Friday, 8 February 2013

Henry VIII

A Notorious Tyrant - one of the most famous English Kings

The notorious Henry VIII only became King of England because his older brother died. He was born on 28th of June 1491 at Greenwich Palace. He was given the best education England had to offer and was fluent in Latin and French.

Henry VIII by Hans Holbein
Henry married his brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon. Henry was devastated when their first child was stillborn and their second - a son - died after seven weeks. Henry had an affair with one of the Duke of Buckingham's sisters and a more lasting affair with Bessie Blount which resulted in the birth of an illegitimate son. Meanwhile Catherine finally gave birth to a child that would survive - but it was not the son Henry had wanted. Instead he now had a daughter, Mary, whom he adored in the years when there was still hope for a male heir.

But time passed by and no son of Catherine and Henry was to live. And soon the King fell in love. Anne Boleyn is said to have been the passion of Henry's life and he decided to embark on a long and difficult route for divorce. But Rome and the pope would not give Henry his divorce so after seven years of dealing with the pope, Henry finally broke with the Catholic church of Rome. Instead he made his country Protestant - it should be noted that at the Tudor time Protestantism was very new and not the same as we see it today.

Henry realized that the Church possessed large areas of land and properties that could bring in massive sums to the Crown. The monasteries were closed and the monks evicted but the King was more powerful than ever before in English history.

After having divorced his first wife and illegitimated the Princess Mary, the King married Anne Boleyn in 1533 or the late 1532.
Henry and his co-King Francis I of France had a strained relationship. Henry's huge ego meant that he got involved in a wrestling game with the French King during the Field of the Cloth of Gold - and lost. Henry was furious and signed reluctantly a peace treaty; his pride was extremely wounded.

Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England and since she was already pregnant Henry was convinced that it was a boy. But instead Elizabeth was born and Henry became disappointed again. After Anne had two miscarriages - one of a male foetus - Henry began to look for a new wife. He then took a fancy to Jane Seymour and - realizing that he could not have another divorce - Henry wanted to get rid of Anne. And so she was beheaded.

Jane Seymour became pregnant and gave birth to the son Henry had always wanted. But then she died. Some say that Henry loved her the most but this is very unlikely. She gave him a son and died in her efforts which meant that Henry never had a chance to tire of her - these are most likely the reasons why Henry idolized her. Henry and his court mourned for an appropriate amount of time and then the hunt for a fourth wife began. Henry was convinced by Thomas Cromwell that an alliance with the Protestant German League would protect England from both France and Spain - both still Catholic and forming a new alliance. So Henry married his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, and was displeased from the first meeting where he famously exclaimed "I like her not!". The marriage lasted for six months before a divorce was created.

But the King did not have to be lonely. Actually he had already found a new girl he wanted to marry: Katherine Howard, who was nineteen when she married the ageing King. He adored his new young Queen but after a few years of marriage it was discovered that not only had the Queen been informally engaged to another man - she was also having an affair with Thomas Culpepper. So Katherine Howard followed Anne Boleyn to the scaffold.

Henry VIII c. 1537
Henry was tired of life at this point but he took a fancy for Catherine Parr who was already married but to a husband that was dying - and soon did die. So Henry married his sixth and final wife. His new wife was Protestant and translated and wrote books on Protestantism. Henry was not too happy about this and was soon thinking of having Catherine sent to the Tower. But she convinced him that he had misunderstood her intentions.

Henry desperately tried to recapture some of his youth and tried to retake Boulogne. He succeeded but had to surrender it due to financial problems. Because now Henry's England was close to bankruptcy and demanded 2 million pounds in return for Boulogne - and the French would only get it back after eight years.

By this point in life Henry was very obese and had to be lifted onto his horse. His ulcer on his leg was tormenting him right to the last. Henry VIII died at the age of 55 on 28th January 1547.

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