Henry VIII’s Will

Posted By on December 30, 2010

On this day in history, 30th December 1546, Henry VIII signed his last will and testament, authorising changes he’d instructed William Paget to make on his behalf on 26th December 1546. You can read his full will in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 21 Part 2: September 1546-January 1547, but here are the key points:-

  • His instruction that he be buried “in the choir of his college of Windesour, midway between the stalls and the high altar, in a tomb now almost finished in which he will also have the bones of his wife, Queen Jane” and “an altar shall be furnished for the saying of daily masses while the world shall endure”. H also writes that “the tombs of Henry VI. and Edward IV. are to be embellished.”
  • The giving of 1,000 mks. in alms to the poor “with injunctions to pray for his soul”.
  • The giving of lands to St George’s College, Windsor Castle with conditions.
  • The naming of Henry’s son, Prince Edward, as his heir.
  • Henry’s instructions for the succession – The order of the succession after Edward was 1) “the heirs of his [Edward’s] body”, 2) Henry’s children by “Queen Catharine, or any future wife”, 3) “In default, to his daughter Mary and the heirs of her body, upon condition that she shall not marry without the written and sealed consent of a majority of the surviving members of the Privy Council appointed by him to his son Prince Edward”, 4) “In default, to his daughter Elizabeth upon like condition”, 5) To the heirs of Lady Frances (daughter of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon), 6) To the heirs of Lady Eleanor, sister of Lady Frances, 7) And in default, to his right heirs.
    If Mary and Elizabeth did not observe the conditions laid out, they would forfeit their rights to the succession.

  • The appointing of executors – Henry VIII named the following executors “the Abp. of Canterbury, the Lord Wriothesley, Chancellor of England, the Lord St. John, Great Master of our House, the Earl of Hertford, Great Chamberlain of England, the Lord Russell, Lord Privy Seal, the Viscount Lisle, High Admiral of England, the bishop Tunstall of Duresme, Sir Anthony Broun, Master of our Horse. Sir Edward Montagu, chief judge of the “Commyn Place,” Justice Bromley. Sir Edward North, Chancellor of the Augmentations, Sir William Paget, our chief Secretary, Sir Anthony Denny and Sir William Harbard, chief gentlemen of our Privy Chamber, Sir Edward Wootton and Dr. Wootton his brother.” All these men were also to be members of Edward’s Privy Council and Henry VIII instructed that “none of them shall do anything appointed by this Will alone, but only with the written consent of the majority.”
  • Sir Edmund Peckham, “cofferer of our house”, was instructed to “be treasurer of all moneys defrayed in performance of this Will” and to pay off Henry’s debts after his burial and to make sure that “all grants and recompenses which he has made or promised but not perfected are to be performed.”
  • The instruction that as well as inheriting Henry VIII’s titles and crown, Edward was to be given “all his plate, household stuff, artillery, ordnance, ships, money and jewels, saving such portions as shall satisfy this Will; charging his said son to be ruled as regards marriage and all affairs by the aforesaid Councillors (names repeated) until he has completed his eighteenth year.”
  • The appointing of  “the present earls of Arundel and Essex, Sir Thomas Cheney, treasurer of our Household, Sir John Gage, comptroller of our Household, Sir Anthony Wingfield, our vice-chamberlain, Sir William Petre, one of our two principal secretaries, Sir Richard Riche, Sir John Baker, Sir Ralph Sadleyr, Sir Thomas Seymour, Sir Richard Southwell, and Sir Edmond Peckham” to assist the King’s council.
  • “Bequeaths to his daughters’, Mary and Elizabeth’s, marriages to any outward potentate, 10,000l. each, in money, plate, etc., or more at his said executors’ discretion; and, meanwhile, from the hour of his death, each shall have 3,000l. to live upon, at the ordering of ministers to be appointed by the foresaid Councillors.”
  • The instruction that the Queen be given “3,000l. in plate, jewels and stuff, besides what she shall please to take of what she has already, and further receive in money l,000l. besides the enjoyment of her jointure.”
  • Bequests to his executors – “the Abp. of Canterbury 500 mks., Wriothesley, St. John, Russell, Hertford and Lisle, each 500l., Durham, Broun, Paget, Denny, Herberd, Montague, Bromley, North, Sir Edw. Wootton and Dr. Wootton, each 300l.”
  • Bequests “in token of special love and favour” – “The earl of Essex, Sir Thomas Cheney, the Lord Herberd, Sir John Gage, Sir Thomas Seymour, John Gates and Sir Thomas Darcy, each 200l., Sir Thomas Speke, Sir Philip Hobby, Sir Thomas Paston and Sir Maurice Barkeley, each 200 mks., Sir Ralph Sadleyr 200l., Sir Thomas Carden 200l., Sir Peter Meutes, Edward Bellingham, Thomas Audeley and Edmond Harman, each 200 marks, John Pen 100 marks, Henry Nevel, Symbarbe, ——Cooke, John Osburn and David Vincent, each 100l., James Rufforth, keeper of our house here, —— Cecil, yeoman of our Robes, —— Sternhold, groom of our Robes, each 100 mks., John Rouland, page of our Robes, 50l., the earl of Arundell, Lord Chamberlain, Sir Anthony Wingfeld, Sir Edm. Peckham, Sir Richard Riche, Sir John Bak[er] and Sir Richard Southwell, each 200l., Dr. Owen, Dr. Wendy and Dr. Cromer, each 100l., —— Alsopp, Patrick ——,——A[yliff],—— Ferrys, Henry——, and —— Hollande. each 100 mks., and the four gentlemen ushers of our Chamber, being daily waiters, 200l.” and the instruction that his executors could also give “legacies” to other servants not named in the will.

The will was signed with the King’s stamp at the beginning and end and signed by the following witnesses: “John Gates: E. Harman: Wyllyam Sayntbarbe: Henry Nevell: Rychard Coke: David Vincent: Patrec: [Ge]orge Owen: [Tho]mas Wendye: Robert Huycke: W. Clerk.”

At the start of the will, Henry shows his faith in God and “humbly bequeaths his soul to God” and expresses his desire that “the Blessed Virgin and holy company of Heaven to pray for and with him, while he lives and in the time of his passing hence, that he may after this “the sooner attain everlasting life.” ”

Notice how Henry’s will restores Mary and Elizabeth to the succession, something which Edward overturned in his “Devise for the Succession” before his death in 1553. I love the fact that even though Henry VIII must have been ill at this time, he is still hopeful of heirs through Queen Catherine or “or any future wife”!


  • Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 21 Part 2: September 1546-January 1547, 634, 30th December 1546, Henry VIII’s Will.