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  • Henry VIII becomes King of England, April 21, 1509.

    Beatriz Camino

    Henry VIII becomes King of England, April 21, 1509.

    Henry VIII (1491-1547) reigned from 1509 to 1547. Known for his six marriages, break from the Catholic Church, and establishment of the Church of England, his reign was marked by political and religious upheaval.

    Early Life

    In August 1485, Henry Tudor's victory over Richard III marked the end of the Wars of the Roses. Crowned as Henry VII, he established a new dynasty, the Tudors, solidified by his marriage to Elizabeth of York in 1486. This union symbolized the reconciliation of warring factions and heralded a new era for England.

    Despite initial challenges, Henry VII focused on consolidating power, arranging his eldest son Artuhur’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand of Spain. However, Arthur’s death in 1502 shifted the succession to Henry, born in 1491. Recognizing the importance of maintaining friendly relations with Spain, Henry VII secured a special dispensation from the Pope for Prince Henry to marry Catherine. Upon Henry VII's death on April 21, 1509, Prince Henry ascended the throne and married Catherine, formally becoming Henry VIII on June 24, 1509.

    Henry's Six Wives

    Henry, driven by the quest for a male heir, married six times. To begin with, his union with Catherine of Aragon produced only one surviving child, Mary, driving the king to seek an annulment to marry Anne Boleyn. However, he only got an annulment after Anne became pregnant. With her, Henry had a second daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1533. However, when he discovered that she had had an affair and his eye had been caught by his next wife, he ordered her execution. A few weeks later Henry married Jane Seymour, who finally bore him the long-awaited son, Edward, born in 1537. Tragically, she died shortly after childbirth.

    Anne of Cleves became Henry's fourth wife. Nevertheless, he quickly grew disillusioned, and they mutually consented to divorce in 1540. Catherine Howard, his fifth wife, suffered a fate akin to Anne Boleyn when accused of adultery, leading to her execution in 1542. Henry’s marriage to his sixth and final wife, Catherine Parr, was successful and brought stability to his life. Even though she outlived him, she died from childbirth complications a few months later.

    His Reign

    Henry VIII's reign heralded significant departures from traditional medieval governance. He established a court where even lower nobles could rise through royal favour, assembling a council that included influential figures like Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell. However, both were accused of treason, leading to the establishment of the Privy Council in 1540, which reinstated a cabinet of ministers.

    Additionally, Henry's administration undertook substantial administrative reforms, integrating Wales into England's governance. He also asserted control over Ireland by assuming the title 'King of Ireland', a departure from previous monarchs who had only held the title of 'Lord of Ireland.'

    Henry's reign also marked a significant shift in England's religious landscape. Initially honoured by the Pope with the title 'Defender of the Faith' for his attacks on Lutheranism, the king’s relations soured when he annulled his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. His actions resulted in his excommunication by the Pope, highlighting the affair's significance beyond mere marital disputes. To replace the Pope as the head of the Catholic Church in England, Henry established himself as the Supreme Head of the Church of England through the Act of Supremacy in 1534.

    On the foreign policy front, Henry’s ambitions mirrored those of his predecessors. Despite his sister Margaret's marriage to King James IV of Scotland, he launched military campaigns northward, resulting in James IV's downfall. However, subsequent efforts fell short, leaving Scotland as an unresolved concern for future rulers. Furthermore, Henry sought to expand his influence in France but failed to yield substantial gains. Shifting tactics, he arranged his sister Mary's marriage to Louis XII of France and pursued a status quo in Europe, solidifying a mutual defence pact with France, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire. Nevertheless, financial constraints led Henry to abandon further military endeavours in the 1540s.

    Amid these foreign policy challenges, the king orchestrated lavish displays of opulence which, coupled with inflation, depleted the royal treasury. This resulted in a kingdom divided over religious matters and a ruler whose legacy was marred by extravagance and authoritarianism.

    Death & Legacy

    In his later years, Henry's health rapidly declined, afflicted by a severely ulcerated leg and obesity. He passed away on January 28, 1547, at the age of 55 and was buried at Windsor Castle, alongside his third wife, Jane Seymour. Succeeding him was his son Edward VI, who ascended the throne at the age of nine and was crowned on February 20, 1547. Tragically, Edward succumbed to tuberculosis in 1553, leading to the reign of his half-sister Mary I, which lasted until 1558. Following her rule, Henry's second daughter, Elizabeth I, assumed the throne, marking the beginning of the Golden Age of England, which lasted until 1603.

    Henry's reign remains a pivotal chapter in English history, leaving an enduring imprint on politics, religion, and culture through the ages. In this sense, his establishment of the Church of England and his break from Rome reshaped England's religious identity, setting the stage for future conflicts. Additionally, his numerous marriages significantly influenced the monarchy's succession and the social dynamics of the kingdom.


    Henry VIII Second coinage, Half George Noble, only 3 known to existIreland Henry VIII AD 1485-1509 Silver Groat, DublinHenry VIII. Testoon. 1544-1547.. . 8517.

    England. Henry VIII (1509-1547). Posthumous AR GroatHenry VIII gold Halfcrown, mm pellet in annulet, capital letter Hs, MS61Henry VIII Posthumous issue under Edward VI, Half-Sovereign, mm grapple


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