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When Was Henry VIII Born, When Did He Become King and How Long Was His Reign?

When Was Henry VIII Born, When Did He Become King and How Long Was His Reign?



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Henry VIII, the second Tudor king of England, was born on 28 June 1491 to Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York.

Although he would go on to become the most infamous monarch in English history, Henry was never actually supposed to be king. Only the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth, it was his elder brother, Arthur, who was first in line to the throne.

This difference in the brother’s statuses meant that they did not grow up together — while Arthur was learning to be king, Henry was spending much of his childhood with his mother and sisters. It seems that Henry was very close to his mother, who, unusually for the time, appears to have been the one who taught him to write.

On Midsummer's Day in 1509 a 17 year old was crowned king of England. He would go on to transform his realm over almost four decades on the throne. But who was Henry VIII? Man or monster, statesman or tyrant?

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But when Arthur died at the age of 15 in 1502, Henry’s life would change for ever. The 10-year-old prince became the next in line to the throne and all of Arthur’s duties were transferred onto him.

Fortunately for Henry, it would be a few more years before he would have to step into his father’s shoes.

Henry becomes King of England

Henry’s time came on 21 April 1509 when his father died of tuberculosis. Henry became king more or less immediately in what was the first bloodless transfer of power in England for nearly a century (though his coronation didn’t take place until 24 June 1509).

From Richard's noble beginnings to his demise on the battlefield at Bosworth Michael Hicks sorts the fact from the fiction about the last Plantagenet king.

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The eighth Henry’s accession to the throne was met with much rejoicing by the people of England. His father had been unpopular with a reputation for meanness and the new Henry was seen as a breath of fresh air.

And although Henry’s father had been of the House of Lancaster, his mother was from the rival House of York, and the new king was seen by Yorkists who had been unhappy during his father’s reign as one of them. This meant that the war between the two houses — known as the “War of the Roses” — was finally over.

King Henry’s transformation

Henry would go on to reign for 38 long years, during which time his reputation — and his appearance — would change drastically. Over the years Henry would transform from a handsome, athletic and optimistic man into a much larger figure known for his cruelty.

Both Henry’s appearance and personality seemed to transform during his reign.

By the time of his death on 28 January 1547, Henry would have gone through six wives, two of whom he killed. He would have also strung up hundreds of Catholic rebels in his quest to break away from the authority of the pope and the Roman Catholic Church – a goal that began, in the first place, with his desire for a new wife.

It is not quite clear what the 55-year-old Henry died of though he seems to have been in a bad way, both mentally and physically, for several years before his death.

Obese, covered in painful boils and suffering from severe mood swings, as well as a festering wound he sustained in a jousting accident more than a decade before, his last years cannot have been happy ones. And the legacy he left behind was not a happy one either.


Henry VII

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Henry VII, also called (1457–85) Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, (born January 28, 1457, Pembroke Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales—died April 21, 1509, Richmond, Surrey, England), king of England (1485–1509), who succeeded in ending the Wars of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York and founded the Tudor dynasty.

Who was Henry VII?

Henry VII was king of England from 1485 to 1509. Before taking the throne, he was known as Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond.

When was Henry VII king of England?

Henry VII was king of England from 1485 to 1509.

What is Henry VII known for?

Henry VII is known for successfully ending the War of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York and for founding the Tudor dynasty.

How did Henry VII become king?

Henry VII declared himself king by just title of inheritance and by the judgment of God in battle, after slaying Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. He was crowned on October 30 and secured parliamentary recognition of his title early in November.

Who was Henry VII’s successor?

Henry VII was succeeded by his second son, Henry VIII. Henry VIII had become heir to the throne when his elder brother, Arthur, died in 1502.


Henry VIII was brought up a devout Catholic. Before he became king, he had in his possession a prayer scroll containing illuminations of the Trinity, the crucified Christ, the Instruments of the Passion and several martyred saints. Latin prayers were placed on each side of the images, together with English rubrics (instructions) that explained how the prayers could offer protection from earthly dangers or the remission of time in Purgatory. Sacred texts of this kind were common as part of the devotional practices of late-medieval England. Owners of the scrolls recited the prayers, contemplated the images and touched the material object so as to become closer to the divine and earn heavenly reward in the afterlife. Henry&rsquos inscription on the prayer scroll suggests that he used it for these holy purposes and accepted the theological teachings that lay behind them.

Henry VIII's prayer roll

Henry VIII&rsquos prayer scroll. Measuring over three metres in length, this roll contains prayers in Latin and English and fourteen illuminated images, which include martyred saints, St George slaying the dragon, and Christ&rsquos Passion.

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Henry&rsquos Catholic worship was typical of the era. Along with the prayer scroll, he also held fast to the belief that purchasing papal indulgences could pardon sin and shorten time in Purgatory a popular practice at the time. In 1521 he and Katherine of Aragon received a &lsquoplenary indulgence&rsquo from Pope Clement VII, which was tied to them carrying out an annual pilgrimage to a major shrine. When Martin Luther&rsquos protest against the sale of indulgences sparked off the German Reformation, Henry defended the practice in his rebuttal, &lsquoDefence of the Seven Sacraments&rsquo.

The British Library also holds another text that shines a light on Henry&rsquos piety a Book of Hours that has secret messages exchanged between Henry and Anne Boleyn written in the margins. Books of Hours were common sacred texts for laypeople&rsquos use. As compendia of prayers and devotional texts, the books had at their core the &lsquoOffice of the Virgin Mary&rsquo, set prayers addressed to the Mother of Christ and recited daily at eight fixed hours. Mary, it was hoped, would act as an intercessor between the owner and God. The pages were often beautifully illustrated by the best artists of the day. Those for the nobility were richly illuminated with precious gold leaf and lapis lazuli. But, at some time around 1528, Anne and Henry employed his book for less spiritual purposes. At the foot of the folio showing the Man of Sorrows, Henry inscribed a lover&rsquos message for Anne in French: &lsquoIf you remember my love in your prayers as strongly as I adore you, I shall hardly be forgotten, for I am yours. Henry R. forever.&rsquo Anne chose to pen her response on a page which showed the Annunciation, so suggesting her wish and power to give the king a son. She wrote in English: &lsquoBe daly prove you shalle me fynde to be to you bothe lovynge and kynde&rsquo.

Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours

Book of Hours once belonged to Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII&rsquos second wife. With unique historical importance, this manuscript is a rare example of lovers using a religious book to exchange flirtatious messages.

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

When was the break from the Roman Catholic Church?

The prayers in these late-medieval sacred books and scrolls were often in Latin to signify that all Western Christians were part of the Roman Catholic Church. However, Henry formally broke with the Pope and the Roman Church after Pope Clement VII refused to grant him an annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon so that he could wed Anne. His appeal for an annulment was on the grounds that their union contravened the scriptures, citing Leviticus 20. 21, which prohibits a man from marrying his brother&rsquos widow.

In 1533 the English Parliament passed the Act in Restraint of Appeals, which denied papal jurisdiction in England and ended appeals of court cases to Rome. The 1534 Act of Supremacy then recognised the king as the Supreme Head of the Church in England with &lsquofull power and authority&rsquo to &lsquoreform&rsquo the institution and &lsquoamend&rsquo all errors and heresies. Henry and his newly-appointed &lsquoVice Gerent in Spiritual Affairs&rsquo, Thomas Cromwell, immediately embarked upon a programme of reform. Cromwell&rsquos Injunctions of 1536, and 1538 attacked idolatry, pilgrimages and other &lsquosuperstitions&rsquo. The lesser monasteries were closed in 1536 and the remaining monasteries were dissolved over the next few years. Those men and women who resisted the closures were imprisoned or hanged.

Although Henry rejected Martin Luther&rsquos theology of justification by faith alone, he did accept the German reformer&rsquos insistence upon the supremacy of Scripture. After all, the &lsquoWord of God&rsquo (Leviticus 20.21) had justified the annulment of his first marriage. Consequently, encouraged by Cromwell and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury, Henry authorised an English Bible that could be read by the laity as well as the clergy. At this time the best printed translation of the New Testament in English was by William Tyndale, who was a Lutheran burned in Antwerp in 1536. However, the king and his more conservative bishops refused to entertain the thought of publishing any work of the convicted heretic. Instead, two other Bibles received a royal licence.

Coverdale Bible

A 1535 copy of Miles Coverdale&rsquos translation of the Bible, a large lectern size Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments as well as the Apocrypha.

The first was a translation of the complete Bible by Miles Coverdale &ndash the first of its kind &ndash which had originally been printed abroad in 1535. In the 1538 edition (the one authorised by the king), Hans Holbein&rsquos title page shows Henry, flanked by King David and St Paul, handing the Bible to a bishop. The second translation was also printed abroad. The man responsible was supposedly one &lsquoThomas Matthew&rsquo, and so the text became known as the &lsquoMatthew Bible&rsquo. In fact, &lsquoThomas Matthew&rsquo was a pseudonym taken from the names of two of Jesus&rsquos disciples. This Bible was actually produced by one of Tyndale&rsquos associates, John Rogers. After his friend&rsquos death, Rogers had compiled a new text based on Tyndale&rsquos printed New Testament and manuscripts of the Old Testament Coverdale&rsquos translation was used to fill the gaps.

Matthew’s Bible

A 1537 copy of &lsquoMatthew&rsquos Bible&rsquo, printed in Antwerp.

Neither Bible was thought entirely satisfactory. So in 1538 Cranmer and Cromwell commissioned Coverdale to revise the &lsquoMatthew Bible&rsquo and produce a better translation. The new work was intended to be the realm&rsquos single authoritative Bible. In accordance with Cromwell&rsquos 1538 Injunctions, it was ordered to be chained to lecterns in every cathedral and parish church for communal and public reading by clergy and parishioners alike. Because of its large size, the book became known as the &lsquoGreat Bible&rsquo. Its woodcut title page visually communicated the royal supremacy. Receiving the Word directly from God, the enthroned king at the top of the page passes the sacred text of the Bible to his spiritual lords on his right and lay lords on his left. From there, the verbum dei ('Word of God') descends to be read to the local parish congregation and even to reach prisoners in jail.

The Great Bible, probably Henry VIII's own copy

Henry VIII&rsquos &lsquoGreat Bible&rsquo, based on an earlier version begun illegally by William Tyndale and adapted by Miles Coverdale in 1535.

New Bible, old doctrines

The Great Bible was printed in 1539. That same year Henry clarified the beliefs of his Church in &lsquoAn Act Abolishing Diversity in Opinions&rsquo, better known as &lsquoThe Act of Six Articles&rsquo. This statute laid down Henry&rsquos position on some of the key issues dividing conservatives and evangelicals in England. Although he tried to find a path between the extremes of Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism by following what he saw as a policy of balance, the king took up a conservative position on virtually all of the controversial points. On the Mass, the Act affirmed transubstantiation, elucidating that &lsquoafter the consecration, there remaineth no substance of bread or wine, nor any other substance, but the substance of Christ, God and man&rsquo. Other clauses denied that communion in both kinds was necessary, upheld clerical celibacy, permitted private Masses (those celebrated by a priest alone) and deemed auricular confession necessary. A few years later Henry shifted his position somewhat. The 1543 &lsquoNecessary Doctrine and Erudition for Any Christian Man&rsquo, known as the &lsquoKing&rsquos Book&rsquo (another formulary of faith), instructed his subjects &lsquoto abstain from the name of Purgatory&rsquo and questioned the efficacy of prayers for the dead. Nonetheless, the book unambiguously rejected justification by faith alone and reaffirmed transubstantiation, two positions which contradicted Luther's teachings. When the king died in January 1547 England was therefore doctrinally Catholic despite the rejection of papal supremacy. As for Henry&rsquos personal convictions, he remained conventionally pious. He continued his private devotions in Latin in fact one of the last books he commissioned was a beautiful Latin psalter, written and illuminated by the French émigré Jean Mallard. Four illuminations depict Henry one of them showed him reading the book in his bedchamber while another showed him as David playing the harp (as in I Samuel 16.14-23). Evidently, he identified with the Old Testament theocratic king. As was his wont, Henry scribbled notes in the book. Some of them explored themes such as the contrast between the blessed and the wicked, divine judgement, kingship and the vanity of worldly goods.

Henry VIII’s Psalter

Commissioned by King Henry VIII, this Psalter (Book of Psalms) gives an insight into the king&rsquos self-assurance as divine ruler of England.

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

English devotional manuscripts

While Henry continued, it seems, to prefer Latin for his sacred texts, some of his subjects were turning to works in English for their devotions. In 1539 an English edition of Wolfgang Capito&rsquos Precationes Christianæ ad Imitationem Psalmorum was printed in London. The translator was Richard Taverner, who was working for Cromwell during the 1530s and translating works of both Erasmus and Lutherans. A manuscript containing a selection of psalms and prayers from the translated Precationes was owned by Anne, Countess of Hertford, who was the second wife of Henry&rsquos brother-in-law Edward Seymour (to be created 1st Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector on Henry&rsquos death). Known as &lsquoTaverner&rsquos prayer book&rsquo, the small book is richly decorated on each page with a full-page border in colours and gold, while small illuminated initials mark the start of each prayer and psalm. Extracts from Taverner&rsquos translation were also put together in a manuscript prayer-book owned by Henry&rsquos great niece, Lady Jane Grey, who became noted for her Protestant piety during the next reign. The prayers, however, do not assert any particular confessional position. Some traditionalist prayers are included, but in none of them is there any reference to Purgatory.

Taverner Prayer Book

This tiny, richly decorated book of Psalms and prayers in English was most likely made for the noblewoman and literary patron Anne Seymour (née Stanhope), Countess of Hertford and later Duchess of Somerset (c. 1510&ndash1587).

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Lady Jane Grey's prayer book

This tiny Book of Prayers, written in English, is probably that used by Lady Jane Grey on the scaffold at her execution in 1554.

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Henry&rsquos last wife, Katherine Parr, shared the reformist tendencies of her friend, the Countess of Hertford. She almost certainly had a spiritual influence on both the king&rsquos younger daughter Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey when they each spent time in her household. Katherine wrote several devotional works while queen. Her reworking of Thomas à Kempis&rsquo De Imitatione Christi (from an English edition) was printed in 1545 under her own name (the first book printed under the name of a woman in English). To compliment her stepmother, the twelve-year-old Elizabeth gave the king her own trilingual translation (Latin, French and Italian) of the work as a New Year&rsquos Day gift for 1546.

Prayerbook of Princess Elizabeth

In December 1545, King Henry VIII was presented with this carefully embroidered volume as a New Year&rsquos gift. The prayer-book had been assembled by his twelve-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who would herself ascend to the throne in 1558.

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Paving the way for Protestantism

Henry VIII&rsquos Reformation had begun an attack on sacred objects, such as saints' relics and shrines. Some sacred texts were also defaced or destroyed, especially those which venerated popes or St Thomas Becket, who had stood up to King Henry II. Many manuscripts and books in monastic libraries were trashed or dispersed during the dissolutions, although the antiquarian John Leland managed to collect and conserve a large number for the king. Despite this, sacred texts remained an important part of English religious culture. Indeed more of them began to appear in English, and of course several English Bibles came into circulation. However, for those who were evangelical or Protestants, the works contained no mention of purgatory and were not be handled as holy objects in themselves. The ground was being laid for the full-blown Protestantism introduced on Henry&rsquos death by Archbishop Cranmer and Lord Protector Somerset.

Susan Doran FRHS is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Oxford and Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, and St Benet's Hall, Oxford. She specialises in the high politics, religion and culture of the 16th and early-17th centuries. She edited the catalogue of the British Library exhibition Henry VIII: Man and Monarch in 2009, and her book Elizabeth I and her Circle first appeared in 2015. Since then she has been working on the early years of James I's reign.

The text in this article is available under the Creative Commons License.


King Henry’s Right Hand Men

Two of Henry's closest advisors and who died on his orders were Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell, the latter ironically helping to seal the fate of More, was himself executed by Henry for treason. Both men’s fates were associated with King Henry’s matrimonial affairs that stemmed from one simple obsession – the need for a male heir.

Sir Thomas More (1478-1535)

Sir Thomas More was an English lawyer, author, statesman and close friend and advisor to Henry VIII. His downfall from high office was due to his opposition of the annulment of the King’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and also his opposition to Henry's break from the Catholic Church that was headed by the Pope in Rome.

'I die the King’s good servant, and God’s first’

More was canonised by Pope Pius XI in 1935 as a martyr. Having refused to attend the coronation of Henry’s new wife Anne Boleyn he was later accused of treason mainly through his association with other known ‘heretics’ such as the infamous Elizabeth Barton (the Nun of Kent) who had prophesied that the king would die if he married Anne Boleyn. More also refused to acknowledge Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England. Unlike many other victims of Henry, More was offered many opportunities to sign an Oath and save him from execution. He is alleged to have said on the scaffold 'I die the King’s good servant, and God’s first’ before he was beheaded.

Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540)

The ‘upstart’ Cromwell, uncharacteristically came from a trade background unlike the most powerful men in the court who descended from nobility, was an English lawyer and chief minister to King Henry. Never short of enemies or cynics who despised his lowly background, Cromwell was instrumental in attaining the divorce King Henry needed to marry Anne Boleyn.

It was a campaign of high risk that saw Europe’s religion turned on its head. Unfortunately for the much admired and trusted Cromwell his own head was to be the price when he displeased the King over the debacle of Henry’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. For Henry disliked Anne intensely and blamed Cromwell for the embarrassment. The once-powerful Chief Minister was arraigned under a bill of attainder, accused of treason and sentenced to death without trial. He was executed on Tower Hill in 1540 and his head placed on a spike on London Bridge.

Read more about: British History

The history of the English Reformation


1. Death and Legacy

Henry VIII died on January 28th, 1547, at the age of 55, in London. He had long suffered from obesity and what was likely untreated Type II diabetes. He is among the most well-known kings of England, in part because of his scandalous personal life. He married 6 wives and executed 2 of them. His divorce to Catherine brought the most fundamental religious change in England, and has been a popular theme in cultural productions up to the present day. He turned England into a Protestant nation and a modern one. England's military, especially its navy, developed considerably under his reign, paving the way for England's later global hegemony. His lavish spending and long periods of monetray mismanagement, however, and left the kingdom and his family, respectively, with personal and national financial problems.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Source

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, 1509 – 1547. Edited by J. S. Brewer, J. Gairdner, and R. H. Brodie. London, 1862 – 1910.

Secondary Sources

Elton, Geoffrey R. Reform and Reformation: England, 1509 – 1558. 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.

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MCENTEGART, RORY "Henry VIII (England) (1491–1547 Ruled 1509–1547) ." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. 1 Jun. 2021 < https://www.encyclopedia.com > .

MCENTEGART, RORY "Henry VIII (England) (1491–1547 Ruled 1509–1547) ." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 1, 2021). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/henry-viii-england-1491-1547-ruled-1509-1547

MCENTEGART, RORY "Henry VIII (England) (1491–1547 Ruled 1509–1547) ." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Retrieved June 01, 2021 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/henry-viii-england-1491-1547-ruled-1509-1547

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Henry VIII as King of England

When Henry became king, great things were expected of him. At this point of his life, Henry was a dashing young man. He was 6 feet tall (1.83 meters) and had a powerful build. He excelled as an athlete, a hunter, and a dancer.

Those around him were not disappointed, as the king kept a festive court , frequently held hunts and jousts, and patronized musicians. Henry not only appreciated music but was also an accomplished musician himself. One of the songs he wrote, ‘Pastime with Good Company’, was popular throughout Europe.

Henry VIII on a royal hunt. (William Maury Morris II / Public Domain )

The king did not disappoint the rest of the kingdom either. In order to consolidate his dynasty’s rule, Henry’s father was energetic in his pursuit of royal rights, which did not go down so well with his subjects. In order to increase his approval by the people, Henry got rid of some of these institutions, as well as some of his father’s former ministers. The king soon realized, however, that it was necessary for these unpopular institutions to exist, as they helped to govern the kingdom, and therefore had them reinstituted.

The festivities of Henry’s court drained the modest royal reserves. This, however, was not as bad as the king’s desire to participate in military engagements overseas. In Continental Europe at that time, the French and Spanish were at loggerheads with each other, primarily over territory in Italy. In 1512, Henry decided to lend support to his father-in-law, Ferdinand II of Aragon, against the French king, Louis XII , in the War of the League of Cambrai (known also as the War of the Holy League).

This decision was opposed by the king’s older councilors, but Henry went ahead anyway. The king was also hoping to use the occasion to make territorial gains in northern France, but ultimately failed to do so.

Ferdinand died in 1516, and was succeeded by his grandson, Charles, who is considered to be the first king of Spain. Incidentally, his mother, Joanna of Castile, the daughter of Ferdinand, was nominally co-monarch. Three years later, the Holy Roman Emperor and Charles’ paternal grandfather, Maximilian I, died, and Charles inherited Austria, and was elected Holy Roman Emperor.

Henry VIII with Charles V and Pope Leon X. (World Imaging / Public Domain )

Moreover, Charles inherited the Netherlands and Burgundy when his father, Philip of Habsburg, died in 1506. Charles V, as he is known to history, was the most powerful ruler in Europe at that time, and only the French king, Francis I, was formidable enough to oppose him. Eventually, war broke out between the two rulers, and Henry initially took the side of the Holy Roman Emperor.

Shortly after Francis was defeated and captured at Pavia by Charles in 1525, Henry withdrew support for the latter, and concluded a peace treaty on his own with the French. Among other things, this switch in alliances affected the English cloth trade with the Netherlands, which in turn caused the king to lose some of his popularity.


Henry VIII’s Deteriorating Health 1509-1547

Healthy, attractive and with great sporting aptitude? These adjectives are not usually associated with King Henry VIII. Of course, he is well known for his six marriages, beheading two wives, his obsession with a male heir and the break away from Rome. On a more personal side, he is also known for his growing waist line, extravagant feasts and poor health however, this does not give a full picture of the man who ruled over England for 38 years.

A jousting accident could be said to have been the catalyst for Henry to change into a tyrannical monarch with an unpredictable bad temper.

Henry VIII with Charles V and Pope Leon X, circa 1520

In 1509, at the young age of eighteen, Henry VIII ascended to the throne. Henry’s reign is well researched due in no small part to the political and religious turmoil of the period. At the beginning of his reign, Henry was a truly remarkable character oozing charisma, good-looking and both academically and athletically talented. Indeed, many scholars of the period considered Henry VIII to be extremely handsome: he was even referred to as an ‘Adonis’. At six-feet and two-inches tall with a slim athletic build, fair complexion and prowess on the jousting and tennis courts, Henry spent the majority of his life and reign, slim and athletic. Throughout his youth and reign up to 1536, Henry lived a healthy lifestyle. During Henry’s twenties, he weighed approximately fifteen stone, with a thirty-two inch wait and a thirst for jousting.

Portrait of a young Henry VIII by Joos van Cleve, thought to date to 1532.

However as he aged, his athletic figure and attractive features began to disappear. His girth, waist-line and reputation as the impossible, irritable and ruthless King only grew after the King suffered a serious jousting accident in 1536. This accident impacted Henry massively, and left him with both physical and mental scars.

The accident occurred on 24th January 1536 at Greenwich, during his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Henry suffered severe concussion and burst a varicose ulcer on his left leg, a legacy from an earlier traumatic jousting injury in 1527 which had healed quickly under the care of the surgeon Thomas Vicary. This time Henry was not so lucky and ulcers now appeared on both legs, causing incredible pain. These ulcers never truly healed and Henry had constant, severe infections as a result. In February 1541, the French Ambassador recalled the plight of the King.

“The King’s Life was really thought [to be] in danger, not from fever, but from the leg which often troubles him.”

The ambassador then highlighted how the king compensated for this pain by eating and drinking excessively, which altered his mood greatly. Henry’s growing obesity and constant infections continued to concern Parliament.

The jousting accident, which had prevented him from enjoying his favourite pastime, had also prohibited Henry from exercising. Henry’s final suit of armour in 1544, three years before his death, suggests he weighed at least three hundred pounds, his waist having expanded from a very slim thirty-two inches to fifty-two inches. By 1546, Henry had become so large that he required wooden chairs to carry him around and hoists to lift him. He needed to be lifted onto his horse and his leg continued to deteriorate. It is this image, of a morbidly obese king, that most people recall when asked about Henry VIII.

Portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger, circa 1540

The endless pain was undoubtedly a factor in Henry’s metamorphosis into a bad tempered, unpredictable and irascible monarch. Persistent chronic pain can severely impact quality of life – even today- and with the absence of modern medicine, Henry must have been faced with excruciating pain daily, which must have had an impact on his temperament. Henry’s latter years were a far-cry from the valiant, charismatic prince of 1509.

Henry’s last days were filled with extreme pain his leg injuries needed to be cauterised by his doctors and he had chronic stomach ache. He died on 28th January 1547 aged 55, as a result of renal and liver failure.

By Laura John. I am currently a History Teacher, planning to complete a PhD. I have an MA and BA Hons in History from Cardiff University. I am passionate about historical study and sharing my love of history with everyone, and making it accessible and engaging.


Edward VI, born 1537, reigned 1547-53

Edward, born and christened at Hampton Court Palace was the eagerly-awaited son of Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour. Henry is said to have wept with joy as he held his infant son, then wept again a few days later when the queen died from post-birth complications. As a little boy Edward was spoiled and indulged, he even had his own fighting bears.

Edward was extremely well educated by a set of forward-thinking Cambridge scholars, who instilled in the prince a desire for religious reform. Even before he was 10, Edward was, apparently, fairly fluent in Latin, Greek and French.

Edward VI after Hans Holbein the Younger c1542, © National Portrait Gallery, London

The young king

Edward was crowned aged 9 although his uncle, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, acted as the young King's governor and lord protector of the realm until he was deposed in 1550.

Edward's reign saw the foundations laid for one of the great transformations of English society, the English Reformation, but the King did not live to see the successful realisation of many of his religious plans. Falling ill in 1552, probably with tuberculosis, he finally succumbed on 6 July 1553, aged only 15.

Edward VI (1537-53) c.1550, attributed to William Scrots, Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


When Was Henry VIII Born, When Did He Become King and How Long Was His Reign? - History

Henry VIII by Joos van Cleve
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Born: 28 June 1491
Greenwich Palace

Coronation: 24 June 1509
Westminster Abbey

Died: 28 January 1547
Whitehall Palace

Buried: 16 February 1547
St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle

If a lion knew his strength, it were hard for
any man to hold him.

- Sir Thomas More of Henry VIII

Henry Tudor, named after his father, Henry VII, was born by Elizabeth of York June 28, 1491 in Greenwich Palace. Since he was the second son, and not expected to become king, we know little of his childhood until the death of his older brother Arthur, Prince of Wales. We know that Henry attended the wedding celebrations of Arthur and his bride, Catherine of Aragon, in November 1501 when he was 10 years old.

Shortly after the wedding, Arthur and Catherine went to live in Wales, as was tradition for the heir to the throne. But, four months after the marriage began, it ended, with Arthur's death.

A treaty was signed that would allow Catherine to marry the next heir to the throne -- Prince Henry. Until then, Catherine's parents, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain would send over 100,000 crowns worth of plate and gold as a wedding gift and Henry would pay the agreed upon dowry.

It was deemed necessary for a papal dispensation to be issued allowing Henry to marry Catherine, as she was his dead brother's wife, and this marriage was prohibited in Leviticus. At the time, and throughout her life, Catherine denied that her marriage to Arthur had even been consummated (and given the boy's health, that is most likely the case) so no dispensation was needed. However, both the parties in Spain and England wanted to be sure of the legitimacy of the marriage, so permission from the pope was sought and received. This issue would be very important during the Divorce and the Break with Rome.

The marriage still did not take place however. Henry VII had been slow to pay his part of the arrangement and her parents were refusing to send the marriage portion of plate and gold. The stalemate continued until Henry VII died on April 22, 1509 and his son became Henry VIII.

Henry was just shy of 18 years old when he became king, and had been preparing for it from the time of his older brother Arthur's death. At this age, he was not the image that we usually call to mind when we hear the name Henry VIII. He was not the overweight and ill man of his later years. In his youth, he was handsome and athletic. He was tall and had a bright red-gold cap of hair and beard, a far cry from the fat, balding and unhealthy man that is often remembered

Henry's marital career is probably the thing that he is most known for. The story of Henry's wives is told on their own pages.

Shortly after becoming king, Henry VIII took Catherine of Aragon as his bride on 11 June 1509. He inherited £1.5 million pounds from his father and succeeded in the first peaceful transition of power after the Wars of the Roses. Henry brought a youth and vigor to the Court that had long been lacking and Henry dreamed of glory beyond the hunt and joust.

Catherine of Aragon gave birth to their first child, a son named Henry after his father, in January 1511. The child died two months later, and was destined to be the first of many unhappy births the couple would suffer. Henry consoled himself by going to war against France, hoping to emulate his ancestors Edward III and Henry V.

Henry met with some success in France, but while he was distracted on the Continent, his Scottish brother-in-law James IV used the opportunity to attack. Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey led the English forces against James and defeated the Scots army at the Battle of Flodden Field. James was killed, leaving his infant son as the new king James V and Henry VIII's sister Margaret a widow.

By 1514, Thomas Wolsey had risen to power in Henry's court and was to eventually rival Henry himself in wealth and opulance. He built Hampton Court Palace, which he eventually "gave" to Henry as a gift as he began to fall from power in the 1520s.

[To be continued. eventually. Yes, I know I keep promising that, but Henry is proving difficult to write about!]


Henry VIII and his contribution to the English Reformation

Henry VIII, the notorious King of England, had an exceptionally significant influence on English history. The importance of Henry's eminent reign is typically overshadowed by his six wives, but to discover its true essence one must breach the barriers yielded by the many fallacies concerning his overly publicized liaisons. Although to many he is remembered solely for his hedonistic life style, his malicious attitudes, and of course his six wives, Henry was well-educated and an adept ruler. He exuded confidence and supremacy throughout all of his actions. Henry fought many wars in Europe, callously increased the authority of royal government, and even aspired to become Holy Roman Emperor in order to extend his jurisdiction. Henry's greatest accomplishment was by far the commencement of the Protestant Reformation in England. He rejected the authority of the pope and the Roman Catholic Church and promoted religious reformers to power. He initiated a widespread hostility against the Catholic Church and consequently set in motion the adoption of new religious notions by countless people. To Catholics he was viewed as the devil incarnate, but to Protestants he was attributed as the founder of their faith.

Henry VIII, born during 1941 in Greenwich, was the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Henry, a quite obstinate child, proved a competent student and even more dexterous athlete, hunter, and wrestler. His education was directed by the poet John Skelton. Henry was endowed with a cunning wit and perceptive mentality. In April of 1502 his life was altered eternally by the occurrence of a single, fatal event. His elder brother Arthur died, thus making him the new heir to the throne.

In 1509 Henry's father died, bequeathing him with a copious treasury and a crown securely upon his head. Once in power, he took a different approach to governing than that of his father's steadfast and stolid ruling techniques. His father's primary concerns had been to control the independence of nobility and to enrich the crown. In contrast, his son Henry VIII set out to expand England's power in Europe. In order to ease the immense discontent caused by his father's inflation of taxes and avoidance of expensive wars, Henry placed blame on royal ministers. Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley were the victims of this surreptitious and rather vindictive tactic. The decapitation of these men won widespread popularity for the reign. Beside this, the young sovereign possessed a beneficial attribute, the ability to arouse the zeal of his devoted people. Henry accepted his regality and exhibited it with superb ease.

During Henry's reign, he built developed a strong fleet of fighting ships. He directed a significant reorganization of government which helped to set the stage for England's progression into leading world power. This included the formation of a bureaucracy that took over many government duties from the royal family.

Henry married his brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon, and by doing so entered into a coalition with King Ferdinand of Spain. He and his allies were led a triumphant campaign against the French and also repelled the Scots war on England. He later took on another devious tactic by acting as a mediator between France and Spain, playing them against each other in the hopes of gaining power. Henry preferred to avoid governing in person and therefore left most matters in hands of others. Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, Henry's chief minister, virtually ruled England. He was the Cardinal Bishop of York and the Lord Chancellor of England. At times he practically had absolute control of affairs. It was Wolsey's urging in 1521 that led to the composition by Henry entitled Asertio Septem Sacramentorum. This pamphlet criticized Martin Luther and his teachings. For this he was presented with the title of "Defender of the Faith"

In mind of the great Henry VII, the most atrocious failure in his reign would be the incapability to.