Henry VIII Engraving
Henry VIII Engraving

I didn’t manage to post on the anniversary of Henry VIII’s death, due to no electricity and internet, so please forgive this late post.

On the 28th January 1547, Henry VIII, King of England and Ireland, died at the Palace of Whitehall at the age of 55. He was buried next to his “true wife”, Jane Seymour, in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

Henry VIII’s Will

Henry VIII left the following will which named his son Edward as King, with his daughters Mary and Elizabeth following next in line:-
“Henry R. In the name of God and of the glorious and blessed Virgin, our Lady Saint Mary, and of all the holy company of heaven, we, Henry, by the grace of God king of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and in earth immediately under God the supreme head of the Church of England and Ireland, of that name the eighth, calling to our remembrance the great gifts and benefits of Almighty God given to us in this transitory life, give unto Him our most lowly and humble thanks, acknowledging ourself insufficient in any part to deserve or recompense the same, but fear that we have not worthily received the same….

We will by these presents that, immediately after our departure out of this present life, our said son Edward shall have and enjoy the said imperial crown and realm of England and Ireland, our title to France, with all dignities, honours, pre-eminences, prerogatives, authorities, and jurisdictions, lands and possessions, to the same annexed or belonging to him and to his heirs of his body lawfully begotten. And for default of such issue of our said son Prince Edward’s body lawfully begotten, we will the said imperial crown and other the premises, after our two deceases, shall wholly remain and come to the heirs of our body lawfully begotten of the body of our entirely beloved wife, Queen Katherine, that now is, or of any other our lawful wife that we shall hereafter marry. And for lack of such issue and heirs … , the said imperial crown and all other the premises shall wholly remain and come to our said daughter Mary and the heirs of her body lawfully begotten; upon condition that our said daughter Mary, after our decease, shall not marry nor take any person to her husband without the assent and consent of the privy councillors and others appointed by us to our dearest son Prince Edward aforesaid to be of council….

We will that, after our decease, and for default of issue of … our daughter Mary, the said imperial crown and other the premises shall wholly remain and come to our said daughter Elizabeth and to the heirs of her body lawfully begotten; upon condition [etc.] …

Also we, being now at this time (thanks be to Almighty God!) of perfect memory, do constitute and ordain these personages following our executors and performers of this our last will and testament…. And all these we will to be our executors and councillors of the privy council with our said son Prince Edward, in all matters concerning both his private affairs and public affairs of the realm…. Whom we ordain, name, and appoint, and by these presents signed with our hand do make and constitute of privy council with our said son; and will that they have the government of our most dear son Prince Edward and of all our realms, dominions, and subjects, and of all the affairs public and private, until he shall have fully completed the eighteenth year of his age….”

The Succession

The Act of Succession 1543 (The Succession to the Crown Act 1543) superceded the Acts of 1533 and 1536 returned both Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession, following Edward. This act did not legitimise his daughters but it gave them legal rights to the throne.

On his deathbed in 1553, Edward VI overruled the Act of Succession and went against the express wishes of his father by excluding Mary and Elizabeth from the succession and naming Lady Jane Grey as his heir. Edward’s instructions were presented in a document known as “My Devise for the Succession”.

Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I

Henry VIII’s Children

It is interesting that all three of Henry VIII’s legitimate children became monarchs of England, all three were crowned within 11 years of Henry’s death and all three died without issue.

Edward VI was King between 28th January 1547 and his death on the 6th July 1553. He was the son of Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour. Edward never ruled in his own right as he died before he came of age. Henry VIII’s will named 16 executors who were to act as a council until Edward came of age.

Mary I was Queen between the 19th July 1553 and her death on the 17th November 1558. She was Henry VIII’s first child and was the daughter of Catherine of Aragon and granddaughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. Mary I married King Philip II of Spain but the couple did not have children. Mary I is known as “Bloody Mary” due to her persecution of Protestants.

Elizabeth I was Queen between the 17th November 1558 and her death on the 24th March 1603. Elizabeth was Henry VIII’s second daughter and her mother was the infamous Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, who was executed on the 19th May 1536 after being found guilty of treason, adultery and incest. Elizabeth I reigned for 44 years and her reign became known as “The Golden Age”. She is also known for being “The Virgin Queen”.

Henry VIII’s Legacy

If you went on the streets of England and asked people about Henry VIII, what would they say about him? What is he known for?

  • His 6 wives?
  • His mistresses?
  • His sexual appetite?
  • Executing Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard?
  • Divorcing Catherine of Aragon?
  • The break with Rome?
  • His size and obesity?
  • Executing lots of people?

They probably would not mention the founding of the English Navy, the foundation of the Church of England, Henry’s patronage of the Arts and his bringing the Renaissance to England, the establishment of the Kingdom of Ireland, Henry VIII’s remodelling of government and taxation, his promotion of Parliament, the translation of the Bible into English, his major building programme…Those are just some of Henry VIII’s achievements.

Henry VIII as he liked to be seen
Henry VIII as he liked to be seen

Bluff King Hal or Tyrant

Despite the fact that many people today consider Henry VIII as a tyrant or monster, after all, it is said that around 72,000 people were executed during his reign, the people of the time thought differently. I love this quote from the BBC website:-

“His reputation among 20th century historians has generally been low, but in his own time it stood much higher. Renaissance Europe expected its kings to be a mixture of the lion and the fox – audacious, generous, majestic, ruthless and devious – and Henry fitted the image. He was feared, and admired, and his death was marked by more obvious public grief than that of any other Tudor. That the public remembers him as Bluff King Hal rather than as a murderous cripple testifies much to his talent for self-presentation.”

Elizabeth I idolised her father and knew that people remembered him fondly, so she used to stand in front of his portrait when welcoming foreign visitors (to show the likeness between them) and referred to him in speeches:-

“I may not be a lion, but I am a lion’s cub, and I have a lion’s heart.”

She knew that Henry VIII was seen as a great King.

What Do You Think?

What do you think were Henry VIII’s main achievements?

What do you think he is remember for?

Virtuous Prince or Tyrant?



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