Lewis, Bonnie, et. al. "Henry VIII." Faithology.com. Faithology, 6 February 2013. Web. 1 September 2014.

Lewis, B., et. al. (2013, Feb 6). Henry VIII. Faithology. Retrieved from http://faithology.com/biographies/henry-viii

Lewis, Bonnie, et. al"Henry VIII" Faithology, LLC. Last modified February 6, 2013. http://faithology.com/biographies/henry-viii

Lewis, Bonnie, et. alHenry VIII. Faithology, LLC, 2012. http://faithology.com/biographies/henry-viii (Accessed Sep 1, 2014).

  • "Henry VIII," Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 07 Jun. 2011. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/261947/Henry-VIII.
  • "Henry VIII (r. 1509-1547)," The British Monarchy. The Royal Household, 2008/09. Web. 07 Jun. 2011 http://www.royal.gov.uk/HistoryoftheMonarchy/KingsandQueensofEngland/TheTudors/HenryVIII.aspx.
  • Last Updated: February 6, 2013
  • Originally Published: July 6, 2012
  • Henry VIII


His Majesty, Henry VIII (1491-1547), was known by his contemporaries as the Grace of God, King of England, France1It should be noted that Henry VIII was not the King of France. Through the Duke of Normandy , English kings had a claim on France's throne, a claim most recently won by Henry V then lost by Henry VI. and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and of the Church of England and of Ireland in Earth Supreme Head. He reigned over most of the British Isles for almost thirty-eight years, from 1509 until 1547.2The "style" of the King—the exact wording of his formal titles—changed several times during his reign. This is the last. His break from Roman Catholicism and his many marriages made his reign controversial. Henry VIII is known today as a well-known leader of the Protestant Reformation and the founder of the Anglican denomination.

Henry VIII photo

Portrait of King Henry VIII


Henry Tudor was born June 28, 1491, in Greenwich, England, second son of King Henry VII and Princess Elizabeth of York. He was strong and athletic, an accomplished huntsman and dancer, an excellent scholar, musician, poet, and writer and a linguist fluent in French, Latin and Spanish.

At age two, young Henry was appointed Constable of Dover Castle and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, ceremonial titles only. At three, he was named Duke of York and, soon after, Earl Marshal of England and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, also only ceremonial titles at the time. In 1502, at age eleven, his older brother, Arthur, died, making Henry the heir of the throne. Suddenly, his titles were no longer ceremonial and he was invested as Prince of Wales. Soon after this, King Henry VII and Ferdinand II of Aragon decided the Prince should marry Ferdinand's daughter, Catherine of Aragon. Since Catherine was Arthur's widow, they asked for, and received permission from, Pope Alexander VI to allow such close relatives to marry. When his father died in 1509, Henry took the throne.

Adult Life

Henry was crowned King of England, Wales and Ireland on June 24, 1509, and married to Catherine soon after. Over the next decade, they had several children, but only their daughter Mary survived more than a few weeks after birth. Henry needed a son to become the heir of the throne one day, as no queen had ever ruled England, and the Tudor dynasty, founded by his father, needed a secure succession.3If Henry handed his crown to Mary, he risked another disputed succession by distant male relatives, like the one that sparked the War of the Rose. He also risked foreign domination if she married a foreign monarch. Mary eventually did marry Philip of Spain. In 1525, Catherine turned forty, and Henry's hopes for a son had transferred to his mistress, Anne Boleyn. Anne, however, was not content as a mistress. As such, her son could be shut out of regal consideration.

Henry came to believe that his problem was divine judgment for marrying his sister-in-law.4"If a man marries his brother's wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless."[Leviticus 20:21] He began the pursuit of what became known as "The King's Great Matter" in 1527 and tried to divorce Catalina. He appealed to Rome to annul the marriage. Although Pope Clement VII had numerous historical precedents on his side, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V had political and military power on his, and he was Catherine’s nephew. Therefore, an annulment was not granted.

Henry did not originally seek a religious revolution; it was quite the opposite. In 1521 he wrote Defense of the Seven Sacraments Against Martin Luther,5The original Latin title is Assertio Septem Sacramentorum Adversus Martinum Lutherum. which became very popular. The book went through twenty editions across Europe and earned him the title "Defender of the Faith" from Pope Leo X. A decade later, he saw religious revolution as his only option.

In January 1533, Henry married Anne Boleyn. That May, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Crammer, presided over a trial that annulled Henry's first marriage. Pope Clement VII then excommunicated Henry. In 1534, Parliament passed acts formally separating English Christians from the Roman Catholic Church and officially creating the Church of England. Henry's only real dispute was papal primacy, but some of his councilors really enjoyed some of the new Protestant Reformation ideas. Henry disbanded many monasteries and sold the land, to the Crown's considerable profit, but the new church was still, essentially, part of the Catholic tradition.

Later Years

Dying in 1536, Catalina never accepted the annulment. Anne Boleyn lasted three years as queen before she was beheaded in 1536 for alleged adultery. Jane Seymour married Henry in 1536 and gave him his male heir, but died days later, in 1537. Anne of Cleves, sister of a German duke, came next and went just as quickly; they married in early 1540 and were annulled six months later. Katherine Howard married Henry in 1540, and was then beheaded for alleged treason and adultery in 1542. The twice-widowed Catherine Parr married Henry in 1543; she ruled as regent for three months while Henry was campaigning in France and outlived Henry by over a year and a half.

Henry VIII was both famous and infamous for his marriages, the fifty-four-inch girth of his later portraits, his eating habits, and his ego. Regardless, he took great pride in his theological expertise and gave much thought to religion in his life and his country. He was a patron of the arts and education. In politics and diplomacy, he formally united Wales and England into one country and involved England in alliances all across Europe. Henry VIII died January 28, 1547, at Whitehall in London.


After Henry's death, more Protestant reforms were introduced during the reign of his successors, moving the Anglican denomination away from Rome. Jane Seymour's Protestant son, Edward VI, reigned for only six years. He was followed by Catalina de Aragón's Catholic’s daughter, Mary I, whose five-year reign served as an attempt to restore her country to her faith. Anne Boleyn's Protestant daughter, Elizabeth I, then took the throne and her forty-four-year reign placed England firmly on Protestant ground. All Henry's children died childless, so the throne (and his nascent dynasty) went to their Scottish cousin, Protestant James I, whose grandson, James II, who reigned from 1685 to 1688, was the last Catholic monarch of England.

The state religion was an ancient concept, but Henry VIII modernized this idea when he established a state church by formal act of legislation. The Church of England, parent to the worldwide Anglican denomination, is still the state religion of the United Kingdom today, and England’s break from Rome opened the door for additional religious reforms throughout the Western world.