King Henry VIII: Facts, History, Timeline, Life: Biography, Wives, Achievements, Pictures:
Information: Reign, Succession, Character, Marriages, Divorces, Children, Heirs, Death, Grave

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Reason why King Henry the 8th beheaded his wives

A queen was responsible for birthing an heir to the throne. There could be no question of paternity of the child which an adulterous affair would raise. The child must be the king's. So, it was treason for a queen to have an affair. A wife who committed adultery in these days could be executed queen or no queen. The husband could petition the king to have her burnt at the stake.

When Cardinal Wolsey failed to get Henry's divorce, Wolsey fell from grace, Henry VIII portrait painted in 1531Cranmer rose to power because Cranmer found the way to obtain the divorce.

Executed Anne Boleyn, falsely accused of adultery, incest (with Brother George) and treason, to marry Jane Seymour. The real reason Henry wanted rid of Anne Boleyn was because she did not give him a son. (Some accounts say she was guilty of incest with brother George but this is speculation stating that she was ambitious and would do anything to keep her crown)

Katherine Howard was nicknamed by Henry, a rose without a thorn. Katherine was a cousin of Anne Boleyn. She had an affair with Thomas Culpepper. Both were executed for treason.

List of Henry 8th wives
  1. Catherine of Aragon (divorced)
  2. Anne Boleyn (executed)
  3. Jane Seymour (died in Childbirth)
  4. Anne of Cleves (divorced)
  5. Katherine Howard (executed)
  6. Catherine Parr (survived)

Henry the 8th Facts

Henry VIII gateway which is the principal entrance to Windsor Castle
  • Henry given title Defender of the Faith by Pope, this title has remained for all British Monarchs
  • Famous for his 6 wives
  • Became the head of the English Church or Anglican Church.
  • Quote: the Kings of England never had any superior but God.
  • The first English king to be addressed Your Majesty rather than Your Grace
  • Nicknamed Bluff King Hal
  • Executed thousands for treason and heresy
  • Most Magnificent Court in all of Christendom in his time

Henry VIII  armour for war and tournament made for the King in 1540 by the royal armour workshops which he had established at Greenwich Palace.Henry's Succession to the Throne

  • Brother, Arthur died of consumption or Tuberculosis, Henry became heir apparent.
  • Henry the 8th succeed his father, Henry VII in 1509, he was 17 years old

Henry's Character

  • Handsome, 6'2", great athlete, hunted, played tennis, wrestled.
  • He composed music. It is often thought that Henry composed Greensleeves but he did not.
  • Henry's favorite sports were joisting and hunting. The usual game was deer which were tracked down by dogs.
  • very smart, studied theology before 12 years old and was preparing for the clergy
  • patron of scholars and enjoyed their company.
  • Liked to discuss Theology but those who dared do this with him had to be careful, crossing the line could mean death
  • Religious, attended mass 3x s a day. He was orthodox and burned many heretics.
  • Cardinal Wolsey was Henry 8th's Lord Chancellor and Cardinal Legate. He ran the business of government while Henry enjoyed being King.
  • After Wolsey's fall, Henry ruled absolute
  • Thomas More was his friend yet Henry executed him over his great matter (see below)
  • Temperamental: People feared him
  • Henry trusted no one except Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury who he reasoned was neither greedy nor ambitious and therefore no threat

Henry Viii in youth 1509Henry's Need for an Heir

Henry needed a male heir to succeed him because it was thought that a woman ruler would bring civil war. Women weren't given equality in these days. Most people thought a woman ruler could not maintain order. Women were seen as frail, week and temptresses. Women were ruled by their husbands. See Medieval women for more information on society's thoughts on women of these times.

The King's Great Matter - Divorce of Catherine of Aragon

  • Henry wanted to rid himself of Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn. Catherine had married His brother Arthur. Henry used the pretense that he had violated a biblical prohibition and therefore was cursed which kept him from producing a male heir with Catherine.
  • Broke with Rome when the Pope would/could not recognize divorce of 1st wife, Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn. If the Pope had of recognized the marriage, it would have angered Charles V, Catherine's nephew, who was the most powerful monarch in Europe. In addition, the Pope originally had given Henry and Catherine a dispensation saying that it was okay for them to marry because Catherine had stated that the marriage to Arthur had not been consummated. So, if the Pope okayed the divorce, he would be contradicting his original consent.
  • Henry named himself head of the English Church and obtained his divorce
  • Result of the divorce: the Pope excommunicated Henry and all of England, however, Henry's religion remained Catholic.
  • For more detailed information see Catherine of Aragon divorce

Church and the English Reformation: Dissolution of the Monasteries

Divorce from Catherine was not really behind the English reformation. He could not change an entire nation on his whim. The English thought very little of the clergy. The English lost respect for the clergy because of the corruption of the church. Nuns and monks were locked up in monasteries together and were subject to accusations of moral debauchery.

The Nations wealth was concentrated in the Church, which held over 1/4 of the land of England and collected 1/8 of the nations income. These lands were coveted.

The clergy and the church were exempt from taxes and were not subject to secular law. Some of the clergy was guilty of murder yet they could not be tried in secular courts therefore many went unpunished.

The English diocese was too large to control. There was no discipline. Some clergy did not even know the scripture.

There was 1 clergyman for every 50 people.

The clergy collected 1/10th of the people income for tithes. The church kept records on everyone and knew exactly how many were in a household as well as the income. They collected on wills and mortuary dues. People had to pay before their dead could be put in consecrated ground. The people were tired of being bullied by priests even in the North, which was predominately Catholic. All thought the church was corrupted and welcomed reform.

Every act has it consequences. When the monasteries were dissolved there were many poor people, monks and nuns who were suddenly displaced. Before the monasteries did charity work and helped beggars now there was no place for the poor to go to. So, the dissolution of the monasteries resulted in more begging in Tudor England.

The Statute of Premuneire recognized Henry as the head of the English church. The king of England had no superior within the realm allowing Henry to dissolve the monasteries and confiscate their lands. This made Henry the richest Monarch in Europe. These lands were sold to the nobles when Henry needed money. Henry remained a Catholic however anti Papal.

Henry's Sickness

Henry had an ulcer on his leg that oozed and caused him considerable pain. The ulcer repeatedly flared up throughout his adult life.

Henry feared sickness but with good reason. Sickness usually meant death in these days. Tudor medicine was not very good. There was no cure for the Plague or the sweating sickness in those days. When contagious diseases hit London, Henry fled to the countryside and did not return until it cleared up.

Henry VIII Children

  • King Edward VI
  • Henry Fitzroy (recognized bastard)
  • Mary I
  • Elizabeth I
  • Fathered Mary I by Catherine of Aragon, Elizabeth I by Anne Boleyn, Edward VI by Jane Seymour and several bastards by mistresses.
  • His bastard by Elizabeth Blount was named Henry Fitzroy (fitz means bastard, roy means king). He may have inherited the throne had he lived. Henry Fitzroy died of consumption in his teens.

Death of Henry VIII

Henry was stricken by fever on January 1, 1547. Rumors began circulating that he was dead on January 8th. He recovered some what, but on January 19th he relapsed. On January 28th, Archbishop Cranmer was sent for. He died shortly after Cranmer arrived at around 2:00am. It is thought that Henry died from pulmonary embolism but there is no certainty of this because it was treason to predict or speculate on a death of a king.

Before Henry died, he wrote King Francis of France who was dying of Syphilis.

Bequeathed the crown first to Edward, then Mary, Elizabeth and finally to the offspring of his sister Mary and Charles Brandon, the duke of Suffolk. The children of Henryís sister, Margaret and James IV of Scotland were not included in the line of succession.

The Grave of Henry VIII is beside his favorite wife, in St George's Chapel Windsor Castle. Jane was his favorite because she gave him a son, Edward VI and died soon after.

Common Questions and Answers

Question: after Henry viii died who ruled? Answer: Edward his son was named King, Hertford was name Lord Protector

Question: why wasn't prince Edward Henry viii son made king? Answer: He wasn't old enough at the time of Henry's death.

Question: what time did Henry the 8th kill his first wife? Answer: Anne Boleyn was executed on Friday May 19th, 1536 at 9:00am.

Question: which of Henry viii's wives gave birth to Elizabeth i? Answer: Anne Boleyn

Question: How many kids did Henry the 8th have? Answer: 3 live legitimate children, 1 live illegitimate child he recognized as his own. Mary Boleyn, Anne's sister had two children, boy and girl who are thought to have been his although he never recognized them. Catharine of Aragon had several children who died after childbirth, one boy she had died at the age of one year old.

Question: Did King Henry the 8th separate the church from the state? Answer: No, he was the state and became the head of the English church. He separated England from the Catholic church, Pope and Rome.

see also Medieval Castles in England

for explanations of terms see Tudor England Terms and information

The Six Wives of Henry VIII Movie


Weir, Alison, The Six Wives of Henry VIII,  Grove Press (April 2000)

Weir, Alison, Henry VIII: The King and His Court Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (October 29, 2002)


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