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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

England's King Henry VIII is best known for two things:

  • His many wives and his decision to execute several of them.
  • His decision to suppress the Roman Catholic Church, establishing the Church of England as the official religion of the nation. This act became known as the English Reformation.

The second ruler from the House of Tudor (succeeding his father, Henry VII), Henry VIII (1491-1547) ruled England for 38 years. He is famed for his six wives--he ordered the beheading of two of them--and his passionate and vain desire to provide England with a male heir to the throne. Henry had two wives executed--Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard--in part because they could not provide him with a son. Several other wives--Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves--had their marriages annulled or dissolved. A handsome man during his younger years, Henry became obese late in life. His son, Edward VI, succeeded him; Henry's daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, later became Queens of England following the death of Edward.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Henry VIII, King of England, is famous mostly for the fact that he was married so many times in hopes of getting a son.  This is not, however, the reason why he is most important in historical terms.  His divorces were related to his real reason for fame though.  This is because his desire for divorce led to his break with the Roman Catholic Church.

Because the Pope would not grant him a divorce, Henry broke from the Catholic Church and created the Church of England.  This was extremely important for two reasons.  First, it made England (eventually) a Protestant country.  This would have major geopolitical implications as England would now be an enemy to such Catholic countries as Spain.  This religious difference is part of what brought on the attack of the Spanish Armada, for example.  Second, it changed English society by destroying all of the monasteries of England.  These religious institutions had been major economic, political, and social factors.  By destroying them, Henry changed the fabric of English life radically.


historiaamator | Student

"he is mostly famous for being a king of course..haveing 6 wifes which he either beheaded or divorced n for alos being fat:)"-pixielottblade

Actually,when he came to the throne,he was quite handsome. He only became fat in his later years. Many kings have passed under our radars,unless there's scandal.  I think you need a review. While it is true that 1/3 was annulled.(Not divorce. Divorce makes clear there is a marriage but breaks apart;an annulment means the marriage never existed) and 1/3 were beheaded. (There are various forms of Katherine used in tudor times,so i used a differnet form for each wife.) along with whatever children they had.

Here's a refresher:

Catherine of Aragon-Mary I,annulled

Anne Boleyn-Elizabeth I,beheaded on charges of high treson and adultery,largely regarded as flase.

Jane Seymour-died 2 or so weeks after the birth of Edward VI

Anne of Cleves-annulled 6 months after,no children

Kathryn Howard-cousin of Anne,beheaded for adultery and treason with two men and Jane Boleyn. Died and married young,no children.

Katherine Parr-widowed twice before marrying Henry VIII,survived but died a year later in childbed with Thomas Seymour's baby girl,Mary(who is barely metioned after a few months after Katherine's death)

isaacsmomlisa | Student

Henry VIII (June 28, 1491 - January 28, 1547) became king at a young age, on April 21, 1509 and ruled until his death in 1547.  Aside from being short tempered and notorious for torturing people and having them beheading and/or burned alive for various reasons, Henry VIII was also famous for his marital issues, which ultimately resulted in his break from the Catholic Church.  Henry was married 6 times: having 2 of his wives beheaded, 2 of his marrages annulled, his 3rd wife died after an infection after giving birth to their child, and he was survived by his 6th wife.

Henry was married to Catherine of Aragon since 1507, but he was displeased that she never gave him a male heir.  In 1525 Henry became completely infatuated with one of her ladies in waiting, Anne Boelyn, who was younger.  Henry had already taken Anne's sister as a mistress, but had grown tired of her, which is why Anne resisted his advancements.  However, her hard-to-get behavior made him crazy about her.  She eventually used his obsession as a way to become queen, by refusing to sleep with him until he was divorced, and the two of them were married.

Henry used Catherine's previous marriage to his brother (who was ill and died 5 months into it) to try an convince the Pope that, according to Ecclesiatical Law, it was wrong in the eyes of God for a man to take his brother's wife, and he was being punished. He used his lack of having a male heir as his "evidence" of God's displeasure.  However Catherine insisted her first marriage was never consummated.  After several years of unsuccessfully getting the Pope to grant him an annullment, he grew tired of fighting about the matter, and decided to break free from the Catholic Church.

Henry created the Church of England, and named himself supreme head.  He had his marriage to Catherine declared null and void, and was free to marry Anne.

Henry and Anne were married, and had it officially declared legal in May of 1933.  In September of 1533, Anne gave birth to Elizabeth.  Both were disappointed.  Henry quickly grew tired of Anne's outspoken nature and after having two miscarrages, one of which was a boy, Henry lost his patience with her.  He accused her of using witchcraft to get him to marry her, and by May of 1536 had her arrested, and falsely accused of incest (with her brother) and adultry with 5 men.  Anne was executed on May 19, 1536, two days after executing the men. As a "favor" the King hired an expert swordsman to behead her.

On the day of Anne's execution, Henry became engaged to one of Anne's ladies in waiting, Jane Seymore.  10 days later they were married.  Although she managed finally give Henry the legitimate boy (Prince Edward) that he wanted, she ironically died as a result of an infection on October 24, 1537, from giving birth.

Henry married Anne of Cleves in 1940. He was displeased by her appearance, after only seeing it in a portrait. 6 months into their marriage he claimed that it was never consummated and she was wise enough to agree.  She was instead declared "The King's Sister" and sent to live in one of Anne Boelyn's castles.

Henry married the very young Catherine Howard about 2 weeks later. He was crazy about her, until finding out she had an affair with Thomas Culpeper (a courtier). After less than 2 years of marriage she was executed.

Lastly, Henry married a wealthy widow, Catherin Parr in 1943. She disagreed with him about religion but kept her head by showing her submissiveness.

In 1547 Henry died.

pixielottblade | Student

he is mostly famous for being a king of course..haveing 6 wifes which he either beheaded or divorced n for alos being fat:)

krcavnar | Student

Henry VIII was the King of England from 1509 -1547.  He succeeded to the throne at 18 and is known for his sexual exploits.  In 1525 Henry VIII wanted a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, because she was unable to provide a male heir.  When the Pope refused to grant the annulment Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church and created the Church of England.  Henry VIII later married Anne Boleyn with whom he fathered Elizabeth whom later became Queen Elizabeth I.  Henry had Anne Boleyn beheaded as a traitor and subsequently married Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr.  The only male heir was bore by Jane Seymour who later became King Edward VI in 1547 upon the death of Henry VIII.

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