HENRY VIII

(1491-1547)
Henry VIII, the king of England whose policies established the independence of the Church of England, was born on 28 June 1491, the second son of his predecessor Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Henry became heir to the throne upon the death of his brother Arthur in 1502, ascended the throne in 1509, and soon married Arthur s widow, Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. Henry is best known in popular history for his six marriages, and his marriage trials did affect the constitutional and religious history of En­gland.
Royal patronage of Renaissance culture combined with traditional political policies to characterize the first decades of Henry's reign. Allied with Spain, Henry fought a war with France and Scotland in 1512-14, gaining minor vic­tories. Catherine had several pregnancies, but only one surviving child, a girl named Mary,* born on 18 February 1516. In 1521, against the backdrop of the Lutheran controversies, Henry published a defense of traditional Catholic teach­ings entitled Assertio septem sacramentorum and was rewarded by the pope with the title Fidei Defensor (defender of the faith). The lack of surviving chil­dren in Henry's marriage, specifically a male heir, began to bother the king's conscience sometime around 1525. By 1527 Henry was convinced that the death of his children was a judgment by God on an illicit union. Henry sought to have his marriage to Catherine annulled on the grounds of her prior marriage to his brother Arthur. The annulment proved elusive, as the papacy delayed in making a pronouncement. Early in 1533 Henry secretly married his second wife, Anne Boleyn, prior to the newly appointed archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cran-mer,* annulling the first royal marriage in April. Anne gave birth to a daughter named Elizabeth* on 7 September 1533.
Between 1533 and 1536 parliamentary legislation promoted by royal advisor Thomas Cromwell severed the traditional relationship between the Church of England and the See of Rome, proclaiming "the King s Highness to be Supreme Head of the Church of England." Having given Catholic Europe a reason to unite against his realm, Henry began to dissolve the monasteries, using much of their wealth for military preparations. His last years saw a government con­fiscation of chantry endowments. However, despite these actions, the English church maintained a Catholic theology and liturgy.
In 1536 Anne Boleyn was executed for adultery, incest, treason, and witch­craft. Henry went on to have four subsequent wives; the third, Jane Seymour, produced a male heir named Edward on 12 October 1537. However, none of the king's subsequent marriages had the constitutional impact of his first two. Henry fought a further war with France and Scotland in the 1540s. Henry s will named his three surviving children as heirs to the throne, giving English political and religious history its main characteristic in the later sixteenth century. Henry died on 28 January 1547 and is buried in St. George s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Bibliography
J. J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, 1968.
L. B. Smith, Henry VIII: The Mask of Royalty, 1971.
Gary G. Gibbs

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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  • Henry VIII — /ˈhɛnri/ (say henree) noun 1491–1547, king of England 1509–47, and of Ireland 1541–47 (son of Henry VII); his reign popularly remembered for his six marriages …   Australian English dictionary

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