King of six wivesby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Known for separating the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church, having 6 wives in the course of 38 years, and being a very well-educated and capable ruler, Henry VIII was a very complicated man who did much for England.
Henry was born in Greenwich, near London, in 1491. As a boy he enjoyed music, dancing, wrestling, and hunting. His father, Henry VII was the first of the Tudor family of England rulers. By 1509, Henry was without father and mother at only 17 years old. He assumed the throne of England and married his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon. After she didn’t produce a male heir for him, Henry divorced her and married a maid of the court named Anne Boleyn. She gave him a daughter, but no son. In 1536, he had her beheaded for adultery. A month later, he married Jane Seymour who gave birth to Edward VI, but died during childbirth. At the urging of his chief minister, Henry married German princess Anne of Cleves, but after he married her, he discovered that she was not the beauty he thought she was. He had their marriage annulled. King Henry then married Catherine Howard who, in 1542 was convicted of adultery and beheaded. His sixth and last wife, Catherine Parr lived to be his widow.
Henry and Catherine of Aragon
Catherine of Aragon was the daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. At the age of 15, she became the wife of Arthur, Prince of Wales, who was the oldest son of King Henry VII of England. Five months after their marriage Arthur died and, in 1509, she married Arthur’s brother, Henry. She bore him 6 children, but of the six, only one lived. Mary I who was later crowned Queen. King Henry VIII had wanted a male heir, and when Catherine failed to provide one for him, he became attracted to a maid in her court, Anne Boleyn. Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, tried to ask Pope Clement VII to annul the king’s marriage, but was not able to convince him to. The king dismissed Wolsey in 1529. The king then denied that the pope had authority over England. In March of 1533, Parliament passed the Act in Restraint of Appeals, which declared that England was independent of all foreign authorities, including the pope. On the basis of that act, a church commission headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, declared the marriage of Henry and Catherine to be without legal force. In June of 1533, Anne was crowned queen.
Maid turned Queen
Anne Boleyn was the second, and perhaps, the most famous of King Henry’s wives. His determination to marry her led to the separation of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. Henry and Anne were married in secret, in1533. Anne was a maid of honor to Catherine of Aragon, when the king became interested in her. Henry married her in January of 1533, after she had become pregnant, and a church court, presided over by the archbishop of Canterbury, and then ruled that Henry’s first marriage to Catherine was invalid. The result was the Act of Supremacy, which gave Henry complete authority over all of England. The separation of the Roman Catholics and the Church of England assisted the spread of Protestantism, which spread across northern Europe. In September of the same year, she gave birth to Elizabeth, who later reigned as Queen Elizabeth I. After Anne did not give Henry the son he had hoped for, she quickly became proud, spiteful, and unpopular. It is said that she had dropped her handkerchief while she was in Greenwich, her hometown. This was considered a great act of infidelity, a crime which bore the penalty of death. Other accounts say that the king quickly lost interest in her, and in May of 1563, he charged her with unfaithfulness and had her beheaded.
3rd time counts for all!
Not much is known about Henry’s third wife. She was the only one to give him a son, Edward VI. They were not married long. Jane died during the birth of her son. During his marriage to Jane, he passed the Act of Union in 1536. This united England and Wales under one flag. The Welsh people had revolted against the English several times after Edward I had conquered Wales in the 1280’s. During Henry VIII‘s rule they gradually accepted the idea of union with England. IN acts of 1536 – 1543, Henry was able to join both countries under one system of government.
Another Short-Term Marriage
Not long after, King Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, urged Henry to marry German Princess, Anne of Cleves. He had seen a painting of her and it gave her such beauty that he agreed. On the night of their wedding, Henry discovered that Anne was no great beauty, and that she was in fact, quite homely. He divorced her within 6 months of their marriage. Cromwell was publicly disgraced and executed.
The Last Ones
After the divorce of Henry and Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII married Catherine Howard. She bore him no known children and he convicted her of adultery in 1542 and had her executed. Quickly afterwards, Henry married his Sixth and last wife, Catherine Parr. Catherine was the only wife of Henry that lived out her whole life without being divorced. Henry VIII died in 1547, leaving Catherine as his widowed Queen.
The rule of Henry VIII was long, and not in the least, unfruitful. He played
a significant role in the establishment of the Protestant Church. He unified
England and Wales, summoned the Reformation Parliament in 1529, which passed
137 statutes in seven years and exercised an influence in political and ecclesiastic
affairs which was unknown to feudal parliaments. Religious reform movements
had already taken hold in England, but on a small scale: the Lollards had been
in existence since the mid-fourteenth century and the ideas of Luther and Zwingli
circulated within intellectual groups, but continental Protestantism had yet
to find favor with the English people. The break from Rome was accomplished
through law, not social outcry; Henry, as Supreme Head of the Church of England,
acknowledged this by slight alterations in worship ritual instead of a wholesale
reworking of religious dogma. England moved into an era of "conformity
of mind" with the new royal supremacy (much akin to the absolutism of France's
Louis XIV): by 1536, all ecclesiastical and government officials were required
to publicly approve of the break with Rome and take an oath of loyalty. The
king moved away from the medieval idea of ruler as chief lawmaker and overseer
of civil behavior, to the modern idea of ruler as the ideological icon of the
The life of King Henry VIII might be compared to that of King Solomon, in the Old Testament of the Bible. They were both very well educated and were completely capable rulers that did much for their country. However, their preoccupations with multiple women appeared to have distracted their hearts from God. King Henry VIII married several times to produce a male heir, but King Solomon kept several wifes at once because that was what the kings of other countries did. Despite that they both made bad decisions in their lives, God used them to further his purposes on earth. For example, God used Henry to spread Biblical truth and bring forth Queen Elizabeth I. King Henry VIII is spoken warmly of by many people in England, and he did much to improve that country.
1. World Book Millennium 2000
a. Book 2, Volume B. Article: Anne Boleyn (1507? - 1536) Author: Richard L. Greaves
b. Book 3, Volume C – Ch. Article: Catherine of Argon (1485 - 1536) Author: Richard L. Greaves
c. Book 6, Volume E. Article: England (The English Reformation) Author: Peter R. Mounfield and Anthony Sutcliffe
d. Book 9, Vol. H. Article: Henry VIII (1491 - 1547) Author: Richard L. Greaves