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The Tudor Monarchs

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Last update:
19 February 2012

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Henry VIII by Joos van Cleve
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Born: 28 June 1491
Greenwich Palace

Accession: 21 April 1509

Coronation: 24 June 1509
Westminster Abbey

Died: 28 January 1547
Whitehall Palace

Buried: 16 February 1547
St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle

If a lion knew his strength, it were hard for
any man to hold him.

- Sir Thomas More of Henry VIII


Prince Henry

Henry Tudor, named after his father, Henry VII, was born by Elizabeth of York June 28, 1491 in Greenwich Palace. Since he was the second son, and not expected to become king, we know little of his childhood until the death of his older brother Arthur, Prince of Wales. We know that Henry attended the wedding celebrations of Arthur and his bride, Catherine of Aragon, in November 1501 when he was 10 years old.

Shortly after the wedding, Arthur and Catherine went to live in Wales, as was tradition for the heir to the throne. But, four months after the marriage began, it ended, with Arthur's death.

A treaty was signed that would allow Catherine to marry the next heir to the throne -- Prince Henry. Until then, Catherine's parents, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain would send over 100,000 crowns worth of plate and gold as a wedding gift and Henry would pay the agreed upon dowry.

It was deemed necessary for a papal dispensation to be issued allowing Henry to marry Catherine, as she was his dead brother's wife, and this marriage was prohibited in Leviticus. At the time, and throughout her life, Catherine denied that her marriage to Arthur had even been consummated (and given the boy's health, that is most likely the case) so no dispensation was needed. However, both the parties in Spain and England wanted to be sure of the legitimacy of the marriage, so permission from the pope was sought and received. This issue would be very important during the Divorce and the Break with Rome.

The marriage still did not take place however. Henry VII had been slow to pay his part of the arrangement and her parents were refusing to send the marriage portion of plate and gold. The stalemate continued until Henry VII died on April 22, 1509 and his son became Henry VIII.

Henry was just shy of 18 years old when he became king, and had been preparing for it from the time of his older brother Arthur's death. At this age, he was not the image that we usually call to mind when we hear the name Henry VIII. He was not the overweight and ill man of his later years. In his youth, he was handsome and athletic. He was tall and had a bright red-gold cap of hair and beard, a far cry from the fat, balding and unhealthy man that is often remembered

Henry's marital career is probably the thing that he is most known for. The story of Henry's wives is told on their own pages.

The Young King

Shortly after becoming king, Henry VIII took Catherine of Aragon as his bride on 11 June 1509. He inherited £1.5 million pounds from his father and succeeded in the first peaceful transition of power after the Wars of the Roses. Henry brought a youth and vigor to the Court that had long been lacking and Henry dreamed of glory beyond the hunt and joust.

Catherine of Aragon gave birth to their first child, a son named Henry after his father, in January 1511. The child died two months later, and was destined to be the first of many unhappy births the couple would suffer. Henry consoled himself by going to war against France, hoping to emulate his ancestors Edward III and Henry V.

Henry met with some success in France, but while he was distracted on the Continent, his Scottish brother-in-law James IV used the opportunity to attack. Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey led the English forces against James and defeated the Scots army at the Battle of Flodden Field. James was killed, leaving his infant son as the new king James V and Henry VIII's sister Margaret a widow.

By 1514, Thomas Wolsey had risen to power in Henry's court and was to eventually rival Henry himself in wealth and opulance. He built Hampton Court Palace, which he eventually "gave" to Henry as a gift as he began to fall from power in the 1520s.

[To be continued... eventually. Yes, I know I keep promising that, but Henry is proving difficult to write about!]