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28 June 1491 – Birth of King Henry VIII

Posted By on June 28, 2016

henry_viiiOn this day in history, 28th June 1491, King Henry VIII was born at Greenwich Palace. To celebrate his 525th birthday, I’m sharing an extract from my book Illustrated Kings and Queens of England on Henry VIII…

Henry VIII (1491-1547)
Rule: 1509-1547
Marriages: Catherine of Aragon (annulled), Anne Boleyn (executed for alleged treason), Jane Seymour (died after childbirth), Anne of Cleves (annulled), Catherine Howard (executed for alleged treason) and Catherine Parr (outlived him).
Issue: By Catherine of Aragon: Henry, Duke of Cornwall (died in infancy), and Mary I; by Anne Boleyn: Elizabeth I; by Jane Seymour: Edward VI; by his mistress Elizabeth Blount: illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, who died at the age of 17.

Henry VIII was born on 28 June 1491 at Greenwich Palace. He was the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, but became heir to the throne when his brother Arthur died in 1502. He inherited the throne on the death of his father in April 1509, when he was just 17 years old, and he was crowned on 24 June 1509 in a joint coronation with his new bride Catherine of Aragon, the widow of his brother.

His reign was seen as the start of a new era, after his father’s harsh regime, and Henry was very much a Renaissance prince at the start, with his charm, good looks, intelligence, love of sport and desire to fight bribery and corruption. However, he has gone down in history as a larger than life, hulk of a man who had six wives and who executed two of them, and who, according to one contemporary source, executed 72,000 during his reign. His reign is famous for the break with Rome which happened as a result of Henry VIII’s ‘Great Matter’, his quest for an annulment of his marriage to his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Catherine had been unable to provide Henry with a living son and Henry had come to view the marriage as contrary to God’s laws, since Catherine was his brother’s widow. He had also fallen in love with Anne Boleyn. The Pope refused to grant Henry an annulment, but Henry took matters into his own hands after reading that kings and princes were only answerable to God. The marriage was annulled in 1533, Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn and the Reformation Parliament of 1529-1536 passed the main pieces of legislation which led to the break with Rome and the English Reformation.

His achievements included the founding of the English Navy, the foundation of the Church of England after the break with Rome, his patronage of the Arts and his bringing the Renaissance to England, the establishment of the Kingdom of Ireland, his remodelling of government and taxation, his promotion of Parliament, the translation of the Bible into English, his major building programme, and the passing of the crown to his son Edward without opposition.

Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547 at the Palace of Whitehall. He was buried with his third wife Jane Seymour in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Also on this day in history, 28th June 1461, Edward IV was crowned king at Westminster Abbey – click here to read more.

You can read more about Henry VIII in the following articles:

Extract and picture taken from Illustrated Kings and Queens of England by Claire Ridgway.

9 thoughts on “28 June 1491 – Birth of King Henry VIII”

  1. Banditqueen says:

    Happy Birthday Great Harry. From the spare son destined probably to the a colourful and unique monarch who shaped our destiny in numerous and fascinating ways. Whether he was our greatest King or not depends on how one analysis his actions, achievements and failures, his relationships and his legacy. It could be argued for example that but for his matrimonial adventures, he had the intelligence and capabilities to achieve far more. As it was, historians now agree that the Henry Viii of legend did not exist, that even his more tyrannical years of his last decade was far more complex than claimed by hostile eighteenth and nineteenth century historians claimed, that even this decade brought some of his longest lasting achievements, the granting of his English Bible, the strengthening of our costal defences, the collage of surgeons, the independence of the English Church, laws that enhanced the power and image of monarchy through print and art, and the basis of an independent England, as a few examples. In his first 28 years Henry was known as a patron and scholar, a great builder and sportsman, as the father of the navy, the founder of schools and institutions, for building the international reputation of England, but he did not accomplish what he could have done, much to the regret of himself and his country. His tragic loss of his sons lead to the breakdown of his marriage to the beloved Katherine of Aragon and to the break from Rome, the rest following from this, his failure to focus away from his real need for a son, all this distracted Henry from what he truly wanted to achieve, glory on the battlefield and glory in the sense of a new age at home. He built fine palaces, he sponsored Italian architects, had some of the best minds at his court, yet his need for a son turned a hopeful reign into a time of discord, fear and tyranny. It made Henry far less than the great King and generous man that he could have been.

  2. Globerose says:

    Great summation Banditqueen and a pleasure to read on this day, my 68th birthday!

    1. esther says:

      Happy birthday Globerose!

      I disagree with Banditqueen’s summary; it ignores the fact that Henry destroyed the one “safety net” his poorer subjects had and wasted not only that money — but earlier, he also wasted the wealth left to him by Henry VII — on wars with France that did nothing but feed his ego. He also emotionally abused his eldest daughter unnecessarily (he could have used the “good faith exception” to protect Mary’s legitimacy while still seeking an annulment) and persecuted anyone — including friends and family — who thought that G-d and Henry were not interchangeable. Henry even tried to prevent most of his subjects from reading the Bible that he once had translated into English!

      1. Banditqueen says:

        Although your points are of course valid and part of the fallout from Henry and Katherine’s divorce, I don’t believe that my summary ignores them, I am speaking in general terms and have covered these in several more relevant points. Henry did a number of unsavoury things, including the harsh treatment of his wife, his daughter and the part he played in Anne Boleyn’s terrible trial, execution and ordeal. However, all of these things came directly from the over bearing desire for a son and the ridiculously long drawn out divorce. Henry Viii is all too quickly judged without balancing the terrible things he did in his last ten years with the things that he actually achieved. Whether he needlessly spent money is always a personal evaluation as some historians would argue that he spent money to impress as part of the image of kingship and that all monarchs could be criticized for this. Personally I agree that he spent money on the wrong things but that was part of the Tudor kingship. He also spent money on the navy. He also spent money on our defences and on colleges are schools and universities, the proffessions and his divorce cost a fortune. Yes, he probably spent too much money on war, but being a warrior King and attempting to regain lost parts of France were expected from him. He did not spend as much time at war as his contemporaries or his ancestors. He gave us the longest period of peace and security for decades. The threat to invade over his break from Rome, which some of his subjects believed was a good thing, did not materialize as England was prepared. The French and German and French were at each other’s throats and the threat only came in 1545, when we fended them off, although it meant the loss of the Mary Rose. War was an unfortunate consequence of upsetting the neighbours in Europe, but England emerged stronger. The financial consequences were inevitable after the war that saw us take Bolongue. To resolve this more money was issued and the currency debased, something that actually makes good economic sense. Our trade increased and English goods were also protected during his reign. His personal life and marriage history, together with the tyranny of his later years, already stated, all lead to the paranoid reactions which saw friends and rivals persecuted, although in some cases he was justified as they were guilty of treason. None of these things, however, can take away from the fact that Henry started with and for a long time showed great promise or left a great legacy. It was another 11 years before his legacy was built upon by the achievement he made by accident, his daughter Elizabeth. Even then she could not have made anything from her own natural intelligence had her father not cultivated this and given both of his daughter’s such a good education in the first place.

    2. Claire says:

      Happy birthday Globerose!

    3. Banditqueen says:

      Happy Birthday Globerose and thank you.

  3. mrsfiennes says:

    In many ways, I think Henry could have been one of England’s greatest kings had someone given him a son in his early years and had that son gone on to live and prosper.I always like to imagine what if.I highly believe he was capable of a reign that would have amazed the world in a good way rather than what it became.So much wasted potential.

  4. Maryann C Pitman says:

    Henry was not a good man personally. A capable king rarely is. He was successful in keeping his throne, which says a good deal about him. One serious uprising during his entire reign, which is far less than his father, or any monarch since Henry V had to address. Look at his contemporaries. Francis I ended up in a foreign prison when his expansionist policies failed. Charles V spent much of his life fighting wars, and by the end of his life had lost to the German Protestants, even if he did keep his crowns. Henry did expand his domains modestly, even if those gains were short lived. He made England a player on the international stage again.
    The human cost of Henry’s successes was staggering. Hi people were in awe of him, he had been King for a generation. His will was such that England accepted his daughters as his successors over the will of his son, six years after his death. He set England on the road to her later glory as a world power. Again, at a staggering cost.
    This was a period of tremendous upheaval, and persecution was rife across Europe, not just in England. Henry sought to strike a balance, and this was more or less successful, as England did not have the massacres that took place in France and Germany.
    The times were hard, and it took hard men to navigate them.

  5. Happy Birthday King Henry VIII and thankvyou for Elizabeth I

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