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King Henry VIII born 523 years ago

June 27, 2014


Time is of all losses the most irrecuperable, for it can never be redeemed for no manner, price, nor prayer.” – King Henry VIII

On 28th June 1491, 523 years ago, Henry Tudor was born to King Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York, in Greenwich Palace on the bank of the Thames, just downstream from London. His reign is a fascinating one, full of social, political, domestic and religious upheavels. It is no wonder that it continues to capture our imagination - the success of Hilary Mantell's blockbuster Wolf Hall and Bury the Bodies, and the (somewhat fanciful) TV series The Tudors, as well as countless other historical fictions, is testament to our enduring fascination with the King and the dynasty he stood at the head of.

To call his reign a tumultuous one is perhaps an understatement. Crowned at the age of eighteen, and married to Catherine of Aragon, his brother Arthur's widow (who had become ambassador for the Spanish Court in England after the death of Arthur - the first woman to ever hold the rank as a European ambassador) he went on to hold the English throne for 24 years.

The break from Rome and the Papacy is perhaps the most defining moment of the monarch's reign. He wasn't always an enemy of the Pope, however - in 1521, at the age of thirty, the Pope bestowed on him the title of Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith) for his publication of Assertio Septem Sacramentorum, a staunch defence of the Papacy in the face of Martin Luther's polemics. Only after the Pope's refusal to grant Henry a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, was the Act of Supremacy passed in Parliament, declaring the King as the supreme head of the Church of England.

During his long reign, he had six wives, oversaw the legal annexation of Wales into England, invaded France, almost bankrupted the nation with extravagant expenditure and financial mismangement, and transformed England from Catholicism to Protestantism, to name just a few pivotal events which have ensured he continues to be both praised and reviled in equal measure.

To celebrate the birthday of this controversial monarch, we've compiled an UPSO reading list of free chapters:


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