King Henry Viii

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King Henry VIII

Henry VIII (born 1491, ruled 1509-1547). The second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York was one of England's strongest and least popular monarchs. He was born at Greenwich on June 28, 1491. The first English ruler to be educated under the influence of the Renaissance, he was a gifted scholar, linguist, composer, and musician. As a youth he was gay and handsome, skilled in all manner of athletic games, but in later life he became coarse and fat. When his elder brother, Arthur, died (1502), he became heir apparent. He succeeded his father on the throne in 1509, and soon thereafter he married Arthur's young widow, Catherine of Aragon. During the first 20 years of his reign he left the shaping of policies largely in the hands of his great counselor, Cardinal Wolsey (See Wolsey, Cardinal). By 1527 Henry had made up his mind to get rid of his wife. The only one of Catherine's six children who survived infancy was a sickly girl, the Princess Mary, and it was doubtful whether a woman could succeed to the English throne. Then too, Henry had fallen in love with a lady of the court, Anne Boleyn.

When the pope (Clement VII) would not annul his marriage, Henry turned against Wolsey, deprived him of his office of chancellor, and had him arrested on a charge of treason. He then obtained a divorce through Thomas Cranmer, whom he had made archbishop of Canterbury, and it was soon announced that he had married Anne Boleyn.

The pope was thus defied. All ties that bound the English church to Rome were broken. Appeals to the pope's court were forbidden, all payments to Rome were stopped, and the pope's authority in England was abolished. In 1534 the Act of Supremacy declared Henry himself to be Supreme Head of the Church of England, and anyone who denied this title was guilty of an act of treason. Some changes were also made in the church services, the Bible was translated into English, and printed copies were placed in the churches. The monasteries...
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