April 21 – Henry VIII Becomes King

Posted on April 21, 2014

This guy was a big, blustering man who led a really big life!

Henry VIII was about 6-foot-two (1.88 m)...at a time when that was VERY tall.

And not only was Henry VIII the King of England, starting when his father (Henry VII) died on this date in 1509, but he oversaw the legal joining of Wales and England, so he became the king of Wales, too. Oh, and he became king of Ireland as well! And when Henry VIII separated his nation from the Roman Catholic Church, thereby starting the state religion known as “the Church of England” or the “Anglican Church,” he became the Supreme Head of the new church! He even continued the “nominal” claim to be King of France. (That means that he ruled France in name only – he didn't really have any power in France.)

Part of Henry VIII living a big life was that, in his prime, he was considered an attractive, educated, and charismatic ruler. He wielded a lot of power as king, but he also thought of himself as an author and as a musical composer.

The biggest thing of the big guy – the thing that most of us most remember about him – was that Henry VIII was married six times. He was desperate to have sons, because he thought that only male heirs to the throne could maintain the Tudor dynasty and keep the peace after the bloody “Wars of the Roses,” when several nobles fought for the right to rule England. And when his first wife did not give him a son, Henry had his marriage ended.
And he had to fight with the Pope, break away from Roman Catholicism, and start the Church of England in order to get that divorce!

Henry's second wife had miscarriages and was executed on charges of witchcraft and incest (she was almost surely innocent); his third wife birthed a son but then soon died from complications from that birth; Henry divorced his fourth wife and executed his fifth wife, this time for so-called “treason”; and his sixth and last wife outlived the king.

You may wonder why Henry still tried to have sons after having one with his third wife. At the time, a lot of children died before becoming adults, and people in general died younger. Henry VIII probably thought he should have multiple sons in case his first died too early.

A few years before Henry died, an act by Parliament put his daughters by various wives – Mary and Elizabeth – back in succession after his only son, Edward. It was quite lucky for England that that happened, since Elizabeth I eventually did rule (after her brother Edward, who became king at age 9, died at age 15, and after her sister ruled and died as well). Elizabeth I ruled was long and successful, a “golden age” when England defeated its long-time enemy, Spain, when music and theatre and literature flourished, when world exploration and trade occurred, when national pride rose. Elizabeth I ruled for about 45 years, almost a decade longer than her father.

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