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Henry VIII's Biography

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Henry Tudor, son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, was born on June 28 1491 at Greenwich Palace.

He was a younger brother of the heir to the throne Arthur, the then Prince of Wales. In 1501 Catherine of Aragon married the 15-year-old Arthur, but soon, disaster struck as Arthur died of Tuberculosis. This catastrophe meant that Henry was the first in line to the throne and in April 1509 he succeeded his father. He was only 18 years old.

Also in 1509, with the Pope's consent (as marrying your brother's wife was not allowed in Leviticus) Henry married Catherine of Aragon.

At the beginning of Henry's reign he was a "golden Prince": tall (about 6ft 1), charming and intelligent.

In 1511 Catherine gave birth to a baby boy, named Henry but sadly, he died two months later. Then in 1513 Henry VIII launched a campaign against France, and whilst he was away in Europe the Scots attacked. Led by James IV the Scottish and English fought the battle of Flodden Field, which ended with James's death and the succession of his 18 month old baby, James V to the throne.

The first of Henry's advisers, in 1515, was Thomas Wolsey who had risen to power in court and was soon promoted to Lord Chancellor and cardinal.

Henry needed a male heir, and as Catherine had only given birth to one child who had survived infancy, named Mary, things did not bode well. He was so worried about the legacy of the Tudors that he would take drastic action.

In 1521, ironically, Henry was presented with the title of "Defender of the faith" by Pope Leo X, because he stood up against a monk called Martin Luther.

Henry VIII fell in love with another woman at court, Anne Boleyn, who convinced him to divorce from Catherine and marry her instead. In order to divorce from Catherine, Henry, at first tried asking the Pope, but he declined. Due to this, Thomas Wolsey was sacked and had much of his property taken away. After this, Sir Thomas More became Chancellor of England (1530).

Henry married Anne Boleyn in 1533 and together they had a baby girl, Elizabeth, who later became Elizabeth I. Unfortunately, all of Anne's subsequent pregnancies ended in stillbirth or miscarriage.

Henry, however, set about creating the Church of England (a branch of Protestantism) as the Pope had proclaimed that their marriage was invalid. He successfully instigated himself as the head of the church. England was excommunicated by the Pope whilst parliament backed up Henry's decision.

The dissolution of the monasteries followed whereby around 560 monasteries and religious houses were destroyed.

In 1536, Henry VIII had Anne Boleyn executed for treason and adultery with her own brother. Henry then fell in love with one of Anne's Lady-in-Waiting, Jane Seymour. Jane married Henry and became Queen. In 1537, Henry finally got his wish and Jane gave birth to a boy, named Edward, unfortunately she died of a fever after childbirth.

The search for a fourth wife, led Henry to Anne of Cleves. She was a German princess with whom Henry fell in love upon seeing her portrait by Hans Holbein, but when he met her in his court he thought she was ugly. Thomas Cromwell organised the match, and due to this lost his head. Anne of Cleves and Henry divorced.

He fell in love with Katherine Howard in 1540 and married her soon afterwards but, once again the marriage did not work out and Katherine was executed for infidelity in 1542. She was only 22 and tied down by a bloated, old husband, this could suggest that the charges were correct, unlike those against Anne Boleyn.

As he neared his death Henry grew fatter and ended his life with a 53 inch chest and 52 inch waist!

Henry VIII married Catherine Parr, who acted more as a nurse than a wife. She managed to outlive him as, shortly after their marriage, on the 28th January 1547, Henry died. He was succeeded by his only son Edward VI, who was only 9 years old.

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