King Henry VIII was born in 1491. Henry was the third child of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. He was seen as a promising young prince due to his outgoing personality, and intelligence. Traditionally the first male heir of the royal family is successor to the thrown, but unfortunately, the first born; Arthur died quite unexpectedly at the young age of fifteen. This sudden tragedy has placed Henry as the unforeseen heir to the throne. King Henry VIII was looked upon as the perfect young king during his early reign; he had received an outstanding amount of schooling, and he spoke many languages. Not only did he fall under the category of an intellect but as an athlete as well. He was experienced and talented in jousting, hunting, tennis and archery. However, as Henry grew older history has shown scholars a change in this once beloved king. King Henry VIII proved to rule tyrannically due to his thirst for blood, power, and a male heir to succeed him.
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Throughout Henry’s reign, bloodshed seemed to have been a typical method for this king to solve his problems. As soon as he succeeded his father’s position, Henry made his mark as a King who would not let anyone stand in his way by groundlessly charging his father’s two unpopular minister’s Sir Richard Empson, and Edmund Dudley with Treason. The two ministers were executed in 1510. Another controversial and completely unnecessary death ordered by Henry VIII was that of Cardinal Wolsey. Cardinal Wolsey was appointed chancellor by King Henry VIII, they were very close friends. With that being said, Henry trusted Wolsey to convince the pope that he should have the divorce from his first wife Catherine of Aragon. When Wolsey failed this important task, King Henry out of anger dismissed him of his duties as Chancellor, and later ordered his arrest. It had been intended that Cardinal Wolsey be confined within the Tower of London, but during the crossing from York to London Wolsey died. If the death of such a close friend, who supported this tyrannical King in whatever he did isn’t bad enough, he was also responsible for the execution of two wives. Henry’s second wife was charged with treason, incest, and plotting to murder the king. It was King Henry’s plan to have the crimes: “be such as to inspire not only revulsion for Anne but also sympathy for Henry, and it must be something that would merit divorce as well as death.” (Weir 309). King Henry’s fifth wife Catherine Howard was also put to death with the charge of treason and adultery. When Catherine was arrested it should be remembered that Cranmer which was the king’s adviser has no evidence beyond his own conclusions that she had committed adultery (Weir 448). These sorts of things had become what has been described as: “a commonplace, and it has been suggested that this blood-thirstiness was a reflection of Henry’s increasing age, power and problems.” (Fraser 19)
Christians throughout Europe had been part of the same Church for more than a thousand years. The pope was considered head of Christianity, this gave him tremendous power. Christians in that time period believed they can only get to heaven by following the rules and teachings of the Church. Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation in Germany, his writing quickly spread to many parts of Europe; King Henry VIII then countered his ideas by publishing The Defense of the Seven Sacraments. This book defended the seven sacraments which Martin Luther was so critical of. When the Pope had read the book, he gave Henry VIII a new title: Defender of the Faith. He was seen as the hero for some time, but this quickly changed. King Henry VIII decided to divorce Queen Catherine when he realized she could not produce a son. The King decided to take on a new Queen; Anne Boleyn. He hoped Anne would be the answer to his prayers and would give him the son that he so desperately longed for. But in divorcing Catherine, Henry had been required to make a split with the Roman Catholic Church, which had gone against King Henry’s wishes and refused his request for the divorce. In the process of King Henry VIII trying to reach absolute power by separating from the Church he had dramatically transformed the Church in England. King Henry VIII had hoped that by limiting the power of the pope it would make his chances of the divorce going through successful much easier. “But if this did not work, the king had been prepared to take total control of the Church in England so he could obtain a divorce without the permission of the pope” (Worth 64). King Henry VIII had imprisoned numerous citizens who did not support the Reformation or the king’s new position as head of the Church. Some were even sent to the scaffold, including two well recognized men through out England; Bishop John Fisher, and Sir Thomas More. “The death of two distinguished men such as More and Fisher sent shock waves through out England and Europe. Some of Henry’s subjects who had supported the Reformation now began to wonder if the king had become a tyrant” (Worth, 75).
Henry VIII has had 6 marital affairs throughout his reign as king of England. This was a big scandal during the time of the Renaissance, seeing as divorce was uncommon. King Henry’s first wife was originally his brother Arthur’s betrothed. King Henry’s ultimate goal was to create a male heir to succeed him and in all the time he was married to Katherine of Aragon, only a daughter was produced and numerous stillborn sons. This infuriated Henry, and along with the conniving Anne Boleyn who used lust and her wit as her weapon, King Henry was driven to divorce this woman of virtue. This separation was clearly an act of selfishness on King Henry’s part; he drove the church into the ground for this divorce to take place, due to his lust for Anne Boleyn and obsession with creating a son. Things only got worse once the King was married to Anne Boleyn. King Henry did not expect her to be so opinionated and involved with both his political and personal affairs. Being a man with a love for absolute power, this displeased him and his interest in her began to wane, and he turned his attention to Jane Seymour. While pursuing Jane Seymour Henry began to become infuriated by Anne, not only was she ill-tempered but she was not producing a son. Cromwell immediately devised a conspiracy against Anne Boleyn which would ultimately allow Henry VIII to not only divorce his new wife, but to have her killed. “He and Cromwell without acknowledging the fact to each other, both knew that they were parties to a plot to do away with an innocent woman for the sake of expediency” (Weir 310) Anne Boleyn was beheaded on the charges of Treason, Adultery, Incest, and plotting to kill the king. King Henry moved on to marry Jane Seymour, who gave him a son, she died during child birth, and conveniently pronounced her his true love and that in the event of his death he should be buried beside her. The King later decided it was time for him to marry, merely for political gain he agreed to marry Anne of Cleves hoping their marriage would “put an end to the religious problems of the German principalities” (Weir 390) The King had never seen her in person, and had only received portraits which exaggerated her beauty. When they had finally met, like an immature child he was disappointed with her physicality, and thus the marriage started off on a bad foot. This marriage became annulled in 1540, with the excuse that the marriage had not been consummated and she had a pre-contract with another man. Another failed marriage did not stop Henry; he proceeded to become infatuated with the young Katherine Howard. Katherine Howard was thought to be an empty-headed and materialistic girl, only interested in her own personal affairs. This surely did bother the controlling King Henry “All he asked of her was that she give him more sons” (Weir 434). Marrying a girl with such little experience backfired on King Henry VIII, when she committed adultery with Thomas Culpepper, a member of the court, as well as a favorite of the King. This led to her arrest, and death. Last but not least there was Catherine Parr, who was lucky enough to stay married to Henry for four years until his death in 1547. Five marriages with an exception of one were ended, some in death due to this finicky King’s lust, need for power, and ultimately to conceive a male heir.
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King Henry VIII had ruled England for thirty seven years as a tyrant, only looking for personal gain. We see this through various events which have marked England forever, throughout the reign of this cruel and oppressive King. This includes the many unnecessary killings, his marriages to six wives which ended in death, the failure to produce a male heir, or simply because he was not attracted to her. The third way proving the tyrant within King Henry would be the split from the Roman Catholic Church. Henry had an obsession with power, and having the pope stand in his way to marry another woman led him to make one of the biggest changes in English History.
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