King Henry VIII and England- An Intriguing Tale

King Solomon had rightly said and I quote “This too shall pass away.” The time you exist in, whether jubilant or hideous, shall pass away. But some things do not fade, their reigns or ruins become immortal with time. They may not impact our lives directly but their presence in our life is everlasting. And one such tale is that of the Tudor era in 16th century England which gave England its most popular monarchs.

Arthur, Prince of Wales and Prince Henry were the only sons of King Henry VII. At the age of 14, Arthur was married to 15 year old Princess Catherine of Aragon, daughter of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella. The bride promised a huge dowry and stronger Anglo-Spanish relations to fight against the French. A few months later Arthur died and Catherine was widowed. Henry VII couldn’t afford to send Catherine back to Aragon and lose out on dowry, so it was decided that his younger son Henry would marry Catherine when he comes of age because she always stated that her marriage with the late Prince of Wales was never consummated.

A few years later, Henry VII died. Henry and Catherine were married and crowned King and Queen of England together. The couple was happy in the first few years of their marriage. Prince Henry who became Henry VIII was a loving husband, a righteous King and earned the title of ‘defender of faith’ while Catherine was finally happy after years of suffering at the hands of her father-in-law’s greed because while she was still a widow. Earlier, Henry VII had cut her off, she was left to fend for herself and that is when she became the first woman ambassador of Spain but it was all well now and she was about to give birth to a child. This is where things started going haywire in the couple’s life when deficiency of a male heir was detected. Catherine gave birth to many babies but they either were stillborn or died in infancy and the couple had only one surviving daughter, Princess Mary.

Henry who still claimed to love Catherine, took other ladies at court as his mistresses. Everything was going well in the kingdom except the fact that England was now prone to predators eyeing the throne in absence of an heir and this worried Henry to a greater extent. Queen Catherine was no longer fit to bear a child and Henry desperately wanted to break free. That is where entered Anne Boleyn, Viscount Rochford’s daughter, who was educated in France. She was 11 years younger to Henry as compared to a 5 year older Catherine and brought an air of fashion when she came back from France after serving in the French court as Queen Claude’s Lady-in-Waiting. She was gorgeous, sophisticated and modern in her approach as compared to a conservative and god-fearing Catherine.

But in addition to that Anne was not a fool, she knew the situation in England and knew that she was staged to break Catherine and Henry’s marriage by her father and Uncle, Duke of Norfolk. She knew that Henry was mesmerised with her and wanted her fiercely but she did not submit herself in an attempt to win Henry over for whom she was just another potential mistress with whom he would lie for a few months and set her free after rewarding her a title or something for her services. Anne promised Henry that she would provide him a son only when he legally married her and made her a queen. Now Henry was on a mission, to divorce Catherine and marry Anne but there were a lot of hurdles. England followed Roman Catholicism whose head was the Pope who refused to grant him a divorce because of his close ties with Emperor Charles V who happened to be Catherine of Aragon’s nephew. Irritated, Henry took to the religious scriptures and texts to form grounds for divorce, he found that he had he had acted contrary to Leviticus 20:21 which said that the man who marries his brother’s wife will not have children, an impediment Henry now believed that the Pope never had the authority to dispense with. Henry interpreted the saying of not having children as to not having a legitimate heir, because he had a daughter.

After many failed attempts, Anne convinced Henry to break away from the Roman Catholic Church and establish the Church of England, of which Henry became the head. This move was seen as breakthrough moment in the history of England as the King broke his ties with Roman Catholic Church in 1534, became the head of the Church of England, annulled his marriage of 24 years with Catherine while providing her the title of Princess Dowager of Wales as Arthur’s widow, declared his daughter Mary a bastard, married Anne Boleyn and established an Anglican church which was a mix of Catholic and Protestant practices. The marriage to Anne Boleyn also went in vain because she gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth and several miscarriages later, she was declared unfit to bear children, which resulted in Henry defaming her with adultery, incest and treason. Ultimately, he decapitated her.

Henry went on to marry 4 more times, changing wives as per his own convenience. He was succeeded by all his children, Edward VI by Queen Jane Seymour, Mary I also known as Bloody Mary by Queen Catherine of Aragon who being a Catholic tried to restore the English Church’s allegiance to the Pope and lastly Elizabeth I by Queen Anne Boleyn, with whose death the Tudor dynasty ended. Today, Queen Elizabeth II is the supreme governor of The Church of England.

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