King Henry VIII

Died when: 55 years 214 days
Star Sign: Cancer

Henry VIII (28 June 1491 – 28 January 1547) was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later assumed the Kingship, of Ireland, and continued the nominal claim by English monarchs to the Kingdom of France. Henry was the second monarch of the Tudor dynasty, succeeding his father, Henry VII. Besides his six marriages, Henry VIII is known for his role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. His disagreements with the Pope led to his separation of the Church of England from papal authority, with himself, as king, as the Supreme Head of the Church of England and to the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Because his principal dispute was with papal authority, rather than with doctrinal matters, he remained a believer in core Catholic theological teachings despite his excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church. Henry oversaw the legal union of England and Wales with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542. He is also well known for a long personal rivalry with both Francis I of France and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, with whom he frequently warred. Domestically, Henry is known for his radical changes to the English Constitution, ushering in the theory of the divine right of kings to England. Besides asserting the sovereign's supremacy over the Church of England, thus initiating the English Reformation, he greatly expanded royal power. Charges of treason and heresy were commonly used to quash dissent, and those accused were often executed without a formal trial, by means of bills of attainder. He 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 favour. Figures such as Thomas Wolsey, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, Richard Rich, and Thomas Cranmer figured prominently in Henry's administration. An extravagant spender, he used the proceeds from the Dissolution of the Monasteries and acts of the Reformation Parliament to convert money formerly paid to Rome into royal revenue. Despite the influx of money from these sources, Henry was continually on the verge of financial ruin due to his personal extravagance as well as his numerous costly continental wars. His contemporaries considered Henry in his prime to be an attractive, educated and accomplished king, and he has been described as "one of the most charismatic rulers to sit on the English throne". Besides ruling with considerable power, he was also an author and composer. His desire to provide England with a male heir – which stemmed partly from personal vanity and partly from his belief that a daughter would be unable to consolidate Tudor power and maintain the fragile peace that existed following the Wars of the Roses – led to the two things for which Henry is most remembered: his six marriages and his break with the Pope (who would not allow an annulment of Henry's first marriage). As he aged, Henry became severely obese and his health suffered, contributing to his death in 1547. He is frequently characterised in his later life as a lustful, egotistical, harsh, and insecure king. He was succeeded by his son Edward VI.

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