History of Henry VIII


The Tudor period in England  *1485 and 1603 was marked by the transition from the medieval period to the Early Modern period.

Henry VIII was the son of the first Tudor monarch Henry VII and his queen, Elizabeth of York. On the death of his elder brother Prince Arthur, Henry became the heir to the throne in 1502 and succeeded in 1509.

Henry VIII Medieval King

The famous or infamous Medieval King Henry VIII

Since his youth, he was highly intelligent, athletic, and extremely fond of hunting. Henry had a promising start at the beginning of his reign, but as time went on the King became increasingly unpopular.

He was notorious mainly for his matrimonial history. Because of his ruthless and selfish behavior, almost everyone was afraid of him by the end of his life.

Medieval Sports Falconery

Medieval Nobility and Royals could afford medieval sports such as Falconry

Succession as a king

After the death of his father, Henry VIII succeeded the throne in 1509. He was only 17 when he became a king. Henry is considered to be the most renowned Tudor King.

He reined for almost forty years and during this long time, his appearance along with his reputation changed drastically.

Over the years, the king transformed from a handsome, charismatic, and optimistic man into a much larger and cruel figure. Henry VIII married six times in search of political alliance and a male heir.

Henrys Six Wives

Henry VIII *First Marriage

Catherine of Aragon was the first wife of Henry VIII and the widow of his brother Arthur. The king and queen remained married for 23 years and after several miscarriages, Catherine produced a daughter, Mary. Although she gave birth to a boy, unfortunately, he died only after two months.

The majority of the scholars however believed that Catherine of Aragon was the only wife of Henry truly loved. Nevertheless, the undying love proved not enough for Henry as he sought the Pope’s approval for an annulment after a twenty-year marriage with Catherine. After the refusal of the Pope, Henry established his own church known as the Church of England.

Tudor Times

Tudor England King Henry and his Family

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn was the second wife of Henry VIII who had an affair with him during his marriage with Catherine. Undoubtedly, she was the most famed of Henry’s wives and is still the subject of fascination.

In order to marry his second wife, Henry VIII endured a seven-year courtship as well as far-reaching religious and political upheavals.

However, like Catherine, the king’s change of heart was likely due to the fact that his second wife Anne also seemed unable to bear him a son. Anne Boleyn suffered several miscarriages after giving birth to Elizabeth I in 1533.

Henry VIII soon began courting Jane and after being investigated for high treason, Anne was sent to the Tower of London. The queen was charged with adultery, incest, and plotting to kill the king and was finally beheaded.

Anne Boleyn the wife of King Henry VIII

King Henry VIII had six wives – this image is of his wife Anne Boleyn

Jane Seymour

Henry VIII moved on to another lady, Jane after beheading his second wife. The king married the third time only ten days after Anne’s execution. The third queen gave birth to a son after one year of their marriage who was the first male heir of Henry VIII.

Sadly, due to some complications, Jane died after twelve days. The grief of Henry due to the death of Jane was insurmountable. As compared to other consorts of Henry, Jane was of low social status, but she was the only wife who received a proper Queen’s burial.

Anne of Cleves

A German princess, Anne of Cleves was his fourth wife of Henry and the pair got married for just six months. The Queen had a pre-existing marriage agreement with an English monarch in spite of being married to King Henry.

This marriage was annulled just six months later but in this short time, the queen became an honorary member of the Royal family.

Catherine Howard

Catherine Howard was the fifth wife of Henry VIII and the second one to be beheaded. This marriage lasted for one year producing no heir. Eventually, the queen was accused of treason and adultery and was beheaded within three months.

Catherine Parr- the last of Henry’s wife

Catherine Parr was the sixth and final wife of Henry VIII and was married twice before marrying Henry. The king appointed Queen Catherine Parr as his successor and also named her Queen Regent.

She also became the restorer of his court and was most influential in making sure that his lineage continued. After Henry’s death, she married again and was known as the most married English queen.

Disagreement with Papacy

Henry VIII always wanted a male heir but none of the sons born to him survived. His first wife Catherine of Aragon gave birth to six children but five died within days and only “Mary” survived to adulthood.

Henry decided to have another wife, but for this purpose, he required the Pope’s permission. The king wished to marry Anne Boleyn, the daughter of Thomas Boleyn.

However, the second marriage was declared invalid by the Pope and Henry reacted by announcing that the Pope had no authority in England. Later he became the head of the English church.

English Reformation

English Reformation in Medieval TImes Edward and the Pope

Role in English reformation

The English Reformation began in the reign of Henry VIII which had a far-reaching consequence in Tudor England. The disagreement of Henry with the Pope broke England from the Roman Catholic Church based in Rome.

In 1534, the king was made the supreme head of the church by an Act of parliament. Though the country was still Catholic, the power of the Pope had been ended. The king decided to shut the monasteries in England and this act was called “dissolution”.


  • Henry VIII was the second monarch of the Tudor dynasty.
  • Henry VIII became the King of England in 1509 and remained the monarch until his death in 1547.
  • He famously married six times in a bid to secure a male heir. However, he failed.
  • Two of Henry’s wives were beheaded on his orders for treason and disloyalty.
  • Henry VIII broke away England from the Catholic Church and laid the foundations of the Church of England.
  • He executed a number of prominent figures who were once close to him but then fell from his favor.