April 21, 1509, marked a date of huge importance in England. It was the day on which Henry Tudor assumed the throne. Huge changes followed in the life of his subjects.
Henry was born on June 18, 1491, in Greenwich. He was the son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York and only became the heir to the throne in 1502 upon the death of his older brother, Arthur, according to the BBC.
After the death of Henry VII, the younger son assumed the English throne on April 21, 1509 and reigned until his death on January 28, 1547.
Reign of Henry VIII
Henry’s reign was marked by an emergence of military might. He is remembered in Great Britain as the “father of the Royal Navy.” When he died, his fleet consisted of around 50 ships.
Centuries later, people worldwide usually remember the monarch for the change in religious and social practices that occurred in his kingdom during the Reformation and for his series of six marriages. Underpinning his rein was the pressure of securing a healthy male heir.
Henry first married Catherine of Aragron, Arthur’s widow. Despite seven pregnancies, her only surviving child was Mary, born in 1516. The Great Divorce occurred when Henry sought to have the Pope nullify this marriage so that he could marry Anne Boleyn.
In a split from the Roman Catholic Church, Henry declared himself head of the church in England and had a court declare his first marriage invalid when Anne Boleyn became pregnant. Their daughter, who became Elizabeth I following the death of Mary, was born in 1533.
After Anne failed to produce a male heir, Henry had her convicted for treason and executed. He married Jane Seymour, who produced a sickly son, Edward, who preceded Mary on the throne. Jane died just 12 days after giving birth.
None of Henry’s subsequent marriages to Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, or Catherine Parr produced any heirs. Most sources agree that his last wife, twice widowed when she married Henry, at least made him happy.
Henry’s actions to reform the existing church and create of the Church of England were essentially accidental, byproducts of his endless quest for a male heir. His vanity led him to spend a fortune funding his presence on European battlefields. He was ill during many of his later years.
Reforms in daily life that occurred during his reign were largely due to the Reformation that spread to England. The Act in Restraint of Appeals declared England an empire. The Act of Supremacy made Henry VIII the supreme head of what is now the Anglican Church. Overall, Henry lived in ruthless times and exerted a ruthless rule.
In my 20s, I became fascinated with the Tudor period in English history. Studying it led me to conclude that had she survived, Anne Boleyn might have accomplished even more than her gifted daughter, Elizabeth I. I have continued to have a particular fondness for the Tudor era and interest in Henry VIII, the man responsible for much of its upheaval.