King Henry VIII

Lived: 1491-1547
Reigned: 1509-1547

King Henry VIII

Born: 28 June 1491
Place: Placentia Palace, Greenwich
Reigned: 1509-1547
Coronation: 24 June 1509
Father: King Henry VII (1457-1509)
Mother: Elizabeth Of York (1466-1503)
Spouses: 1. Catherine Of Aragon (1485-1536); 2. Anne Boleyn (c.1504-1536); 3. Jane Seymour (c.1507-1537); 4. Anne Of Cleves (1515-1557); 5. Katherine Howard (c.1522-1542); 6. Katherine Parr (c.1512-1548)
Children: Mary I (1516-1558); Elizabeth I (1533-1603); Edward VI (1537-1553); Henry Fitzroy illegitimate (1519-1536)
Religion: Roman Catholic then Protestant
Died: 28 January 1547, Whitehall Palace
Funeral: 16 February 1547
Buried: Windsor Castle
Successor: Edward VI

King Henry VIII was the second son of King Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth of York. Henry had planned on following a career in the Church, but when his elder brother, Arthur, died in 1502, Henry became first in line to the throne and had to prepare for a future as King. His father died in 1509, and at eighteen years of age, Henry became King of England. Soon after his accession, he married his brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon. For many years the couple hoped for a son and heir, but the only child that survived infancy was a daughter, Mary. For most of his life, Henry was a devoted Roman Catholic, and a book he wrote against Protestant leader Martin Luther earned him the title of Defender of the Faith from the Pope.

However, Henry's desire for son forced him to embrace the "new religion" when the Pope would not give him a divorce from Catherine. Henry was aware that his wife was unlikely to have any more children, and he felt he had to marry again to sire a legitimate son to succeed him. After separating the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church, Henry got his divorce, and married the woman he had been in love with for some years, Anne Boleyn. It is uncertain when exactly they married, but sometime between late autumn 1532 and the first few weeks of 1533. Anne may have been already pregnant when they married, but was certainly pregnant by the time she was crowned in the summer of 1533. Both she and Henry were sure that the child they were expecting was a boy, but to their disappointment, the baby born on the 7th of September 1533 was a girl: the future Queen Elizabeth I.

Anne Boleyn bore the King no more living children. Believing she would never provide him with a son, Henry had her executed for adultery in the May of 1536. Anne was even accused of having an affair with her brother, George Boleyn. Within days of her death, Henry married Jane Seymour. To Henry's joy, she gave birth to his much longer for son, Edward, the following year, but to his grief, she died a few days later. Henry married three more times, but only his last marriage to Katherine Parr was a success. His fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves ended before it had begun as the King did not find her attractive, and his fifth wife, Katherine Howard, was executed for adultery.

Henry showed no more compassion to his long-serving ministers than he did his wives. Thomas Wolsey (c.1475-1530), the King's chief minister for several years, died facing accusations of treason, and Thomas More (1478-1535), once one of the King's closest friends, was executed for refusing to accept the religious changes in the land. Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540) was executed for arranging the King's disastrous union with Anne of Cleves.

While Henry was a popular monarch with the people, the break with Rome caused immense upheaval in the land. All monasteries and convents were closed, meaning that monks and nuns who had lived in confinement for years were suddenly forced into society, and many lands belonging to these religious houses were granted to the aristocracy. The break with Rome, known as the Reformation, changed the country forever, and while many families prospered from it, others were destroyed. The Reformation also left Henry's children, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, with an England deeply divided over religion.

Henry died in the January of 1547 and was succeeded by his young son, Edward.