Henry VIII Succeeds His Father As King of England

Today on April 21st 1509, Henry VIII, England’s most famous and lustrous king, ascends to the throne.

Henry VIII ascended to the throne at the age of 17 to become the second monarch from the House of Tudor. As the second eldest son of Henry VII, he was initially educated for a career in the Catholic Church. However, everything changed when his older brother Arthur suddenly died from an illness. Henry betrothed his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, and prepared to one day rule over the kingdom. Contemporaries described the young Henry as an attractive, educated and accomplished man - perhaps even the most charismatic ruler to sit on the throne. He ruled for almost four decades and greatly expanded royal authority during this period.

Henry is undoubtedly most well-known for his six wives. Catherine failed to produce a male heir so be became increasingly convinced that God had cursed their marriage. He commonly referenced a rule from the Old Testament that banned marrying your brother’s widow. After repeatedly seeking an annulment from Pope Clement VII, he was ultimately refused. In retaliation, he initiated the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority and boldly appointed himself as the Supreme Head of the Church. Henry finally divorced Catherine and was free to openly pursue other women. His next bride, Anne Boleyn, was infamously beheaded only a few years later.

Henry went on to marry four more times to Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. Here is an easy way to remember the fates of each wife (in sequential order): divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. As he aged he became increasingly obese and was riddled with serious health problems. Three of his five children succeeded him to reign over the kingdom, including Edward VI, Mary I, and most notably, Elizabeth I (in order of succession). The House of Tudor has since become one of the most famous dynasties in British history.

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