Henri VIII - Public domain

Henry VIII

Henri VIII - Public domain

par Guide Irlande

Henry VIII (1491-1547) was King of the Kingdom of England, Scotland and Ireland. The latter is known in history for having led a reign of great violence, marked by religious reforms, as well as numerous political conflicts between France and Spain. He is also infamous for having contracted 6 successive marriages, most of which came to a sad end.

Biography of King Henry VIII

Marriage and Coronation

Henri was born on June 28, 1491. He is the third child of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, and second heir to the throne after his brother Arthur. For alliance with Spain, Henry VII married his son Arthur (15 years old) to Catherine of Aragon (16 years old) in 1501. But Arthur fell immediately ill and died on April 2, 1502 from the suette.

Henry is now the sole successor to the throne. Spain and England, therefore, decided to marry Henry to Catherine of Aragon, after proving that the first marriage of Catherine and Arthur was never consummated. After papal approval, Henry officially became engaged to Catherine in 1503, and then married on June 11, 1509, nine weeks after the coronation of Henry VIII on April 22, 1509.

It is then very quickly a question of creating descendants for the royal couple. But Queen Catherine had a first miscarriage in 1510, and the following year gave birth to a little boy who did not survive more than a month, and then to a stillborn.

Henry asserts his authority

As soon as he was crowned, the King locked the ministers Edmund Dudley and Richard Empson in the Tower of London for high treason, and had them beheaded in 1510. This first sentence allowed Henry to establish his authority and intimidate anyone wishing to overthrow him.

After difficult conflicts with the King of France, Henri made peace with Francis I in 1514, and entered into conflict with Spain. At that time, this conflict made the relations of the royal couple rather difficult: Catherine did not manage to give birth, and Henri was seriously thinking of divorcing.

After two years of attempts, Queen Catherine became pregnant in 1516 and gave birth to Marie Tudor. Henry VIII was overjoyed, and regained confidence in his chances of conceiving a male heir with Catherine.

The religious reform of Henry VIII

As early as 1521, Henry VIII went to war against the Protestant reforms put in place by Martin Luther, which he described as heresy. But Henry also feared the growing influence of the Pope in Rome on his kingdom and ambitioned to break with the Vatican to become himself the Head of the Church of England.

In the meantime, relations between Catherine of Aragon and Henry are deteriorating: the queen is unable to give the king a new child, and her age seems to believe that she will no longer be able to do so in the future. Tired, Henry multiplies mistresses, and ends up meeting Anne Boleyn, a lady-in-waiting of the queen.

Henry immediately falls in love with her and wishes to divorce Catherine and marry her in order to conceive an heir. It will take Henry more than two years to enforce his divorce with the Vatican: Thomas Cromwell, the King’s secretary, believes that Henry VIII can do without the Pope’s agreement, provided that the King himself becomes the Head of the Church of England. Thus, on February 11, 1531, Henry VIII was proclaimed Head of the Church: “We acknowledge that His Majesty is the Particular Protector, the one and only Supreme Lord and, as far as the law of Christ permits, the Supreme Head of the Church and clergy of England. “This was the beginning of Anglicanism.

On January 25, 1533, Anne Boleyn announces that she is expecting a child by the king. Henri then rushed the organization of the marriage, and joined the young woman on May 23, 1533. Unfortunately for Queen Anne, her pregnancy gives birth to a daughter: Elisabeth (later to become Elizabeth I). Tensions are high between the King and Anne. The latter seems unable to give her an heir, after a miscarriage, and a stillborn child. Already very unpopular with the English people, Anne is suspected of conspiracy and adultery: the king has her beheaded with an axe.

Furious and weary, Henri then married Jeanne Seymour, who finally gave him a son, Edward VI. Unfortunately, Jeanne died in childbirth, plunging Henri into a bottomless pit of grief.

However, the break-up of the Kingdom of England with Rome created tensions among the English and Irish people. Thus, we can note two troubled episodes:

  • 1535: The Fitzgerald Revolt in Ireland
  • 1536-37: the Pilgrimage of Grace

End of Reign

Since the execution of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII has become more irascible. An injury to his leg a few years earlier, which he was unable to heal, plunges him into an irritability that is difficult for those around him to deal with. Deprived of physical exercise, Henry can no longer ride a horse, nor exercise, and puts on considerable weight, exposing him to morbid obesity. (He will reach up to 136kgs).

In 1538, Henry fell into paranoia and executed all the pretenders to his throne, whom he considered guilty of conspiracy and high treason:

  • his cousin Henry Pole
  • her aunt Marguerite of Salisbury
  • his cousin Henry Courtenay

Anxious to leave his mark on history, Henri sponsored the same year the construction of an exceptional Palace: the Palace of No Same, located in Surrey.

Five years later, Henri multiplies the unsuccessful marriages :

  • with Anne of Cleves, whom he finally repudiated after 6 months of marriage, for lack of having been able to consummate their union.
  • with Catherine Howard whom he beheads for adultery
  • with Catherine Parr surviving her for a year..

Henry VIII died on January 28, 1547, as a result of his latent obesity (he was suspected of having fatty diabetes). His reign was one of the most tumultuous in the history of England.


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