henry VIII

Henry VIII
was born on 28th July 1509 (and died in 1547). His reign was marked by the rise of Protestantism in England. The king quarrelled with the Pope, Clement VII, who refused to agree to his divorce from his wife Catherine of Aragon, widow of Henry’s brother Arthur. She had failed to give him the son he ardently desired to preserve the unity of England after his death. The Pope was obliged to act in this way as he was controlled by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain and also Catherine’s nephew. Henry rebelled against the authority of Rome and in 1534 Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy by which the king was proclaimed Head of the Church of England. Henry, supported by his Parliament, proceeded then to the dissolution of monasteries and other religious houses; he kept much of their wealth and lands for himself and divided the rest among his followers, while opposition was brutally suppressed (Sir Thomas More, for example, the great humanist, was executed). His break was purely political, the liturgy and doctrine of the new church remained similar to the old ones as Henry did not approve the ideas of Reformation introduced by Martin Luther in Germany and by Calvin in Geneva. Before the break the Pope had even rewarded him with the title ‘Defensor Fidei’. He was certainly a cruel king, wasteful with money and keen on luxuries and pleasures, but he was also a patron of music, languages and the arts. He had six wives, and three children: Mary, Catherine of Aragon’s daughter; Elizabeth, the daughter of his second wife, Anne Boleyn, who was executed unfaithful; Edward, son of Jane Seymour who died giving birth to the king’s only male heir.

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