Understanding the Man: Henry VIII (Part One)

As many of you may already know, King Henry VIII is my favorite monarch of the Tudor dynasty. If it wasn’t for his reign I do not believe the Tudors would be as popular as they are today.

With the creation of Showtime’s THE TUDORS, many of us were aware of the name Henry VIII but really didn’t know much about him. In the show we were able to see that there was more to the man than the execution of two of his six wives. While I understand that THE TUDORS tv program had a bunch of historical inaccuracies, it also got people (like myself) to look deeper into the history by reading and absorbing as much as we possibly could. Over a decade later I feel like I have a fairly good grasp on the infamous king and would like to share my understanding of him with you all. Henry VIII was a man, well…maybe a man-child, but he wasn’t just the tyrannical ruler that many see him as today. There was much more to him than most understand. I hope with this series on his life that you will look at Henry in through new eyes.



Understanding the Man: Henry VIII

As stated previously, many of you may already know that Henry VIII is my favorite of the Tudor monarchs. My opinion isn’t always in the majority and I’m okay with that. Henry ruled England from 1509 until his death on the 28th of January 1547 and has helped to make the Tudors as popular as they are today.

As the second son of King Henry VII, young Henry was not expected to become King of England and so he was sent to Eltham Palace to be raised with his sisters. While at Eltham, Henry would have most likely had constant contact with his mother, Elizabeth of York.

When you consider Henry’s relationship with women in his life one must wonder if he was constantly on the search for a woman like his own mother. Elizabeth of York had a great influence on her son and may have helped educate her children during her lifetime.

Born at Greenwich Palace on the 28th of June 1491, Henry Tudor was the third child and second son of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. His parents marriage had put an end to decades of fighting between the Yorks and Lancasters in what we know as the Wars of the Roses.

For the most part, Henry’s childhood would have been idyllic, but not without occasional bits of drama. The fact that Henry’s father claimed the throne on the battlefield against Richard III did not sit well with supporters of the Lancasters…and for that matter the Yorks were not pleased either.

In 1487, a young man named Lambert Simnel was coerced to play the part of Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick to raise arms against the new Tudor king, Henry VII. At the same time, the real Edward Plantagenet was sitting in the Tower of London. It did not take long before Simnel was discovered as a pretender.

At some point around 1494, Perkin Warbeck came on the scene. The reason I say 1494 is because in 1494, young Prince Henry was given (by his father) the title of Lieutenant of Ireland.

This would not be the last time that Henry VII gave a title to his second son in an attempt to show control.

In July 1495, Warbeck took fourteen ships, funded by his supposed aunt, Margaret of York, along with 6000 men across the channel to England in hope that he could claim the throne of England. Things didn’t quite turn out the way he had planned and he and his men fled to Ireland. Before long they had moved to Scotland where Warbeck gained the assistance of King James IV of Scotland.

Warbeck was claiming to be one of the lost princes in the Tower, the younger of the two brothers, Richard, Duke of York. Many believed he was truly the young prince and that the throne of England should be his by right.

Henry VII would not have another pretender using a title that was meant for his son, and in 1494, three-year old Prince Henry was titled as Duke of York. There could not be two and Henry, at the moment, was the true title holder, not Warbeck.

At a young age Henry would have known that a monarch’s throne is never 100% secure. It also must have been a bit confusing for him and his sisters to understand that some of their mother’s family wanted to remove their father.

Everything changed in April 1502 when Henry’s older brother, Arthur, died unexpectedly at Ludlow Castle. Henry went from a mostly carefree childhood to a life that led to him being overly protected as sole heir to the throne of England. Gone were the days when he could run “freely” and have unrestricted fun – to feeling like a prisoner of his father’s.

Henry had been betrothed to Katherine Aragon in 1503, he was twelve years old. As stated previously, Henry’s life, once Prince of Wales, was thoroughly controlled by his father, the King. The betrothal to the dowager princess of Wales was something that would evolve with the ever-changing politics of the day.

While his brother Arthur had been, practically from birth, trained in the ways of kingship, Henry’s training did not begin until he was eleven years old. The young Prince of Wales was not used to the rigorous training he received to prepare him for the throne and he only had seven-year to cram for the biggest role of his life.

At Richmond Palace, on the 21st of April 1509, King Henry VII died. He was fifty-two years old. His son, who was only eighteen years old was now King of England.

When he came to the throne, Henry VIII was described as exceptionally tall, well-proportioned, had the features of a Greek god and moved gracefully. His complexion was fair, had auburn hair and a rounded face with the features so delicately formed that they ‘would become a pretty woman’. This new, young king naturally commanded attention and authority by appearance alone.

Henry had always been fascinated by Katherine. She was beautiful and he was enchanted by her. After the death of his father, Henry decided that he would marry Katherine of Aragon. And he would claim it was his father’s wish, on his deathbed. The couple was married six weeks after Henry accession at the chapel of the Franciscan Observants at Greenwich. Henry would also be quoted as writing to her father, Ferdinand of Aragon that, “If I were still free, I would still choose her for wife before all other”. They would have a double coronation, or crowning, thirteen days later, on Midsummer Day, 24th of June 1509.



It was the coronation that set the tone for Henry’s reign – it was the beginning of the Renaissance period in England. It had also been a long time since a King came to throne with such approval and adoration. It was a new era – one of education, music, jousting and overall fun. The court was full of young people, which was the opposite of the reign of his father. Henry was eager to open his father’s coffers (which were overflowing) to celebrate his new role.

Lord Mountjoy wrote to Erasmus only weeks after Henry’s accession and had this to say:

If you could see how everyone here rejoices in having so great a prince, how his life is all their desire, you would not contain yourself for sheer joy. Extortion is put down, liberality scatters riches with a bountiful hand, yet our King does not set his heart on gold or jewels, but on virtue, glory and immortality. The other day he told me ‘I wish I were more learned’. ‘But learning is not what we expect of a King’, I answered, ‘merely that he should encourage scholars’. ‘Most certainly’, he rejoined, ‘as without them we should scarcely live at all’. Now what more splendid remark could a prince make?

William Roper, the son-in-law of Thomas More also remembered how the young King was eager to learn. He recalled how More and the King would discuss astronomy, geometry, divinity and other worldly affairs all hours of the night. Henry truly enjoyed conversing with More and enjoyed learning from him and having discussions with him as well.

Henry VIII wasn’t always the tyrannical monarch who would execute you if you looked at him wrong – at the beginning of his reign he relented to public outcry against his father’s tax collector, Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley. While the public wanted to see the men put away Henry was eager to spend the fruits of their labor.

The mood at Tudor court had changed drastically since the changing of the guard – now there was laughter in the corridors at court and continuous festivals to enjoy. Under the new administration both high-born and low-born men had the same opportunities. While Henry understood the importance of having men of noble birth and experience in key positions he also appreciated men of ambition, like Thomas Wolsey – a man who would soon become pseudo king.

That’s where we’ll end Part One of this series on Henry VIII – next we will continue you on with the story of the life of Henry VIII and understanding him a bit better in Part Two.


Get Notified

Facebook no longer shows our posts to a majority of our followers - Don't want to miss out on new articles? Get notified! Subscribe to email updates from Tudors Dynasty.

Join 5,001 subscribers.



Portraits of a Queen: Elizabeth of York

portraits-of-a-queen-elizabeth-of-york

Portraits of a Queen: Elizabeth of York

Elizabeth Plantagenet was the oldest child and daughter of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville (Wydville). She was considered very beautiful and had been promised in marriage a few times before her mother and Margaret Beaufort arranged her marriage with Henry Tudor. The marriage would inevitably end the Wars of the Roses and bring together the House of York and Lancaster.

As queen consort, Elizabeth brought forth one of the most memorable dynasties in English history – she, of course, gave birth to the future Henry VIII. Her daughter Margaret married the Scottish King James IV, and her descendants still live on today through the current monarch – Elizabeth II.

unknown artist; Elizabeth of York (1466-1503), Queen Consort of Henry VII; Trinity College, University of Cambridge; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-14661503-queen-consort-of-henry-vii-134829
unknown artist; Elizabeth of York (1466-1503), Queen Consort of Henry VII; Trinity College, University of Cambridge; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-14661503-queen-consort-of-henry-vii-134829

 

ca. 1825 — This illustration was published in . — Image by © Stapleton Collection/Corbis

 

english-sch-elizabeth-of-york-framed-z
Portrait of Elizabeth of York (1466-1503);16th Century English School – Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.

 

unknown artist; Elizabeth of York; National Portrait Gallery, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-158157
unknown artist; Elizabeth of York; National Portrait Gallery, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-158157

 

British (English) School; Elizabeth of York (1465/1466-1503), Holding the Yorkist White Rose; National Trust, Dunham Massey; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-146514661503-holding-the-yorkist-white-rose-130730
British (English) School; Elizabeth of York (1465/1466-1503), Holding the Yorkist White Rose; National Trust, Dunham Massey; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-146514661503-holding-the-yorkist-white-rose-130730

 

British (English) School; Elizabeth of York (1466-1503), Queen Consort of Henry VII; National Trust, Anglesey Abbey; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-14661503-queen-consort-of-henry-vii-169934
British (English) School; Elizabeth of York (1466-1503), Queen Consort of Henry VII; National Trust, Anglesey Abbey; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-14661503-queen-consort-of-henry-vii-169934

 

 

Alexander, Cosmo; Elizabeth of York; The National Trust for Scotland, Mar Lodge Estate; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-197159
Alexander, Cosmo; Elizabeth of York; The National Trust for Scotland, Mar Lodge Estate; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-197159

 

elizabeth_of_york_by_william_thomas_fry
Elizabeth of York by William Thomas Fry

 

unknown artist; Elizabeth of York (1465-1503); Christ Church, University of Oxford; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-14651503-229294
unknown artist; Elizabeth of York (1465-1503); Christ Church, University of Oxford; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/elizabeth-of-york-14651503-229294

 

Burchett, Richard; Eliz.th of York (Elizabeth of York); Parliamentary Art Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/eliz-th-of-york-elizabeth-of-york-213744
Burchett, Richard; Eliz.th of York (Elizabeth of York); Parliamentary Art Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/eliz-th-of-york-elizabeth-of-york-213744

 

credit unknown
credit unknown

 

(c) National Trust, Nostell Priory; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) National Trust, Nostell Priory; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Other images:

van Leemput, Remi; Henry VII (1457-1509), Queen Elizabeth (of York) (1466-1503), Henry VIII (1491-1547), Queen Jane Seymour (1509-1537), and Edward VI (1537-1553), as Prince of Wales; National Trust, Petworth House; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/henry-vii-14571509-queen-elizabeth-of-york-14661503-henry-viii-14911547-queen-jane-seymour-15091537-and-edward-vi-15371553-as-prince-of-wales-219567
van Leemput, Remi; Henry VII (1457-1509), Queen Elizabeth (of York) (1466-1503), Henry VIII (1491-1547), Queen Jane Seymour (1509-1537), and Edward VI (1537-1553), as Prince of Wales; National Trust, Petworth House; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/henry-vii-14571509-queen-elizabeth-of-york-14661503-henry-viii-14911547-queen-jane-seymour-15091537-and-edward-vi-15371553-as-prince-of-wales-219567

 

eliz2
Funeral Effigy of Elizabeth of York

 

elizabeth_of_york_-_funeral_effigy
Funeral Effigy of Elizabeth of York

 

funeral_effigy_of_elizabeth_york
Funeral Effigy of Elizabeth of York

 

henry_vii_elizabeth_of_york_westminster
Effigies of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York on their tomb in Westminster Abbey

 

queen_of_hearts_elizabeth_of_york
Elizabeth of York has been immortalized on decks of playing cards throughout English history as the ‘Queen of Hearts’, holding a Tudor Rose.


Facebook no longer shows our posts to a majority of our followers - Don't want to miss out on new articles? Get notified! Subscribe to email updates from Tudors Dynasty.

Join 5,001 subscribers.

Timeline: Henry VII

1457

  • 28 January – Henry Tudor was born to Margaret Beaufort at Pembroke Castle. His father, Edmund Tudor was already deceased.

1462

  • Henry Tudor was made a ward of Lord Herbert. Herbert was a supporter of the newly crowned Edward IV (Yorkist).

1469

  • Lord Herbert was defeated by the Lancastrian faction and executed.

1471

  • 4 May – The Battle of Tewkesbury; Lancaster was defeated. After many deaths Henry Tudor is the last of the Lancastrian royal line and was forced to flee abroad. He spent the next 14 years in exile.

1485

  • 7 August – Henry arrives at Milford Haven. Anchored at Mill Bay, Pembrokeshire and upcoming coming ashore sinks to his knees, looks to the heavens and says, “Judge me O Lord and favour my cause.”
  • 22 August – Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth.
  • 27 October – Henry creates his uncle Jasper Tudor as Duke of Bedford and his step-father Thomas Stanley as Earl of Derby.
  • 30 October – Henry Tudor was crowned Henry VII of England at Westminster.
  • 10 December – the Speaker of the House of Commons urged Henry VII to act on his promise to marry Elizabeth of York.

1486

  • 18 January – Married Elizabeth of York – uniting the houses of York and Lancaster
  • 20 September – Birth of first child, son and heir to the throne, Prince Arthur Tudor.

1487

  • Lambert Simnel claims to be Edward IV’s nephew, Edward of Warwick
  • Elizabeth of York is crown Queen of England.
  • 16 June – The Battle of Stoke; Henry VII fought the Earl of Lincoln and Lambert Simnel at Stoke. Simnel was capture and Lincoln was killed.

1489

  • 28 November – Birth of second child, a daughter, Princess Margaret Tudor. Margaret would later marry James IV of Scotland and become Queen of Scots.

Henry_VII

1491

  • Perkin Warbeck claims to be Richard, Duke of York (Edward IV’s son).
  • 28 June – Birth of third child, a son, Prince Henry Tudor…future Henry VIII of England.

1492

  • Treaty of Etaples is signed; Peace with France.

1496

  • 18 March – Birth of fourth child, a daughter, Princess Mary Tudor; She would later become Queen of France and then Duchess of Suffolk.

henry7sittow1

1498

  • Thomas Wolsey is ordained as a priest.

1499

  • 21 February – Birth of fifth child, a son, Edmund Tudor (Duke of Somerset)
  • Edward, Earl of Warwick, 1st cousin to Elizabeth of York and nephew to Richard III is executed.
  • Perkin Warbeck, “The Pretender” is executed.

1500

  • 19 June – Death of fifth child Edmund Tudor

1501

  • 14 November – Henry’s son Arthur marries Katherine of Aragon

1502

  • 2 April – Henry’s eldest son and heir Arthur, Prince of Wales died unexpectedly.

HenryVII06

1503

  • 2 February – Birth of sixth child, a daughter, Princess Katherine Tudor.
  • 10 February – Death of sixth child Princess Katherine Tudor.
  • 11 February – Death of Queen Elizabeth of York
  • 25 June – Katherine of Aragon became betrothed to Prince Henry

1504

  • 29 July – Death of Henry’s step-father, Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby.

1507

  • Thomas Wolsey was appointed chaplain to Henry VII

1509

  • 21 April – Death of King Henry VII of England
Henry VII funeral effigy, courtesy Westminster Abbey
Henry VII funeral effigy, courtesy Westminster Abbey