Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Henry VIII (1491-1547)
My Dear friend and mistress,
The bearer of these few lines from thy entirely devoted servant will deliver into thy fair hands a token of my true affection for thee, hoping you will keep it for ever in your sincere love for me. Advertising you that there is a ballad made lately of great derision against us, which if it go abroad and is seen by you; I pray you to pay no manner of regard to it. I am not at present informed who is the setter forth of this malignant writing; but if he is found out, he shall be straitly punished for it.
For the things ye lacked, I have minded my lord to supply them to you as soon as he could buy them. Thus hoping, shortly to receive you in these arms, I end for the present,
Your own loving servant and sovereign.
- from a letter to Jane Seymour when Queen Anne Boleyn was in the Tower of London, awaiting her execution
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Henry VIII was King of England from April 22 1509 until his death in 1547. He was born on June 28, 1491, the second son of King Henry VII, and was created Prince of Wales after the death of his older brother Arthur Tudor. A dispensation from the Pope was necessary in order to allow him to marry his brother's widow Catherine of Aragon, and this was obtained on the basis of non-consummation. Following difficulties with Rome over his divorce from Catherine (which was not sanctioned by the Pope, who was under pressure from Catherine's nephew, Charles V at the time), Henry split from the Roman Catholic Church, seized many of the Church's assets, and formed the Church of England. This became final with the passing of the Act of Supremacy 1536. There have been many films about Henry VIII and his court. Two that bear mention here are the 1933 The Private Life of Henry VIII starring Charles Laughton and the 1972 The Six Wives of Henry VIII starring Keith Michell.
During 1513, the Duke of Norfolk defeated the invasion attempt of James IV of Scotland at Flodden during Henry's absence at war against France. Henry's long rivalry with King Francis I of France was made more serious by the cooperation between France and Scotland, both Catholic countries. Henry and Francis had met at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. Peace with France was finally concluded in 1546. Henry VIII greatly improved English seapower and instituted an efficient navy. His flagship, the Mary Rose, sank in the Solent during a battle, and its retrieval during the 1980s provided valuable archaeological evidence about the period. It is now on display at Portsmouth. The other major achievement of Henry's reign was the Act of Union of 1536, which effectively brought Wales under English government, with the result that the first Welsh members of parliament were elected in 1542. Henry was proud of his own Welsh blood. Henry is also famous for his six wives. After divorcing Catherine of Aragon, he married Anne Boleyn. While Anne bore Henry a female child Elizabeth, she did not give him the male heir he so desperately wanted. For this reason he had her executed on trumped up charges of adultery and married Jane Seymour. Seymour gave Henry a male child, but she died shortly after doing so. The boy was sickly, and Henry reluctantly remarried, on the advice of his chancellor, Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell, like his predecessors, More and Wolsey, fell from favour and was charged with treason. His fourth wife was the German Protestant Anne of Cleves. Henry disliked her from the beginning, and had their marriage annulled after only a few months. He proceeded to marry Catherine Howard, a young cousin of Anne Boleyn, who, like Anne, was found guilty of adultery and executed for treason. His last wife was Catherine Parr, a more mature woman who had been twice widowed. None of his last three queens bore him any children. Henry died on January 28, 1547, at Whitehall in London and was buried at Windsor. At his death he left three children. Each had a turn on the English throne: Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. [This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on Henry VIII.]
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