King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547)
So my favorite person in history has to be of course Henry VIII. For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with this man. He has been my favorite person in history since well basically since I first heard about him when I was little. And there just seems to be something so familiar about him, it’s quite strange and hard to explain. But besides that he is also just so very interesting. Some people see him as being this horrible man. Yes he killed two of his wives but at that time things were done differently and well he was the king (not that it makes it any more right) but he also did some things that were very good and changed England for the better. He saw what the Pope and Catholic church were doing and knew it was not right and decided to no longer listen to them, and created the Church of England, though there was also more reasons as to why he broke away from them. He was also greatly loved but also greatly feared. So overall in my eyes he is the most fascinating person in history. My #1 for sure. But let me fill you in on some history on him. I’ll put up a short version of it because most are really long.
Motto: “Dieu et Mon Droit” which means “God and My Right”.
Henry VIII, (born , June 28, 1491, Greenwich, near London, Eng.—died Jan. 28, 1547, London), king of England (1509–47) who presided over the beginnings of the English Renaissance and the English Reformation. His six wives were, successively, Catherine of Aragon (the mother of the future queen Mary I), Anne Boleyn (the mother of the future queen Elizabeth I), Jane Seymour (the mother of Henry’s successor, Edward VI), Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr.
Henry was the second son of Henry VII, first of the Tudor line, and Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV, first king of the short-lived line of York. When his elder brother, Arthur, died in 1502, Henry became the heir to the throne; of all the Tudor monarchs, he alone spent his childhood in calm expectation of the crown, which helped give an assurance of majesty and righteousness to his willful, ebullient character. He excelled in book learning as well as in the physical exercises of an aristocratic society, and, when in 1509 he ascended the throne, great things were expected of him. Six feet tall, powerfully built, and a tireless athlete, huntsman, and dancer, he promised England the joys of spring after the long winter of Henry VII’s reign.
While the greatness of England in Europe was being shown up as a sham, the regime was also losing popularity at home. The fanciful expectations of the early days could not, of course, endure; some measure of reality was bound to intrude. As it was, journalists and writers continued to be full of hope for a king who, from 1517, commanded the services of a new councilor, Sir Thomas More, one of the outstanding minds of the day. But More soon discovered that Henry found it easy to keep his enjoyment of learned conversation apart from the conduct of policy. Nothing for the moment could dent Wolsey’s strength, and this had serious drawbacks for the king, who supported him. The country was showing increasing signs of its discontent, and Wolsey’s efforts to remedy grievances only exasperated men of influence without bringing satisfaction to the poor. Feelings came to the boil in the years 1523–24. Although he disliked parliaments, Wolsey had to agree to the calling of one in 1523, but the taxes voted were well below what was required. Next year, the attempt to levy a special tax led to such fierce resistance that Henry rescinded it, he and the cardinal both trying to take the credit for the remission of what they had been jointly responsible for imposing. While he had Wolsey to take the blame, Henry could afford such fiascoes; the cardinal could not. By 1527 a that, though seemingly Wolsey’s, was really the king’s was facing bankruptcy; ineffective abroad, unpopular at home, it made the regime look as empty of positive purpose as in fact it was.
Action called for a revolution, and the revolution required a man who could conceive and execute it. That man was Thomas Cromwell, who, in April 1532, won control of the council and thereafter remained in command for some eight years. The revolution consisted of the decision that the English church should separate from Rome, becoming effectively a spiritual department of state under the rule of the king as God’s deputy on earth. The revolution that he had not intended gave the king his wish: in January 1533 he married Anne Boleyn; in May a new archbishop, , presided over the formality of a trial that declared the first marriage annulled; in September the princess Elizabeth was born. The pope retaliated with a sentence of excommunication; it troubled no one.
Cromwell’s decade, the 1530s, was the only period of the reign during which a coherent body of policies was purposefully carried through. Cromwell’s work greatly enlarged Henry’s power, especially by transferring to the crown the wealth of the monasteries, dissolved in 1536–40, and new clerical taxes; but it also, more explicitly than ever, subjected the king to the law and to the legislative supremacy of Parliament. Since Henry knew how to work with parliaments, the immediate effect was to make him appear more dominant than ever and to give to his reign a spurious air of autocracy—spurious because in fact the rule of law remained to control the sovereign’s mere will. The appearance of autocracy was misleadingly emphasized by the fact that all revolutions have their victims. As heads rolled, the king’s earlier reputation as a champion of light and learning was permanently buried under his enduring fame as a man of blood. Old friends such as More, refusing to accept the new order, fell before the onslaught, as did some 50 other men caught by the treason laws. Between 1538 and 1541 the families of Pole and Courtenay were destroyed by the axe for treasons linked with efforts abroad to reverse the course of events in England but mainly because they could claim royal blood and represented a dynastic danger to the unprolific Tudor line.
Physical and mental decline
The Cleves fiasco destroyed Cromwell; it enabled his many enemies to turn the king against him, and in July 1540 his head fell on the scaffold. Henry had by now become truly dangerous: always secretive and suspicious, now he was beginning to show paranoiac tendencies. Convinced that he controlled everyone, he was in fact readily manipulated by those who knew how to feed his suspicions and pander to his self-righteousness. Full of experience—the oldest king in Europe—and increasingly competent in the routine of rule, he lacked the comprehensive vision and large spirit that would have made him a great man. His temperamental deficiencies were aggravated by what he regarded as his undeserved misfortunes and by ill health; he grew enormously fat. His mind did not weaken, but he grew restless, peevish, and totally unpredictable; often melancholy and depressed, he was usually out of sorts and always out of patience. In 1540–42 he briefly renewed his youth in marriage to the 20-year-old , whose folly in continuing her promiscuity, even as queen, brought her to the block. The blow finished Henry. Thereafter, he was really a sad and bitter old man, and, though he married once more, to find a measure of peace with the calm and obedient Catherine Parr, his physical ruin was complete.
As king of England from 1509 to 1547, Henry VIII presided over the beginnings of the English Reformation, which was unleashed by his own matrimonial involvements, even though he never abandoned the fundamentals of the Roman Catholic faith. Though exceptionally well served by a succession of brilliant ministers, Henry turned upon them all; those he elevated, he invariably cast down again. He was attracted to humanist learning and was something of an intellectual himself, but he was responsible for the deaths of the outstanding English humanists of the day. Though six times married, he left a minor heir and a dangerously complicated succession problem. Of his six wives, two joined a large tally of eminent persons executed for alleged treason; yet otherwise his regime observed the law of the land with painful particularity. Formidable in appearance, in memory, and in mind, and fearsome of temper, he yet attracted genuine devotion and knew how to charm people. Monstrously egotistical and surrounded by adulation, he nevertheless kept a reasonable grasp on the possible; forever taking false steps in politics, he emerged essentially unbeaten and superficially successful in nearly everything he attempted to do.