Henry VIII (b. 1491 r. 1509-1547)
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Henry VIII (b. 1491 r. 1509-1547)

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I am most sorry to know and hear how unreverently that most precious jewel, the Word of God, is disputed, rhymed, sung and jangled in every ale-house and tavern, contrary to the true meaning and doctrine of the same.
Speech to Parliament, 24 December 1545. Henry commenting on the translation of the Bible into English.

Additional Information on
Henry VIII (b. 1491 r. 1509-1547)

Henry VII had two sons, but the eldest - Arthur the Prince of Wales - had died in 1502 so on Henry's death the crown passed to his second son Henry. Henry VIII was regarded as a charming and handsome young man who was welcomed by his people. In 1509 he married Arthur's widow, Catherine of Aragon and it seemed he was destined for a happy and successful reign. Henry pursued private pleasures and left the government in the capable hands of his Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey. However, by 1529 Henry had become obsessed with desire for a son as his heir (Catherine failing to produce one), and so he wanted a new wife. Henry claimed his marriage invalid on the grounds that it was forbidden to marry a sibling's widow (he had special permission for his union). But when Wolsey failed to secure the King's divorce from the Pope, Henry charged him with treason. After being excommunicated by the Pope Henry became increasingly autocratic and declared himself to be the 'Supreme Head of the English Church' breaking off ties with Rome completely, and giving himself the permission to divorce his wife. Henry closed the English monasteries and took all their treasures, by the time of his death the exchequer was bankrupt.

Henry is best remembered for his succession of wives in his quest to produce a male heir. After his twenty year marriage to Catherine of Aragon proved fruitless, Henry had it annulled in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Anne was executed on a charge of high treason and his third wife Jane Seymour whom he genuinely loved, died giving him the son he craved - Edward VI (the only male heir to survive). His marriage to Anne of Cleves was never even consummated and his fifth wife Catherine Howard lost her head for being unfaithful to him. Catherine Parr, his sixth wife was seen by Henry as an ideal step mother to his children.

When older, Henry became grossly overweight, riddled with disease and displayed a cruel and tyrannical streak.


The King has a way of making every man feel that he is enjoying his special favour, just as the way the London wives pray before the images of Our Lady by the Tower till each of them believes it is smiling upon her.
- Sir Thomas More, letter to Bishop John Fisher, 1518.

The king put off our discussion until another time, as he was in a hurry to go and dine and dance afterwards. In this he does wonders and leaps like a stag.
- The Milanese Ambassador, 1513.

Henry never spared a man his anger, nor a woman in his lust.
- Robert Nauton, Fragmenta Regalia, 1641.

We at no time stand so highly in our estate royal as in the time of Parliament, wherein we as head and you as members are conjoined and knit together into one body politic.
- Speech to deputation from House of Commons, 31 March 1543.

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