Tudor Series: Henry VIII

Workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger - Portrait of Henry VIII - Google Art Project.jpg

Born: 28th June 1491, Greenwich Palace

Son of Henry Tudor (Henry VII) and Elizabeth of York

Married: 1) Katherine of Aragon, 1509 – 1533, 2) Anne Boleyn, 1533 – 1536, 3) Jane Seymour, 1536 – 1537, 4) Anne of Cleves, 1540, 5) Catherine Howard, 1540 – 1542, 6) Katherine Parr, 1543 – 1547.

Died: 28th January 1547, Palace of Whitehall

How can I do a Tudor Series with out doing a post of Henry VIII? Probably the most famous King and definitely the most iconic. This is mainly due to the above famous painting by Hans Holbein, depicting the 6’2″ King – his height known due to his armour. For this post, I plan to focus on the aspects of Henry’s life that may have previously been overlooked. This stated –  I will therefore only briefly mention his many wives as enough attention has been paid to them!

Henry VIII child

A fact that seems to have been unknown to many, is that Henry was in actually never meant to be king. When Henry was born in 1491, he was the third child to Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York. His brother Arthur had been born five years earlier and was Prince of Wales and would have the obligation of being King. For Henry, his future was to for him to join the church. This seems ironic owing to his eventual break with Rome in 1536. Henry’s upbringing was catered to prepare him for this and he spent his early years with his sister, learning Latin for the importance of the Church. In addition to this he was also an accomplished musician and possessed impressive athletic ability.

In 1502 at the age of 10, Henry became the new Prince of Wales as his brother died shortly after his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Henry’s life changed to being the sole male heir to the throne when his mother, Elizabeth of York died in childbirth in February 1503, sadly along with the child. In 1509 Henry VII died and Henry ascended the throne. His reign has been perceived as a success, much of this was owing to his skilled ministers who helped guide the young king. Henry’s main aim was to be a warrior king, just like Henry V who had gained lands in France after the Hundred Years War. In 1512 Henry embarked on a campaign against the French, which was only an ultimate success due to Wolsey, Henry’s chief advisor successfully leading the foreign policy and acquiring two regions. However, this success was short lived, as during Henry’s absence, James IV of Scotland tried to invade England. He was successfully defeated at the Battle of Flodden and Henry’s reputation as a success in battle was kept intact.

To reinforce Henry’s image as a great warrior King the event know as the Field of the Cloth of Gold was arrange in Calais, France in 1520. It was planned to promote the friendship between Henry and Francis I, Kind of France. Despite each King trying to out perform the other, the event was a success and was a major factor in the elevation of Cardinal Wolsey who has earlier skilfully arranged peace treaties between the two Kings.


However Wolsey’s ability to please the King was not to last. In 1527 Henry had fallen for Anne Boleyn and wanted an annulment from Katherine of Aragon. This, he thought would be easy for Wolsey to obtain and trusted him to do so as swiftly as possible. Despite all Wolsey’s efforts he was unable to gain what the King wanted and Henry lost faith in him. Wolsey’s fall from power came quickly and he died in 1530 while awaiting his trial. Henry’s relationships with other members of his government showed him to be a tyrant. Despite Thomas Cromwell succeeding in gaining the annulment, his favour was not to last. Henry fell victim to the warring factions at court and after the failed marriage of Anne of Cleves, Cromwell was executed.

Henry’s health began to decline after the death of his third wife, Jane Seymour. Having once been very physically fit due to horse riding and jousting, his excessive diet caught up with him. It has been suggested by food historians that Henry ate up to 3,000 calories a day, resulting in him becoming obese. His large size meant he was unable to move easily and this was exacerbated by gout affecting his joints. Henry died in January 1547 at the age of 55. His will requested for him to be buried alongside his third wife, Jane Seymour who had provided him with his only son. They are buried in St George’s Chapel at Windsor in a very unassuming vault, only shown by a slab describing the interred. This was most unlike Henry, who had enjoyed lavishly spending money on his clothing and Palaces. His final resting place surely should have been grand? Of course Henry had elaborate plans for his own tomb, instructing Pietro Torrigiano, the Italian sculptor who designed his parents tomb, to make one of his own. However funds were never consistent during his reign and by the time of his death it had not been completed. Henry VIII remains near the alter in St George’s Chapel.

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