Henry VIII was King of England from 1509 until his death in 1547. He was the second Tudor monarch, succeeding his father, Henry VII. Henry is best known for his six marriages, in particular his efforts to have his first marriage, to Catherine of Aragon, annulled. His disagreement with the Pope on the question of such an annulment led Henry to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority. Take a look below for 30 more fascinating and interesting facts about Henry VIII.
1. He appointed himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England and dissolved convents and monasteries.
2. Despite his resulting excommunication, Henry remained a believer in core Catholic theological teachings.
3. Domestically, Henry is known for his radical changes to the English Constitution, ushering into England the theory of the divine right of kings.
4. Besides asserts the sovereign’s supremacy over the Church of England, he greatly expanded royal power during his reign.
5. Charges of treason and heresy were commonly used to quell dissent, and those accused were often executed without a formal trial, by means of bills of attainder.
6. Henry achieved many of his political aims through the work of his chief ministers, some of whom were banished or executed when they fell out of his favor.
7. He was an extravagant spender and used the proceeds from the Dissolution of the Monasteries and acts of the Reformation Parliament to convert into royal revenue the money that was formerly paid to Rome.
8. Despite the influx of money from different sources, Henry was continually on the verge of financial ruin due to his personal extravagance as well as his numerous costly continental wars, particularly with Francis I of France and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, as he sought to enforce his claim to the Kingdom of France.
9. At home, Henry oversaw the legal union of England and Wales with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542 and following the Crown of Ireland Act 1542, he was the first English monarch to rule as King of Ireland.
10. His contemporaries considered Henry in his prime to be an attractive, educated and accomplished king.
11. He has been described as, “one of the most charismatic rulers to sit on the English throne.”
12. He was an author and composer.
13. As he got older, Henry became severely obese and his health suffered, contributing to his death in 1547.
14. He is frequently characterized in his later life as a lustful, egotistical, harsh and insecure king.
15. Henry is said to have referred to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, as “A Flanders Mare.”
16. Henry’s shortest marriage was to Anne of Cleves, lasting only 6 months and 3 days before it was annulled.
17. His longest marriage was to Catherine of Arahttgon, lasting about 24 years. This is longer than all five of his other marriages combined.
18. Henry executed two of his wives. Kathryn Howard was executed for adultery, and Anne Boleyn was accused of adultery, incest and plotting to murder the King. Despite denying the charges, she was still executed. Five men, including the Queen’s brother, were also executed for treasonous adultery and having a sexual relationship with the Queen. The evidence for all the crimes weren’t presented and nobody really knows if the Queens were guilty.
19. Henry may have written a theological treatise called Defense of the Seven Sacraments. This was written as a reply to Martin Luther‘s criticism of the Catholic Church, and particularly to Luther’s theological treatise Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church that criticized some or all of the Catholic sacraments and attacked the papacy.
20. Pope Leo X declared Henry the Defender of the Faith in 1521 for his Defense of the Seven Sacraments.
21. Henry authorized the Great Bible, which is the first authorized edition of the Bible in English, to be read aloud in church. It was completed in 1539, and went through revisions between 1540 and 1541.
22. Henry hung 2,000 tapestries in his palaces whereas James V of Scotland only hung 200 in his palaces.
23. He was an excellent hunter and jouster. He was also a very good lute player.
24. Henry could read and write in three languages: English, French and Latin.
25. He could read and play a piece of music he had not seen before or at least that he had not prepared for.
26. He introduced a tax on beards, which varied with the beard wearer’s social status.
27. He wrote a number of songs, with his most well-known song being “Pastime With Good Company.” He also wrote “En vray amoure” and “Helas Madam.”
28. Henry made boiling a legal form of capital punishment.
29. He improved the navy, partly by investing in large cannons to replace smaller serpentines in warships. He was also responsible for creating a permanent navy.
30. Henry founded the Anglican Church by breaking away from the Catholic Church mainly because the Pope refused to grant Henry an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.