24 December 1545 – Henry VIII’s Last Speech to Parliament

Posted By on December 24, 2013

Henry VIII On 24th December 1545, King Henry VIII made his final speech to Parliament. Historian Robert Hutchinson describes it as “both measured and compelling”, and writes of how Henry wanted “to impart a stern message” to all of his subjects. Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley would normally have given the address, but Wriothesley was unpopular at this time and the King wanted to address Parliament instead.

In this speech, Henry VIII chastised the Lords and the Commons for the divisions regarding religion, saying:

“Yet, although I with you, and you with me, be in this perfect love and concord, this friendly amity cannot continue, except you, my lords temporal, and you my lords spiritual, and you my loving subjects, study and take pains to amend one thing, which is surely amiss, and far out of order, to the which I most heartily require you; which is, that charity and concord is not among you, but discord and dissension beareth rule, in every place. St. Paul saith to the Corinthians, in the thirteenth chapter, charity is gentle, charity is not envious, charity is not proud, and so forth, in the said chapter. Behold then what love and charity is amongst you, when the one calleth the other heretic and anabaptist, and he calleth him again, papist, hypocrite, and pharisee. Be these tokens of charity amongst you? Are these the signs of fraternal love between you? No, no. I assure you, that this lack of charity amongst yourselves will be the hindrance and assuaging of the fervent love between us, as I said before, except this wound be salved, and clearly made whole.”

He then moved on to addressing the clergy:

“I must needs judge the fault and occasion of this discord to be partly by the negligence of you, the fathers, and preachers of the spirituality… I see and hear daily, that you of the clergy preach one against another, teach, one contrary to another, inveigh one against another, without charity or discretion. Some be too stiff in their old mumpsimus, other be too busy and curious in their new sumpsimus. Thus, all men almost be in variety and discord, and few or none do preach, truly and sincerely, the word of God, according as they ought to do. Shall I now judge you charitable persons doing this? No, no; I cannot so do. Alas! How can the poor souls live in concord, when you, preachers, sow amongst them, in your sermons, debate and discord? Of you they look for light, and you bring them to darkness. Amend these crimes, I exhort you, and set forth God’s word, both by true preaching, and good example-giving, or else I, whom God hath appointed his vicar, and high minister here, will see these divisions extinct, and these enormities corrected, according to my very duty, or else I am an unprofitable servant, and an untrue officer.”

He concluded by imploring them all to remember the true meaning of God’s word and to treat each other like brothers, putting their differences to one side:

“I am very sorry to know and hear how unreverently that most precious jewel, the word of God, is disputed, rhymed, sung, and jangled in every alehouse and tavern, contrary to the true meaning and doctrine of the same; and yet I am even as much sorry that the readers of the same follow it, in doing, so faintly and coldly. For of this I am sure, that charity was never so faint amongst you, and virtuous and godly living was never less used, nor was God himself, amongst christians, never less reverenced, honoured, or served. Therefore, as I said before, be in charity one with another, like brother and brother; love, dread, and serve God (to the which I, as your supreme head, and sovereign lord, exhort and require you); and then I doubt not, but that love and league, which I spoke of in the beginning, shall never be dissolved or broken between us. And, as touching the laws which be now made and concluded, I exhort you, the makers, to be as diligent in putting them into execution, as you were in making and furthering the same, or else your labour shall be in vain, and your commonwealth nothing relieved.”

You can read the full speech in the appendix of Volume I of “Dodd’s Church History of England from the Commencement of the Sixteenth Century to the Revolution in 1688” – see link in Notes and Sources below..

This was Henry VIII’s last appearance before Parliament, although he didn’t die until January 1547.

Notes and Sources

17 thoughts on “24 December 1545 – Henry VIII’s Last Speech to Parliament”

  1. Sonetka says:

    For of this I am sure, that charity was never so faint amongst you, and virtuous and godly living was never less used, nor was God himself, amongst christians, never less reverenced, honoured, or served.

    Ah, Henry, you won’t be the last one to make that complaint! Though admittedly, the message of “shape up OR ELSE” would have made a much stronger impression coming from Henry VIII than from many other people.

    Thank you for the selections and source; I had heard vaguely of this speech before but had never read any of it. It’s easy to forget the fact that Henry, for all his many faults, was an educated, gifted man with a compelling presence — it must have been something to watch him speak.

    1. Mary the Quene says:

      Sonetka, very good point about how easy it is to forget the reasons “Good King Hal” was beloved. In the text of this speech, I see the form of his daughter’s “I will not make windows into men’s souls” comments.

      Claire, thank you for making this Henry VIII speech available to us!

  2. BanditQueen says:

    I admire Henry for making this speech; it is obviously wise and heart-felt and it is meant to attempt to draw the waring factions in the court together. It was a last attempt to get them to work as one for the good of his young heir as Henry sensed he was dying and would not face Parliament again. His speech was met with approval, respect and probably an applause. The nobles still saw Henry with awe; but a new age was dawning, one that the old King would never have recongnised. The words fell on stoney ground and were strangled by the weeds of the court who just would not put their own quarrels and petty ambitions aside. Henry’s attempt to unify and bring uniformity to the faithful of England was not going to bare fruit; human beings do not think in that way. I think Henry saw the future in the eyes of those before him, but he still wanted to end on a note that would be recalled as one of the great speeches of history. It is appropriate that it was given on Christmas Eve, as this is a time when we should put our differences aside in a symbolic rememberance of the birth of Christ. Enjoining the lords and commons and spititual to love one another as Christ taught was brave and I believe at that moment Henry meant it. I just feel it is a grave sadness that he did not give this speech ten years earlier and then lead with a true example.

  3. Dawn 1st says:

    To me it was a speech that came from the heart of a King who knew he was dying and leaving behind a vulnerable young heir, hopefully paving the way for a more settled and unified country for Edward to rule.

    But I personally do think the ‘discord’ he was talking about that was very apparent in his court and country, was created by him.
    I like to think he realised this, possibly regretted his more radical past actions. That he tried to recompense, and mend all that was broken as he got closer to his end with this plea for compassion and charity amongst his subjects.

    A marvellous speech, but delivered too late by a fading Ruler to bring about any improvement.

    1. The discord was widespread at the time-Europe was full of it-Martin Luther had hit home, and Europe was fed up with pontiffs who seemed more interested in temporal power than in the spiritual. That said, the Popes were not entirely to blame for their temporal concerns, but the contentious nature of Italy at the time, and the rivalries among the monarchs for power there certainly share the blame for the situation.

  4. jed says:

    Charity, discretion, the meaning of God’s word, love, dread, serve God, Most precious jewel, the word of God. What a vain, conceited, wicked hypocrite. It’s a wonder the house didn’t fall about laughing. When he had his health and strength, Henry VIII couldn’t abide the word of God and was quick to bend and override it when it suited him.
    The fool was obviously panicked by the state he was leaving the kingdom in when his boy took over, as his men were without doubt a reflection of himself and his cruel hypocrisy. Even then, close to death, he washed his hands of any blame and blamed his men instead.
    ‘Good King Hal’ my ass.

    1. Linda says:

      Totally on the money. He made his subjects live in fear, executed how many innocent people, including two wives (one a queen) and yet had the delusional nerve to give such a speech as this?

  5. I think JED ‘s response to the speech of Henry VIII was somewhat harsh. Henry was a deeply religious man all his life and in reality a devout Catholic. However in order to secure his divorce and produce a male heir he had to accept the influence of the reformers and as such King Edward VI had to be brought up protestant. Had the Pope granted the divorce I believe Henry would have remained a Catholic and the country would have remained loyal to Rome.
    When one looks at the history of England prior to Henry VIII long lasting wars followed either a weak King or a minority rule. Hence the War of the Roses. I believe he was desperate to avoid that possibility at all costs, and thus his break with Rome.

    1. Linda says:

      He did far worse; executing a queen and another wife. It has even been postulated that Katherine Parr might very well have met the block had he lived.

      A his a man who called for charity while being the most violent tyrant. Even in violent times, he was particularly brutal. I’m sure none wept when he passed.

  6. Daniel McBride says:

    Blaming everyone but himself. Evil pos.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      That doesn’t mean his plea was not sincere. Henry needed the Lords to stop destroying each other because he suspected he hadn’t long to live and he needed security, unity and concord for the safe ascension of his nine year old heir. Why are people so cynical when someone appeals for peace and harmony? Even if Henry was partly to blame, he had given them uniformity in order to bring both sides together and the Bible as a map for life, not for them to use for their own agendas. This was a real, urgent and heart felt appeal and one of the greatest speeches made by any monarch, including the do no wrong, Queen Elizabeth.

  7. Julie Clarkson says:

    Thank you Claire for sharing King Henry’s final speech to Parliament!!
    I am moved that at he was so eloquent and honest considering all of the infirmities he was suffering from!
    Genuine concern and love for his commonwealth are obvious and with all his faults still admirable!!
    Thank you once again.

  8. Christine says:

    He knew there was rivalry amongst them, all trying to get that that next step up the ladder, it is a reproachful lamentable speech and one which he knew would be his last, he knew he did not have long on this earth and was trying to tell them to be honest and worthy, he must have trembled at the thought of his young son being left to reign at so tender an age, he must have been full of regret for his lost children and knew that his first born prince Henry had he lived would have been in his mid twenties and he would not have been so afraid of leaving his crown and kingdom behind, as he approached death he must have looked back over his reign and I believe he did have some remorse for how he had treated his first two wives and maybe for executing the young and rather heedless Catherine Howard, their only crime really was being human and he must also have regretted the deaths of Cromwell and More, it was a eloquent heartfelt speech and he meant every word, yet there is an eloquent of hypocrisy in it as he was chastising them also for using the word of God in vain, yet he had used God as an excuse throughout his tumultuous reign to get what he wanted and explain his actions, but what of that, he was King Henry V111 chosen and anointed by him to rule as sovereign Lord over his island kingdom, God understood the actions of King Henry V111! Merry Christmas to you Claire Tim and family and a merry Christmas also to everyone on the Anne Boleyn Files.

  9. Charlene says:

    No wonder he was surrounded by the greedy and corrupt; he’d killed or scared off all the honest men with his wanton violence, paranoia, and towering rages.

  10. Banditqueen says:

    I know that Henry had turned into something of a tyrant in his last few years, but it is not fair to judge his intentions in this speech by some of those unfortunate actions. His last speech was about what he hoped for from his son’s reign and advisers. Henry knew that he was dying, he knew this was his last Parliament, he was feeling his mortality and maybe some regrets. I don’t believe that he was being a hypocrite. He was expressing a hope and asking for unity. What is wrong with that and why the need for snide remarks when someone expresses hopes for the future, even if they may have fallen short of that ideal? Henry had aimed to create a sense of unity and uniformity in his church but it failed as he did not bank on people having different ideas. Well monarchs didn’t. Most of them were out of touch. Most of them are still out of touch. He hoped everyone would accept his reforms and agree. Elizabeth wanted the same thing, but again not everyone agreed. Henry himself was the victim of the discord and factions at his court, both through the rise and fall of his wives, three of whom were promoted by family or supporters, then attacked by the other side. Another was raised by Conservative support but was lucky to escape attack as she gave Henry a son. The nobles who had lost their heads did so partly down to factions and revenge able to manipulate a pliable King. Henry may indeed have made the final decisions, he alone in the end was to blame, but along the way the hotbed of intrigue found him easily susceptible to persuasion when it came to bringing a rival up for treason. A series of accidents and marital disasters had left him vulnerable and suspicious. Now he was at the end of his life, maybe he could set a scene to ensure his son made a fresh start. This speech is about that hope, not what Henry had done or failed to do, but the hope of peace and unity in his court, around a new King, whom he believed could achieve that religious and political unification.

  11. Dale C. Rice says:

    Henry VIII was a man used to having his own way and lived in a world accustomed to giving way to the Kings demands. It must have been a moment of great revelation that despite his power over life and death of his people that he could not compel the good behavior between men and women who to have known that their behavior toward one another would be noted by the KING. I see him coming to the close of his life’s work believing he had done all that he could to secure the future with a son only to brought to the realization his hope lay in a weak son, physically and two strong but able daughters. I hear a kind of resignation in this speech and I thank the writer for bringing to our attention. It was my first reading sad to say…but I will no doubt review it again as Mary Boleyn is now listed as my 13th great grandmother. DCR

  12. Dale C. Rice says:

    Sorry missed the word SHOULD have known

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