Peoples and Nations

King Henry VIII

King Henry VIII

Famous for being King of England, having six wives and making himself Head of the Church in England

Born - 24th June 1491
Parents - King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York
Siblings - Arthur, Margaret, Mary
Married - 1. Catherine of Aragon 1509 (divorced 1533)
2. Anne Boleyn 1533 (beheaded 1536)
3. Jane Seymour 1536 (died 1538)
4. Anne of Cleves 1540 (divorced 1540)
5. Kathryn Howard 1540 (beheaded 1542)
6. Katherine Parr 1543
Children - Marriage 1 - Mary I, Marriage 2 - Elizabeth I, Marriage 3 - Edward VI
Died - 28th January 1547

Henry was the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. He was a very studious child and received a humanist education. He excelled at sports and was skilled at tennis and the joust as well as falconry.

Henry became heir to the throne when his younger brother, Arthur died shortly after marrying Catherine of Aragon. At one point Henry was betrothed to Catherine but Henry VII was reluctant to allow the marriage to go ahead. When Henry VIII became King he asked Catherine to marry him and the two were married on 11th June 1509. Despite numerous pregnancies only one child survived, a girl, Mary.

By 1527 Henry was having serious doubts about his marriage to Catherine. He believed that he had no sons because God was punishing him for having married his brother's wife. He had found a passage in the Bible that backed this belief.

He had also fallen for Anne Boleyn, the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, who had recently returned to England from the French court. Catherine refused to grant Henry a divorce or retire to a convent. Henry therefore began the Reformation in England so that he could divorce Catherine without the Pope's permission and marry Anne Boleyn.

In January 1533 Anne Boleyn announced that she was pregnant and Henry secretly married her. The baby was born in September 1533 but Henry was disappointed that it was a girl. Subsequent pregnancies ended in miscarriage or stillbirth. One miscarriage was blamed on the shock brought on from learning that Henry had fallen from his horse. The fall left Henry unconscious for a while and with a leg ulcer that never properly healed. By 1536 Henry was tired of Anne and she was executed for treason on trumped up charges of adultery and incest.

Eleven days after Anne's execution, Henry married Jane Seymour. Jane was quiet and demure and pleased Henry greatly. Especially when she gave Henry the heir he longed for. However, the birth had been difficult and Jane died from puerperal fever in October 1538.

Although Henry had no wish to be married again he agreed to marry a Protestant princess in order to forge an alliance with Germany the other main Protestant country in Europe. After seeing portraits painted by Hans Holbein Henry decided to marry Anne of Cleves. However, when he met her Henry was repulsed and wanted to call off the marriage. A search for a loophole in the marriage contract was fruitless and the marriage went ahead. The couple divorced amicably after six months.

In the summer of 1540 Henry married Kathryn Howard. Kathryn was a lively teenager who enjoyed dancing and partying. She found her old husband boring and spent much time in the company of a younger set. Rivalry between nobility led to Henry being informed of her antics. Henry reluctantly agreed to an investigation of her behaviour. She was accused of treason and executed.

In 1543 Katherine Parr was chosen to be Henry's sixth wife. After Henry's death in 1547 she married Thomas Seymour but died following the birth of a daughter.

Henry was buried in St George's chapel Windsor.