 14881513) was defeated and killed at the head of an invading army at Flodden. Glorious though it might be, war was a drain on the nation's finances. Wolsey had a more realistic appreciation than his master of England's limited resources and inferior status to the Continent's leading powers; instead of war he pursued diplomacy as a cost-effective means of retaining the place of the king at the forefront of European relations, largely through acting as a peace broker in the conflicts between France, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire. Henry tired of the passive role in the early 1520s, invading France once again in 1523. This invasion was an ignominious failure, ending in retreat and a severe depletion of the crown treasury; it would be the last such enterprise for almost two decades.

THE DIVORCE

On 11 June 1509, Henry married Arthur's widow, Catherine of Aragón (14851536). The marriage failed to provide Henry with a male heir; only a girl born in 1516, the future Queen Mary, survived beyond infancy. For a long time a sequence of renewed pregnancies and the distractions of Wolsey's diplomatic schemes concealed the problem, but the unhappy cycle of miscarriages and still-born infants would not cease, aging Catherine prematurely and turning Henry increasingly suspicious of the marriage. Henry's concerns were not idle: as a child of the Wars of the Roses he was acutely aware of the danger to the stability of the nation that a contested succession could bring; and as the child of the founder of the Tudor dynasty he knew that posterity would compare him with his father principally by his success in perpetuating the line. A male heir would certainly have saved the marriage, but by the early 1520s it was clear that Catherine could become pregnant no more.

Around mid-decade the substantial concerns over the succession combined with two related developments: the king's infatuation with a clever and desirable lady of the court named Anne Boleyn (1507?1536) and his discovery of two texts in the Book of Leviticus that cast doubt on the theological probity of a marriage to a dead brother's wife. Henry soon decided that his marriage to Catherine was cursed by God and must be annulled forthwith; he would then marry Anne Boleyn, who would provide him with a son. Had Catherine been English, the papal dissolution of the marriage would have been granted immediately. But Catherine was the aunt of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (ruled 15191556), whose army had recently sacked and occupied Rome (1527); under the circumstances the pope could not help the king.

THE BREAK WITH ROME

Yet the king would not be deflected. Wolsey, unable to advance the matter sufficiently and detested by Anne, was discarded and died on his way to a final reckoning with his master in 1529. The cardinal's place was taken by new men sympathetic to Anne's cause and, like the woman who would be queen herself, attracted to the incipient Protestant ideas that had emanated from Germany over the previous decade. Chief among them were Wolsey's erstwhile assistant Thomas Cromwell (1485?1540), soon to replace his lord as the king's minister, and Thomas Cranmer (14891556), appointed archbishop of Canterbury in 1533. These two worked with the king and his mistress on a radical solution to the great matter: if the pope would not dissolve the marriage and allow Henry to marry Anne, then the king would follow his chosen course independently of Rome. The king was determined that the process should have the appearance of legitimacy; thus it was that Parliament was called into service to provide the legal apparatus that permitted Henry to have his way.

The Parliament that sat from 1529 to 1536 is rightly known to history as the Reformation Parliament. Though it had no program at the outset for making the break with Rome and establishing an independent Church of England, that is what it did. A succession of legislative instruments deprived Rome of its authority over the English spiritual estate, redirected its finances and property to the crown, and established the king as the supreme head of the English Church. At the same time, Henry was provided with his divorce and married to Anne in 1533; a child followed the same year, though to Henry's chagrin it was a daughter (the future Queen Elizabeth) rather than the expected son. By the middle of the decade Henry might have wondered if it had all been necessary: early in 1536 Catherine died of natural causes, and later the same year Anne, transformed from the enchanting mistress of the early days to a shrew of a wife, was executed on trumped-up charges of adultery and witchcraft, almost certainly the result of a contest between court factions seeking to make the best out of the king's growing dislike for his second marriage.

But by now the soap operalike succession of events had been overtaken by a much greater story. Though the king was and remained for the rest of his life conservative in his theological beliefs (with some idiosyncratic exceptions), the repudiation of the authority of Rome provided the opportunity for those of more reformist belief to make the newly established church one whose theology owed more to the emerging Protestant faith than to that of the Roman Church. During the 1530s Cromwell and Cranmer urged the king not to stop at assuming the supreme headship of the church and subsuming the institution into the state, but to appoint Protestants to key clerical positions, to issue the first officially sanctioned English Bible (published in 1539), and even to adopt a Protestant theological code for the church.

CONSERVATISM

Yet the advances came at a price. Henry's innate conservatism asserted itself more strongly in the wake of Anne's execution, as he married the religiously conventional Jane Seymour (1509?1537) and soon after faced a huge popular rebellion, known as the Pilgrimage of Grace, against the religious changes in the north of England. Though the rebellion was extinguished in 1537, Henry's concern at the pace of religious change became plain thereafter, and the momentum of reform slowed. Jane provided Henry with the much-desired son, the future Edward VI, in 1537, but she died days after giving birth.

As reform stagnated, Cromwell saw an opportunity to restore the initiative by pursuing the marriage of Henry to a German duchess with Protestant connections, Anne of Cleves (15151557). However, the plan backfired when the king set eyes on Anne for the first time just before the wedding in early 1540 and found her repulsive. Though the diplomatic situation was such that Henry had to go ahead with the marriage, Cromwell's position was fatally compromised: his enemies persuaded the king that he was disloyal, and he was executed in the summer of 1540.

The remainder of the reign saw few developments to match those of the 1530s, as the king put a stop to further doctrinal innovation and refocused his kingship on the pastime of his younger days, foreign policy. Henry ruled in the closing years without a minister, executing policy instead through a small body of elite advisors, the Privy Council. Foreign affairs were dominated by wars with Scotland and France. Scotland was invaded in 1542 and France in 1544; though both conflicts were concluded honorably (the Treaty of Greenwich with Scotland in 1543 and the Treaty of Ardres with France in 1546), there was little in the way of diplomatic compensation for the ruinous expenses incurred. All the while the king's marital adventures continued. In July 1540 Henry divorced Anne; less than three weeks later (on the same day as Cromwell's execution) he married Catherine Howard (1520?1542). Accused of adultery, she was beheaded in 1542. Henry married Catherine Parr (15121548), his sixth and last wife, in 1543. The oldest of Henry's brides and previously married herself, she proved adept at managing the failing and increasingly irascible king in his dotage, not only to her own profit, but also to that of the Protestant cause, restraining the persecution of reformers and ensuring that the young prince Edward was educated by men of reformed views. King Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547, leaving behind him an independent English church, a son and regency council who would over the next five-and-a-half years put England on a course of radical religious reform, and a daughter in Elizabeth who would consolidate and defend the national church and associated national identity that her father had done so much to establish.

See also Church of England ; Cromwell, Thomas ; Divorce ; Edward VI (England) ; Elizabeth I (England) ; Julius II (pope) ; Mary I (England) ; More, Thomas ; Reformation, Protestant ; Tudor Dynasty (England).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Source

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, 15091547. Edited by J. S. Brewer, J. Gairdner, and R. H. Brodie. London, 18621910.

Secondary Sources

Elton, Geoffrey R. Reform and Reformation: England, 15091558. London, 1977.

Guy, John. Tudor England. Oxford, 1988.

MacCulloch, Diarmaid. Thomas Cranmer: A Life. New Haven, 1996.

McEntegart, Rory. Henry VIII, the League of Schmalkalden, and the English Reformation. Woodbridge, U.K., and Rochester, N.Y., 2002.

Scarisbrick, J. J. Henry VIII. London, 1968.

Starkey, David. The Reign of Henry VIII: Personalities and Politics. London, 1985.

. Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII. London, 2003.

Weir, Alison. Henry VIII: The King and His Court. New York, 2001.

Rory McEntegart

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Henry VIII (king of England)

Henry VIII, 1491–1547, king of England (1509–47), second son and successor of Henry VII.

Early Life

In his youth he was educated in the new learning of the Renaissance and developed great skill in music and sports. He was created prince of Wales in 1503, following the death of his elder brother, Arthur. At that time he also received a papal dispensation to marry Arthur's widow, Katharine of Aragón. The marriage took place shortly after his accession in 1509.

Reign

Wolsey and Foreign Policy

As king, Henry inherited from his father a budget surplus and a precedent for autocratic rule. In 1511, Henry joined Pope Julius II, King Ferdinand II of Aragón, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and the Venetians in their Holy League against France. The campaign, organized by Henry's talented minister Thomas (later cardinal) Wolsey, had little success. A more popular conflict, which occurred during Henry's absence, was the victory (1513) of Thomas Howard, 2d duke of Norfolk, at Flodden over the invading Scottish forces under James IV.

Rapid changes in the diplomatic situation following the death of Ferdinand (1516) enabled Wolsey, now chancellor, to conclude a new alliance with France, soon expanded to include all the major European powers in a pledge of universal peace (1518). However, with the election of Ferdinand's grandson, already king of Spain, as Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1519, England's status as a secondary power was soon revealed. Henry joined Charles in war against France in 1522, but when Charles won a decisive victory over Francis at Pavia (1525), England was denied any of the spoils.

Henry and Wolsey tried to curb the alarming rise of imperial power by an unpopular alliance (1527) with France, which led to diplomatic and economic reprisals against England. Domestically, Henry had become less popular due to a series of new taxes aimed at providing revenue to bolster the depleted treasury. Despite the early advice of Sir Thomas More, one of Henry's councillors, Wolsey had remained the country's top minister, and by 1527 Wolsey had been forced to accept much of the blame for England's failures.

Divorce and the Reformation

Henry, determined to provide a male heir to the throne, decided to divorce Katharine and marry Anne Boleyn. English diplomacy became a series of maneuvers to win the approval of Pope Clement VII, who was in the power of emperor Charles V, Katharine's nephew. The king wished to invalidate the marriage on the grounds that the papal dispensation under which he and Katharine had been permitted to marry was illegal.

The pope reluctantly authorized a commission consisting of cardinals Wolsey and Campeggio to decide the issue in England. Katharine denied the jurisdiction of the court, and before a decision could be reached, Clement had the hearing adjourned (1529) to Rome. The failure of the commission, followed by a reconciliation between Charles and Francis I, led to the fall of Wolsey and to the initiation by Henry of an anti-ecclesiastical policy intended to force the pope's assent to the divorce.

Under the guidance of the king's new minister, Thomas Cromwell, the anticlerical Parliament drew up (1532) the Supplication Against the Ordinaries, a long list of grievances against the church. In a document known as the Submission of the Clergy, the convocation of the English church accepted Henry's claim that all ecclesiastical legislation was subject to royal approval. Acts stopping the payment of annates to Rome and forbidding appeals to the pope followed. The pope still refused to give way on the divorce issue, but he did agree to the appointment (1533) of the king's nominee, Thomas Cranmer, as archbishop of Canterbury. Cranmer immediately pronounced Henry's marriage with Katharine invalid and crowned Anne (already secretly married to Henry) queen, and the pope excommunicated Henry.

In 1534 the breach with Rome was completed by the Act of Supremacy, which made the king head of the Church of England (see England, Church of). Any effective opposition was suppressed by the Act of Succession entailing the crown on Henry's heirs by Anne, by an extensive and severe Act of Treason, and by the strict administration of the oath of supremacy. A number of prominent churchmen and laymen, including former chancellor Sir Thomas More, were executed, thus changing Henry's legacy from one of enlightenment to one of bloody suppression. Under Cromwell's supervision, a visitation of the monasteries in 1535 led to an act of Parliament in 1536 by which smaller monasteries reverted to the crown, and the others were confiscated within the next few years. By distributing some of this property among the landed gentry, Henry acquired the loyalty of a large and influential group.

Later Years

In 1536, Anne Boleyn, who had given birth to Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I) but failed to have a male heir, was convicted of adultery and incest and beheaded. Soon afterward, Henry married Jane Seymour, who in 1537 bore a son (later Edward VI) and died. Meanwhile in 1536–37 Henry had dealt brutally but effectively with rebellions in the north by subjects protesting economic hardships and the dissolution of the monasteries (see Pilgrimage of Grace). In 1536, Henry authorized the Ten Articles, which included some Protestant doctrinal points, and he approved (1537) publication of the Bible in English. However, the Six Articles passed by Parliament in 1539 reverted to the fundamental principles of Roman Catholic doctrine.

Another temporary peace (1538) between France and the empire seemed to pose the threat of Catholic intervention in England and helped Cromwell persuade the king to ally himself with the German Protestant princes by marrying (1540) Anne of Cleves. However, Henry disliked Anne and divorced her almost immediately. Cromwell, now completely discredited, was beheaded. The king then married Catherine Howard, but in 1542 she met the fate of Anne Boleyn. He married his sixth wife, Catherine Parr, in 1543.

In 1542 war had begun again with Scotland, still controlled through James V by French and Catholic interests. The fighting culminated in the rout of the Scots at Solway Moss and the death of James. Henry forced the Scots to agree to a treaty (1543) of marriage between Mary Queen of Scots and his own son, Edward, but this was to come to nothing. In 1543, Henry once more joined Charles in war against France and was able to take Boulogne (1544). The expensive war dragged on until 1546, when Henry secured a payment of indemnity for the city. When he died in 1547 he was succeeded, as he had hoped, by a son, but it was his daughter Elizabeth I who ruled over one of the greatest periods in England's history.

Character and Legacy

Henry was a supreme egotist. He advanced personal desires under the guise of public policy or moral right, forced his ministers to pay extreme penalties for his own mistakes, and summarily executed many with little excuse. In his later years he became grossly fat, paranoid, and unpredictable. Nonetheless he possessed considerable political insight, and he provided England with a visible and active national leader.

Although Henry seemed to dominate his Parliaments, the importance of that institution increased significantly during his reign. Other advances made during his reign were the institution of an effective navy and the beginnings of social and religious reform. The navy was organized for the first time as a permanent force. Wales was officially incorporated into England in 1536 with a great improvement in government administration there.

In 1521, Henry had been given the title "Defender of the Faith" by the pope for a treatise against Martin Luther, and he remained orthodox in his personal doctrinal views throughout his reign. However, the Six Articles were only fitfully enforced, the use of the English Bible was cautiously increased, seizure of church property continued, and the destruction of relics and shrines was begun. The way had been opened for Protestantism, and Henry presided over the dissolution of Irish monasteries and assumed (1541) the titles of king of Ireland and head of the Church of Ireland. At Henry's death, the council that he had appointed for the minority of Edward VI leaned toward the new doctrines.

Bibliography

See biographies by J. Bowle (1965), J. J. Scarisbrick (1968), C. Erickson (1984), and J. Ridley (1985); H. M. Smith, Henry VIII and the Reformation (1948); J. A. Kelly, The Matrimonial Trials of Henry VIII (1976); D. Starkey, The Reign of Henry VIII (1986); A. Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991), The Children of Henry VIII (1996, repr. 2008), and Henry VIII: The King and His Court (2001); S. Doran and D. Starkey, ed., Henry VIII: Man and Monarch (2009); C. Fletcher, The Divorce of Henry VIII (2012).

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Henry VIII

Henry VIII

Born: June 28, 1491
Greenwich, England

Died: January 28, 1547
Westminster, England

King of England

Henry VIII was king of England from 1509 to 1547. He established the Church of England and strengthened the position of king. But much of Henry VIII's legacy lies in his string of marriages during a quest for a son who would one day take his throne.

From boy to king

The second son of Henry VII (14571509), Henry VIII was born on June 28, 1491, at England's Greenwich Palace. As a child he studied Latin, Spanish, French, and Italian. He also studied mathematics, music, and theology (study of religion). Henry became an accomplished musician and played the lute, the organ, and the harpsichord. He also liked to hunt, wrestle, and joust (to fight on horseback). He also mastered the craft of archery.

Upon his father's death on April 21, 1509, Henry succeeded to a peaceful kingdom. He married Catherine of Aragon (14851536), widow of his brother Arthur, on June 11. Thirteen days later they were crowned at Westminster Abbey.

Foreign policy

As king of England, Henry moved quickly on a pro-Spanish and anti-French policy. In 1511, together with Spain, Pope Julius II, and others, Henry formed an alliance called the Holy League, in an attempt to drive French king Louis XII out of Italy. Henry claimed the French crown and sent troops to invade France. The bulk of the work in preparing for the invasion fell to Thomas Wolsey (c.14751530), who became Henry's trusted war minister. Henry's army won a great victory in France at Guinegate, and the capture of Tournai and Théorouanne.

Peace was made in 1514 with France as well as with the Scots, who invaded England and were defeated at Flodden (September 9, 1513). The marriage of Henry's sister, Mary, to Louis XII (14621515) sealed the French treaty. The marriage would secure a worthy alliance (partnership), but Henry longed for greater power. But not even the work of Wolsey, however, could win Henry the precious crown of the Holy Roman Empire. With deep disappointment he saw it bestowed in 1519 on Charles, the Spanish king. He tried to secure Wolsey's election as pope in 1523 but failed.

The search for a son

In 1525 Catherine turned forty, fairly old for someone in the sixteenth century. Her seven pregnancies produced only one healthy child, Mary, born May 18, 1516. Afraid of not having a legitimate (legal) male heir, Henry believed Catherine's inability to give birth to a boy was a judgment from God. Soon, Henry began an affair with Anne Boleyn (c.15071536), a servant to Catherine.

A period of great social improvements known as the Reformation (1500s religious movement that affected the society, politics, and the economy) was stalled by Henry's negotiations to nullify (to make void) his marriage. While Catherine would not retire to a nunnery, Anne Boleyn demanded marriageand the throne. A court sitting in June 1529 heard the case to nullify the marriage. It didn't work. He tried to secure Wolsey's election as pope in 1523 in hopes of using the papacy (office of the pope) to nullify his marriage. This too failed and Henry removed Wolsey from office in 1927.

Henry's strategy to rid himself of his wife matured when Thomas Cromwell (c. 14551540) became a councilor and his chief minister. Cromwell forced the clergy (Church officials) to meet in 1531 and accept Henry's headship of the Church. This position would allow Henry to finally annul his marriage. Anne's pregnancy in January 1533 brought matters to a head. In a fever of activity Henry married her on January 25, 1533; secured papal approval in March; had a court declare his marriage to Catherine invalid in May; and waited for the birth of a son. On September 7, 1533, Elizabeth was born. Henry was so disappointed that he did not attend her christening.

A third marriage

Anne's attitude and moody temperament did not suit Henry, and her failure to produce a male heir worsened their relationship. She miscarried (a premature birth which results in the baby's death) a baby boy on January 27, 1536. It was a costly miscarriage, for Henry was already interested in another woman, Jane Seymour. Now determined on a second divorce, Henry brought charges of treason (high crimes against one's country) against Anne for alleged adultery (having affairs outside the marriage). Henry had her executed on May 19 and married Jane ten days later.

Jane brought a measure of comfort to Henry's personal life. She also produced a son and heir, Edward, on October 12, 1537. But Jane died twelve days later. Henry was deeply grieved, and he did not remarry for three years. He was not in good health and suffered from headaches, a painful leg problem, and blockage in his lungs which made him temporarily speechless.

War and marriage

The course of diplomatic (political) events, particularly the fear that Spanish king Charles V (15001548) might attempt an invasion of England, led Henry to seek an alliance with the Protestant powers of Europe. To solidify this alliance, Henry married the Protestant princess Anne of Cleves on January 12, 1540. His realization that Charles did not intend to attack, coupled with his distaste for Anne, led to the annulment of his marriage to Anne on July 9, 1540.

Henry was soon introduced to the nineteen-year-old Catherine Howard. He married Catherine within three weeks of his annulment to Anne of Cleves and entered into the later years of his life. In 1542, Catherine was beheaded on charges of adultery. The same year, the Scottish war began as did plans for renewed hostilities with France. War with France began in 1543 and dragged on for three years, achieving a solitary triumph before Boulogne (1545).

Henry then married the twice-widowed Catherine Parr on July 12, 1543. Though she bore him no children, she made him happy. Her religious views were somewhat more radical than those of Henry, who had revised the conservative Six Articles (1539) with his own hand. During his last years he attempted to slow the radical religious tendencies which resulted from the formal break with Rome.

The king was unwell in late 1546 and early 1547, suffering from terrible fevers. Before he died on January 28, 1547, Henry reflected that "the mercy of Christ [is] able to pardon me all my sins, though they were greater than they be."

The legacy of Henry VIII

Henry came to the throne with great gifts and high hopes. His relentless search for an heir led him into an accidental reformation of the Church not entirely to his liking. His desire to cut a figure on the European battlefields led him into costly wars.

Though personally interested in education, Henry sponsored no far-reaching educational policies. However, his interest in naval matters resulted in a larger navy and a well-developed naval administration. He brought Wales more fully into union with the English by the Statute of Wales (1536) and made Ireland a kingdom (1542). The great innovations came out of the Reformation Statutes, not the least of which was the Act in Restraint of Appeals, in which England was declared an empire, and the Act of Supremacy, in which Henry became supreme head of the Anglican Church.

Henry ruled ruthlessly in a ruthless age. He was a king who wished to be succeeded by a son, and for this cause he bravely and rashly risked the anger of the other rulers in Europe. That he did what he did is a testament to his will, personal gifts, and good fortune.

For More Information

Lacey, Robert. The Life and Times of Henry VIII. New York: Praeger, 1974.

Scarisbrick, J. J. Henry VIII. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968.

Smith, Lacey Baldwin. Henry VIII: The Mask of Royalty. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971.

Weir, Alison. Henry VIII: The King and His Court. New York: Ballantine Books, 2001.

Weir, Alison. The Six Wives of Henry VIII. London: Bodley Head, 1991.

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Henry VIII (1491–1547)

Henry VIII (14911547)

Tudor dynasty king of England from 1509 until his death, best known for his defiance of the Catholic pope in the matter of his divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his establishment of the Church of England. Born in a royal palace in Greenwich, he was the son of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York and became heir apparent on the death of his elder brother Arthur in 1502.

Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon, was arranged by his father in order to make a useful alliance with the kingdom of Spain, recently united by the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella of Castile. The younger Henry, although opposed to the marriage, went through with it after the death of his father and just before his own coronation as the king of England.

A patron of the arts, and himself a competent musician and poet, Henry invited scholars, musicians, and humanists to his court. He ambitiously sought a place for England in the political affairs and wars of the European continent, and to this end joined the Holy League with Spain and Venice against France in 1512. He contested control of Italy with Francis I, who became king of France in 1515; after Francis was captured at the Battle of Pavia in 1525, Henry joined the League of Cognac with Pope Clement VII to prevent Emperor Charles V from dominating the Italian peninsula.

Early in his reign Henry was a staunch Catholic, and through his writings against the teachings of Protestant reformer Martin Luther earned the honorary title of Defender of the Faith. But when it became apparent that Catherine of Aragon would not provide him with a male heir, Henry petitioned Clement for a dissolution of his marriage, which Clement adamantly refused to grant. On the suggestion of his adviser Thomas Cromwell, Henry declared an end to the supremacy of the pope and the establishment of an English church with himself as its leader. His break with the church was sealed by his secret marriage to Anne Boleyn in 1533.

When the pope excommunicated the king for this act, the English parliament passed measures to ban appeals from English religious courts to the pope, to force the English clergy to elect bishops that Henry nominated and, by the Act of Supremacy, to recognize Henry as the supreme head of the Church of England. English citizens had to acknowledge this Act by swearing an oath; punishment for defiance was imprisonment or execution; a measure that was taken against Henry's own Lord Chancellor and trusted adviser Sir Thomas More. Uprisings against the new church were put down without mercy; Catholic shrines were destroyed, and the property of the church was seized by the crown and redistributed to loyal ministers, nobles, and courtiers.

Anne Boleyn, mother of the future Elizabeth I, was unable to produce a male heir; for this Henry blithely arranged charges of witchcraft, incest, and adultery against her, for which she was executed. Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, gave birth to Prince Edward in 1537 but died shortly afterward. A marriage to a German princess, Anne of Cleves, ended swiftly in divorce, after which Henry married Catherine Howard. This fifth wife was executed in 1542; Henry's sixth and last wife, Catherine Parr, survived him.

Henry's reign saw an important transformation in England to Protestantism, an event that would have violent repercussions in the kingdom for the next century. He annexed Wales, defeated the rebellious Scots at the Battle of Solway Moss, and captured the port of Boulogne from the French, who regained the city through the payment of a ransom. The more prominent role of England in the affairs of Europe would be affirmed by political and military victories achieved by Henry's daughter Elizabeth in the last half of the sixteenth century.

See Also: Boleyn, Anne; Cromwell, Thomas; Elizabeth I; More, Sir Thomas; Tudor dynasty

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Henry VIII

Henry VIII (1491–1547) King of England (1509–47). Second son of Henry VII, he became heir on the death of his elder brother, Arthur, in 1502. His aggressive foreign policy, administered by Cardinal Wolsey, depleted the royal treasury. Henry, supported by Thomas Cromwell, presided over the first stages of the English Reformation. He managed to obtain a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and married Anne Boleyn (1533), mother of the future Elizabeth I. In 1535, he executed Anne for adultery. Thomas More, Henry's former chancellor, was also executed for refusing to accept Henry as head of the Church. Henry then married Jane Seymour, who died shortly after the birth of the future Edward VI. His next marriage, to Anne of Cleves, ended in divorce in 1540, and with the execution of Cromwell. Shortly after, he married Catherine Howard (executed 1542) and finally Catherine Parr in 1543 who survived him. Henry's reign will also be remembered for the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536–40), which brought temporary relief from financial problems, but at the cost of great social unrest.

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Henry VIII

Henry VIII (b Greenwich, 1491; d Windsor, 1547). Eng. king (from 1509). Talented musician and composer. Attrib. to him are 17 songs and several pieces for viols. The anthem O Lord, the Maker of All Things, however, is not by Henry, as was long supposed, but by W. Mundy. Only surviving sacred work is 3-part motet Quam pulchra es.

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Henry VIII

Henry VIII.
1. (Henri VIII) Opera in 4 acts by Saint-Saëns to lib. by Détroyat and Silvestre, comp. 1883. Prod. Paris 1883, CG 1889, NY 1983. Rev. to 3 acts 1889, restored to 4 in 1909.

2. Incidental mus. to Shakespeare's play by Sullivan, 1878, and by German, 1892.

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Henry VIII

Henry VIII

BORN: June 28, 1491 • Greenwich, England

DIED: January 28, 1547 • London, England

English king

By breaking away from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, Henry VIII initiated a revolution that resulted, after his death, in a golden age for England. But his reign was marked by controversies and problems. Intent on ensuring that his family line would inherit the throne, he persecuted his political rivals and created religious conflicts that threatened to tear the country apart. His ill-advised military actions, intended to enhance his own glory, almost bankrupted the country and led to further discontent among his subjects. By emphasizing his supreme power as king, Henry strengthened the position of the monarchy in England, but he also caused resentment among the nobles who wanted a larger share of power. He left his successors to rule a country that was divided by religious strife and remained vulnerable to rival European powers.

"I do not choose anyone to have in his power to command me, nor will I ever suffer it."

A royal upbringing

The second son of Henry VII (1457–1509) and Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV (1442–1483), Henry VIII grew up without much training in the art of ruling a country because his older brother, Arthur, was expected to assume the throne when their father died. Highly intelligent, Henry was interested in scholarly subjects and received a relatively good education. He became fluent in six languages and was interested in mathematics, astronomy (the study of the stars, planets, and other celestial bodies), geometry, and theology (the study of religion). He was also a talented musician. He could play several instruments, and he composed music as well.

Tall, strong, and strikingly handsome, Henry was a superb athlete. He loved to ride horses, hunt, and play sports, including tennis. He could dance all night without getting tired. He enjoyed tournaments and jousting—a type of athletic contest in which participants on horses tried to unseat their opponents by riding toward them and striking them with lances. Henry also admired the arts, and he gave them generous financial support.

Arthur died in 1502, making Henry heir to the throne. When Henry became king after his father's death in 1509, it was England's first peaceful succession (the sequence in which persons legally become king or queen) since 1422. Henry's father, who came from a family of mostly Welsh ancestry, had taken the throne after defeating his rival, Richard III (1452–1485) in battle in 1485. This ended the long and bitter War of the Roses (1455–1485), in which the Lancaster family and the York family fought for their right to rule England. Henry VII became the first English king in the Tudor family.

Early rule

Lacking a clear sense of what he wished to accomplish as king, Henry VIII often focused more on his image than on policy. Wanting his subjects to hold him in awe, he cared very much about ceremonies and luxuries that emphasized his majesty and authority. He relied heavily on the advice of his councilors when he had to make decisions about governing. Even so, Henry never let it look as if he were not in total control of his realm.

Just a few weeks after becoming king, Henry married Catherine of Aragon (1485–1536), daughter of the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand (1452–1516) and Isabella (1451–1504). Catherine was the widow of Henry's brother, Arthur, and Henry received special permission from the pope, head of the Roman Catholic Church, to marry her. In 1511 Catherine gave birth to a son, but the baby lived only a few weeks. Several later pregnancies resulted in miscarriages.

Frustrated that he had not yet fathered an heir, the young king decided to join Spain in a war against France. He hoped that military success would bring him glory. But this decision prompted James IV of Scotland (1473–1513), an ally of France, to invade England. Under the military leadership of Thomas Howard (Earl of Surrey; 1443–1524), the English defeated the Scots at Flodden Field in 1513. James died in battle. Though England could claim military victory, the war was expensive and contributed to England's worsening financial problems.

Did Henry VIII Suffer from Syphilis?

Some of the symptoms that made King Henry VIII's later life so miserable suggest that he could have been suffering from syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease that had no cure in his day. Left untreated, the syphilis bacterium stays in the body and damages internal organs, including the brain, nerves, heart, blood vessels, liver, joints, bones, and eyes. Henry's leg sores, for example, have sometimes been explained as the result of a serious jousting accident he suffered as a young man, but could also have been the result of syphilis. His increasingly irrational behavior as he aged has also been attributed to syphilis. In addition, his difficulty in fathering a child could have been related to this disease. His first wife, Catherine of Aragon, suffered several miscarriages—a pattern that can be typical when one parent has syphilis. Or Catherine herself may have been infected by her husband; some 40 percent of pregnancies among women who have syphilis result in a miscarriage. Henry's daughter, Mary, had various health problems that may have been caused by a congenital (from birth) syphilitic condition.

Many doctors in Henry's own time believed the king had syphilis, which was commonly known as "the pox." But the question has never been satisfactorily answered. Some modern doctors believe the evidence strongly supports a diagnosis of syphilis, but others say that there is not enough information to confirm or reject this disease as a cause of Henry's medical problems.

In 1515 Henry made Thomas Wolsey (1474–1530), who was Archbishop of York and a cardinal of the Catholic Church, his primary advisor. Wolsey, an ambitious and greedy man, was known for his corruption and hypocrisy. Hoping to become pope one day, Wolsey advised Henry to meddle in affairs between Spain and France in the 1520s. The cardinal wanted to make a political alliance that would strengthen support for his own position of power in the church. But Spain resented England's interference, and the Spanish government retaliated by blocking English access to the cloth trade with the Netherlands. Because this trade was an important part of the English economy, its loss caused great anger in England.

Increasing financial problems also created discontent. In 1523 Wolsey agreed to call Parliament, England's legislative body, into session to consider raising taxes. But Parliament approved amounts that were far too low, and the next year Wolsey attempted to impose an additional tax. This move proved so unpopular that Henry cancelled it. By 1527 England had almost no money left in its treasury.

"The King's great matter"

Unpopular as a result of his bad financial policies, Henry also faced more personal frustrations. After several years of marriage he still had no male heir. Only one of his children by Catherine, Mary I (1516–1558; see entry) had survived; since then, the queen had not become pregnant again. Fearing that a female succession would be challenged, Henry wanted to dissolve his marriage, which would leave him free to marry again and father a legitimate son.

With Wolsey as his spokesperson, the king petitioned the pope to dissolve his marriage to Catherine. But the pope feared angering Catherine's nephew, Charles V (1500–1558), Holy Roman Emperor and king of Spain. For six years he refused to give an answer. Meanwhile, Henry convinced himself that he had committed a sin by marrying Catherine. He became obsessed with obtaining the divorce, which he began calling "the King's great matter."

In 1529 Henry removed Wolsey as his advisor and had him arrested. He was angry that the cardinal had failed to persuade the pope to grant the divorce. If Wolsey had not died of natural causes on his way to prison, Henry would likely have ordered him executed for treason. In 1531 Thomas Cromwell (1485–1540) became Henry's chief advisor. Cromwell devised a plan: pass a law stating that the English church would make its own decisions without appealing to the pope. This law enabled Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556) to declare Henry's marriage to Catherine void in 1533. By this time Henry had made his mistress, Anne Boleyn (1507–1536) pregnant and had secretly married her. At the same time that he announced Henry's divorce, Cranmer legitimated this new marriage. After the princess Elizabeth I (1533–1603; see entry) was born, the pope excommunicated Henry, depriving him of the right to worship as a Catholic.

The Reformation in England

In 1534 Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy, which declared the king the supreme head of the church in England. This step, the result of Henry's concern about the succession, created a complete break with the Catholic Church in Rome and led to revolution. Concerned about maintaining the loyalty of his subjects, Henry prosecuted prominent leaders who refused to accept his new religious authority. Among these was the king's former friend and counselor, Thomas More (1478–1535), who was beheaded for treason in 1535.

Henry then took over England's monasteries, which owned huge treasures, including gold and silver religious objects as well as valuable land. The English people had been required to pay income to these monasteries, and this substantial income now went to the government. The sale of monastic lands and objects also provided the royal treasury with huge profits, and shifted new wealth to the nobles. This allowed the nobles, in time, to assume more influential roles in England's affairs.

Henry's goal had never been to create religious dissent. He disapproved of Martin Luther (1483–1546), for example, a German monk who in 1517 had protested Catholic policies that he and other reformers considered corrupt. These reformers wanted to restore the church to the purity and simplicity that they believed had been its original state. They objected to the influence of the pope and the clergy, who were often wealthy and did not live by the principles they preached to others. But Henry did not disapprove of Catholicism. In fact, he had written a best-selling book in 1521 attacking Luther, which had inspired the pope to give Henry the title of Defender of the Faith. But the Act of Succession, in effect, supported the same cause that Luther championed in Europe—the Protestant Reformation, a sixteenth-century religious movement that aimed to reform the Roman Catholic Church and resulted in the establishment of Protestant churches. Henry's break with the pope created deep conflicts in England between those who wished to remain loyal to the Catholic Church and those who wanted to embrace a reformed, Protestant religion. Religious conflict continued throughout Henry's reign and the reigns of his heirs, resulting in years of controversy and bloodshed. In the end England became an officially Protestant country, but enduring anti-Catholic feeling shaped attitudes in England for centuries.

A sequence of marriages

Soon after Elizabeth was born, Henry grew tired of Anne Boleyn, who had failed to give birth to a son. In 1536 he ordered Anne executed for adultery—a charge that many considered false. Henry then married Jane Seymour (1509–1537), who in 1537 gave the king what he had long wanted: a son, Edward (1537–1553). But Jane died in childbirth, leaving Henry free to marry again. This time, on Cromwell's advice, he took Anne of Cleves (1515–1557) as his wife. But the king disliked her so much that he divorced her six months later. He also ordered Cromwell's execution.

In 1540 the aging king married Catherine Howard (1520–1542), a twenty-year-old beauty. Though this marriage brought Henry some brief happiness, Catherine's flirtations with other men caused the king to order her execution in 1542. His final marriage, to Katherine Parr (1512–1548), took place in 1543. Henry got along well with Katherine, who helped him renew his relationship with his daughters.

By this time Henry was no longer a handsome and athletic man. He had grown extremely fat. His waistline was at least 57 inches around, and he was said to weigh almost 400 pounds. He suffered from many illnesses, including headaches and sores on his legs that often became infected and gave off a bad odor. Unable to walk, he had to be carried around in a chair and hauled up stairs by ropes and pulleys. His moods grew unpredictable, and he could often act in cruel ways. When Catherine of Aragon died in 1536, for example, he held a ball to celebrate the occasion. Fearful of anyone with royal blood who might become a rival to the Tudor dynasty, he found ways to charge them with treason and ordered their executions. He even supervised the passage of the "Acte for Poysoning" in 1531, which declared that willful murder by poison was high treason and punishable by a new form of execution: boiling to death. Once admired by his subjects as a magnificent king, Henry became an object of fear and ridicule.

Final years

Henry's last years were marked by increasing ill health and bad temper. As tensions worsened between Catholics and Protestants, Henry struggled to keep his kingdom united. He often lost his temper with his councilors, and he complained that his subjects did not appreciate what a splendid ruler he was.

Though his health was poor, Henry remained active in government. But he did not have a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve for his country; many of his decisions, historians believe, resulted from his wish for personal glory. His actions toward Scotland, for example, proved disastrous. When hostilities between Spain and France resumed in 1542, Henry decided to join Spain, prompting Scotland to ally itself with France. England then invaded Scotland. In response the Scots marched into northern England but were defeated at Solway Moss in November. Shortly after this battle, the Scottish king died, leaving his infant daughter, Mary Stuart (1542–1587; see entry), queen of Scotland. Scotland and England negotiated peace terms in the Treaties of Greenwich in 1543, which stated that Mary would marry Henry's son, Edward. But when the English Parliament refused to ratify the treaties, the Scottish Parliament changed its decision and rejected them.

Furious, and determined to bend Scotland to his will, Henry ordered a series of further attacks. Known as the "Rough Wooing," these raids only hardened the Scots' resolve to resist English control. Scotland strengthened its alliance with France, and arranged for Mary Stuart to marry the heir to the French throne. War with Scotland continued until 1546 and drained England's economy. To pay for the war Henry was forced to sell off monastic property, which deprived the country of a source of future income. He also devalued the currency, which allowed him to pay some debts but soon led to extreme inflation.

By the end of 1546 Henry was near death. Catherine Parr helped to persuade him to change his will, naming his daughters Mary and Elizabeth as next in line to the succession after their brother, Edward. Henry died at Whitehall Palace in Westminster, London, on January 28, 1547.

Legacy

Henry VIII achieved some notable successes, but his foremost act, the split with the Roman Catholic Church, had significant historical consequences. This act propelled England into a revolution that led, during Elizabeth's reign, to a golden age of exploration, expansion, and learning. Yet Henry's own reign was marked by curious shortcomings. He became so obsessed with the idea of keeping the Tudor dynasty in power that he ignored one of the most important developments of the time: the exploration of the Western Hemisphere, in which Spain and Portugal were already busily engaged. Exploitation of the Americas was making Spain and Portugal extremely rich, but because Henry did not support voyages of exploration, England did not become a major participant in this trade until Elizabeth's reign.

Henry VIII strengthened the position of the monarchy and improved government administration. He supported the creation of a navy, incorporated Wales into the kingdom and granted equal rights to the Welsh, declared himself king of Ireland, and strengthened the role of Parliament. He was able to impose some order in a country that was divided by religious conflict as well as rivalries for the throne, but he did so through fear and the brutal suppression of dissent. He persecuted his enemies, Protestant and Catholic alike, and he destroyed whole families that he feared might oppose him. Henry succeeded most of all in making himself into the image of a magnificent and all-powerful king who was more feared than admired.

For More Information

BOOKS

Bernard, G. W. The King's Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church. New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2005.

Oliver, Marilyn Tower. The Importance of Henry VIII. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 2004.

Weir, Alison. Henry VIII: The King and His Court. New York: Ballantine Books, 2001.

Wilson, Derek. In the Lion's Court: Power, Ambition, and Sudden Death in the Reign of Henry VIII. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001.

PERIODICALS

Kesserling, K. J. "A Draft of the 1531 'Acte for Poysoning.'" English Historical Review, September 1, 2001.

Walker, Greg. "Henry VIII and the Invention of the Royal Court." History Today, February 1, 1997.

WEB SITES

"Henry VIII." BBC: Historic Figures. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/henry_viii_king.shtml (accessed on July 11, 2006).

"Henry VIII." Kings and Queens of England. http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page19.asp (accessed on July 11, 2006).

Hutton, Ronald. "Henry VIII: Majesty with Menace." Church and State: Monarchs and Leaders. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/state/monarchs_leaders/majesty_menace_01.shtml (accessed on July 11, 2006).

"Letter of Thomas Cranmer on Henry VIII's Divorce, 1533." Medieval Sourcebook. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/cramner-hen8.html (accessed on July 11, 2006).

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Henry VIII

Henry VIII

Born: June 28, 1491
Greenwich, England
Died: January 28, 1547
London, England

King

" … if he were still free he would choose her in preference to all others."

Henry VIII, upon marrying Catherine of Aragon.

Henry VIII is best known today as the king who discarded—or beheaded—his wives because they did not give him a male heir. He is also famous for defying the pope (the supreme head of the Roman Catholic Church). As a consequence of the pope's refusal to grant Henry a divorce from his first wife, Henry withdrew from the Roman Catholic Church and created the Church of England. Henry was also a great supporter of the English Renaissance. Although his daughter, Elizabeth I (1533–1603; see entry), is usually associated with the height of English culture, Henry set the stage by encouraging new humanist ideas that were being brought from Italy in the sixteenth century. (Humanism was a literary and scholarly movement based on the revival of ancient Greek and Roman culture that was the basis of the Renaissance.)

Needs a male heir

Henry VIII was the second son of the first Tudor family ruler, King Henry VII (1457–1509; ruled 1485–1509), and his wife, Elizabeth of York. An excellent student as a child, he learned Latin, Spanish, French, and Italian and studied mathematics, music, and theology. He became an accomplished musician and played several instruments. He composed hymns, ballads, and two masses (musical compositions used in Roman Catholic worship services). He also liked hunting, wrestling, and jousting. Henry VIII's older brother, Arthur (1486–1502), was originally the heir to the English throne. However, Arthur died in 1502, only a year after he married Catherine of Aragon (1485–1536), the daughter of the Spanish monarchs (kings and queen who has sole ruling power) Ferdinand II of Aragon (1452–1516; ruled 1479–1516) and Isabella I of Castile (1451–1504; ruled 1474–1504). The marriage was intended to forge an alliance between England and Spain, the most powerful kingdom in Europe at the time. Upon the death of Henry VII on April 21, 1509, Henry VIII took the throne of a peaceful kingdom. He married Catherine of Aragon on June 11, and thirteen days later they were crowned at Westminster Abbey. He enthusiastically remarked to his father-in-law that he loved Catherine so much that if he were single he would still choose her over other women.

Henry and Catherine remained happily married until 1527, but they had not had a male heir, despite the queen's numerous pregnancies. Only a daughter, Mary (1516–1568; ruled as Mary I, 1553–58), lived more than a few days. At that time the Salic Law prohibited a woman from serving as a monarch, so the king needed a son if he wanted to retain the Tudor family's hold on the throne. During this period Henry was devoted to the Roman Catholic Church (then the only Christian religion in Europe) and the pope. He joined the Holy League, an alliance headed by Pope Julius II (1443–1513; reigned 1503–13), which sought to prevent the French from acquiring territory in Italy. In 1513 Henry invaded northern France and personally commanded English troops at the famous Battle of the Spurs near the town of Thérouanne. The battle was given this name because of the speed with which the French drove their horses into retreat. England then acquired control of Thérouanne and another town, Tournai. Henry was not consulted when the treaty was signed, however, and he benefited less than he had expected. As a result he dismissed his chief ministers, who had been carried over from his father's reign. He gave control of the government to Thomas Wolsey (c. 1475–1530), a churchman who was also lord chancellor (head government official), archbishop (head of a church district) of York, and a cardinal (a church official ranking directly below the pope). Henry also supported the Catholic Church against the reform efforts of the German priest Martin Luther (1483–1546; see entry) who, in 1517, initiated the movement that became the Protestant Reformation. When Henry wrote The Defense of the Seven Sacraments, the pope expressed his appreciation by giving him the title "Defender of the Faith."

Seeks divorce, brings Reformation

By 1527 it had become apparent that Catherine would bear no more children, and Henry became concerned about who would succeed him as king. Determined to continue the Tudor dynasty, he did not believe the English people would accept his daughter Mary, his only heir, as their monarch. Henry thus began to seek a divorce from Catherine so he could marry a younger woman who might give him a son. At about that time he fell in love with Anne Boleyn (c. 1507–1536), a lady-in-waiting (personal attendant) at Catherine's court, and he wanted to make her his wife. Henry mistakenly believed that it was a woman's fault if she did not bear a male child.

Henry and Wolsey appealed to Pope Clement VII (1478–1534; reigned 1523–34) for an annulment (declaration that a marriage is invalid) and permission for the king remarry. Under ordinary circumstances the pope would have granted such a request: Renaissance popes engaged extensively in politics, and Henry had gained the favor of the papacy (office of the pope). But Catherine opposed the divorce, as did her nephew, Charles V (1500–1558; see entry), king of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor. The pope did not feel that he could oppose Charles on the divorce since emperor's troops had sacked (robbed and burned) Rome, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, in 1527, and Clement wanted Charles's support in other political matters. In mid-1529 the pope did arrange to have the divorce tried by Wolsey and Lorenzo Campeggio (1474–1539), an Italian cardinal, in London. In the end, the case was moved back to Rome and no verdict was reached. As a result, the irate king dismissed Wolsey and summoned what came to be known as the Reformation Parliament (ruling body of Great Britain). Wolsey was allowed to retain his position as archbishop of York, but he was forbidden to meddle in politics. When he was found to be corresponding with the French, he was summoned to London. Wolsey probably would have been executed had he not died a natural death in 1530.

For several years the king and Parliament were content with measures that destroyed the independence of the Catholic Church in England. For instance, the Conditional Restraint of Annates, which was enacted in 1532, put financial pressure on the papacy. By the beginning of 1533 Henry had a new chief minister, Thomas Cromwell (c. 1485–1540), and a new archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556). Cromwell suggested that England should break ties with the Roman Catholic Church so that the archbishop rather than the pope could grant the divorce. Cranmer was eager to assist. So in January 1533 Henry married Anne Boleyn, even though he was still married to Catherine. By that time Anne was pregnant, and her pregnancy was causing considerable controversy at court. A few months later Parliament passed the famous Act in Restraint of Appeals, which said that no judicial decisions made in England could be appealed in Rome. In fact, the measure went even further by stating that the papacy had no jurisdiction in England. The following May, Cranmer granted Henry's divorce from Catherine and approved the marriage to Anne. In September, Anne bore Henry's second daughter, Elizabeth (1533–1603; ruled as Elizabeth I, 1558–1603).

The Protestant Reformation in England thus sprang from political manipulation and was imposed by the government. Elsewhere in Europe, reform was achieved through protest movements staged by the people, who demanded religious freedom through changes in their governments. The English Parliament continued to determine the course of religion, passing acts that named Henry VIII the Supreme Head of the Church, cut off payments to the papacy, regulated doctrine (church teachings), and ordered dismantling of monasteries (houses for male members of Catholic religious orders) and convents (houses for female members of Catholic religious orders) in the kingdom. Many people regretted these actions, some of which forbade the worship of popular saints and ordered the destruction of religious images. Reform was welcomed by others who believed the Catholic Church had become corrupt.

Henry Closes Monasteries

One of the most important events of Henry VIII's reign was the closing of monasteries. At the beginning of the Tudor era the religious houses owned as much as one-fourth of all land in England. These estates had been given or bequeathed (granted in wills) to monks by religiously devout men and women in exchange for prayers for their souls after they died. Although the monasteries were reported to be corrupt, many historians believe Parliament used this as an excuse to order the smaller houses closed in 1536. Residents were allowed to transfer to larger houses that remained open or to renounce (refuse to obey) their vows. Most chose to renounce their vows. The great abbeys (churches connected with monasteries) were suppressed one by one in the next few years. A second statute, passed in 1540, legalized these closures and mandated the seizing of all remaining property. Former monastic possessions were managed by a new financial bureau, the Court of Augmentations. The court paid small pensions (financial allowances for retired people) to the former monks and nuns, and larger ones to the former abbots and priors (heads of monasteries) who had cooperated in the closing of their houses. By the time of Henry VIII's death in 1547, most of the monastic land had been sold to noblemen and members of the gentry. These people would thus profit from the continuation of the Reformation.

The loss of the monasteries was felt in various ways. Earlier they had been great centers of learning and the arts, but now the great monastic libraries were divided and sent to other locations. Some collections remained in cathedrals that had earlier been associated with monasteries, like Canterbury and Dudiam, and others were acquired by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge or by private collectors. Much of the wealth seized from the religious houses was spent on warfare.

Beheads two wives

In 1536 Henry came to believe that Anne Boleyn had not been faithful to him. She was charged with adultery (having a sexual relationship outside of marriage) and beheaded at the Tower of London (a prison for royalty and the nobility). Henry then married his third wife, Jane Seymour (c. 1509–1537), who succeeded in giving him a male heir, Edward (1537–1553; ruled as Edward VI, 1547–53), in 1537. She died a few months later from complications of childbirth. The grief-stricken king remained single until 1540, when Cromwell persuaded him to marry Anne of Cleves (1515–1557), the sister of a minor ruler of Germany. The goal was to forge a Protestant alliance that could be useful if the papacy and the Catholic states of Europe decided to make war on England. One sight of Anne, however, convinced Henry he had been deceived by reports about her attractive appearance and by a flattering portrait of her that he had commissioned. Shortly after Cranmer performed the marriage ceremony he began to arrange a divorce.

In 1540 Henry married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard (c. 1520–1542), who was Anne Boleyn's cousin and who shared Anne's fate. Catherine was charged with adultery and beheaded in 1542. Neither she nor the king's last wife, Catherine Parr (1512–1548), bore him children. At one time or another both of his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, had been declared illegitimate (born out of wedlock). Shortly before his death, however, Henry drafted a will stating that the throne might pass in the normal order to all of his children, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth. When Henry died in 1547 Edward was proclaimed King Edward VI, although he was only nine years old. Henry's wives Anne of Cleves and Catherine of Parr both outlived him.

Following the break with the Catholic Church, Henry and his advisers grew more and more concerned about the Catholic countries—primarily Spain and France—on the continent of Europe. They feared that Catholic nations would form an alliance and declare war on England in an effort to eliminate both the king and his Protestant church. Henry's government seized vast sums of money from the Catholic Church, especially the dissolved religious houses, but there were still not enough funds to meet military expenses. Taxation by the Parliament reached new heights in the 1540s, and expenditures on the navy and new fortifications were unprecedented. A second invasion of France in 1543, coupled with a campaign against Scotland, was costly but brought no real benefits.

Supports Renaissance

The Italian Renaissance reached England during the early years of Henry's reign, and he became the true Renaissance prince. Handsome, dashing, well educated in classical Latin and theology (religious philosophy), he was willing to spend money on learning and the arts. Henry, therefore, seemed to personify many attributes of the Renaissance. In 1520 great pageantry, which was characteristic of the most prominent Renaissance courts, adorned the meeting between Henry and Francis I (1494–1547; see entry), the Renaissance king of France, at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in France. The great humanist Thomas More (1478–1535; see entry) served as his lord chancellor (chief secretary) in the 1530s. (Henry had More beheaded when he would not acknowledge the king's supremacy over the pope.) The German artist Hans Holbein (c.1497–1543; see accompanying box) was Henry's court painter, and the English scholar Thomas Elyot (c. 1490–1546) was one of his secretaries. The Renaissance palace at Hampton Court, originally built by Thomas Wolsey, was taken over by Henry after Wolsey's fall and was the scene of many splendid entertainments. Saint Paul's School was founded early in Henry's reign by John Colet (c. 1466–1519), the learned dean (head) of Saint Paul's Cathedral. It was the first grammar school to provide rigorous instruction in the classical languages. The Latin grammar written for Saint Paul's by William Lily was the first text of classical Latin (the language used by ancient Romans). Elyot's dictionary (1538) was the first to provide English equivalents for all the words in the classical Latin vocabulary.

Hans Holbein, Court Painter

The German painter Hans Holbein the Younger (c. 1497–1543) was one of the best-known portraitists of the northern Renaissance. He still ranks among the great portrait painters in European art history. He is particularly famous as court painter for King Henry VIII. He painted portraits of Henry; two of the king's wives, Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves; and Princess Christina of Denmark, to whom Henry unsuccessfully proposed. Holbein also did portrait paintings, drawings, and miniatures of various members of the court, including the French ambassador and his house guest, the Bishop of Lavour. Painted in 1533 and titled The Ambassadors, the double portrait includes the haunting image of a skull that serves as a contrast to youth, intellect, and good health. Other portrait subjects were the humanist Thomas More and young German merchants of the Hansa (trading organization) headquarters, or "Steelyard," in London.

Holbein's portraits were cherished by their owners. Yet before the advent of color photography in the twentieth century, when copies of his works were reproduced, he was relatively unknown. Holbein was not honored in Germany primarily because he moved first to Switzerland and later to England. Beginning in the twentieth century, however, exhibitions of the painter's works were held in Europe and the United States.

Less attractive features began to surface during the second half of Henry's reign. He proved to have limited intellectual abilities, and he was unwilling to give sufficient attention to the details of government. He was often unfaithful to his closest friends, even ordering the executions of two wives and two of his ministers. In his last years he did remain loyal to Catherine Parr and Thomas Cranmer, both of whom were accused of holding extreme religious views. In spite of his shortcomings, Henry was a popular king. Even at the end of his life, when he had become ill, obese, and tyrannical, he commanded the affection and respect of the English people.

For More Information

Books

MacDonald, Alan. Henry VIII and His Chopping Block. New York: Scholastic, 1999.

Weir, Allison. Henry VIII: The King and His Court. New York: Ballantine Books, 2001.

Video Recordings

The Private Life of Henry VIII. Los Angeles: Embassy Home Entertainment, 1986.

A Man for All Seasons. Burbank, Calif.: RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video, 1985.

Web Sites

"Henry VIII." Britannica.com. [Online] Available http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=40871&tocid=0&query=henry%20viii, April 5, 2002.

"Henry VIII." History Channel. [Online] Available http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/classroom/alevel/henry1.htm, April 5, 2002.

"Henry VIII." Image Gallery. [Online] Available http://www.tudorhistory.org/henry8/gallery.html, April 5, 2002.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII. [Online] Available http://www.larmouth.demon.co.uk/sarah-jayne/wives/wives.html, April 5, 2002.

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Henry VIII

Henry VIII

Henry VIII, English king; b. Greenwich, June 28, 1491; d. Windsor, Jan. 28, 1547. He reigned from 1509 to 1547. He received regular instruction in music. Of his 34 extant works, 33 are found in Henry VIIFs MS, which also includes works by other composers of England and the Continent. Actually, of the 20 vocal works given as his, some are merely arrangements. The MS also includes 13 instrumental works. His only extant sacred work is the motet Quam pulchra es for 3 Voices (Baldwin MS). All of his vocal music was ed. by Lady Mary Trefusis in Songs, Ballads and Instrumental Pieces Composed by King Henry the Eighth (Oxford, 1912); all of his secular vocal and instrumental music was ed. by J. Stevens in Musica Britannica, XVIII (London, 1962).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Henry VIII (1491–1547)

Henry VIII (1491–1547)

Henry VIII (1491–1547), king of England from 1509 to 1547. As a consequence of the Pope's refusal to nullify his first marriage, Henry VIII withdrew from the Roman Church and created the Church of England.

The second son of Henry VII, Henry VIII was born on June 28, 1491, at Greenwich Palace. He was a precocious student; he learned Latin, Spanish, French, and Italian and studied mathematics, music, and theology. He became an accomplished musician and played the lute, organ, and harpsichord. He composed hymns, ballads, and two Masses. He also liked to hunt, wrestle, and joust and drew "the bow with greater strength than any man in England."

On his father's death on April 21, 1509, Henry succeeded to a peaceful kingdom. He married Catherine of Aragon, widow of his brother Arthur, on June 11, and 13 days later they were crowned at Westminster Abbey. He enthused to his father-in-law, Ferdinand, that "the love he bears to Catherine is such, that if he were still free he would choose her in preference to all others."

Foreign Policy. In short order Henry set course on a pro-Spanish and anti-French policy. In 1511 he joined Spain, the papacy, and Venice in the Holy League, directed against France. He claimed the French crown and sent troops to aid the Spanish in 1512 and determined to invade France. The bulk of the preparatory work fell to Thomas Wolsey, the royal almoner, who became Henry's war minister. Despite the objections of councilors like Thomas Howard, the Earl of Surrey, Henry went ahead. He was rewarded by a smashing victory at Guinegate (Battle of the Spurs, Aug. 13, 1513) and the capture of Tournai and Théorouanne.

Peace was made in 1514 with the Scots, who had invaded England and been defeated at Flodden (Sept. 9, 1513), as well as with France. The marriage of Henry's sister Mary to Louis XII sealed the French treaty. This diplomatic revolution resulted from Henry's anger at the Hapsburg rejection of Mary, who was to have married Charles, the heir to both Ferdinand and Maximilian I, the Holy Roman emperor. Soon the new French king, Francis I, decisively defeated the Swiss at Marignano (Sept. 13–14, 1515). When Henry heard about Francis's victory, he burst into tears of rage. Increasingly, Wolsey handled state affairs; he became archbishop of York in 1514, chancellor and papal legate in 1515. Not even his genius, however, could win Henry the coveted crown of the Holy Roman Empire. With deep disappointment he saw it bestowed in 1519 on Charles, the Spanish king. During 1520 Henry met Emperor Charles V at Dover and Calais, and Francis at the Field of Cloth of Gold, near Calais, where Francis mortified Henry by throwing him in an impromptu wrestling match. In 1521 Henry joyfully received the papally bestowed title "Defender of the Faith" as a reward for writing the Assertion of the Seven Sacraments, a criticism of Lutheran doctrine. He tried to secure Wolsey's election as pope in 1523 but failed.


English Reformation. Catherine was 40 in 1525. Her seven pregnancies produced but one healthy child, Mary, born May 18, 1516. Despairing of having a legitimate male heir, Henry created Henry Fitzroy, his natural son by Elizabeth Blount, Duke of Richmond and Somerset. More and more, he conceived Catherine's misfortunes as a judgment from God. Did not Leviticus say that if a brother marry his brother's widow, it is an unclean thing and they shall be childless? Since Catherine was Arthur's widow, the matter was apparent.

The Reformation proceeded haphazardly from Henry's negotiations to nullify his marriage. Catherine would not retire to a nunnery, nor would Anne Boleyn consent to be Henry's mistress as had her sister Mary; she grimly demanded marriage. A court sitting in June 1529 under Wolsey and Cardinal Campeggio heard the case. Pope Clement VII instructed Campeggio to delay. When the Peace of Cambrai was declared between Spain and France in August 1529, leaving Charles V, Catherine's nephew, still powerful in Italy, Clement revoked the case to Rome. He dared not antagonize Charles, whose troops had sacked Rome in 1527 and briefly held him prisoner.

Henry removed Wolsey from office. Actually, Wolsey's diplomacy had been undermined by Henry's sending emissaries with different proposals to Clement. Catherine had a valid dispensation for her marriage to Henry from Pope Julius II; furthermore, she claimed that she came a virgin to Henry. She was a popular queen, deeply hurt by Henry's forsaking her bed in 1526. Henry's strategy matured when Thomas Cromwell became a privy councilor and his chief minister. Cromwell forced the clergy in convocation in 1531 to accept Henry's headship of the Church "as far as the law of Christ allows."

Anne's pregnancy in January 1533 brought matters to a head. In a fever of activity Henry married her on Jan. 25, 1533, secured papal approval to Thomas Cranmer's election as archbishop of Canterbury in March, had a court convened under Cranmer declare his marriage to Catherine invalid in May, and waited triumphantly for the birth of a son. His waiting was for naught. On Sept. 7, 1533, Elizabeth was born. Henry was so disappointed that he did not attend her christening. By the Act of Succession (1534) his issue by Anne was declared legitimate and his daughter Mary illegitimate. The Act of Supremacy (1534) required an oath affirming Henry's headship of the Church and, with other acts preventing appeals to Rome and cutting off the flow of annates and Peter's Pence, completed the break. Individuals unwilling to subscribe to the Acts of Succession and Supremacy suffered, the two most notable victims being John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Thomas More (1535). Their executions led to the publication of the papal bull excommunicating Henry.

Although Henry allowed the publication of an English Bible (1538), the Henrician Reformation was basically conservative. Major liturgical and theological revisions came under his son, Edward VI. Henry's financial need, however, made him receptive to Cromwell's plan for monastic dissolutions via parliamentary acts in 1536 and 1539, in which the Crown became proprietor of the dissolved monasteries. The scale of monastic properties led to important social and economic consequences.

Later Marriages. Anne's haughty demeanor and moody temperament suited Henry ill, and her failure to produce a male heir rankled. She miscarried of a baby boy on Jan. 27, 1536, 6 days after fainting at the news that Henry had been knocked unconscious in a jousting accident in which the king fell under his mailed horse. It was a costly miscarriage, for Henry was already interested in Jane Seymour. He determined on a second divorce. He brought charges of treason against Anne for alleged adultery and incest; she was executed on May 19. The following day Henry betrothed himself to Jane and married her 10 days later. Jane brought a measure of comfort to Henry's personal life; she also produced a son and heir, Edward, on Oct. 12, 1537, but survived his birth a scant 12 days.

Henry was deeply grieved, and he did not remarry for 3 years. He was not in good health. Headaches plagued him intermittently; they may have originated from a jousting accident of 1524, in which Charles Brandon's lance splintered on striking Henry's open helmet. Moreover his ulcerated leg, which first afflicted him in 1528, occasionally troubled. Both legs were infected in 1537. In May 1538 he had a clot blockage in his lungs which made him speechless, but he recovered.

The course of diplomatic events, particularly the fear that Charles V might attempt an invasion of England, led Henry to seek an alliance with Continental Protestant powers; hence, his marriage to the Protestant princess Anne of Cleves on Jan. 12, 1540. His realization that Charles did not intend to attack, coupled with his distaste for Anne, led to Cromwell's dismissal and execution in June 1540 and to the annulment of his marriage to Anne on July 9, 1540.

Cromwell's fall was engineered by the conservative leaders of his Council, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, and Bishop Gardiner. They thrust forward the 19-year-old niece of Norfolk, Catherine Howard, and Henry found her pleasing. He married Catherine within 3 weeks of his annulment and entered into the Indian summer of his life. He bore his by now tremendous girth lightly and was completely captivated, but his happiness was short-lived. Catherine's indiscretions as queen consort combined with her sexual misdemeanors as a protégé of the old dowager Duchess of Norfolk ensured her ruin. Inquiry into her behavior in October 1541 led to house arrest and her execution on Feb. 13, 1542, by means of a bill of attainder.

Henry's disillusionment with Catherine plus preoccupation with the Scottish war, begun in 1542, and plans for renewal of hostilities with France delayed remarriage. The French war commenced in 1543 and dragged on for 3 years, achieving a solitary triumph before Boulogne (1545). Henry married the twice-widowed Catherine Parr on July 12, 1543. Though she bore him no children, she made him happy. Her religious views were somewhat more radical than those of Henry, who had revised the conservative Six Articles (1539) with his own hand. During his last years he attempted to stem the radical religious impulses unleashed by the formal break with Rome.

No minister during Henry's last 7 years approached the power of Wolsey or Cromwell. Henry bitterly reflected that Cromwell was the most faithful servant that he had ever had. He ruled by dividing his Council into conservative and radical factions. When Norfolk's faction became too powerful, he imprisoned him and executed his son the poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. The King was unwell in late 1546 and early 1547, suffering from a fever brought on by his ulcerated leg. Before he died on Jan. 28, 1547, Henry reflected that "the mercy of Christ [is] able to pardon me all my sins, though they were greater than they be."


Assessment. Henry came to the throne with great gifts and high hopes. Ministers like Wolsey and Cromwell freed him from the burdensome chores of government and made policy, but only with Henry's approval. His relentless search for an heir led him into an accidental reformation of the Church not entirely to his liking. Ironically, had he waited until Catherine of Aragon died in 1536, he would have been free to pursue a solution to the succession problem without recourse to a reformation. His desire to cut a figure on the European battlefields led him into costly wars. To pay the piper, it was necessary to debase the coinage, thus increasing inflationary pressures already stimulated by the influx of Spanish silver, and to use the tremendous revenues from the sale of monastic properties. Had the properties been kept in the royal hand, the revenue could have made the Crown self-sufficient, perhaps so self-sufficient that it could have achieved an absolutism comparable to that of Louis XIV.

Though personally interested in education, Henry sponsored no far-reaching educational statutes. However, his avid interest in naval matters resulted in a larger navy and a modernization of naval administration. He brought Wales more fully into union with the English by the Statute of Wales (1536) and made Ireland a kingdom (1542). Through the Statute of Uses (1536) he attempted to close off his subjects' attempts to deny him his feudal dues, but this was resisted and modified in 1540. The great innovations came out of the Reformation Statutes, not the least of which was the Act in Restraint of Appeals, in which England was declared an empire, and the Act of Supremacy, in which Henry became supreme head of the Anglican Church. The politically inspired Henrician Reformation became a religiously inspired one under his son, Edward VI, and thus Henry's reign became the first step in the forging of the Anglican Church.

Henry ruled ruthlessly in a ruthless age; he cut down the enemies of the Crown, like the Duke of Buckingham in 1521 and the Earl of Surrey. He stamped out the Pilgrimage of Grace (1536–1537), which issued from economic discontent, and set up a council in the north to ensure that there would be no more disorder. Though he had political gifts of a high order, he was neither Machiavelli's prince in action nor Bismarck's man of blood and iron. He was a king who wished to be succeeded by a son, and for this cause he bravely and rashly risked the anger of his fellow sovereigns. That he did what he did is a testament to his will, personal gifts, and good fortune.

EWB

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"Henry VIII (1491–1547)." Encyclopedia of European Social History. . Retrieved December 12, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/henry-viii-1491-1547

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