Henry VIII was the second Tudor monarch and is best known for his six marriages, in particular his efforts to have his first marriage (to Catherine of Aragon) annulled; here is the famous mnemonic (saying) regarding their fates:
“Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived.”
Catherine of Aragon 11 June 1509 – 23 May 1533
(23 years, 11 months and 12 days) Annulled
Anne Boleyn 28 May 1533 – 17 May 1536
(2 years, 11 months and 19 days) Annulled, then beheaded Died 19 May 1536. Beheaded at the Tower of London. Mother of Queen Elizabeth I.
Jane Seymour 30 May 1536 – 24 October 1537
(1 year, 4 months and 24 days) Died Died 24 October 1537, twelve days after giving birth due to complications.
Anne of Cleves 6 January 1540 – 9 July 1540
(6 months and 3 days) Annulled Died 16 July 1557.
5 Catherine Howard 28 July 1540 – 23 November 1541
(1 year, 3 months and 26 days) Beheaded Died 13 February 1542. Beheaded at the Tower of London.
Catherine Parr 12 July 1543 – 28 January 1547
(3 years, 6 months and 16 days) Survived
His disagreement with the Pope on the question of such an annulment led Henry to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority. He appointed himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England and dissolved convents and monasteries, for which he was excommunicated. Henry is also known as “the father of the Royal Navy,” as he invested heavily in the navy, increasing its size from a few to more than 50 ships, and established the Navy Board.
Domestically, Henry is known for his radical changes to the English Constitution, ushering in the theory of the divine right of kings. He also greatly expanded royal power during his reign. He frequently used charges of treason and heresy to quell dissent, and those accused were often executed without a formal trial by means of bills of attainder. He achieved many of his political aims through the work of his chief ministers, some of whom were banished or executed when they fell out of his favour. Thomas Wolsey, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, Richard Rich, and Thomas Cranmer all figured prominently in his administration.
Henry was an extravagant spender, using the proceeds from the dissolution of the monasteries and acts of the Reformation Parliament. He also converted the money that was formerly paid to Rome into royal revenue. Despite the money from these sources, he was continually on the verge of financial ruin due to his personal extravagance, as well as his numerous costly and largely unsuccessful wars, particularly with King Francis I of France, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, James V of Scotland and the Scottish regency under the Earl of Arran and Mary of Guise. At home, he oversaw the legal union of England and Wales with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542, and he was the first English monarch to rule as King of Ireland following the Crown of Ireland Act 1542.
Henry’s contemporaries considered him an attractive, educated, and accomplished king. He has been described as “one of the most charismatic rulers to sit on the English throne”. He was an author and composer. As he aged, however, he became severely obese and his health suffered, contributing to his death in 1547. He is frequently characterised in his later life as a lustful, egotistical, harsh, and insecure king. He was succeeded by his son Edward VI.
Reign 22 April 1509 – 28 January 1547
Coronation 24 June 1509
Predecessor Henry VII
Successor Edward VI
Born Henry Tudor
28 June 1491
Palace of Placentia, Greenwich, Kent
Died 28 January 1547 (aged 55)
Palace of Whitehall, London
Workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger 1497/8 (German)
Details of artist on Google Art Project
Portrait of Henry VIII
Portrait of Henry VIII
Object type painting
English: Portrait of Henry VIII by the workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger. (Details on Google Art Project)
Depicted people Henry VIII of England
Date 1537 – 1547
Medium oil on canvas