This is a series of articles dealing with the British nobility beginning with William the Conqueror in 1066 and ending with Henry VIII circa 1530. The information within has been compiled from multiple resources and a bibliography will follow the completed work. Beginning with the Normans, the Plantagenets, the Lancasters, the Yorks, and then finally, the Tudors.
Henry VIII: Henry was tall and handsome early in his reign. It was later that he became overweight and riddled with disease. Initially, he left the “governing” of the country to his Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, but when the good Cardinal’s power and wealth began to exceed the King’s, he began to fall out of favor. Another factor that sped Wolsey’s downfall was the fact that he could not secure a divorce for the King from his wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Henry is most famous for his many wives (he was married more times than any other English Monarch) and his separation from the Roman Catholic Church. He first married Catherine of Aragon, a Spanish princess and widow to his older brother. She gives birth to Princess Mary (later Queen Mary I). Henry’s eye began to wander when she could not produce a male heir. He had the marriage annulled and he married Anne Boleyn, who was already pregnant with the future Queen Elizabeth I. Following trumped-up charges of treason and the standard beheading, he married lady Jane Seymour who bore him his long-sought male heir, the future King Edward VI, but she died of childbirth complications a couple of weeks later. Next, was an arranged marriage with a German princess, Anne of Cleaves. Henry was somewhat surprised when he finally met her. It seems that the King had been somewhat misled in regards to her looks and her portraits had been flattering to her. He refused to consummate the marriage and publicly ridiculed her and called her “the mare of Flanders.” He had that marriage annulled and married Catherine Howard. This union also ended in a beheading 2 years later on yet again, trumped-up charges of treason and adultery. He finally decided that it was time to settle down and married Catherine Parr. Although she bore him no children and managed to keep her head, it is reported that she took great care of him as the years passed and he became increasingly ill and died.
During all of the marriages, Henry enjoyed and exciting reign. In 1533, the Pope excommunicated him for splitting with the catholic Church but the Act of Supremacy is passed the next year and that established the English Monarch and the head of the Church of England. In 1535, Thomas Cromwell is made Vicar-General of England and in 1536, he begins the dissolution and plundering of the Catholic monasteries, some of which had become quite wealthy. Although Cromwell did much to fund the King’s extravagant lifestyle, he was executed in 1540 for treason.