Henry VIII

Henry VIII

Portrait of Henry VIII

r 1509-47

Famous for having six wives

‘Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.’ Henry VIII did indeed marry six times, but had only three legitimate children.

Henry VIII at the palaces

Henry VIII is famous for having six wives two of whom he executed at the Tower of London

Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church and established the Church of England – all to get his first divorce. This also allowed him to seize church land and property (a great help in financing costly European wars). Under Henry VIII, England witnessed the wholesale destruction of beautiful monastic buildings and libraries.

Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn, had proved unable to provide him with the son he so desperately sought. Anxious to marry again, he accused Anne of adultery and treason; she was quite probably innocent. 

Henry VIII's fifth wife, Catherine Howard, was quite possibly guilty of the same charge: being the twenty-something young wife of a 50-year-old man was no defence.

Henry VIII took Hampton Court Palace from his chief minister Thomas Wolsey and rebuilt it. His third wife, Jane Seymour, gave birth to Henry’s only legitimate son, Prince Edward, at the palace, and died soon afterwards. Henry VIII married his sixth and last wife, Kateryn Parr, at Hampton Court. 

Though famous for his wives and over-indulgence, Henry VIII also presided over a Renaissance court where new ideas, new art and new architecture flourished. He established England as a real player on the European stage once again, remodelled government, and encouraged ‘modern’ notions of personality politics and self-publicity.

The next Tudor to make good use of the Tower was his daughter Mary who imprisoned his other daughter Elizabeth.


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