Posted in Culture & History

(Un)lucky seven

My first post concerning British history will be about one of the most famous and most cruel kings and his six wives.

Henry VIII of England was the second king form the House of Tudor. He was born in 1491 as a son of the first Tudor, Henry VII, and his wife Elizabeth of York. Henry became a king in 1509. In the same year he married Catherine of Aragon in order to maintain the alliance with Spain made by his predecessor. The king knew that in order to guarantee the continuity of the dynasty a male descendant is needed. The queen gave birth to 6 children but, unfortunately, only one daughter survived. He had to have a son, so he decided to divorce Catherine. The king contacted Pope Clement VII to invalidate his marriage and to obtain permission for a new marriage with Anne Boleyn (one of his lovers). Pope refused to do so. Henry took this matter in his own hands. On the 25th of January 1533 in the presence of Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, he marries Anne Boleyn and declares his marriage to Catherine annulled. Pope excommunicated Henry in July; in response to this act Parliament passed Act of Supremacy in 1534. England broke up connections with the Catholic Church and the Pope; the king became a supreme head of the Church of England.

Anne Boleyn too failed to give Henry a male heir. Henry made a cruel move to get rid of her and his second wife was deceitfully accused of adultery. She and her putative lovers faced the death penalty.

In the meantime two great events took place: The Dissolution of the Monasteries; 1536-1541 (the Crown assumed the property of the monasteries in the country) and The Pilgrimage of Grace; 1536 (an uprising against the reforms and persecution).

In 1536 the king marries Jane Seymour. Finally, his third wife gave Henry a son. Unfortunately, the future Edward VI was too weak and sickly. He lived only 16 years; he managed, however, to become a king after his father’s death. Edward VI Tudor was a king for 6 years. His mother Jane dies shortly after bearing a son. In 1540 Henry weds Anne of Cleves, but the marriage was never consummated and annulled. In the same year he marries Catherine Howard. Two years later also the fifth wife of Henry VIII, on the basis of unclear evidence, was accused of adultery and was executed. In 1542 Henry marries a widow, Catherine Parr, who had been married twice and who outlived Henry. On the 15th of January 1547 Henry VIII dies aged 55.

From: History of Britain & Ireland. The definitive visual guide. Dorling Kindersley Publishing.

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