• Why is Henry famous?

    The king with six wives
    Henry was the King of England who had six wives. But Henry did lots of other things besides marrying six times. He wanted to make England strong. Most of all, he wanted a son to be king after him.

    When did he live?
    Henry was born in 1491. In English history, the time when he and his family lived is known as the Tudor age. Tudor was Henry's family name.

    Henry lived at a time of changes. People had new ideas in art, science and religion. They sailed off to explore new lands. Henry died in 1547. Three of his children ruled England after him.

    Why do people remember Henry?
    Paintings of Henry VIII show a big, fierce-looking man in fine clothes. He looks scary, and many people were scared of him. If the King did not get his way, he got cross. People who made him cross risked having their heads chopped off!

    As a young man, Henry was handsome and clever. He was good at sport, music and dancing. He wanted to be a soldier and a famous king.

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  • Young Prince Henry

    Growing up
    Henry was born in 1491 in Greenwich Palace near London. His father was King Henry VII. His mother was Elizabeth of York.

    Henry's father had been king for only six years when Henry was born. He had won a battle to make himself king.

    Dangerous times
    Most people in England were tired of battles. They wanted peace. But there were still times of danger.

    When Henry was 5, rebels marched into London. Henry and his mother had to run for safety into the Tower of London.

    Henry did not go to school. Teachers called tutors taught him and his older brother Arthur. Henry was very clever. He learned French, Latin and Greek. He was good at maths, poetry and music. He also loved to play games.

    Henry had a fool to amuse him when he was bored with his books. The fool told jokes and did funny things, like a clown.

    Henry also had a whipping boy. The whipping boy was a servant. If Henry was naughty, the tutor hit the whipping boy. No one dared hit the prince!

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  • Henry the King

    War training
    Henry liked horse riding, jousting and archery. Rich and poor men in Tudor times trained to be soldiers, to fight for their king. Henry wore armour.

    Henry loved tournaments. He liked to show off in his armour.

    Henry becomes king
    Henry's older brother Arthur died in 1502. So Henry was next in line to be king. Henry's mother died in 1503.

    When Henry's father died in 1509, Henry became king. He was crowned King Henry VIII (the 8th English king named Henry).

    What did the king do?
    As king, Henry wanted to look rich and powerful. He built castles, like the one at Deal, and palaces like Hampton Court.

    In 1520, he went to France to meet the French king. Both kings spent enormous sums of money on feasts and showing off.

    What Henry liked
    Henry liked music, and played the lute and the harp.

    Henry liked to be outdoors, hunting and hawking. He liked wrestling and he played tennis.

    Rich and poor
    Henry wore clothes with jewels sewn onto the cloth. Rich people wore clothes made of expensive satin, velvet and fur. Poor people wore plain clothes made from wool or linen.

    Rich people went to the king's court. At a feast, they ate rich foods, such as swan and peacock.

    Most people were poor. They ate plain foods, such as rabbit, squirrel, bread, peas and beans.

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  • Henry's six wives

    Henry's divorce
    Henry's first wife was Catherine of Aragon. She was a Spanish princess. In 1511, Catherine had a son, but the baby died.

    Catherine and Henry had a daughter, Mary. But no son. So in 1533, Henry decided to divorce Catherine, so he could marry someone else.

    Henry and the Church
    Divorce was against the rules of the Roman Catholic Church. Most people in England were Christians, and members of this Church. Henry was too. But he broke the rules. He got his divorce. He made himself head of the Church in England.

    Wives 2 and 3
    Henry's second wife was Anne Boleyn. She had a daughter, Elizabeth. Henry turned against Anne, and she was beheaded in 1536.

    Next Henry married Jane Seymour. In 1537, she had a son, Edward, but she died two weeks later. Henry was very sad.

    Wives 4-5-6
    Henry's fourth wife (1540) was Anne of Cleves, from Belgium. Henry had never seen her until she came to England for the wedding. He divorced her after six months.

    He soon married again. His fifth wife was Catherine Howard. She was only 19. She was beheaded in 1542.

    Henry's sixth wife was Catherine Parr, a widow. She looked after his children.

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  • Tudor times

    Tudor Britain
    Most people in Henry's England lived in villages. Towns were much smaller than towns today. London was the biggest city, with about 50,000 people.

    Wales at this time was ruled from England. So was Ireland. Scotland had its own King.

    Never say no to the king
    Henry's word was law. After his break with the Church, over his divorce, Henry took Church lands in England. He closed the monasteries.

    It was unwise to say no to the King. Thomas More (a friend) spoke against the King's divorce. More was beheaded in 1535. Thomas Cromwell (who worked for Henry) fixed the King's marriage to Anne of Cleves. Henry was so cross, he had Cromwell beheaded in 1540.

    Building a navy
    Henry built England's navy. Annoyed that the King of Scotland had the biggest ship, Henry built the Great Harry. This ship could carry 700 men.

    The Mary Rose, one of Henry's ships, sank in 1545. It was lifted from the seabed in 1982. You can see the Mary Rose in Portsmouth. Things found in the wreck show us how people lived in Tudor times.

    After Henry
    Henry died in January 1547. His son Edward (aged 9) became King Edward VI.

    Edward died in 1553. His sister became Queen Mary I. She was the daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon.

    Mary died in 1558. Her sister Elizabeth, daughter of Henry and Anne Boleyn, became Queen Elizabeth I. When Elizabeth died in 1603, the Tudor age came to an end.

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Henry VIII Game

Henry VIII

Find out what it was like to be King in Tudor Britain.

Fun Facts
  • The balls Henry played tennis with were stuffed with dog hair.

  • At a Tudor feast it was bad manners to scratch, put bones back on a plate, or to blow your nose with your fingers.

  • The Great Harry warship had 186 guns.

  • Henry went from palace to palace along the River Thames, in boats called barges.

  • The kitchens at Henry's palace at Hampton Court had 50 rooms.

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Jump to: A-D | E-G | H-L | M-O | P-S | T-Z

A to D

A sport using bows and arrows.
A metal suit worn in battle for protection.
When someone had their head cut off, as a punishment.
Where the king met his family, friends and advisers.
Ending a marriage.

E to G

A party with lots to eat and drink.
A jester, someone who told jokes and 'acted the fool' at court.

H to L

Hunting with trained birds such as hawks and falcons.
Old sport in which two knights tried to knock each other off their horses, using lances (long spears).
A stringed musical instrument (like a guitar).

M to O

Places where Christian monks and nuns live and work.
A country's warships.

P to S

The home of a king or queen, or any strong ruler.
People who fight against their ruler.
A person paid to work for rich people.

T to Z

A contest where knights and lords met for jousting.
A teacher who gives lessons to children at home.
A woman whose husband is dead.