King Henry VIII

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King Henry VIII

Henry VIII (born 1491, ruled 1509-1547). The second son of Henry VII

and Elizabeth of York was one of England's strongest and least popular

monarchs. He was born at Greenwich on June 28, 1491. The first English

ruler to be educated under the influence of the Renaissance, he was a

gifted scholar, linguist, composer, and musician. As a youth he was gay and

handsome, skilled in all manner of athletic games, but in later life he

became coarse and fat. When his elder brother, Arthur, died (1502), he

became heir apparent. He succeeded his father on the throne in 1509, and

soon thereafter he married Arthur's young widow, Catherine of Aragon.

During the first 20 years of his reign he left the shaping of policies

largely in the hands of his great counselor, Cardinal Wolsey (See Wolsey,

Cardinal). By 1527 Henry had made up his mind to get rid of his wife.


only one of Catherine's six children who survived infancy was a sickly

girl, the Princess Mary, and it was doubtful whether a woman could succeed

to the English throne. Then too, Henry had fallen in love with a lady of

the court, Anne Boleyn.

When the pope (Clement VII) would not annul his marriage, Henry turned

against Wolsey, deprived him of his office of chancellor, and had him

arrested on a charge of treason. He then obtained a divorce through Thomas

Cranmer, whom he had made archbishop of Canterbury, and it was soon

announced that he had married Anne Boleyn.

The pope was thus defied. All ties that bound the English church to

Rome were broken. Appeals to the pope's court were forbidden, all payments

to Rome were stopped, and the pope's authority in England was abolished. In

1534 the Act of...