Henry VIII. (14911547)

Henry VIII., king of England from 1509 to 1547, son of preceding, born at Greenwich; was welcomed to the throne with great enthusiasm, and still further established himself in public favour by his gallant exploits at the Battle of Spurs and at the sieges of Tournay and Terouenne in the war of the Holy Alliance against France; in his absence an invasion of James IV. of Scotland was repulsed and the Scottish army crushed at Flodden (1513); during the first half of the reign public affairs were mainly conducted by the king's favourite minister, Wolsey, whose policy it was to hold the balance of power between Spain and France; but he fell into public disfavour by the heavy burden of taxation which he little by little laid upon the people; Henry, who in 1521 had been named “Defender of the Faith” by the Pope for his published defence of the sacraments against the attacks of Luther, was now moving for a divorce from his first wife Catherine of Arragon; a breach with the Pope ensued, Wolsey was deposed for his double-dealing in the matter, and Henry, having defiantly married Anne Boleyn, put an end to the papal jurisdiction in England to secure himself against appeals to the Papal Court, and got himself acknowledged Supreme Head of the Church of England; the suppression of the monasteries soon followed, and their estates were confiscated (1536-1540); in 1536 the movement of the Reformation was continued by the drawing up of Ten Articles and by an authorised translation of the Bible; but the passing of the Six Articles three years later, declaring in favour of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, clerical celibacy, private masses, auricular confession, &c., was an attempt to stay the rapid spread of Protestant doctrines; in 1541 Henry was declared King of Ireland, and in the two following years successful wars were waged with Scotland and France; the importance of the reign lies in the coincidence of it with the rise and culmination of the Reformation, a movement brought about in the first instance by no higher motive than the king's desire for a divorce as well as for absolute power; but for which a favourable reception had been prepared beforehand by the spread of the new learning and that free spirit of inquiry that was beginning to take possession of men's minds; historians for the greater part agree in representing Henry as a man of versatile powers, considerable intellectual force, but headstrong, selfish, and cruel in the gratification of his desires; he was six times married; Catherine and Anne of Clèves were divorced, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard executed, Jane Seymour died in childbirth, and Catherine Parr survived him; he left behind to succeed him on the throne Mary, daughter of Catherine, Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn, and Edward, son of Jane Seymour (14911547).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

Henry VII. * Henry III.
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