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Henry VIII

Henry VIII

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Henry VIII of England

Henry VIII of England ruled as king from 1509 to 1547 CE. The second Tudor king after his father Henry VII of England (r. 1485-1509 CE), Henry had inherited a kingdom which enjoyed both unity and sound finances. Famous for his six wives as he searched for a male heir, the king was charismatic and domineering. In order to escape his first marriage, Henry set himself against the Pope and so began the Reformation of the Church in England whereby it broke away from Rome and the English monarch became its supreme head. A larger-than-life figure, Henry centralised government, further absorbed Wales into his kingdom, saw to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, formed the Royal Navy and built magnificent palaces such as St. James' in London. When Henry died, though, in 1547 CE, he was succeeded by his juvenile son Edward VI of England (r. 1547-1553 CE) and he left him an impoverished kingdom split over religious issues.

Henry Tudor

Henry Tudor had defeated and killed Richard III of England (r. 1483-1485 CE) at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485 CE in the last major action of England's dynastic dispute known as the Wars of the Roses (1455-1487 CE). The House of Lancaster had finally defeated the House of York but Henry, crowned Henry VII of England in October 1485 CE, was intent on creating a brand new ruling house: the Tudors. Henry married Elizabeth of York (b. 1466 CE), daughter of Edward IV of England (r. 1461-70 & 1471-83 CE), on 18 January 1486 CE and he even combined the livery badges of York and Lancaster to create a new royal symbol: the Tudor Rose. England was about to enter the post-medieval era with a new look and a new type of monarchy.


Early Life

Henry VII had seen off a few final challenges to his rule and set about filling the state coffers as much as he could, strengthening the crown and weakening the nobility in the process. The king's eldest son was Arthur (b. 1486 CE) and he had married the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon, daughter of King Ferdinand II, in 1501 CE. Unfortunately, Arthur died the next year aged just 15. The king's next eldest son, Henry, born on 28 June 1491 CE at Greenwich Palace, became the heir to the throne and in 1503 CE he was made the Prince of Wales. Henry VII was keen to maintain friendly relations with Spain and so Prince Henry, after special permission was gained from the Pope, was betrothed to Catherine of Aragon. When Henry VII died of illness on 21 April 1509 CE, Prince Henry became king. As arranged, he married Catherine on 11 June and was crowned Henry VIII in Westminster Abbey on 24 June 1509 CE.

Contrary to the later and more famous portraits of Henry VIII, in his youth the king cut an athletic figure and, 1.9 metres (6 ft 3 in) tall with red hair and beard, an imposing one. Not for nothing was he a champion of the medieval tournaments his father had loved to organise. The prince was also a fine archer, horseman and tennis player, and when he was at rest he composed poetry and music and brushed up on his impressive knowledge of theology. In short, Henry was an intelligent and charismatic character who charmed all he met. The historian John Miller gives the following summary of Henry's powerful but changing character:


[Henry was] strong-willed, shrewd, capable of being moved to fits of generosity and enthusiasm, but also to savage anger. As a young man he was determined to enjoy being King and to outshine his contemporaries. As he passed his prime he became suspicious, capricious, devious and sometimes cruel.


The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Henry, perpetually in search of a male heir, went through an incredible six wives. These, and the children they bore, were:

  • Catherine of Aragon (m. June 1509 CE) - Mary (b. Feb. 1516 CE)
  • Anne Boleyn (m. Jan. 1533 CE) - Elizabeth (b. Sep. 1533 CE)
  • Jane Seymour (m. May 1536 CE) - Edward (b. Oct. 1537 CE)
  • Anne of Cleves (m. Jan. 1540 CE)
  • Catherine Howard (m. July 1540 CE)
  • Catherine Parr (m. July 1543 CE)

The English king's first marriage to Catherine of Aragon produced six children but all except one died in infancy. The sole survivor was Mary, born on 18 February 1516 CE. Henry had an illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond (b. 1519 CE), with a mistress, one Elizabeth Blount but that was not much use to a king who craved a recognised heir. The king began looking for a new wife and he found his ideal candidate in Anne Boleyn, younger sister of one of the king's former conquests. Anne insisted on marrying the king before any thoughts could be entertained of raising a family. Henry's problem, then, was how to relieve himself of Catherine, an issue known as the king's 'great matter'.

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The solution seemed to be a letter to the Pope suggesting that the lack of a male heir was God's punishment for Henry marrying the wife of his late brother, a point supported by the Old Testament (the 'Prohibition of Leviticus', Leviticus ch. 20 v. 21). Consequently, the king wished for the Pope to annul the marriage. Unfortunately for Henry, Pope Clement VII (r. 1523-1534 CE) was keen to keep good favour with the most powerful ruler in Europe at the time, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V of Spain (r. 1519-1556 CE), who was, significantly, the nephew of Catherine. Further, it was unlikely that Catherine and Arthur, being so young at the time, had ever slept together and so the 'Prohibition of Leviticus' did not in this case apply. The Pope at least sent Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio to England to investigate the matter and preside over a special court in June 1529 CE. Here both Catherine, determined to stay queen, and Henry, determined to get himself a new queen, presented their respective cases.

Despite Campeggio's efforts, nothing was resolved. Henry's next tactic was to permanently separate Catherine from her daughter Mary and shift her about the country to various dilapidated residences. Meanwhile, Henry and Anne Boleyn lived together (but did not sleep together). Sometime in December 1532 CE, Anne, perhaps seeing a baby as the best way to rid herself of her rival Catherine, did sleep with the king and became pregnant. There would be serious repercussions regarding the Church but eventually, Henry had his marriage annulled the next year (see below). Catherine died of cancer in January 1536 CE.


With Anne Boleyn, often known as 'Anne of a thousand days' for her brief reign as queen of the king's heart, Henry had a second daughter, Elizabeth, born on 7 September 1533 CE. However, when the king discovered that Anne had had an affair and his eye had been caught by his next wife, he ordered her execution. The charge, and others ranging from incest to witchcraft, were trumped up because Anne had not produced a healthy male sibling to accompany Elizabeth and the king had tired of their turbulent relationship. Anne was found guilty and executed at the Tower of London in May 1536 CE. A few weeks later Henry married his third wife, Jane Seymour, a lady-in-waiting at court, and she finally gave the king a son, Edward, born on 12 October 1537 CE. The long-awaited arrival of a male heir sparked off gun salutes, bell-ringing and banquets across England. Tragically, Jane died shortly after and Henry genuinely mourned her passing of all his wives it is significant that this was the one he wished to be buried alongside.

Anne of Cleves (daughter of the Duke of the German Duchy of that name) was wife number four but she displeased the English king - he had been misled by an overly flattering portrait of her by Hans Holbein the Younger before they had met in person. Henry married her anyway but, rudely calling her the 'Flanders mare', changed his mind a few months later and they divorced by mutual consent on 9 July 1540 CE. Anne was relieved to escape with her life but Henry gave her a generous allowance, enough to live the high life until her death in 1557 CE.


Wife number five was Catherine Howard, then only a teenager and another lady-in-waiting at court that had caught the king's eye. Catherine suffered the same fate as Anne Boleyn when she, too, was accused of having an extramarital affair with a member of the court, one Thomas Culpeper, and an incriminating love letter was produced at her hearing before Parliament. Catherine was executed in the Tower of London in February 1542 CE.

The sixth and final wife was Catherine Parr, already a two-time widow. Catherine, then in her thirties, was a more mature lady than her immediate predecessors, and perhaps because of this, the marriage was a success and the family home a happy one. Catherine outlived Henry but died from complications of childbirth in September 1548 CE.


Unlike many of his medieval predecessors who relied on feudal ties of loyalty, Henry created a court where even lower nobles could get on if they gained the king's favour. The king carefully selected a group of wise men to rule his kingdom for him and chief amongst these was Thomas Wolsey (l. c. 1473-1530 CE). Wolsey was the son of a butcher but he would eventually rise to become Cardinal Archbishop of York. One of his successors as sole minister to the king was an equally ambitious individual, Thomas Cromwell (l. c. 1485-1540 CE), son of a blacksmith. Both Wolsey and Cromwell would eventually displease the king - the former for his lack of success in resolving the 'great matter' and the latter for the Anne of Cleves debacle. Both men would be tried for treason. They would be replaced from 1540 CE by the Privy Council, which regained some of its former function and so high government once again involved a cabinet of ministers rather than a single all-powerful one who could monopolise the king. Henry VIII also made good use of Parliament and that institution went from strength to strength as his reign went on.


In 1536 CE Wales was further integrated into the state apparatus of England and divided into 13 counties in 1543 CE. English was made the official language, and Welsh was banned in official circles. Ireland proved a little more difficult, but the king's ambition to create a centralised kingdom is indicated by his adoption of the title 'King of Ireland' in 1541 CE where previous English kings had only called themselves 'Lord of Ireland'. Finally, the remote north of England was kept in tighter check by the establishment of the Council of the North after 1536 CE.

The Church of England

Henry was a keen scholar of theology and he had no intention of leaving such an important institution as the Church to its own devices. The king wrote a treatise which attacked Lutheranism and was rewarded by the Pope honouring him in 1521 CE with the title 'Defender of the Faith' (fidei defensor - the F.D. still appears on U.K. coins today). Relations turned sour, though, when Henry wanted his marriage to his first wife Catherine of Aragon annulled and the king blamed both the Pope and Wolsey for the lack of progress in the matter. Wolsey was eventually accused of treason but he died on his way to trial in 1530 CE. When Thomas Cromwell took over the case, Henry's will was pushed to its logical conclusion: England would run its own Church free from the obligations of Rome. Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury formally annulled Henry's first marriage in May 1533 CE (although Henry and Anne Boleyn had married in secret a few months earlier). This annulment and Parliament's passing of the Act of Succession (30 April 1534 CE) meant that Catherine's daughter Mary was declared illegitimate. Anne Boleyn was crowned queen in June and her daughter Elizabeth, born in September 1533 CE, was thus recognised as the king's official heir. Henry was excommunicated by the Pope for his actions but by now the whole affair had taken on a significance far beyond royal marriages.

In order to replace the Pope as head of the Catholic Church in England, Henry made himself Supreme Head of the Church of England. This was achieved by the Act of Supremacy of 28 November 1534 CE and meant that Henry, and all subsequent English monarchs, only had one higher authority: God himself. The next scene in this momentous drama came in 1536 CE when Henry presented Parliament with a bill to abolish all monasteries in his kingdom, the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The bill was passed and the estates of the monasteries were redistributed to the Crown and Henry's supporters. The abbots of Glastonbury, Colchester, Reading, and Woburn were all hanged and the last monastery to close was Waltham Abbey in Essex in March 1540 CE.

A good many subjects were keen to see reform in the Church of England and so continue the Protestant Reformation movement that was sweeping across Europe. Many regarded the Church as too rich and too full of priests abusing their position. Certainly not everyone, however, was in agreement with Henry's break from the Pope. Consequently, there were both executions and uprisings. Chief obstacle at court was Sir Thomas More (1478-1535 CE), Henry's former chancellor who disagreed with the divorce with Catherine and Henry's presumption to put himself above the Pope. More was executed for his beliefs in July 1535 CE.

The most notable episode of unrest was in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire where Catholics gathered in protest in the so-called Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 CE. The king would brook no opposition, though, and 178 of the protestors, including their leader Robert Aske, were executed in June 1537 CE. Another move towards independence was the king's approval for a translation of the Bible in English in 1539 CE. It is important to remember though, that Henry was not dead set on reforming the doctrine of the Church his commitment to traditional Catholic practices such as mass, confession and clerical celibacy, is evidenced in the 1539 CE Act of Six Articles.

Foreign Policy & Spending

Every inch the medieval king, Henry VIII seemed to dismiss the realities of post-medieval Europe and embarked on a series of military campaigns like so many of his predecessors had done. Despite Henry's sister Margaret (b. 1489 CE) having married King James IV of Scotland (r. 1488-1513 CE) in 1503 CE, Henry sent an army north and won a resounding victory at Flodden in 1513 CE where James IV was killed. Another invading army attacked Edinburgh in 1544 CE but was defeated at the Battle of Ancrum Moore in 1545 CE. Scotland became an unsolved problem that Henry's successors would have to deal with.

Henry, again like many of his predecessors, could not resist a stab at conquering France. However, of his several invasions across the Channel, none were particularly successful, despite a minor naval victory at the Battle of the Spurs (16 August 1513 CE). Henry changed tack and his sister, Mary (b. 1496 CE) was married off to Louis XII of France (1498-1515 CE) in 1514 CE. In 1518 CE, Henry settled for the status quo in Europe and a mutual defence agreement was signed with France, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire. To pay for these expensive on-off wars in Scotland and France, Henry was obliged to sell off the lands he had confiscated from the Church to any noble who put in a decent offer. The high costs and the lack of wealth of England compared to far richer France meant Henry had to abandon another series of campaigns in the 1540s CE and he did well to settle for a peace deal in 1546 CE where he at least won control of Boulogne for eight years.

A happier escapade on French soil was the Field of the Cloth of Gold, a spectacular show of pomp and pageantry held just outside Calais in June 1520 CE. The event, which included jousting, hunting and banquets, involved masses of luxury tents (hence its name) and was held as a magnificent if somewhat empty show of friendship between England and France: Henry and Francis I of France (r. 1515-1547 CE).

Another of Henry's successes, and one with far-reaching consequences for the history of England, was his creation of the Royal Navy. The fleet included the great warships Mary Rose and Henry Grâce à Dieu (aka 'Great Harry'). The former was Henry's magnificent flagship ship but it sank in the Solent River in 1545 CE with the loss of 500 lives. The wreck was salvaged in 1982 CE. Eager to make an impression everywhere, the king also built the fine palaces of Whitehall and Saint James' in London and significantly revamped Hampton Court Palace. The grandest of all was Nonsuch in Surrey, a private pleasure palace for the king that was built to commemorate 30 years of rule. The name derived from the boast that no such finer place existed anywhere and it was indeed an extravagant residence where the king could enjoy his favourite pastimes of hunting and hawking. Nonsuch was not completed until after the king's death and, after going through various owners, was finally demolished in the 17th century CE.

All of Henry VIII's 60 houses were lavishly furnished with tapestries, fine art, and gold and silver plate. Thus, by the end of his reign, the king had overspent on war and frivolities, and rampant inflation meant that the pot of gold his father had carefully accumulated had all been squandered. Henry, cruel and vindictive, had few friends left and a kingdom divided over religious matters. Henry VIII, then, whose early reign had promised so much, left little in terms of a lasting legacy except a plethora of portraits, silent testimony to one man's vanity and delusions of imperial grandeur.

Death & Successor

Henry VIII's health declined rapidly in his later years. The King of England suffered a badly ulcerated leg and was so overweight he had to be pushed around on a wheeled contraption. The king died on 28 January 1547 CE at Whitehall Palace in London, he was 55 years old. Henry was buried in Saint George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, next to his late third wife, Jane Seymour. Henry was succeeded by his son Edward VI, crowned in Westminster Abbey on 20 February 1547 CE. Edward was only nine and he would die of tuberculosis in 1553 CE aged 15. He was succeeded by another short-reigning monarch, his half-sister Mary I, who reigned until 1558 CE. Henry VIII's second daughter then became queen, Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603 CE) and with her in swept the Golden Age of England.

The Dissolution of the monasteries and the Pilgrimage of Grace 1536-7

A useful website for this topic, with an odd name: Mists of Avalon

This document provides a brief summary and is a good place to start:
Dissolution of the Monasteries (word)

Why and When were the monasteries dissolved?

  • This document is useful for summarising those motives (financial, political, personal, religious):
  • The following is in-depth and strongly recommended – it really grapples with the evidence for and against the idea that the dissolution was planned from the beginning:

How were the monasteries dissolved?

The Consequences of the Dissolution

The Pilgrimage of Grace

  • A brief overview account can be found here (word).
  • The following is a good, more detailed power point, outlining the debate:
  • This review provides further insight into the debate:
  • The following summarises Michael Bush’s work and provides further insight into the debate about purpose and about the level of threat posed by the Pilgrimage:

Henry VIII marries Catherine Aragon

Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife

Catherine of Aragon was the youngest daughter of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. At an early age, she was betrothed to Prince Arthur in a purely political move.

With both Ferdinand II and Henry VII bent on maintaining a strong relationship, Catherine of Aragon (widow of Prince Arthur) was married off to Henry in 1503.

Henry VIII

Many consider Henry to have been a dilettante king, letting his ministers run the country while he hunted stag. In truth he was actively involved in the details of anything that he judged important. Henry demanded the facts be boiled down to their essence. Then he would listen to the issues and make a quick decision, often in the time it took him to dismount from his horse.

The most important decision of his reign, however, he struggled with for years. But once he determined his course, he followed it with a flurry of decisions that forever changed his country.


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An auspicious beginning

Henry was born the second son of Henry VII. He was intelligent, handsome, physically powerful, talented in music, and an avid hunter and sportsman. He was sole ruler of England and the richest man in the world at 18 years of age.

To cement England's alliance with Spain, Henry wed the Spanish king's aunt, Catherine of Aragon (also the widow of his brother). When Henry defeated France and Scotland in successive battles, his popularity soared. Over the next decade, Henry made and broke peace treaties, stood for election as Holy Roman Emperor, engaged in the power politics of Europe, and turned his attention to religion.

Henry had always been a religious man. He heard mass five times a day unless he was hunting (then he could only hear three). He was also deeply interested in theological disputes. In 1521, with Lutheranism infecting the English universities, Henry wrote Defense of the Seven Sacraments against Luther. A beleaguered and grateful pope rewarded him with the title "Defender of the Faith."

Producing an heir

By 1526 Henry began to seek ways to end his marriage with Catherine. The alliance with Spain was restricting his international intrigues, he had fallen in love with 19-year-old Anne Boleyn, and, most importantly, Catherine had failed to give him a male heir (she did give birth to a daughter, Mary). England had recently survived a bloody and costly civil war Henry needed a male heir to insure a peaceful succession upon his death.

Getting an annulment was fairly easy in the sixteenth century&mdashif both parties wanted one. But Catherine was unwilling and sought the support of her nephew, Emperor Charles V. The emperor didn't want to see his aunt disgraced and routed the pope's troops. Pope Clement, seeing the score, had no choice but to refuse Henry the annulment.

When Anne became pregnant in 1532, Henry moved ahead on his own. He had already forced the clergy to submit to his supremacy in all ecclesiastical matters. Now he married Anne in secret, had his new archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, declare his marriage to Catherine invalid, and crowned Anne queen in 1533. Henry and the church teetered on the brink of schism.

A fight for control

When the pope threatened excommunication, Henry plunged ahead. He passed one act forcing all to recognize the children of his new marriage as heirs to the throne. Then he passed another making him the "supreme head" of the church in England. He dissolved monasteries, redistributing their property to his nobles to reinforce their loyalty. Monks who resisted were executed, and the money from their treasuries went into his coffers.

Still, in an era of Reformation, his church reforms were conservative. He appeared to want a Catholic church&mdashjust one that was always loyal to him and to England. "I do not choose anyone to have it in his power to command me, nor will I ever suffer it," he once said. So while he broke from Rome, he continued to uphold transubstantiation and demanded clerical celibacy.

Meanwhile, Henry tired of Anne because she had only produced a girl&mdashElizabeth. He trumped up charges of infidelity against her, had her beheaded, and then married Jane Seymour. After she gave birth to a son (Edward), she died. Henry married three more times before he died.

Henry's break from Rome was fundamentally over control of the English church. Though he instituted some Protestant measures during his reign (like putting English Bibles in all the churches), and though he always supported his Protestant-leaning archbishop of Canterbury, Cranmer, Henry sided with Rome on key issues of doctrine and practice.

But the events he set in motion would not permit England to return to the past. During the reign of his son, Edward VI (1547&ndash53), England turned staunchly Protestant. After a brief return to Catholicism under Mary I (1553&ndash1558), his daughter Elizabeth I set England on a permanently Protestant course.

The surprising place where Henry VIII is buried

Henry VIII is one of the most famous kings of England, remembered for marrying six times and for breaking with the papacy in Rome and establishing the Church of England. A king of this magnitude surely enjoyed a regal burial and was laid to rest in a magnificent tomb? Think again, says Philippa Brewell.

This competition is now closed

Published: June 22, 2020 at 1:20 pm

Writing for HistoryExtra, she reveals the surprising place where Henry VIII is buried…

He’s the king who had six wives and tired of them like a child tires of toys, who rid himself (and the world) of anyone who disagreed with him, didn’t like the pope and was fat…. Well, not quite. The truth and the facts are somewhat simplified for the wider audience as one American tourist said to me on thinking she had found the tomb of Henry VIII in Westminster Abbey: “Henry VIII? He’s the one who killed all his wives, right?” She can be forgiven for both thinking of him as the ‘wife-killing king’ and for assuming he would be buried within the splendour of Westminster Abbey. She was wrong on both counts.

The iconic image of Henry VIII, created by talented court painter Hans Holbein (pictured above), is known worldwide. Poised in confrontational stance, he stares out of the painting, challenging us to find fault and leaving us in no doubt that he is in charge. This was a carefully crafted image as was typical of Henry. As his father before him, he consciously, purposely and effectively used ceremony, art and symbolism to send the self-asserting message to his contemporaries: “I am the rightful king of England, appointed and supported by God.” We can only imagine the consternation and anger he would feel to know that the shrine-like tomb he designed for himself was never completed.

Indeed, despite his keen control of self-image in life and instructions for his tomb and image in death, he remains in a ‘temporary’ vault under the Quire in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in the company of his third queen, Jane Seymour, and also the body of Charles I and one of Queen Anne’s tragically short-lived children. The chamber is marked simply by a black marble slab placed there almost 300 years later on the orders of William IV, its functional description the only thing alerting us to his presence beneath:


So how, when it came to what should have been Henry’s most important and enduring symbol, do we find him in a crowded vault marked only by a simple black marble tomb stone? It is a far cry from the ostentatious tomb of his father and mother in Westminster Abbey and far from what Henry imagined, indeed instructed, should be created for himself.

Henry VIII’s death and funeral

Henry VIII died in the early hours of 28 January 1547 at Whitehall Palace aged 55. For a couple of days his death was kept secret from everyone except those closest to the king, to allow for a smooth transition to the council rule which was to follow under his son, Edward VI. Court ritual continued so as not to alert anyone to the king’s death before everything was ready. Meals even continued to be brought to his chambers – announced, as always, by the sound of trumpets.

Edward VI was nine years old at his accession and would be only the third monarch of the Tudor dynasty. He was male and legitimate, but for the fledgling dynasty a child king was almost as dangerous a prospect as a woman on the throne. Everything had to be managed in minute detail, all of which had been planned by Henry himself. Of course this included Henry’s funeral which would, through impressive pageantry and ceremony, assert once again that the Tudors were rightful kings of England under God with the strong implication that Edward should be unchallenged. Always one for self-appreciation, Henry also wanted to show that he had been a true Renaissance king on the European stage.

The funeral procession that escorted Henry’s body to Windsor left London on 14 February with an overnight stop at Syon House. It was four miles long, included more than a thousand men on horseback and hundreds more on foot. The coffin, draped in cloth of gold with an effigy of the king on top, was pulled on a carriage by eight horses. It impressed all who lined the processional route. So far so good! Henry would have approved.

In this podcast, Tracy Borman responds to listener queries and popular search enquiries about the 16th-century English royal dynasty, the Tudors:

The ceremony, too, was as Henry wanted. Following a sermon by Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, Henry’s coffin was lowered into its temporary place next to his third wife and Edward VI’s mother, Jane Seymour. The white wands of office, which each office holder broke over his head, followed into the grave in customary fashion.

For his tomb, Henry requested “… a convenient altar honourably prepared and apparelled with all manner of things requisite and necessary for daily masses there to be said perpetually while the world shall endure”. Neither the tomb, nor the masses, were completed as Henry had stipulated.

A black marble sarcophagus, confiscated from Cardinal Wolsey by Henry, was already at Windsor. Thanks to John Speed, the 17th-century mapmaker and antiquarian, and his 1627 book The History of Great Britaine, we are able to understand how Henry planned to use it for himself. Fortuitously, for Henry’s original manuscript has since gone missing, Speed transcribes the instructions Henry left for a double tomb, magnificent in size, decoration and iconography.

Described in around 1,400 words, the plans included effigies of the king and queen as if sleeping numerous angels prophets aloft columns scriptures and children with baskets of red and white roses scattering them down over the tomb and the pavement beyond. It would have been fabulous, very ‘Henry-esque’ – if it had been built! However, the sarcophagus remained at Windsor for more than 250 years until the Georgians found a use for it and transported it to the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, where it now holds the coffin of Admiral Horatio Nelson.

So why did Henry not ensure his legacy by having his tomb built in his own time? Lack of money perhaps, although that had never deterred Henry from large expensive projects before. More likely, then, that despite Henry’s concern (you could say preoccupation) with the Tudor succession, he simply did not want to face up to his own mortality. Talk of the death of the king was a treasonable offence. Indeed, it had been a brave Sir Anthony Denny who had finally told Henry on the evening of 27 January 1547 that he was dying and thus allowing him (just) enough time to take the last rites – essential for one of the Catholic faith, as Henry was right to the end of his life.

Henry VIII’s children

Henry may not have liked to think about his own death, but three of his children followed him to the throne. Did none of them wish to honour their father with a fitting monument? The short answer is ‘no’. At any rate, none of them did. But why was this the case?

Edward VI may have been a child of only nine years old when he followed his father to the throne, but he had determination beyond his years and had one clear agenda – to make England Protestant. Edward was ruthless in his reforms, going far beyond anything his father had done. He died only six years later and had dedicated the majority of his reign to religious reform. We can surmise that building his father’s tomb as designed, with all its trappings of the Catholic faith, was neither a priority nor a concern to the boy king. It was far easier to display his father’s memory for his own use in his own image. A portrait of Edward in the National Portrait Gallery, believed to have been painted following his accession, mimics the strong pose of his father in the Whitehall Mural.

Edward was succeeded in turn by his two older half-sisters. First Mary, daughter of Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and then by Elizabeth, daughter of his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Unlike Edward, both sisters had been subjected to emotional damage at the hands of their father and both had suffered the devastation of being declared illegitimate, coupled with separation from their mothers.

Of the two, Mary suffered the most. Elizabeth, two years old when her mother was executed, may have been confused to be addressed one day as ‘Princess Elizabeth’ and the following day ‘the lady Elizabeth’, but the toddler probably had no lasting memories of such events. On the other hand, Mary could remember all too vividly the cruel treatment herself and her mother endured at the hands of her father when he failed in his efforts to secure a divorce from Mary’s mother, Catherine of Aragon, in order to marry Anne Boleyn.

Mary had been forbidden to see her mother, forced to agree that her parents’ marriage was illegal and that her mother had never been queen, and to reject the pope and recognise her father as supreme head of the Church in England. It would be difficult to overestimate the impact all these things had on her. Tragically, mother and daughter were kept apart and Mary never saw her mother again.

It would therefore have been surprising for Mary to expend much energy on the glorification of her father’s memory. Besides, she was far too busy trying to undo his and Edward’s religious reforms by re-establishing the Catholic church in England under the pope in Rome.

After Mary came Elizabeth, who is known to have enjoyed reminding people that she was her father’s daughter. Elizabeth often referred to Henry when speaking to her council and made reference to him in a speech to parliament quite late into her reign, in 1593, when she talked of the debt she was in to her father “whom in the duty of a child I must regard, and to whom I must acknowledge myself far shallow”.

Many historians and writers have asserted that Elizabeth’s references come from a deep affection for her late father, which had developed toward the end of his life when she spent a great deal of time at court. Perhaps this is true. However, it is difficult to deny that her references served a purpose. Invoking her father’s memory, aided no doubt by her inheritance of his auburn hair, reminded those around her of her descent and provided Henry’s support for her legitimacy from beyond the grave. Ironically this was something he had failed to do in life when he restored her to the succession but left her illegitimate.

Elizabeth I is not known to have spoken of her mother in public, however a ring she wore, now known as the Chequers Ring, contained a miniature portrait of her mother and one of herself. Although she had only been a little girl of two years old when her mother was beheaded at the Tower of London, Elizabeth felt a connection to her and, privately at least, kept her memory alive. Would she have been willing to create a tomb to her father when she could not have done the same for her mother?

We could surmise from all of this that once Henry’s mortal presence was gone his children were not going to be his biggest supporters. It was easier to invoke his name at points where it was advantageous to them than to muster the effort and money required to erect his permanent shrine. Nowadays, then, thousands of visitors walk over his remains every year without realising they are so close to the infamous Henry VIII.

Philippa Brewell is a historical trip writer and blogs at britishhistorytours.com.

This article was first published by HistoryExtra in 2016

Trinity College to Peterborough Cathedral - All the little-known links between Henry VIII and Cambridgeshire

Henry VIII is one of the best-known monarchs in our country&aposs history.

But while the king&aposs legacy is well documented, his relationship with Cambridgeshire often surprises people.

The famous monarch, who was the king of England between 1509–47, is probably best known for his six marriages.

He presided over the beginnings of the English Renaissance and the English Reformation and famously broke away from the Catholic church, turning England into a Protestant nation.

But Henry VIII&aposs rule was also closely entwined with the history of our county.

From founding University of Cambridge colleges to locking up his wives in palaces across the county, the notorious king definitely made his mark on Cambridgeshire.

Here are a few of the links between Henry VIII and Cambridgeshire.

He created one of Cambridge&aposs most well-known colleges

Just months before his death, King Henry VIII made a decision that would shape the history of Cambridge forever.

In one of his last acts, the 54-year-old monarch merged two of the university&aposs colleges to form Trinity College - but he didn&apost do so without putting up a fight.

It was only the pleading of his wife, Catherine Parr, that persuaded him after he had threatened to close down the two colleges instead.

The King had been seizing Catholic church lands from across the country as he reformed England into a Protestant country.

Given Cambridge University&aposs links to Catholicism, it was next on the list.

After rumours that Henry VIII planned to seize two colleges - Michaelhouse, which dated back to 1324, and King&aposs Hall founded in 1317 - the university pleaded with his sixth wife to change his mind.

Catherine Parr, who outlived her husband by a year and eight months, persuaded him not to close them down.

Instead, Henry merged Michaelhouse and King&aposs Hall, along with seven hostels, to form what is now known as Trinity College.

He intended to create an institution that would support his vision for the Church of England by producing future Protestant leaders.

Trinity quickly became the wealthiest college thanks to gifts from Henry VIII, including small private estates that he had purchased.

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One of his wives is buried in Peterborough

Henry VIII&aposs first wife, Katherine of Aragon, was buried in Peterborough&aposs 900-year-old cathedral.

Katherine was born in Spain, the daughter of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella.

She came over to England to marry Prince Arthur - the eldest son and heir of Henry VII as part of a diplomatic settlement in 1501.

However, Arthur died just five months after their marriage and Katherine swore it had never been consummated.

Henry VIII went on to succeed his father to the throne and went on to marry Katherine in 1509.

Katherine was married to Henry VIII for longer than all of his other five marriages put together, for around 25 years.

After some argument with the church, Henry and Katherine&aposs marriage was proclaimed invalid in 1533, on the grounds that her previous marriage to his brother had been against canon law.

She died in January 1536 and the King ordered she be buried at Peterborough Abbey (now cathedral), as it was the nearest great religious house that befitted her status without giving her a London burial, which could have caused political embarrassment.

Katherine of Aragon was locked up in a Cambs palace

Buckden Towers, once called Buckden Palace, stands tall above the surrounding manicured lawns and hedges of the Cambridgeshire village of Buckden, north of St Neots.

But while the Grade I-listed building might be a pleasant historical remnant to look at now, it harbours a violent and unhappy history.

The towers once served as a prison for Henry VIII&aposs first wife Katherine of Aragon who, after being blamed for not producing a male heir, was locked up there.

After Henry and Katherine&aposs marriage was proclaimed invalid in 1533, he banished her from the court and she was sent to Buckden Palace.

In the 16th century, the estate was far bigger and was a fully fortified manor house.

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And she died in another Cambs palace

After her stay in Buckden Palace, Katherine of Aragon was moved to Kimbolton Castle, which today is home to a private school just outside Huntingdon.

She spent the final year of her life exiled in Kimbolton Castle, living a solitary life as she confined herself to one room of the castle, which she only left to attend mass, according to historians.

She was forbidden to see or communicate with her daughter Mary, but friends were known to secretly carry letters between the two.

Henry offered the pair better living conditions and permission to see one another if they recognised Anne Boleyn as the new queen - but both refused.

Just before her death, Katherine is believed to have penned a devoted letter to Henry, who she still considered her rightful husband.

Katherine died aged 50 at Kimbolton Castle on January 7, 1536.

A visit to Buckden Towers led to the beheading of another of Henry&aposs wives

In 1541, Henry, now aged 50, decided to bring his fifth wife, the 17-year-old Catherine Howard, to Buckden Towers to escape the plague in London.

However, it wad during their stay at Buckden that Henry accused his new young wife of adultery with Thomas Culpeper.

Culpeper was one of Henry&aposs favourite courtiers, but had almost married Catherine.

It was alleged by one of Catherine&aposs ladies-in-waiting that they had actually been secretly married, intriguing this lady-in-waiting was a relation of the now executed Anne Boleyn.

Other witnesses came forward (many fearing they would be tortured otherwise) to say that Catherine was not a virgin when she married Henry.

When the charges were put to her she maintained her innocence, saying that she been raped.

She was imprisoned for some years and then later beheaded at the Tower of London.

Henry VIII is one of England’s most divisive monarchs. He is most famous for his six marriages, which caused two wives to be executed. He is sometimes called a monster for this and for executing more leading men than any other English monarch on alleged charges of treason. He was aided by some of the greatest minds of his day, but he turned against them. He was arrogant and egotistical. He is both attacked and praised for being the architect of England’s Reformation, which brought the church under crown control but also caused dissension which would lead to further bloodshed. Having increased the holdings of the crown by dissolving the monasteries, he then wasted resources on failed campaigning in France.

Henry VIII's reign was the height of direct monarchical power in England. However, in practice, Cromwell’s policies enlarged Henry’s power but also bound him tighter to Parliament. Henry tried throughout his reign to enhance the image of the throne, making war partly to increase his stature and building up the English navy to do so. He was a fondly-remembered king among many of his subjects. Historian G. R. Elton concluded that Henry was not a great king, for, while a born leader, he had no foresight for where he was taking the nation. But he was not a monster, either, taking no pleasure in casting down former allies.


Henry was born at Greenwich Palace on 28 June 1491, and was the son of Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York. [1] He was one of their seven children. Four of them survived infancy – Arthur, Prince of Wales Margaret Henry and Mary . [2]

He had his own servants and minstrels, including a fool named John Goose. He even had a whipping boy who was punished for Henry when he did something wrong. Prince Henry enjoyed music and jousting was very good at both of them. At the age of 10, he could play many instruments, including the fife, harp, viola and drums. Henry was a scholar, linguist, musician and athlete at his early age. He could speak fluent Latin, French and Spanish. He had the best tutors and he also had to learn jousting, archery, hunting and other military arts. Henry was very religious.

Henry's older brother Arthur was the heir to the throne. This means he would have become the king when Henry VII died. Arthur married a Spanish princess, Catherine of Aragon (her name in Spanish was Catalina de Aragon). Prince Arthur died a few months later. [3] He was 15 years old, and Henry was 10 years old. After his brother died, Henry was the heir to the throne.

While his father was alive he was watched closely, because the King feared for the safety of his only remaining male heir. Henry could go out only through a private door, and then he was watched by specially appointed people. No one could speak to Henry. He spent most of his time in his room, which could only be entered through his father’s bedroom. Henry never spoke in public, unless it was to answer a question from his father. He kept his enthusiastic personality under control on public occasions because he feared his father's temper. He was given little training for his future role as King by his father and relied heavily on his counselors in the early years of his reign. In 1509, Henry VII died of tuberculosis as well and his son became King Henry VIII. He was 17 years old.

Early years Edit

Three months after becoming king, Henry married Catherine of Aragon. [4] They tried to have children, as Henry wanted a son who could be the next king. In 1511, she gave birth to a son who they named Henry, but he died seven weeks later. She later gave birth to a girl, the future Queen Mary I. All her other children were stillborn (died before birth). [5] He did have one son (Henry Fitzroy) through a woman he was not married to. [6] This son could not become king.

Early on, Henry had two of his father's advisors executed. They were not popular and Henry claimed they had been stealing from the money they had been looking after. [1] [7] Henry would often execute anyone he did not like during the rest of his reign. From 1514, Thomas Wolsey became an important advisor to Henry. Wolsey helped Henry change the government to give the king more power. Wolsey later became a cardinal, making him an important figure in the church.

At first, Henry wanted to be friends with the King of France. But soon, he instead joined with Spain, the Pope and the Holy Roman Empire to weaken France. He dreamed of gaining more lands in France. [8] The results were mixed: England won some battles against France in 1513. The alliance weakened France`s power over the Pope. Scotland invaded England in 1514 but lost badly at the Battle of the Flodden. But Henry spent a lot of money and did not gain much land.

In 1520, an event named 'The Field of the Cloth of Gold', took place in Calais (at the time, the city was part of England rather than France). It was held to celebrate peace between France and England because they had been at war for a long time. Loads of money was spent on it. People enjoyed music, dancing, food, wine and culture for two-and-a-half weeks. Henry famously wrestled King Francis I of France and lost. Despite this, England and France were soon fighting again. After they signed a treaty in 1525, there was less fighting.

Split with Rome Edit

The most important event that happened in England when Henry was the king was the country's change in religion. At first, there was no sign that Henry would do this. Eight years into Henry's reign, the Protestant Reformation began in Germany. Until then, all of Western Europe had been part of the Roman Catholic Church. When the Reformation began, some countries broke away from the Roman Catholic Church to form Protestant churches. At first, Henry was against this. The Reformation did not spread to England straight away. But by the 1530s, there were many powerful people in England who liked the idea of the Reformation.

Henry became desperate to have a son. By 1527, Henry was wanting to divorce Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn. The Roman Catholic Church said he could not divorce without asking the Pope. Henry asked the Pope, but the Pope would not do this. The Pope said it went against the teachings of the church. Henry blamed Wolsey for failing to change the Pope's mind. He sacked Wolsey and ordered him to be put on trial, though Wolsey died before the trial could happen. After that, Thomas More became his main advisor. But More opposed the divorce, so he was replaced a few years later by Thomas Cromwell. Henry also chose a man called Thomas Cranmer to be the Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry knew that Cranmer would do what he wanted, and Cranmer agreed that Henry could have a divorce from Catherine. The Pope did not know this, so he let Cranmer become the archbishop.

A powerful ruler might have forced the Pope to change his mind, but the most powerful rulers would have opposed the divorce. Catherine's nephew was Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and Catherine came from Spain, the largest Catholic country. In 1534, attempts to reach an agreement over the divorce failed.

Henry asked Parliament to pass the Act of Supremacy, which meant that the king, not the pope, was the head of the church in England. This created the new Church of England. The Pope was so angry that he excommunicated Henry, meaning Henry was thrown out of the church. Henry then forced all priests and bishops to accept him as the new leader. Anyone who refused was punished. Among those killed were Thomas More and his old teacher John Fisher.

Henry was not a true Protestant. He wanted the Church of England to be similar to the Roman Catholic Church but under his control. Some Protestants were even executed, including Anne Askew. However, Henry was easily led by people like Thomas Crownell, Thomas Cranmer and Anne Bolyen, who secretly wanted the country to become Protestant. It was not until the reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth I that the Church of England became fully Protestant.

Henry and Cromwell thought that monasteries, in which Roman Catholic monks and nuns lived, had more money and land than the monks and nuns needed. Henry forced the monks and nuns to move out of the monasteries. Then Henry gave their money and land to men who supported him. Most of the men who received money and land from the closed monasteries were Protestants. This event was called the dissolution of the monasteries.

Later marriages Edit

After his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn, who was younger than Catherine and still able to have children. Henry soon became unhappy with the marriage. He and Anne did not get on well as they had before they married. Anne had many enemies in the government, including Henry's most loyal minister, Thomas Cromwell. Henry was also unhappy that Anne, just like Catherine, only had a daughter and no sons. Henry started looking for another wife.

In January 1536, Henry fell off a horse while jousting and was badly injured. He took a long time to wake up and his leg was wounded. The wound never properly healed, and he had painful ulcers on his leg for the rest of the his life. This meant it was hard for him to do exercise, so after this he started to become obese. The head injury may have also caused him to become more bad-tempered. [9] [10]

Later that year, Cromwell helped Henry to find a way to get rid of Anne, by finding people who said that she had been the lover of several other men. Anne was put on trial and found guilty, and she was executed by having her head chopped off by a French swordsman.

Henry's third wife was Jane Seymour. She soon gave birth to a son called Edward. Although this made Henry very happy, a few days later Jane died. Henry had loved her very much and he never got over his sadness at her death. He lost interest in everything, and became bigger in size. He became angry with Thomas Cromwell when Cromwell suggested that he should get married again after Jane's death.

After a while, Henry changed his mind. As he still only had one son, he realised that it might be a good idea to marry again, and he agreed to marry Anne of Cleves, a German princess. When Anne arrived, Henry did not think she was as pretty as she looked in the pictures he had seen, and he was not satisfied with her. Anne was also unhappy and agreed to be divorced from Henry after only a few months. Cromwell had helped arrange the marriage. Henry was angry with Cromwell and had him executed.

In the meantime, Henry had noticed a young lady at court, called Catherine Howard, and thought that she might make a good wife. Catherine Howard was a cousin of Henry's second wife, Anne Boleyn. Henry and Catherine got married in 1540, but Catherine was much younger than Henry and she soon got tired of him and started to flirt with other men. After they had been married for just over a year, Henry found out that Catherine had been having an affair with someone else. She was found guilty of treason and was executed, just like Anne Boleyn had been a few years before.

Henry's sixth and last wife was called Catherine Parr. She was a woman in her thirties who had already been married twice. Her first two husbands had been much older than she was, and both had died. Henry thought that she would be more sensible and faithful than his other wives, and he turned out to be right. Catherine Parr stayed married to Henry for over three years until he died, but they did not have any children.

After divorcing Catherine of Aragon, Henry began to suffer many different ailments, he never again regained health. He died on 28 January 1547 at the age of 55 and was buried in Windsor Castle. Henry was the father of two queens and one king. They were Mary I of England, Elizabeth I of England, and Edward VI of England. None of them had any children of their own.

In 1536, the Act of Union was passed under Henry's rule which had a long-lasting effect on Wales as a nation. The Act of Union meant that Welsh people were forced to speak English and things such as road signs were translated into English. The royal family, who were based in London, were now officially in charge of Wales. However, the Act also meant that Welsh citizens were given the same legal rights as the English so there was an upside to this new law.

Henry often liked to be captured in his portraits with either food or pets. He had many pets. Henry was often seen with his dog. He owned a white pug and was very aware of how much his dog represented him as a wealthy man.

Henry VIII spent a lot of time at a magnificent building named Hampton Court Palace that belonged to his friend, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. After falling out with Wolsey, Henry took the palace for himself. He made the palace far larger, building things such as tennis courts and jousting yards.


Catherine was one of the daughters of Lord Edmund Howard ( c. 1478 – 1539) and Joyce Culpeper ( c. 1480 – c. 1528 ). Her father's sister, Elizabeth Howard, was the mother of Anne Boleyn. Therefore, Catherine Howard was the first cousin of Anne Boleyn, and the first cousin once removed of Lady Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I), Anne's daughter by Henry VIII. She also was the second cousin of Jane Seymour, as her grandmother Elizabeth Tilney was the sister of Seymour's grandmother Anne Say. [3] As a granddaughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk (1443–1524), Catherine had an aristocratic pedigree. Her father was not wealthy, being the third son among 21 children and disfavoured in the custom of primogeniture, by which the eldest son inherits all his father's estate.

When Catherine's parents married, her mother already had five children from her first husband, Ralph Leigh ( c. 1476 – 1509) she went on to have another six with Catherine's father, Catherine being about her mother's tenth child. With little to sustain the family, her father was often reduced to begging for handouts from his more affluent relatives. After Catherine's mother died in 1528, her father married twice more. In 1531 he was appointed Controller of Calais. [4] He was dismissed from his post in 1539, and died in March 1539. Catherine was the third of Henry VIII's wives to have been a member of the English nobility or gentry Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves were royalty from continental Europe.

Catherine was probably born in Lambeth in about 1523, but the exact date of her birth is unknown. [5] [6] Soon after the death of her mother (in about 1528), Catherine was sent with some of her siblings to live in the care of her father's stepmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. The Dowager Duchess presided over large households at Chesworth House in Horsham in Sussex, and at Norfolk House in Lambeth where dozens of attendants, along with her many wards—usually the children of aristocratic but poor relatives—resided. [7] While sending young children to be educated and trained in aristocratic households other than their own was common for centuries among European nobles, supervision at both Chesworth House and Lambeth was apparently lax. The Dowager Duchess was often at Court and seems to have had little direct involvement in the upbringing of her wards and young female attendants. [8]

As a result of the Dowager Duchess's lack of discipline, Catherine became influenced by some older girls who allowed men into the sleeping areas at night for entertainment. The girls were entertained with food, wine, and gifts stolen from the kitchens. Catherine was not as well educated as some of Henry's other wives, although, on its own, her ability to read and write was impressive enough at the time. Her character has often been described as vivacious, giggly and brisk, but never scholarly or devout. She displayed great interest in her dance lessons, but would often be distracted during them and make jokes. She also had a nurturing side for animals, particularly dogs. [9]

In the Duchess's household at Horsham, in around 1536, Catherine began music lessons with two teachers, one of whom was Henry Mannox. Mannox's exact age is unknown although it has recently been stated that he was in his late thirties, perhaps 36, at the time, this is not supported by Catherine's biographers. Evidence exists that Mannox was not yet married, and it would have been highly unusual for someone from his background at the time to have reached his mid-thirties without being married. He married sometime in the late 1530s, perhaps 1539, and there is also some evidence that he was of an age with two other men serving in the household, including his cousin Edward Waldegrave (who was in his late teens or early twenties between 1536 and 1538). This evidence indicates that Mannox too was in his early to mid-twenties in 1538. This is, however, guesswork, based on interpreting fragmentary surviving details about Mannox, given that there are no baptismal records for him. Subsequently a relationship arose between Catherine and Mannox, the details and dates of which are debated between modern historians. The most popular theory, first put forward in 2004 by Retha M. Warnicke, was that the relationship between them was abusive, with Mannox grooming and preying on Catherine in 1536-38, and this is expanded upon in detail by Conor Byrne. [10] Other biographers, like Gareth Russell, believe Mannox's interactions with Catherine took place over a much shorter period of time, that Mannox was of roughly the same age as her, but that "their relationship was nonetheless inappropriate, on several levels." He believes Catherine was increasingly repulsed by Mannox's pressure to lose her virginity to him and was angered by his gossiping with servants about the details of what had gone on between them. [11] Mannox and Catherine both confessed during her adultery inquisitions that they had engaged in sexual contact, but not actual coitus. When questioned Catherine was quoted as saying, "At the flattering and fair persuasions of Mannox, being but a young girl, I suffered him at sundry times to handle and touch the secret parts of my body, which neither became me with honesty to permit nor him to require." [12] [13]

Catherine severed contact with Mannox in 1538, most likely in the spring. [14] It is not true, as is sometimes stated, that this was because she began to spend more time at the Dowager Duchess's mansion in Lambeth, for Lambeth was Mannox's home parish and where he married, perhaps in later 1538–9. He was still living in Lambeth in 1541. [15] Shortly afterward, Catherine was pursued by Francis Dereham, a secretary of the Dowager Duchess. They allegedly became lovers, addressing each other as "husband" and "wife". Dereham also entrusted Catherine with various wifely duties, such as keeping his money when he was away on business. Many of Catherine's roommates among the Dowager Duchess's maids of honour and attendants knew of the relationship, which apparently ended in 1539, when the Dowager Duchess found out. Despite this, Catherine and Dereham may have parted with intentions to marry upon his return from Ireland, agreeing to a precontract of marriage. If indeed they exchanged vows before having sexual intercourse, they would have been considered married in the eyes of the Church. [12]

Catherine's uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, found her a place at Court in the household of the King's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. [16] As a young and attractive lady-in-waiting, Catherine quickly caught Henry's eye. The King had displayed little interest in Anne from the beginning, but on Thomas Cromwell's failure to find a new match for Henry, Norfolk saw an opportunity. The Howards may have sought to recreate the influence gained during Anne Boleyn's reign as queen consort. According to Nicholas Sander, the religiously conservative Howard family may have seen Catherine as a figurehead for their fight by expressed determination to restore Roman Catholicism to England. Catholic Bishop Stephen Gardiner entertained the couple at Winchester Palace with "feastings".

As the King's interest in Catherine grew, so did the house of Norfolk's influence. Her youth, prettiness and vivacity were captivating for the middle-aged sovereign, who claimed he had never known "the like to any woman". Within months of her arrival at court, Henry bestowed gifts of land and expensive cloth upon Catherine. Henry called her his 'very jewel of womanhood' (that he called her his 'rose without a thorn' is likely a myth). [17] The French ambassador, Charles de Marillac, thought her "delightful". Holbein's portrait showed a young auburn-haired girl with a characteristically hooked Howard nose Catherine was said to have a "gentle, earnest face."

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