Henry VIII, King of England
Henry VIII, King of England

When did he live?

Henry Tudor was born on June 28th 1491. He died on January 28th 1547.

Why is he famous?

Henry Tudor became King Henry VIII on April 21st 1509. He remained king until his death.

During his reign he famously had six wives, two of whom he had executed.

It was Henry who separated the Church of England from Rome, a political move that made Henry’s position stronger and changed British society. In order to reinforce his authority a purge of Catholics and enemies of the Tudors began – Henry and his daughter Elizabeth’s reigns are both famous for executions.

A Young Henry VIII
A Young Henry VIII

What is his mark on history?

Although the execution of his wives is more famous, it is the ending of his first marriage in divorce (because his wife could not produce a son) that significantly changed British history. When the Catholic Church refused to support the king divorcing, Henry – who was already annoyed by the Pope’s influence in the country – began removing the Vatican’s supporters from powerful positions in England. Finally he separated the Church of England from the Vatican, made himself its leader, and began to purge of Catholic enemies that lasted through his and his daughter’s reigns.

To this day the Church of England remains separate, and the UK has generally been outside the Vatican’s influence.

A Satirical Drawing of Henry VIII Standing on the Pope Clement VII
A Satirical Drawing of Henry VIII Standing on the Pope Clement VII

Notes

Henry was a larger-than-life character, eating well, used to getting what he wanted, and happy to execute or exile those who got in his way.

Having agreed to marry Anne of Cleaves without having met her, Henry famously called her the ‘Flanders Mare’ (i.e. a Belgian horse). Anne had no disagreements about having the wedding annulled 5 months later.

Henry had an affair with Mary Boleyn, Anne Boleyn’s sister, before marrying Anne (Anne would later be the first wife he executed). This story became the hit book and movie, ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’.

Many people believe that Henry VIII looks like the actor Charles Laughton, who played him in a 1933 film.