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HENRY VIII

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Originally appearing in Volume V13, Page 289 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HENRY VIII. (1491-1547), king of England and Ireland, the third child and second son of Henry VII. and Elizabeth of York, was born on the 28th of June 1491 and, like all the Tudor sovereigns except Henry VII., at Greenwich. His tWo brothers, Prince Arthur and Edmund, duke of Somerset, and, two of his sisters predeceased their father; Henry was the only son, and Margaret, afterwards queen of Scotland, and Mary, after-wards queen of France and duchess of Suffolk, were the only daughters who survived. Henry is said, on authority which has not been traced farther back than Paolo Sarpi, to have been destined for the church; but the story is probably a mere surmise from his theological accomplishments, and from his earliest years high secular posts such as the viceroyalty of Ireland were conferred upon the child. He was the first English monarch to be educated under the influence of the Renaissance, and his tutors included the poet Skelton; he became an accomplished scholar, linguist, musician and athlete, and when by the death of his brother Arthur in 1502 and of his father on the 22nd of April 1509 Henry VIII. succeeded to the throne, his accession was hailed with universal acclamation. He had been betrothed to his brother's widow Catherine of Aragon, and in spite of the protest which he had been made to register against the marriage, and of the doubts expressed by Julius II. and Archbishop Warham as to its validity, it was completed in the first few months of his reign. This step was largely due to the pressure brought to bear by Catherine's father Ferdinand upon Henry's council; he regarded England as a tool in his hands and Catherine as his resident ambassador. The young king himself at first took little interest in politics, and for two years affairs were managed by the pacific Richard Fox (q.v.) and Warham. Then Wolsey became supreme, while Henry was immersed in the pursuit of sport and other amusements. He took, however, the keenest interest from the first in learning and in the navy, and his inborn pride easily led him to support Wolsey's and Ferdinand's war-like designs on France. He followed an English army across the Channel in 1513, and personally took part in the successful sieges of Therouanne and Tournay and the battle of Guinegate which led to the peace of 1514. Ferdinand, however, deserted the English alliance, and amid the consequent irritation against everything Spanish, there was talk of a divorce between Henry and Catherine (1514), whose issue had hitherto been attended with fatal misfortune. But the renewed antagonism between England and France which followed the accession of Francis I. (1515) led to a rapprochement with Ferdinand; the birth of the lady Mary (1516) held out hopes of the male issue which Henry so much desired ; and the question of a divorce was postponed. Ferdinand died in that year (1516) and the emperor Maximilian in 1519. Their grandson Charles V. succeeded them both in all their realms and dignities in spite of Henry's hardly serious candidature for the empire; and a lifelong rivalry broke out between him and Francis I. Wolsey used this antagonism to make England arbiter between them; and both monarchs sought England's favour in 1520, Francis at the Field of Cloth of Gold and Charles V. more quietly in Kent. At the conference of Calais in 1521 English influence reached its zenith; but the alliance with Charles destroyed the balance on which that influence depended. Francis was overweighted, and his defeat at Pavia in 1525 made the emperor supreme. Feeble efforts to challenge his power in Italy provoked the sack of Rome in 1527; and the peace of Cambrai in 1529 was made without any reference to Wolsey or England's interests. Meanwhile Henry had been developing a serious interest in politics, and he could brook no superior in whatever sphere he wished to shine. He began to adopt a more critical attitude towards Wolsey's policy, foreign and domestic; and to give ear to the murmurs against the cardinal and his ecclesiastical rule. Parliament had been kept at arm's length since 1515 lest it should attack the church; but Wolsey's expensive foreign policy rendered recourse to parliamentary subsidies indispensable. When it met in 1523 it refused Wolsey's demands, and forced loans were the result which increased the cardinal's unpopularity. Nor did success abroad now blunt the edge of domestic discontent. His fate, however, was sealed by his failure to obtain a divorce for Henry from the papal court. The king's hopes of male issue had been disappointed, and by 1526 it was fairly certain that Henry could have no male heir to the throne while Catherine remained his wife. There was Mary, but no queen regnant had yet ruled in England; Margaret Beaufort had been passed over in favour of her son in 1485, and there was a popular impression that women were excluded from the throne. No candidate living could have secured the succession without a recurrence of civil war. Moreover the unexampled fatality which had attended Henry's issue revived the theological scruples which had always existed about the marriage; and the breach with Charles V. in 1527 provoked a renewal of the design of 1514. All these considerations were magnified by Henry's passion for Anne Boleyn, though she certainly was not the sole or the main cause of the divorce. That the succession was the main point is proved by the fact that Henry's efforts were all directed to securing a wife and not a mistress. Wolsey persuaded him that the necessary divorce could be obtained from Rome, as it had been in the case of Louis XII. of France and Margaret of Scotland. For a time Clement VII. was inclined to concede the demand, and Campeggio in 1528 was given ample powers. But the prospect of French success in Italy which had encouraged thepope proved delusive, and in 1529 he had to submit to the yoke of Charles V. This involved a rejection of Henry's suit, not because Charles cared anything for his aunt, but because a divorce would mean disinheriting Charles's cousin Mary, and perhaps the eventual succession of the son of a French princess to the English throne. Wolsey fell when Campeggio was recalled, and his fall involved the triumph of the anti-ecclesiastical party in England. Lay-men who had resented their exclusion from power were now promoted to offices such as those of lord chancellor and lord privy seal which they had rarely held before; and parliament was encouraged to propound lay grievances against the church. On the support of the laity Henry relied to abolish papal jurisdiction and reduce clerical privilege and property in England; and by a close alliance with Francis I. he insured himself against the enmity of Charles V. But it was only gradually that the breach was completed with Rome. Henry had defended the papacy against Luther in 1521 and had received in return the title " defender of the faith." He never liked Protestantism, and he was prepared for peace with Rome on his own terms. Those terms were impossible of acceptance by a pope in Clement VII.'s position; but before Clement had made up his mind to reject them, Henry had discovered that the papacy was hardly worth conciliating. His eyes were opened to the extent of his own power as the exponent of national antipathy to papal jurisdiction and ecclesiastical privilege; and his appetite for power grew. With Cromwell's help he secured parliamentary support, and its usefulness led him to extend parliamentary re-presentation to Wales and Calais, to defend the privileges of Parliament, and to yield rather than forfeit its confidence. He had little difficulty in securing the Acts of Annates, Appeals and Supremacy which completed the separation from Rome, or the dissolution of the monasteries which, by transferring enormous wealth from the church to the crown, really, in Cecil's opinion, ensured the reformation. The abolition of the papal jurisdiction removed all obstacles to the divorce from Catherine and to the legalization of Henry's marriage with Anne Boleyn (1533)• But the recognition of the royal supremacy could only be enforced at the cost of the heads of Sir Thomas More, Bishop Fisher and a number of monks and others among whom the Carthusians signalized themselves by their devotion (1535-1536). Anne Boleyn fared no better than the Catholic martyrs; she failed to produce a male heir to the throne, and her conduct afforded a jury of peers, over which her uncle, the duke of Norfolk, presided, sufficient excuse for condemning her to death on a charge of adultery (1536). Henry then married Jane Seymour, who was obnoxious to no one, gave birth to Edward VI., and then died (1537). The dissolution of the monasteries had meanwhile evoked a popular protest in the north, and it was only by skilful and unscrupulous diplomacy that Henry was enabled to suppress so easily the Pilgrimage of Grace. Foreign intervention was avoided through the renewal of war between Francis and Charles; and the insurgents were hampered by having no rival candidate for the throne and no means of securing the execution of their programme. Nevertheless their rising warned Henry against further doctrinal change. He had authorized the English Bible and some approach towards Protestant doctrine in the Ten Articles. He also considered the possibility of a political and theological alliance with the Lutheran princes of Germany. But in 1538 he definitely rejected their theological terms, while in 1539-IRO they rejected his political proposals. By the statute of Six Articles (1539) he tcok his stand on Catholic doctrine; and when the Lutherans had rejected his alliance, and Cromwell's nominee, Anne of Cleves, had proved both distasteful on personal grounds and unnecessary because Charles and Francis were not really projecting a Catholic crusade against England, Anne was divorced and Cromwell beheaded. The new queen Catherine Howard represented the triumph of the reactionary party under Gardiner and Norfolk; but there was no idea of returning to the papal obedience, and even Catholic orthodoxy as represented
End of Article: HENRY VIII
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EDWARD LAMSON HENRY (1841– )

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