Major Facts from the Life of Henry VIII

Henry VIII

Major Facts from the life of King Henry VIII of England

Whenever Henry VIII’s name gets mentioned, our minds instantly go to his numerous wives and the brutal manner in which he sent most of them to their early graves. Well, that is only the tip of the iceberg of the awful things that Henry the 8th did during his 37-year reign. To gain a better understanding of one of England’s most famous (or infamous) monarchs, we present tragic and interesting facts from the life of King Henry VIII.

  1. At the time of his birth, on June 28, 1491, Henry was only second in line to the English throne. He was behind his older brother, Prince Arthur. Upon the passing of Arthur on April 2, 1502, Henry became the heir apparent to his father. His parents were Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.
  2. He was baptized by Richard Fox—Bishop of Exeter at the Observant Franciscans
  3. His father, Henry VII, conferred on him a lot of titles during his tender age. Two years after Henry’s birth, his father bestowed on him the title of “Constable of Dover Castle”. He was also made “Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports”. Shortly after that, he received the titles of “Earl Marshal of England” and “Lord Lieutenant of Ireland”.
  4. Henry was betrothed to Catherine of Aragon, his deceased older brother’s widow, in 1503. This was under the request of his father, Henry VII.
  5. Upon the death of his father Henry VII in 1509, Henry was crowned Henry VIII of England. One by one, Henry eliminated the old guard and ministers of the deceased king. Many of them were either imprisoned or executed under falsified charges of treason.
  6. Aside from the religious ramifications, the reason why Pope Clement VII turned down Henry VIII’s request to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was that Catherine was the aunt of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor.
  7. His second wife, Anne Boleyn, miscarried when she received news of his close dance with death. Henry had fallen off his horse during a jousting tournament and was badly injured. Anne Boleyn was carrying a boy. The news of her miscarriage rocked not just their lives, but their marriage as well. In a few months, Henry was again on the lookout for another woman to replace Anne Boleyn. He cast his attention to Jane Seymour, his third wife. As a matter of fact, Henry married Jane Seymour a few days after he had beheaded Anne Boleyn for adultery and treason.
  8. Henry’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, and Anne Boleyn were related. The two women were in fact cousins. At some point in time, Catherine even served as Anne Boleyn’s lady-in-waiting. Both women had their heads chopped off (Anne in 1536, and Catherine in 1542) after Henry accused them of adultery and treason. In Anne Boleyn’s case, Henry accused her of having a premarital affair as well as an incestuous affair with her brother,  George Boleyn.
  9. After his Archbishop and Chief Minster Thomas Wolsey’s tax reforms backfired spectacularly in 1524, Henry did not hesitate to throw Wolsey under the bus. To make matters worse, Wolsey also failed to convince Pope Clement VII to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon.
  10. In the late 1520s, Thomas Wolsey was put on trial for treason. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by Henry. He did, however, have a natural death in 1530 before his sentence was carried out.
  11. Henry the Eight replaced Thomas Wolsey with another very astute and brilliant man in the person of Thomas Cromwell. As chief minister, Cromwell orchestrated Henry’s Reformation program. They helped usher England into Protestantism by seizing Catholics’ properties, monasteries, and lands in England. Much of the wealth Henry lavishly spent came from such seizures.
  12. A number of high-ranking advisers and lords that opposed Henry and Cromwell’s English Reformation were either imprisoned or sentenced to death. This included Thomas More.
  13. Excluding his numerous illegitimate children, Henry VIII was survived by three prominent children: Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. He was also survived by his sixth and final wife, Catherine Parr.
  14. Henry VIII was the second Tudor to rule England. The first Tudor monarch was his father, Henry VII. For close to a century, England witnessed a total of 5 Tudor monarchs: Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I (Bloody Mary), and Elizabeth I.
  15. As a Tudor, Henry’s power was absolute. It was divine – a kind of power that was granted to him by God Himself. He was both head of the state and the Church of England. Prior to his reign, England did not have this deadly kind of absolutism.
  16. For a king that beheaded two of his wives, Henry VIII was undoubtedly a monarch you would not want to mess with. His ruthlessness saw no boundaries. Many Catholic priests, English lords, and MPs were tortured and then executed during his 37-year reign.
  17. Henry VIII’s predecessor, Henry VII, was a much better manager of the economy. There were fewer strife and wars during his father’s reign. Henry VIII, on the other hand, was not afraid to engage in an extravagant lifestyle. He inherited a largely stable economy; however, before he passed away in 1547, England’s purse was close to empty.
  18. The Church of England owes its existence largely to Henry VIII. The king was responsible for initiating the English Reformation from the early 16th century. He started an exercise that would be advanced by his successors such as Edward VI and Elizabeth I.
  19. Back in the 16th century, any monarch that dared defy the papal authority was as good as finished. Not Henry VIII! Henry showed courage of steel and openly opposed the Pope; obviously he did it for his own selfish reasons. Regardless, it was unheard of for anyone in continental Europe to openly stand against the Pope.
  20. With the Pope’s authority eliminated in England, Henry passed the Act of Supremacy in 1534 which made him the head of the Church of England. He had successfully assumed a power that was once the preserve of the Pope. Under the Oath of Supremacy, no one could defy the king’s power. A whiff of defiance condemned the suspect to the gallows at best. There was no one in England, both in the church and government, more superior to the king.
  21. After he broke things off with the Pope, Henry feared all-out invasions from Spain and France. Therefore, he set out to invest heavily in defending his kingdom. The coastal areas were also solidified. With this came the revamping of England’s Royal Navy. Warships were built, and cannons and sailors were brought in to modernize the navy. He also instituted a system of maintenance in the Navy. Henry’s efforts in the Navy undoubtedly laid the foundation for a well-oiled Royal Navy that would go on to defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
  22. Henry VIII was highly regarded as a real Renaissance man. He loved poetry, music and other forms of arts; and he even played many of musical instruments, including the lute, the organ, and the virginals.
  23. He was a very educated English monarch. In addition to his knowledge in religious studies, he was fluent in French, Latin and a bit of Italian. He had an extensive collection of books in his own personal library.
  24. King Henry VIII never intended for the House of Stuarts (his sister Margaret’s line) to come into power. He instructed in his will that were his daughter Princess Elizabeth (third in line to the throne) not have issues, the English crown must be passed on to his younger sister Mary and the Greys. In the end, Queen Elizabeth I bore no children and the crown passed to Margaret’s line – the Stuarts.
  25. Henry had gambling and drinking problems. Which European monarch at the time did not have one form of vice or the other?
  26. He renovated several buildings in England. Most famous of these structures is the King’s College Chapel and Westminster Abbey. He was also responsible for taking away several Catholic buildings and putting them in the hands of his cronies. Notable mentions are the Hampton Court Palace and the Trinity College in Cambridge.
  27. Three out of the six wives of Henry VIII were named Catherine. They were: Catherine of Aragon (1st wife), Catherine Howard (5th wife), and Catherine Parr (6th wife).
  28. A vibrant and physically active man in his youth, Henry VIII was an avid lover of hunting, jousting, writing, music, and languages. He authored the song “Pastime With Good Company”. It was a Renaissance hit song. He also loved horse riding and hunting. His athletic and tall stature (over 6 feet tall) made those activities one of his favorite hobbies. However, in less than a decade into his reign, he literally fell off his horse (pun intended as well) in a jousting accident. This ushered him into a lifestyle of excessive eating, gambling, and drinking.
  29. After publishing a heavy criticism of Martin Luther’s Protestant movement and ideologies, Pope Leo X gave Henry the title “Defender of the Faith”.
  30. It was rumored that Henry VIII was the father of Mary Boleyn’s children – Henry and Catherine Carey.
  31. He tried to make his illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy, a legitimate heir to the throne. However, FitzRoy died in 1536, before parliament could back such moves using the Second Succession Act.
  32. He was responsible for bringing England and Wales together under the Laws in Wales Act of 1535 and 1542.
  33. Three of Henry’s wives either died or got executed in the late 1530s. The first to go was Catherine of Aragon; this was after she had been banished from the king’s side. She died in 1536. The second wife, Anne Boleyn was executed by Henry in 1536. Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour died in 1537 as a result of complications she suffered during labor.
  34. Henry VIII got married to Jane Seymour a few hours after the execution of his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Jane was the head maid in Anne Boleyn’s court. Henry and Jane began their affair after Anne had difficulties producing a male heir.
  35. In 1506, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I gave Henry the title “Knight of the Golden Fleece”.
  36. Kind courtesy to the hard work of his chief advisor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Western Europe banded together to meet the potential threat that came from the Ottomans. Francis I of France, Charles V of both Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, and Henry VIII signed the Treaty of London in 1518. Their goal was to provide a collective defense of Europe should the Ottomans think of invading Western Europe.
  37. After Elizabeth I, Henry VIII is the longest-serving Tudor monarch in British history.
  38. At the time of his death, on January 28, 1547, Henry VIII was 55 years old. He was succeeded by his oldest legitimate son, the 9-year-old frail but smart Edward VI.

Read also: 10 Facts about Queen Elizabeth I

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