Throughout the history of time, there have been many leaders of the world’s different civilizations. While each leader may have possessed different qualities: some strong, others weak; some righteous, others corrupt…each rule played an important part in shaping the culture of that civilization. Though not every civilization was governed by a leader that had a worldly impact, the rule of England under King Henry VIII, was one of great historical importance. Unlike many leaders of his time, Henry’s legacy was not forged under the motivation of power and greed, but by love and his desire to have a male heir.
Henry VIII became the King of England in 1509 after the death of his father Henry VII. Like most kings Henry desired to have a male heir, as they also believed this was their duty. Aside from obligation, Henry desired a male heir to keep the Tudor name in royalty and to prevent a civil war from breaking out in England (much like the one that brought his family name into royalty). He then takes Catherine of Aragon, the widow of his brother Arthur, as his wife after receiving a dispensation from Pope Clement.
Catherine gave birth to several stillborn children, with the only survivor being a daughter, Mary. Her infertility led Henry to believe both the dispensation and their marriage were illegal. Using the book of Leviticus, Henry seeks an annulment stating his marriage is invalid and incestuous. The Pope, however, rejects Henry’s request. Upset by the Pope’s denial and Catherine not producing a son, Henry gets himself several mistresses and begins overeating. Henry also meets a woman by the name of Anne Boleyn, a very flirtatious young lady who quickly finds favor with him.
Soon afterward, Henry begins to desire Anne as his wife. Anne convinces Henry that he could make her queen after his annulment. Henry’s pursuit of Anne is the catalyst that would lead to a series of events that would forever change England . Henry sends William Knight, his private secretary to Rome in order to speak with Pope Clement and plead Henry’s case for an annulment. Knight states that the matter should be decided in England , not in Rome . The Pope agrees suggesting that Wolsey, the Lord Chancellor of England, preside over the decision.
An Italian Cardinal named Lorenzo Compezzio is also sent to assist Wolsey. Compezzio urges Catherine to become a nun, but she states she will only do so if Henry joins a monastery. Following Catherine’s reply Henry is denied an annulment and begins to take matters into his hands. The Parliament of England, under the direction of Henry, passed the Act of Succession in 1533. This Act declared Henry’s marriage to Catherine null and void, thus removing Mary from the line of succession. It also required all men under Henry’s rule to swear an oath of allegiance to him.
Meanwhile, Thomas Cranmer composes a new set of arguments in Henry’s favor and sends them with a set of negotiators to Rome for an audience with Pope Clement. Henry then appoints Cranmer the new Archbishop of Canterbury. When Henry’s request is yet again denied and Anne becomes pregnant, he orders Cranmer to get an annulment by any means necessary. This is achieved with Parliament passing another Act in 1534, which required all of Henry’s subjects to take an oath upholding the Act of Succession that was passed prior.
This new Act not only annulled Henry’s marriage to Catherine, it recognized Anne as the new Queen of England. Free from his marriage to Catherine, without the support of the Pope, Henry holds a special Parliament session where he binds the clergy to himself and taxes the Church of England. This was called the Act for the Submission of the Clergy and Restraint of Appeals. He also takes a percentage of the money that is sent to Rome . This move upsets the Pope and Henry is excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. Following his removal from the church, Henry seizes and stops all payments to Rome .
He brings forth 32 bills which also stated that any grievance with clergyman should be taken up with him, not the Pope. The bills also state that in Henry’s absence the Archbishop of Canterbury is to be consulted. In November of 1534 the Parliament of England passed the Act of Supremacy, declaring Henry, and all his successors, the supreme head of the Church of England. This bill completely abandons Rome , giving England complete independence. The Church of England, which had previously been governed by the Pope, was now under Henry’s control.
Since some of Henry’s subjects refused to take the oaths required in the Acts that were passed, The Treasons Act was instituted so those few would be put to death. The English Reformation which began earlier in the century was now official. Henry, still without a male heir, would eventually have Anne executed for treason, amongst other things. He would also go on to marry four more times, finally producing a male heir, Edward. In 1543 the Parliament passes a final Act of Succession, restoring both Mary and Elizabeth (Anne’s daughter), to the line of succession.
King Henry VIII died in 1547 leaving behind a great legacy. Though he was simply pursuing a male heir and following his heart’s feelings for Anne, his actions would lead England to gain complete independence from Rome . It is also from his marriage to Anne that Elizabeth , a future Queen of England would be born. Unbeknownst to Henry it is the rule of Elizabeth, not Edward, which would bring England prominence. Under her rule England would defeat the Spanish Armada, expand England ’s power overseas with the colonization of Virginia in North America, and established the English Protestant Church . |