A summary of Henry VIII

Henry VIII, a burning church, the English Bible, a map of England and Wales and a ship.

Henry VIII became king in 1509. His father had left him lots of money. He was a glamorous 'Renaissance Prince' and wanted to be the greatest king England ever had.

He went to war with France in 1513 and built more warships. In 1536 he united Wales with England, and in 1541 he declared himself King of Ireland.

Henry VIII is most famous for divorcing his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, because she could not give him a male heir, and then marrying five times more!

Henry VIII and religion

In 1534 Henry said that he, not the Pope, was the Head of the Church in England. Although Henry remained a Catholic to the end of his life, this was the beginning of the Church of England. In 1536 Henry used his new power to begin to close down the monasteries and take their land and money. This made many people unhappy, and there was a rebellion, called the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536. Henry put it down brutally.

A harsh and brutal king?

In 1539 a new law gave Henry power to make any law he pleased. Towards the end of his reign Henry became increasingly brutal, executed his enemies and burned Protestants at the stake.

In the past, historians said that Henry was the start of a 'new monarchy' and that he made 'a revolution in government'. Modern historians say that this is too simple. Henry was very powerful, but in many ways he ruled like a medieval king, surrounded and influenced by his nobles.