GMIH-006 Henry VIII

Henry VIII


Henry VIII was the king of England. He was born in 1491 and died in 1547. Henry VIII is best know for having six wives and for splitting the Church of England from the Catholic Church.

Early Life

Henry VIII in 1509

Eighteen year-old Henry after his coronation in 1509.

Prince Henry was born on June 28th in Greenwich Palace. His parents were Henry VII the King of England and Elizabeth York the Queen of England. Henry had an older brother, Arthur, and two sisters, Mary and Margaret.

Unlike his sickly older brother Arthur, Henry was healthy and athletic. He loved to play sports and ride horses. However, Arthur was the oldest son, was being raised to be king. Henry was being raised to enter the church. He received an excellent education and learned how to speak Latin, French, Spanish, and Greek.

When Henry was just ten years old, his life was dramatically changed. His older brother Arthur died and Henry was named the crown prince. He would be the next king of England.

Becoming King

In 1509, when Henry was seventeen years old, his father Henry VII died. Henry decided at that point to marry his brother’s former wife, Catherine of Aragon the Princess of Spain. They were quickly married and then were crowned king and queen of England.

A Renaissance Man

Henry VIII is often described as a true Renaissance Man. He was athletic, good looking, and educated. He was also an accomplished musician and both played instruments and wrote his own songs. He spoke many languages fluently and loved to read and study. Henry loved art and culture bringing many of the top artists, writers, and philosophers from mainland Europe to his court.

Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s first queen.

There was a problem. Since his queen Catherine had been married to Henry’s brother, Henry VIII needed special permission from the pope to marry her. This is called a “dispensation”. This was because the church taught that a man should not marry his brother’s wife. The pope granted the special dispensation.

This is where it gets messy. Although Catherine became pregnant several times, she only had one healthy baby, the princess Mary. Henry became worried that he would never have a male heir to the throne. He asked the pope to annul the marriage based on the fact that they were never legitimately married. However, the pope refused. The pope said that it was Henry’s idea to marry Catherine in the first place. Henry was becoming increasingly frustrated with Catherine for not producing a male heir.

Anne Boleyn

Portrait of Anne Boleyn, Henry's second queen.

Portrait of Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second queen

At the same time he fell in love with one of Catherine’s ladies in waiting, her name was Anne Boleyn. Henry was determined to marry her and did so secretly in 1533.

English Reformation

In 1534, Henry decided to split from the Catholic Church. He declared himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England. He even passed a law called the Treasons Act that made it punishable by death to not accept Henry as the head of the church. Now that Henry VIII was in charge of the church he annulled his own marriage to Catherine and declared that he was married to Anne Boleyn.

More Wives

Jane Seymour became Henry's third wife

Jane Seymour became Henry’s third wife.

Henry was determined to have a male heir. When Anne Boleyn did not have a son, he had her head cut off. Then he married Jane Seymour. Jane finally gave Henry what he wanted a male heir. They named him Edward. However, Jane died during childbirth.

Henry married three more times including Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr.

Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr

Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr


Henry suffered a leg wound in a jousting accident in 1536. It got infected. As a result, he found it difficult to move about. He became extremely overweight and his skin was covered with painful infections called boils. He died at the age of 55 in 1547 and was succeeded by his son Edward who became King Edward VI.

Interesting Facts about Henry VIII

Henry_VIIIAnne Boleyn did not have a son, but she did give birth to a daughter Elizabeth who would become one of the greatest monarchs in English history.

Not only was his son Edward VI king, but his daughters Mary and Elizabeth would also be monarchs of England.

Henry VIII established the permanent navy of England.

William Shakespeare wrote a play about his life called Henry VIII.

Henry’s father left a great fortune in the English treasury. But, Henry VIII spent lavishly as king, building over 50 palaces. He spent the entire fortune his father had left him and died in massive debt.


His mustache linked with his beard and that beard covered his neck, rather than his chin.

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