Henry VIII

The Man Who Shouldn't Have Been King

Henry VIII was never meant to be king. His older brother, Arthur (called the Rosebush of England, which was a compliment, believe it or not!) was destined to rule over England as his legendary namesake had centuries before. But that wasn't to be. When Henry was twelve, Arthur died. Henry's father immediately betrothed Henry to Catherine. When his father died in April, 1509, Henry became King of England. One of his first decisions as king was to marry Catherine of Aragon, his dead brother's wife (Plowden 28.) The wedding took place on 11 June. Almost immediately Catherine was taken to the Tower of London to prepare for her corontation (Plowden 30). Catherine was twenty-three and Henry not yet eighteen. (Plowden 30).

The Happy Years With Catherine

Early in 1513, Henry VIII went to war with France. Before crossing the Channel, he made his wife Governor of the Realm and Captain-General of the armed forces that did not leave with Henry. Almost as soon as Henry's ships were out of sight, the King of Scots prepared to invade England, conveniently forgetting that he was married to Henry's younger sister. (Plowden 31) Left in charge, Catherine rose to the challenge and soundly lead her troops to the defeat of the Scottish troops at Flodden (Plowden 31).
Henry's court was known throughout the world for its pageants and tournaments. He filled his presence with scholars and artists and was truly a man of the Renaissance.

Trouble Begins

But all was not happy in Henry and Catherine's marriage. Out of nine pregnancies, only one child, Mary, lived. Believing that God was showing his divine displeasure at their marriage, he asked the Pope for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine. The Pope refused. In 1532, Henry VII took matters into his own hands by declaring the church in England seperate from the church in Rome, effectively taking power away from Vatican. Free of Rome, Henry had his own clergy renounce his marriage to Catherine. He and Anne were married in 1533, with Anne already pregnant with Henry's longed for heir.

They Call Him the Wanderer...

Henry had already decided before the child was born that the baby would be named either Henry or Edward. However, the baby turned out to be a daughter. Henry was greatly disappointed, as was Anne. Anne had at least one more child, a male who was born dead on the same day Anne's nemesis, Catherine of Aragon, was buried. The termination of that pregnancy resulted in her death.
Henry wanted Anne out of the way, and he wanted her out of the way quickly and permanently. In May of 1563, Anne was arrested with five men, one of whom was her brother, George, and taken to the Tower of London. She was charged with adultery, incest, 'despising her mariage' and 'entertaining malice against the king' (Plowden 74). She and the other men, accused as her lovers, were also charged with plotting the king's muder. There is no proof whatsoever than any of these charges were true. Anne herself denied all charges, but it didn't matter. She was convicted and sentenced to burning or beheading 'at the king's pleasure.' Henry was enough of a big fuzzy teddy bear to allow the woman he had pursued relentlessly for years the decency of a beheading by sword, which was considered much more quicl and accurate than the sometimes clumsy axe. The five men charged with her were executed on 17 May, and two days later Anne herself was executed.
Henry was planning his next wedding by the time Anne's body was buried.

Yeah, He's the Wanderer...

Henry was engaged to be married to Jane Seymour, a former lady in waiting to Anne Boleyn (just as Anne had been a lady in waiting to Catherine of Aragon) the day after his second wife's execution. The were married 30 May. On 12 October Jane gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Twelve days later, she was dead of childbed fever.

He's Wanders 'Round...

Soon after his third wife's death, Henry began a sort of beauty contest with the big prize being, well, him. It is an unfounded but juicy rumor that Christina of Milan rejected his proposal by saying, "I fear I have but one head." In 1539, Henry's quest to find the fourth lucky woman to be his bride. Her name was Anne of Cleves, the twenty-three year old sister of the Duke of Cleves, and Henry VIII signed the marriage contract without laying eyes on her first, which was a mistake. When she arrived in England, he found her not to his taste, to say the least. The marriage was annulled six months later.

and 'Round...

In December of 1540, Henry married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. She was pretty and young -- not yet twenty when she married Henry -- and unfortunately, 'bird-brained' (Plowden 93). After the couple had been married almost two years, it came to light that not only had Catherine apparently entered into a marriage contract with another man years before, and was therefore considered legally married to that man, Francis Dereham, but she was also carrying on in a very un-Queen-like (although one could say very king-like, given Henry's daliances) with a member of her court. Catherine and the two men who were charged as her lovers were put to death in December of 1542.

... and 'Round and 'Round.

The king married again, this time on 12 July of 1543 after a morning period of almost seven months (waiting much more to remarry than he did after the last wife he had executed). This time he married a woman who was already twice-widowed, Catherine Parr. She was a good woman who brought a sense of family to the dysfunctional Tudor brood, including Mary and Elizabeth, who were often estranged from their father. Catherine also took into her charge her great-niece by marriage, Jane Grey.

The Death of A King

Henry died on 28th January 1547 in Whitehall, London, at the age of 56. His son, Edward, succeeded him.


Time Line
An Overview of the English Monarchy.
Royal Genealogies
Look up all of Henry VIII's ancestors and relatives.
Royal Scandals by Michael Rarquhar
A funny (but accurate) look at the scandals that have plagued the British Royal family throughout history.

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