The Real Henry VIII

In 13 History on 2016/06/10 at 12:00 AM

The Reformation in Europe was the work of the princes, but in England, of one lustful prince, so aid the Seventh Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. How was this possible?  In order to understand the power of this one prince we need to go back to the days of his father, Henry Tudor.

In the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, England lost many from the ranks of the nobility.  The Wars of the Roses between the House of York and the House of Lancaster were precisely over the right to the throne, and it likewise cost many a noble his life.

Henry Tudor was not a member of the nobility but he was married to Margaret of York who had a distant claim to the throne.  However, the enterprising Henry Tudor was an ambitious man driven by a will to power and possessed of a practical organizational mind.  He promised the war weary nation: law and order, peace and prosperity.  They accepted him and he delivered.  But, how did he manage it?

First, the now Henry VII,  married off his heir, Arthur to the richest princess in Christendom: Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, whose galleons creaked under the weight of the treasures the New World brought Spain.  Catherine’s dowry provided Henry Tudor with the funds to create kings’ men out of townsmen to whom he gave the lands of fallen lords; men loyal to him; men he made and could break.

Second, he gave his daughter, Margaret as wife to the King of Scotland and thus neutralized the wild Scots who had been plaguing England for centuries.  With the King of Scotland now his son-in-law, he thus had achieved much needed tranquility in the northern border.

Last but not least, he sent his second son, Henry, off to a monastery.  If Lorenzo the Magnificent of Florence could have a son a pope (Pope Leo X), he Henry Tudor would have his son, Henry be a future pope also.

Now for the fly in the ointment:  Little Arthur upped and died.  Catherine and her dowry need be return to her parents who would find her a new husband, particularly since the marriage had not been consummated. Henry VII could not returned the dowry, having used the funds for his purposes, so he approached the Pope to get his approval for the validity of the proposed marriage of his son Henry to his brother’s widow.  The Pope said their was no impediment.

While all the negotiations were proceeding, the multi-gifted Henry left the monastery and discovered the world of women.  His first of the many sired in the interim before his marriage to Catherine, was Geoffrey, later known as the Duke of Monmouth.

The age of discovery included an unhappy exchange between the New World and the Old World: syphilis and smallpox.  Each lacking the immunity, the consequences were devastating for both.  Before his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Henry was already syphilitic.  The numerous children Catherine bore Henry were either still-born or died shortly after birth; the one exception being a daughter, Mary, later to be Mary Tudor, Queen of England.

Sing a Song of Six Pence…the King, Henry; the Queen, Catherine; the Maid, Anne Boleyn; the Blackbird, the executioner.  (See a lengthier treatment of this in Political Nursery Rhymes in the Category: Tib-bits)

After seventeen years of marriage which includes many lust filled daillances with ladies-in-waiting, Henry claimed scruples about his marriage to Catherine being wrong on the grounds of consanguinity…that it was wrong to have married his brother’s widow, and God was punishing him by not giving him a male heir.  The reason for this late-arriving scruple?  Henry was asked to pay a price by Anne Boleyn and that price was Queen.  Anne’s sister Mary had been left pregnant and indigent by Henry (now how’s that the consanguinity issue?)

Making a long matter short: the Pope could not grant Henry the desired divorce because the Pope does not have the power to dissolve a lawful marriage.  So, Henry declared himself the head of the Catholic Church in England, appointed an Archbishop who granted him a divorce and Henry married Anne who got what she wanted: to be queen, and what she did not want: to be beheaded for giving birth to a daughter (Elizabeth). Reason for her execution: (trumped up charge of) adultery!

Some of the casualties of friendly fire:

Cardinal Wolsey, the butcher’s son and king’s man, failed in his annulment mission to Rome.  When Wolsey heard that the King had ordered his death, he sent for a coffin, stripped himself naked and lay in it declaring: “If I had served my God as well as I had served my King, I would not now like naked to my enemies.”  An ensuing heart attack deprived his executioners.  Henry gave Anne a gift: Wolsey’s Palace, Hampton Court.

Thomas More, Chancellor of England and friend of Henry, refused to take the Oath of Supremacy acknowledging the Act of Supremacy of 1634 by which Henry made himself the head of the Catholic Church in England.  (Recommendation: film MAN FOR ALL SEASONS)

“Six wives did Henry wed: two died, two divorced, one beheaded, one survived.”  So went the ditty.  Died: Catherine with a penitent Henry at her bedside asking forgiveness and truthfully claiming he always loved her.  Catherine had long forgiven him; she knew him well.  Jane Seymour, his child-bride, died in childbirth. Divorced: Anne of Cleves and another Catherine.  Beheaded: Anne Boleyn; Survived by her wits: the last of three Catherines.

Cardinal Pole’s mother and Henry’s great-aunt, executed along with her sons. Cardinal Reginald escaped to the Continent but was hounded by would-be assassins sent by Henry.

Countless archbishops, bishops, abbots and monks; the “four-and=twenty blackbirds”.  Henry needed to get the lead out of the roofs of the monasteries for war material.  His dissolution of the monasteries and their enriched his coffers beyond imagination, but also left the sick, the poor and the homeless without the services rendered by the monks to them for the love of God.  This destruction of the charitable services of the church centuries later gave birth to welfare from the state.

Incongruous notes: Henry’s will left all his personal wealth for masses to be said for the repose of his soul. Henry always remained a Roman Catholic in belief.  The Pope had awarded him the title of Defender of the Catholic Faith for his book THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS written as a defense of the Church against Luther.  All monarchs of England thereafter have used the title as Defender of the Faith, having edited out the “Catholic”.

England remained Catholic in the days of Henry VIII.  The people were appalled by the atrocities committed by the syphilitic king whose disease was eating up his brain and they termed him “Bluebeard”. The change to Anglican or Church of England came during the reign of the boy-king, Edward VI and was the work of his uncle Seymour and Archbishop Cramner.  It was at this time that Calvinist ideas were incorporated and priest were specifically not ordained to offer sacrifice.

After the premature death of Edward, Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon became Queen and with her husband, Philip II, great grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella, they restored Catholicism to England.

With the premature death of Mary, the throne was vacant.  It should have automatically gone to Henry VII’s surviving descendant from the marriage of his daughter Margaret to the King of Scotland.  Mary Queen of Scots, Queen of France, Queen of England would meet her death at the hands of her cousin, Elizabeth, who would behead her in the first regicide.

By accepted international law, illegitimate children could not inherit.  If they could have inherited, the throne would rightly belong to Geoffrey, Duke of Monmouth.  Vested interests which had profited from confiscations of properties of Catholics feared he would continue Mary’s restoration.  So, the throne was offered to the discarded child of Henry, whose mother he had beheaded!  Needless to say, she accepted the condition: to make Anglicanism the official religion of the state.  As a female incarnation of Henry, she outdid him in destructiveness while her syncopates wove the legend of Good Queen Bess, not sustainable by historical facts.


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