King Henry VIII
Who was King Henry VIII?
Henry VIII was a famous Tudor king. Most people remember him for having six different wives.
Henry VIII had many interests – he loved sports and music, he was a good fighter in a battle, and he was well educated. He began the English Reformation that established the Church of England, he joined England and Wales, and he had three children who each went on to rule England after he died.
Top 10 facts
- Henry VIII was born on 28 June 1491 in London, at Greenwich Palace.
- Henry VIII became king when his father, Henry VII, died in 1509.
- Just before Henry VIII became king, he married Catherine of Aragon.
- Henry VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon in 1533, and married Anne Boleyn.
- Henry VIII grew up as a Catholic, but established the Protestant Church of England when the Catholic church wouldn’t let him divorce Catherine of Aragon.
- Henry VIII married four more times – he had six wives in total.
- From his six marriages, Henry VIII only had three children who lived. Each of them, in turn, ruled England after he died.
- Henry VIII enjoyed being outdoors and getting exercise. He loved hunting, playing games like tennis, dancing, and reading – he also loved eating, and became very fat as he got older and couldn’t exercise as much.
- Henry VIII was very well dressed, and wore velvet robes with gold trim and jewels.
- He died in 1547, and is buried at Windsor Castle next to Jane Seymour.
- 28 June 1491Henry was born at Greenwich Palace
- 24 June 1509Henry married Catherine of Aragon
- 24 June 1509Henry was crowned king
- 18 February 1516Catherine of Aragon gave birth to Mary, who later became Queen
- 1521The Pope gave Henry the title, ‘Defender of the Faith’, because of how much he supported the Catholic Church
- 1525Henry met Anne Boleyn
- 1533Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was annulled, and he married Anne Boleyn
- 7 September 1533Anne Boleyn gave birth to Elizabeth, who later became Queen
- November 1534The First Act of Supremacy declared Henry VIII as the head of the church
- 1536Henry started closing monasteries
- 1536England and Wales were legally joined together
- January 1536Henry was badly hurt in a jousting competition
- 19 May 1536Anne Boleyn was executed at the Tower of London
- 30 May 1536Henry married Jane Seymour
- 12 October 1537Jane Seymour gave birth to Edward, who later became king
- 24 October 1537Jane Seymour died
- 6 January 1540Henry married Anne of Cleves
- 9 July 1540Henry divorced Anne of Cleves
- 28 July 1540Henry married Catherine Howard
- 13 February 1542Catherine Howard was executed at the Tower of London
- 12 July 1543Henry married Catherine Parr
- 1545The Mary Rose sank
- 28 January 1547Henry VIII died
Did you know?
- Henry VIII lived at Hampton Court Palace.
- Henry VIII’s favourite battleship was called the Mary Rose. It sank in 1545.
- Henry VIII met Anne Boleyn because she was one of Catherine of Aragon’s maids. He eventually divorced Catherine so he could marry Anne.
- Anne Boleyn was Queen Elizabeth I’s mum.
- When Henry VIII was king, he was known for being very handsome.
- Henry VIII got married six different times – his sixth wife outlived him.
- Two of Henry VIII’s wives were beheaded – Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.
- To help you remember about King Henry VIII’s six wives and what happened to them, think: ‘Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived.’
- One of Henry VIII’s hobbies was falconry, which is a kind of hunting using falcons.
Can you spot the following people in the gallery below?
- Henry VIII as a young man, around the time he was crowned king
- Henry VIII around age 30
- Henry VIII in later years
- Catherine of Aragon
- Anne Boleyn (and her signature)
- Jane Seymour
- Anne of Cleves
- Catherine Howard
- Catherine Parr
- Thomas More
- Thomas Cranmer
- Thomas Cromwell
Henry VIII didn’t like it when other important people in his court disagreed with him. Sometimes he’d send them to the Tower of London to be executed!
Henry VIII wanted people to be good at shooting a bow and arrow. In fact, he made it the law that no one age 24 or older could shoot at a target less than 200 metres away – that’s longer than a football pitch!
Henry VIII became king when his father, Henry VII died in 1509. Henry had an older brother, Arthur, but he died in 1502 which meant that Henry was next in line to the throne.
Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was first married to his brother Arthur. They’d only been married a few months before he died. Henry married Catherine seven years later.
Henry was given the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ by the Pope because of his support of the Catholic Church. Henry’s support only went so far, though – when the church wouldn’t let him divorce Catherine of Aragon, he instead supported new laws that went against the Catholic church.
The First Act of Supremacy in November 1534 declared Henry VIII as the head of the church, which meant the Pope didn’t have any say in religious matters in England. This time in history is also called the English Reformation.
One of the things Henry VIII did as the head of the church was to close monasteries, which were Catholic institutions. Some monastery ruins that we can see today are a result of this time, known as the dissolution of monasteries.
Anne Boleyn only had one child who survived – a girl named Elizabeth, who would later become Queen Elizabeth I. Henry VIII really wanted a boy though, and became angry with Anne. Other people started to not like Anne either, and she was arrested and executed at the Tower of London.
Before Anne died, Henry VIII had met Jane Seymour, whom he married a few days after Anne’s execution. She had a boy (Edward), which is what Henry really wanted, but then died a few days after Edward was born.
Henry VIII’s fourth wife was Anne of Cleves, from Germany. They didn’t meet before deciding to get married, and by the time the king did see her he wasn’t very impressed. He thought the marriage was a mistake, so divorced her.
Henry VIII’s fifth wife was Catherine Howard. They got married a few days after Henry VIII divorced Anne of Cleves. Catherine was executed a couple of years later because Henry VIII thought she loved someone else.
Henry VIII got married one last time to Catherine Parr in 1543, and he remained married to her for the rest of his life (four years).
Henry VIII wanted a son so badly because it meant that when he died, there wouldn’t be anyone else who might try to claim that they should be king instead. Even though princesses could be Queen, things were clearer when titles could pass from father to son.
Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536) – Catherine of Aragon was Henry VIII’s first wife. She had previously married Henry’s brother Arthur, who died a few months after the wedding. Catherine and Henry had just one child who lived – a daughter named Mary, who would later become Queen. Henry divorced Catherine so he could marry Anne, but in order to do that he broke his ties with the Catholic church (who wouldn’t let him get divorced) and became Protestant.
Anne Boleyn (c.1501-1536) – Anne Boleyn was a maid to Catherine of Aragon, and was one of the main reasons why Henry VIII wanted to divorce Catherine. The two were married in 1533, and Anne gave birth to Elizabeth later that year – Elizabeth would later become Queen. Like Catherine of Aragon, Anne didn’t give Henry VIII a son. She became very unpopular, and was executed in 1536.
Jane Seymour (c. 1509-1537) – Jane married Henry VIII a few days after Anne Boleyn was executed. She was Henry’s favourite wife, and was the only one to give birth to a son – Edward, who became king after Henry VIII died. Sadly, Jane died a few days after Edward was born. She and Henry VIII are buried together at Windsor Castle.
Anne of Cleves (1515-1557) – Anne of Cleves was born in Germany. Henry VIII chose to marry her after seeing a portrait of her, but then didn’t like her very much when they actually met. Their marriage only lasted a few months, but Anne stayed in England after they were divorced. She became friends with Henry VIII’s daughter Mary.
Catherine Howard (c.1518/24-1542) – Nobody really knows when Catherine Howard was born. She married Henry VIII in 1540, a few weeks after he divorced Anne of Cleves. They met because she had been one of Anne’s ladies in waiting. They were only married a couple of years – Catherine may have had an affair, so she was thrown into the Tower of London and later executed.
Catherine Parr (1512-1548) – Catherine Parr married Henry VIII in 1543, a little over a year after Catherine Howard was executed. She was good friends with all three of Henry VIII’s children. She married once more after Henry VIII died in 1547 (her fourth marriage), but then died herself after giving birth to a daughter in 1548.
Thomas Cromwell (c.1485-1540) – Thomas Cromwell was Henry VIII’s chief minister for eight years. He was very supportive of Henry’s plans to break ties with the Catholic church, and he helped Henry legally divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. A few years later, Thomas also arranged Henry’s marriage with Anne of Cleves, which Henry wasn’t happy with. Thomas was sent to the Tower of London and executed in 1540.
Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) – Thomas Cranmer was the Archbishop of Canterbury during both Henry VIII’s and Edward VI’s reigns. He helped Thomas Cromwell in arranging for Henry to divorce Catherine of Aragon. When Mary I became Queen and changed the national religion to Catholicism, Thomas was in trouble because he was Protestant. He was put in prison, and executed in 1556.
Thomas More (1478-1535) – Thomas More was a trusted friend of Henry VIII and an important philosopher in Tudor times. But, he was also a devout Catholic which made things difficult when Henry wanted to break ties with the Catholic church and the Pope. He also disagreed with Henry’s plans to divorce Catherine of Aragon. He was executed at the Tower of London in 1535, just under a year before Anne Boleyn was.
Just for fun...
- Help King Henry VII put on his suit of armour
- See handsome Prince Henry change into fat Henry the Tyrant!
- Play this jousting game against people King Henry VIII knew to see how speedy and accurate you can be at hitting the target
- Fight for the King in a foot combat tournament at the Tower
- Joust in The Quadrangle, hunt in Windsor Great Forest and enjoy a splendid feast fit for a king!
- Choose the best armour and weapon for a one-on-one fight with someone from King Henry VIII’s court
- Watch Henry VIII’s cooks create the most magnificent food in England and get a few tips on the correct way to greet the King
- Read a National Geographic Kids comic about Henry VIII
- Be transported back to Henry's court in 1530 and be the star of your own Tudor adventure in the palace with Gingersnap's Henry VIII - 'Chaos in the Kitchen' interactive story app for iPhone and iPad
Children's books about Henry VIII
Find out more:
- All about the Mary Rose and the museum showing the artefacts from where she sank
- Explore the Mary Rose
- The six wives of King Henry VIII
- Read some Tudor fiction, books for children set in Tudor times in the reign of Henry VIII
- Famous people: Henry VIII
- Official website of the British monarchy: Henry VIII
- Henry VIII’s wives and children
See for yourself
- Visit Hampton Court Palace
- See parts of the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s favourite ship.
- Explore the Tower of London, and see Henry VIII’s actual armour!
- Have a quick look at the life of King Henry VII, his six wives, and life at Hampton Court.
- Find out all about Henry VIII’s wives, and how to remember each one.
- Find out all about Henry VIII’s hobby of falconry.