HENRY VIII (1491-1547), king of England (22nd April 1509 to 28th January 1547) (House of Tudor),and founder of the Church of England.
Henry was born in London on June 28, 1491, and on the death of his father in 1509, succeeded to the throne. He then married his brother's widow Catherine of Aragón, having been betrothed to her through a papal dispensation secured in 1503.
In 1511 Henry joined in the Holy League against France, and in 1513 he led the English forces through a victorious campaign in northern France. Deserted by his allies, Henry arranged a marriage in 1514 between his sister Mary and Louis XII of France, with whom he formed an alliance. Louis's successor, Francis I, met Henry at a magnificently staged meeting on the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520, but no significant political decisions resulted. In 1525 riots broke out in England in protest against an attempt by Henry to levy taxes for military purposes, and he withdrew from major military activity in Europe.
In 1527 Henry announced his desire to divorce his wife, on the grounds that the papal dispensation making the marriage possible was invalid, though the real reason was that Catherine had failed to produce a male heir. Her only surviving child was Mary, later Mary I of England. In addition, Henry was in love with Anne Boleyn, a young and beautiful lady-in-waiting of the queen. Several obstacles, however, stood in the way of the divorce. Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Catherine's nephew, strongly opposed the divorce, and Pope Clement VII, whom Charles had made a prisoner, could not invalidate the marriage without displeasing his captor. In 1528 the pope was persuaded to appoint the English cardinal and statesman Thomas Wolsey and Lorenzo Campeggio, a papal legate, to try the case in an English legatine court. In 1529, the pope summoned the case to Rome. When the prospect of securing a papal annulment seemed hopeless, Henry dismissed Wolsey and appointed Sir Thomas More. The latter, however, was reluctant to support the divorce.
Henry now proceeded to dissolve one by one the ties to the papacy. With the aid of parliamentary legislation, he first secured control of the clergy, compelling that group in 1532 to acknowledge him as head of the English church. In the following year Henry secretly married Anne Boleyn, who was crowned queen after Henry's obedient archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, declared the marriage with Catherine void and that with Anne valid. An act of succession affirmed the declaration of the archbishop and established Anne's progeny as heirs to the throne. Although Henry was immediately excommunicated, he repudiated papal jurisdiction in 1534 and made himself the supreme ecclesiastical authority in England. The English people were required to affirm under oath Henry's supremacy and the act of succession. Sir Thomas More and the English cardinal John Fisher were executed for refusing to accept the religious supremacy of the English monarch. Henry dissolved the monastic communities and gave much of their property to the nobles in exchange for their support.
Anne Boleyn gave Henry only one (surviving) child, the future Elizabeth I, but no boy. In 1536, after charging Anne Boleyn with incest and adultery, Henry had her executed. A few days after Anne's death, he married Jane Seymour, who died in 1537 after bearing Henry's only legitimate son, Edward, later Edward VI. A marriage was arranged in 1540 with Anne of Cleves in order to form a tie between England and the Protestant princes of Germany. Because Anne was unattractive and because Henry found the political alliance no longer to his advantage, he divorced her after several months and married Catherine Howard in the same year. She was executed summarily in 1542 for having been unchaste prior to marriage and having committed adultery. In the following year Henry married his sixth (and last) wife, Catherine Parr, who survived him.
Between 1542 and 1546 Henry was involved in war with Scotland and France. His troops defeated the Scots at Solway Moss in 1542. They captured Boulogne from the French in 1544, and when peace was made in 1546 Henry received an indemnity from France. He died in London on January 28, 1547.