June 28 – Happy birthday to King Henry VIII!

Today is the anniversary of the birth of King Henry VIII on 28th June 1491, 531 years ago, at Greenwich Palace.

This second monarch of the Tudor dynasty was the third child and second son of King Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth of York. He was born “the spare” but became heir to the throne on the death of his brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales, in 1502. Henry became king on 21st April 1509 after the death of his father and although he started his reign as a Renaissance prince, he’s gone down in history mainly as a monstrous tyrant.

In this video, or transcript below, I give an overview of Henry, his life and his reign…


On this day in Tudor history, that iconic monarch King Henry VIII was born at the Palace of Placentia (Greenwich Palace). He was the third child and second son of King Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty, and his wife, Elizabeth of York. Henry’s brother Arthur, Prince of Wales, had been born in September 1486 and his sister Margaret had been born in November 1489. Little Henry was baptised at the Church of the Observant Friars, Greenwich, by Richard Foxe, Bishop of Exeter and Lord Privy Seal.

I’m going to share with you an overview of this Tudor king based on an excerpt from my book “Illustrated Kings and Queens of England”…
Henry 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.

Henry was married six times, to Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr, and he had five acknowledge children who survived birth: Henry, Duke of Cornwall, who was born to Catherine of Aragon in 1511 but who died when he was 52 days old; Mary I, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, born in 1516; Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, son of Elizabeth Blount, Henry VIII’s mistress, in 1519; Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn, born in 1533, and Edward VI, son of Jane Seymour, born in 1537.

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