Is Henry VIII actually spinning in his grave? No, I don’t think so!

HenryVIII_418x500The Daily Mail’s (or Daily Fail as some call it) headline has got me on my soapbox and my high horse, and perhaps my high horse on top of my soapbox! I don’t like heights but this newspaper article has really got to me!

The Daily Mail’s headline is “Henry VIII will be spinning in his grave! Catholic service to be held at Hampton Court Palace for the first time in more than 450 years” and the story is that Hampton Court’s Chapel Royal is hosting a Catholic service on 9th February to celebrate 500 years of musical heritage.

Why would that have Henry VIII spinning in his grave?

Well, it wouldn’t, not in my opinion anyway.

The article goes on to say that Henry VIII’s secret marriage to Anne Boleyn in 1533 “led to the King replacing His Holyness [sic] as the head of the Church of England. From then on, only Protestant worship was permitted – ousting Roman Catholics.”



Please, Daily Mail, please get your reporters to research things properly before writing articles. Henry VIII may have broken with Rome but he was far from being a “Protestant” and the worship in Henry VIII’s royal chapels could certainly not be described as “Protestant” in the 1530s. Henry VIII would be more than happy with a Catholic service.

I could write a book on the Henrician Reformation but let me just state in brief where I’m coming from. It is Friday afternoon, so I don’t want to get all heavy…

Henry VIII was influenced by William Tyndale’s teachings regarding how “God has appointed the kings, princes, and other secular leaders as his representatives on earth” – which challenged the idea that the Pope had “temporal authority over king and emperor” but it is safe to say that Henry VIII died a Catholic. His Church of England was the Catholic Church with the King as its head, rather than the Pope, and Henry VIII saw new ideas and doctrines, which we now call “Protestant”, as heresy. It’s why people like Anne Askew were executed and his own wife, Catherine Parr, nearly fell from power because of her reformist leanings. Archbishop Cranmer and the evangelicals in Henry VIII’s council had to tread very carefully with the king. Henry did not tolerate those with what he saw as radical religious views.

There is a big difference between rejecting the Pope as head of the Church and being “Protestant”. Although there were religious reforms in his reign, Henry VIII was actually very conservative and the big changes came in the reign of his son, Edward VI. Historian John Guy says “Overall Henry wants Catholic doctrine BUT without a mediating clergy, and therefore although Catholic he is against cults of saints, intercessions to saints and therefore images and pilgrimages for the people at large” and he also says that the Henrician Reformation can be seen as “schizophrenic” with it sometimes being about “royal supremacy and essentially Catholic theology” and other times having “genuine Protestant elements”, but England never became Protestant in Henry VIII’s reign. Henry was a Catholic wanting reform and toying with some new ideas presented by those he trusted and respected, he was not a full-blown Protestant. The foundations of the English Reformation may have been laid (e.g. the introduction of the English Bible), but Henry’s faith was Catholic.

A Catholic service in the Chapel Royal would be far more recognisable to Henry VIII than a modern Protestant service and I think he’d be very happy with it.

Phew! Off my soapbox now!

What do you think?


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34 thoughts on “Is Henry VIII actually spinning in his grave? No, I don’t think so!”
  1. Ohh dear. I think someone from The Mail was relying on a copy of a 1950’s Ladybird Book of Tudor History! The problem is some people reading this, will believe it because it’s in a so called newspaper.

    Henry obviously took what he needed from the new religion, but was at heart a true conservative so was happy to be head of the church instead of the Pope, but wanted to keep the Catholic service.

    This article just shows how little history is properly taught in this country or how sloppy journalists are in researching historical facts!

    1. My Darlings, I wonder if you are under-estimating how knowledgeable you really are? I am constantly amazed and impressed by the detailed, precise commentary regularly displayed by contributors and by Claire herself. Claire is a wonderful teacher, I’m sure you agree.

      1. Hi Globerose,

        I agree, Claire has produced wonderful articles that are thoroughly researched from primary sources and contributors have also been as thorough. Since I stumbled upon this website a couple of years ago it has fed my passion for tudor history – long may it continue!

        You are right – when you immerse yourself so deeply in a subject you can loose sight of the fact that not everyone feels as you do – still it’s a shame that history isn’t cared about enough in newspapers for them to do a little research.

        I can’t help but think that they’re trying to stir up outrage in the C of E community at a time when understanding and respect between religions should be promoted so once again The Mail comes up short.

        I’m taking your comment as a compliment as this year although so very young, is turning out to be a bit on the dire side for me – thank you so very much, no-one has ever referred to me as knowledgeable although I do regard everyone on this site to be so!

    2. LOL love it Elizabeth. Ladybird book of Tudor history..

      I agree that history is not being taught correctly in schools though, and that has been evident for many years. Certainly from my point of view as my history teacher was a waste of space to be honest. His idea to teach a class was to chuck a book at us and tell us to read it. Any questions or opinions we may like to offer were void because basically he didn’t care. Useless utterly useless and that was over 30 years ago.

      The modern day so called history teachers in schools aren’t much better to be honest, you do get the odd one or two who know their stuff and teach the subject properly I seem to recall a Claire something or other is an especially exceptional and supportive teacher, but they are few and far between.

      A couple of years ago I completely wiped the floor with my son’s history teacher, the silly woman hadn’t got a clue, and looked as if she had not long come out of the schoolroom herself. She asked the kids to write about someone who had been lodged in the Tower. We all know the usual suspects, Anne B, Elizabeth, Rudolf Hess even the Kray Twins were housed in the Bell tower, anyway I gave my son the details of a prisoner who was actually the last person to be ever executed in the tower, namely Josef Jacobs he was shot as a spy in 1941. Anyway he handed it in and the history teacher promptly gave him a detention, for making the story up.
      So naturally I challenged her and gave her what for, in front of the headmaster, needless to say after I had showed her that Josef was a real person etc, she went very red and quickly withdraw the detention and gave my son a merit mark. I guess she hasn’t heard of google silly woman. I told her “You call yourself a History teacher! It does help a lot if you do have a basic grounding in the subject you are employed to teach”
      I don’t know why but for some reason she left shortly after that. I felt a smug self satisfaction over that I can tell you. I would in no way class myself as intelligent I’m a dunderhead plain and simple, but history is my passion so when I get my teeth into something I read everything I can about it, so that I can help others.

      1. Hi Boleyn,

        I totally agree with you about some teachers. I’m in my fifties and have read and read and read about history for most of that time. I don’t think I’m clever but when you develop a real passion for a subject you do soak the information up. I remember watching a documentary about the Tower of London and recall about Josef Jacobs.

        When I did O level history, back in the stone age, we studied the agrarian revolution and the industrial revolution. We were given sheets of paper with all the relevant facts on and had to memorise everything for the exam. I still shudder when the words ‘Factory Acts’ are mentioned and I totally ignored the Victorian age from that time on. The only memory I have of the lessons was that a girl fainted when we were told about the poor match girls having their jaw bones eaten away by the phosphorous in the matches! Since researching my family tree however, I’ve found a new interest in that era. If only it could have been presented in a relevant way.

        Most of the people I know who are employed in the education sector are burnt out and demoralised and to be honest I don’t know what can be done (if I thought I knew all the answers I’d be a politician!). I think that all parents can do is what you’ve done – support your child and challenge what you know is wrong and of course, if they’re studying the Tudors, point them in the direction of this website! Hope the whole episode hasn’t put your son off history

        1. Back in the day, round 1976/77/78..The comp I went to had a new way of teaching may have been a trial ..I can’t remember.

          We were given packets of information and some open ended questions and had to deduce all the relevant facts and got extra marks for researching outside of the provided materials..

          The only reason I didn’t do ‘O-level” history was it conflicted with “O-level” French which I wasn’t allowed to drop and CSE history conflicted with Latin which I wanted to do in preference

    3. Hilarious! The Ladybird book of Tudor History!!! Love it! I’m with our Tudor guru Claire and believe that Henry was very much in favour of traditional worship and would have been both familiar with and happy to go to Mass. His break with Rome had little to do with objections regarding Catholicism, but far more to do with his own sense of greatness and supremacy and of course, the overwhelming urge to eliminate wives…….

  2. Hi Claire and everyone!

    First off I’m American and I Love 16th Century European History (so forgive me if I’m not correct)

    First of all I think that Henry VIII would be happy with the Catholic Mass in Hampton Court Palace: Traditionally, he was Catholic and in seeking an annulment from Katherine of Aragon, he broke from Rome but made England Protestant in the process… Siding with Tyndale with the Prayer Books/Mass in English instead of Latin… In the 21st Century, most people can worship however they please… Even Anne Boleyn had a Catholic Mass before she was beheaded… So I agree with you 100% that the article you speak of is trash and someone needs to get their facts straight!!

  3. IMO, Henry is spinning in his grave … but not because of the kind of service they are holding at Hampton Court Palace. I think that Henry … who tore his country apart because he thought rule was only for men … is spinning because his daughter proved rather conclusively that Isabella of Castile was not an anomaly, but that women could be better monarchs than men!

  4. I fully agree with the idea that Henry would approve of the service—after all, all he did was proclaim himself ‘head of the church’ he still worshiped as a Catholic. He didn’t approve of’Protestants’—see treatment of Anne Askew and many others— I do wish that Journalists would get their facts correct–or at least get someone to check it out

  5. What rubbish indeed, Daily Mail. For one thing, when you go to Hampton court you are introduced to the chapel as being one of the last old Catholic chapels built in England. Christian worship has continued there for the last 500 years and the early services would still have been masses. Protestants were the German protesters killed in the peasants wars in 1525. It was not the name given to followers of the reformed services that creeped in during the late reign of Henry Viii or even the reign of Edward Vi. For the most part Henry Viii still heard Mass, the Catholic service. Even with the reforms of Cranmer and Elizabeth, it took several generations for the country to become Protestant. Elizabeth I inherited a Catholic country, with a Catholic majority. Forbidding Catholic worship was under Elizabeth I, not Henry Viii. Even with some changes, some war on images and things, many remained and Henry moved closer to the old traditional ways again with the Six Articles. One of the earliest celebrations in the new Chapel in Hampton Court was the baptism of Prince Edward and that had all the traditional Catholic elements, even if Edward rejected his father’s faith for the reformed church as he grew older. Papers don’t know nothing, they never do research, just spout nonsense. I agree, their journalists should be trained in historical research before doing articles on the heritage of the nation. This is an important anniversary for Hampton Court, it should not be misrepresented by a dozy media. A short fact based interview with the curator would have prevented this. As you say Claire, why should Henry spin in his grave ( not that there is any room) when he remained very Catholic and traditional, as his attitude to heretical beliefs showed? He separated from the Papacy for personal, matrimony reasons, not religious ones.

  6. I remember when the Mail actually had real stories….

    These days, it’s getting to be on a level with the Sunday Sport..Does the Sport still exist??

  7. If Henry IS spinning in his grave, it’s probably because he not only does not have the lavish memorial he ordered his children to build for him, but that he and Jane have to share their burial plot with Charles I and an infant child of Queen Anne. Quite a come-down indeed!

  8. You are not the only one. When I read such headlines, I often get typing.. If I can first stop myself from dragging them down my face repeatedly! I wonder what type of people they employ… ones who last picked up a very basic history book in primary school.

  9. It’s a little off-post regarding the Tudors, but I thought you, Claire, as a DM ‘fan’ might like this response today from someone on an article about photographs of George V and Queen Mary which gave just been auctioned:

    “Is there nobody remaining on staff at the DM apart from hopelessly ignorant, functionally illiterate children, utterly incapable of learning enough about any given subject to compose even one correct comment about it, nor to write a coherent sentence? Does anybody in there even know what an encyclopaedia is? A dictionary? Thesaurus, maybe? Or are we deliberately trying to banish language and knowledge? Make the society into some horror fantasy of Morlock and Eloi, perhaps? Inevitable, I suppose, when you don’t even know what they are, never mind about who wrote them, and don’t care either.’

    Read more:
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

  10. Thought you might like this comment today from an exasperated reader:

    “Is there nobody remaining on staff at the DM apart from hopelessly ignorant, functionally illiterate children, utterly incapable of learning enough about any given subject to compose even one correct comment about it, …. Does anybody in there even know what an encyclopaedia is? A dictionary? Thesaurus, maybe? Or are we deliberately trying to banish language and knowledge? Make the society into some horror fantasy of Morlock and Eloi, perhaps? Inevitable, I suppose, when you don’t even know what they are, never mind about who wrote them, and don’t care either.”

    Read more:
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

    1. At least the DM is good for entertaining nursing mommas at wee hours of the morning. . .

      As far as Henry is concerned, I remember when we were touristing and someone asked where where his tomb was, the answer was you are standing on it. It was slightly anti climactic for the amount of drama he created.

    1. Well -I’ll be darned! DM says KH executed at Hampton Court and there’s me – and the rest of us – thinking it was at the Tower!

      When I’m giving a lecture, to break the ice I sometimes say, ” What I shall be telling you came from the Daily Mail, so it must be true”. It usually does the trick.

    2. Not defending the DM, but saying that Katherine Howard was imprisoned at Hampton Court before being executed is not the same thing as saying that she was executed there. IIRC she was locked up at Hampton Court, then Syon Abbey and then the Tower, then the chop. We can’t rant about the Daily Mail getting things wrong whilst misquoting them ourselves!

      But I do have a beef with them as they have their knife in to anyone on benefits and keep spreading the rumour that you can’t work and claim Personal Independence Payment. Funnily enough the DWP is quite happy to pay it to me whilst working full time…

      1. The article does say she was executed at Hampton Court:

        Trevor Tye, 45, took photograph of the marble staircase in public entrance
        When he looked at picture, Mr Tye spotted ghostly figure of young woman
        Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, was beheaded at palace in 1542
        Palace said there have been several alleged sightings of Ms Howard’s spirit

        1. Yes, it’s there in bold as one of the bullet points of the header of the news article: “Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, was beheaded at palace in 1542”. It’s definitely referring to Hampton Court Palace as it comes straight after the sighting of her ghost there and before the phrase “Palace said there have been several alleged sightings of Ms Howard’s spirit”. It’s definitely saying she was executed at the palace.

        2. Oops read whole article now. Was just looking at what Roland first put ie ‘Bus driver snaps spooky figure of a woman at Hampton Court Palace where Catherine Howard was imprisoned before being beheaded’:

  11. I don’t think old Henry would be too bothered about the Catholic service, I think he would just be chuffed that his palace is still looking so beautiful after four hundred years.

  12. But back on topic, I always tell my Anglican friends of the evangelical persuasion that the Anglican church was never envisaged as a Protestant church and I agree that Henry would have been quite happy with a Catholic mass.

  13. Henry was mostly interested in stripping the Catholic church’s wealth and power and transferring it to the crown. He remained essentially Catholic and burned and beheaded both Protestants and Catholics throughout his reign.

  14. It makes me so angry that people who write these articles do not check the true facts. Of course Henry would be a practicing catholic . For goodness sake he was destined at one time for the priesthood!
    Henry would not be spinning I his grave he would be delighted to see this beautiful chapel being used as it was meant to be used.
    So many so called “historians’ who write books and articles have never in their life picked up a fully researched history book and cross checked facts before they print their articles.
    Thank goodness your annebolelyn files are something we can believe .

  15. I may not be a historian, he’ll I’m not even British. But even I know that article is a load of crap. Even here in America it amazes me at the ignorant assumed history which people believe. Following like blind sheep over the edge of fantasy. I read almost anything I can get my hands on and Henry was in no way a protestant. He may have enjoyed some freedoms and “perks” when breaking with Rome. But his faith never wavered, nor did the way he worshipped.

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