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 united 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 became the King of England at age 17 in 1509, when his father, Henry VII, died.
- 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 Pope, the head of 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 (Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I), 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 loved luxury – he was very well dressed, and wore velvet robes with gold trim and jewels, and rebuilt and redecorated his rooms at Hampton Court Palace at least six times! In 1540, Hampton Court was the most modern and magnificent palace in the world.
- He died in 1547, and is buried at Windsor Castle next to his favourite wife, 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 was not born to be king – he became the heir to the throne at age 11 when his older brother Arthur died.
- Described as ‘a golden prince’, Henry wrote music and poetry when he was a young man.
- 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 was very tall for Tudor times: he was 1.87m tall (6ft 2in) at a time when the average man in London was 1.70m (5ft 5in).
- Henry VIII’s favourite battleship was called the Mary Rose. It sank in 1545.
- Henry got married six different times but only his sixth wife outlived him. Two of Henry VIII’s wives were beheaded on his command – Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.
- Henry VIII met his second wife Anne Boleyn because she was one of his first wife Catherine of Aragon’s maids. He eventually divorced Catherine so he could marry Anne. Anne Boleyn was Queen Elizabeth I’s mum.
- To help you remember about King Henry VIII’s six wives and what happened to them, learn this mnemonic: ‘Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived.’
- Henry 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!
- One of Henry VIII’s hobbies was falconry, which is a kind of hunting using trained birds of prey called hawks. He also loved jousting, wrestling and playing tennis.
- As well as establishing the Church of England, Henry allowed the Bible to be translated into English and published.
Can you spot the following people in the gallery below?
- An illustration of Henry VIII
- King Henry's six wives
- Hampton Court Palace
- The ceiling of the Chapel in Hampton Court
- 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 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 when 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 decided that he, not the Pope, was the Head of the Church in England. The First Act of Supremacy in November 1534 established 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 of England 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, Henry's second wife, 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 gave birth to 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 of Henry's child. 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 Boleyn, 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 a love affair with another man, and the King was so furious about the rumours that 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 of England 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 killed.
Just for fun...
- Be an Undercover Time Explorer in King Henry VIII's kitchens
- Play this jousting game against people King Henry VIII knew to see how speedy and accurate you can be at hitting the target
- Download a Henry VIII chatterbox
- Horrible Histories Henry: listen to his song about his wives and watch him looking for the next Queen of England in the Historical First Dates restaurant
- Henry VIII colouring pages: Henry VIII striking a pose, coins showing the King's head, Hampton Court Palace and a portrait of Henry
- Complete a wordsearch about King Henry VIII
- 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
- Find out about the lives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I and learn a ceremonial tune inspired by the rhythm of a pavan with a KS1 song
- Be a portrait detective and examine the famous 1537 portrait of Henry
Children's books about Henry VIII
Find out more:
- Read a Henry VIII BBC Bitesize guide for KS1
- An overview of King Henry VIII's reign from DKfindout!
- Meet Henry VIII the fierce monarch in a children's introduction from National Geographic Kids
- Barney Harwood presents a whistle-stop tour of Henry VIII's reign through comic sketches in a BBC School Radio programme
- All about the Mary Rose and the museum showing the artefacts found in her
- Watch a BBC Bitesize introduction to King Henry VIII, then watch video clips about Henry VIII and his wives and videos about the Act of Union between England and Wales in 1536, Henry VIII's 'Rough Wooing' of Scotland and the reasons why Henry made himself the head of the Church of England
- The Kiddle Encyclopedia guide to King Henry VIII
- Read some Tudor fiction, books for children set in Tudor times in the reign of Henry VIII
- Download key facts about King Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr, and biographical information about each of Henry VIII's six wives
- Listen to an audio description of the details of a portrait of Henry VIII
- Read about Henry VIII on the official website of the British monarchy
- See inside the pages of Henry's Psalter, his personal copy of a beautiful book which he wrote lots of annotations in
- Find out what to look for in one of King Henry's device forts in an English Heritage guide
- Learn about life at the court of Henry VIII with an interactive resource
- Information about Henry VIII in the Kids Rule! Guide to Tudor England
- Learn a mnemonic to help you remember the names of all Henry VIII’s wives
- See lots of paintings from Henry VIII's time
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!
- Look through the 98 portraits of Henry VIII at the National Portrait Gallery