King Henry the VIII and His Six Wives
The figure of Henry VIII is famous in history and probably the most widely recognized among the British public. However, it is interesting that his story is first of all remarkable not by his political achievements, but by the peculiarities of his personal life. The fate of his six wives not only indicates Henry VIII as a variant and cruel person, but is closely interconnected with numerous events that defined the development of England in the 16th century and later. In such a way, his example can serve as numerous proofs that the personal life of a ruler cannot be separated from the development of the country, and the affections of Henry VIII have left an imprint on the life and economy of England.
Numerous historical sources characterized Henry VIII as tall, handsome, sportive and mentally adept young man. Therefore, from the very beginning, he had everything what is required to reign successfully. However, in his studies, Pollard conveniently divided his ruling into two parts. The first period was mostly associated with the advices of his trusted person Wolsey, who acted behind the scene and dealt with all the foreign and domestic affairs, while the king was mostly amusing himself (Pollard, 1919). This period has ended with the king’s legal divorce with Catherine of Aragon. The second part of Henry VIII’s reigning started with the advisor Wolsey’s arrest, his relations with Anne Boleyn and ended with the end of his life, accordingly (Pollard, 1919). Referring back to his first marriage, it is important to mark out that it was nothing to deal with the feelings of the young king, but was meant to strengthen the alliance with Spain. With the death of Henry’s older brother Arthur, Catherine of Aragon became a widow, but stayed in England. Therefore, for Henry VII and England, 1509 was marked out by two outstanding events: his marriage with a Spanish princess and ascending the throne. Although he was willing to marry this woman, one can emphasize this event as the evidence of the influence of the country interests for the decisions that are connected with the personal life. It is one of numerous examples of how marriages between the representatives of the royal families created strong bonds between different countries. However, numerous sources state that their family lived happily for years. As matter of fact, Catherine’s miscarriages and inability to give birth to a son became the crucial factor for their alienation (Starkey, 2004). The only child who survived was a girl that did not satisfy the king who wanted a male heritor. At the same time, the king’s affection for the virtuous Anne Boleyn became the second fact that pushed Henry to the serious changes in his life. Ironically, these changes could not but predetermine the destiny of the state and many of his followers. Some state that the desire to have a male heir, the others – the first real passionate love, but the desire to annul the marriage with Catherine of Aragon became a first step to reformation of the Church of England. Refuse from the Catholicism for Protestant religion, numerous deaths was the way to improve the situation for the king, but has brought numerous negative consequences for the English people and the country (Elton, 1977). A great Dissolution of the Monasteries took place; the repressions took away lives of many people, including Thomas More and John Fisher (Elton, 1977). Nevertheless, all these pains have not lead to Henry’s desire implementation. Although he married his beloved Anne Boleyn, she did not give birth to a boy. As a result, one can follow the changeable mood of Henry VIII. He neglected the love he felt towards this woman previously and cruelly made her beheaded (Starkey, 2004).
The desire to have a male heir among the common people can hardly lead to the bloody events, as it happened with the king’s one. As is it obvious, Henry neglected the interests of the Catholic Church and of his own people for this reason. Mainly his selfish decisions lead to the difficult period in the life of England by a cruel girl who is known as “Bloody Mary” for her hatred against Protestants. By that time, his attempts were not crowned with success and he had even abdicated two of his daughters. This has revealed his cruel nature as numerous sources provide evidences that the accusation against Anne Boleyn was fabricated. Only after his marriage with Jane Seymour, in 1937, the king’s only son Edward was born (Starkey, 2004). Nevertheless, his wife died during the childbirth. After her death, the king did not marry for three years. One should point out that the life in the country as well as the life of the ruler was not calm, but marked out but the further desecration of the Catholic monasteries. The special commissions have destroyed numerous reliquiae. One the most famous victims of that time became St.Thomas Becket (Elton, 1977). At the same time, after Henry’s next unsuccessful marriage with Anne of Cleves, whom he considered too ugly, he soon married Katherine Howard. Being unfaithful and imprudent, she was beheaded in 1942 (Starkey, 2004). In such a way, one can follow how this marriage with a Protestant has influenced the changeable views of the king. His hatred against the Catholics subsided. The last wife, Catherine Parr, was mostly acting as a young nurse for the weak and ill king (Starkey, 2004). She helped not only him, but also three of his children. She was one of a few wives, who survived Henry VIII.
To sum it up, Henry VIII is rarely marked out as a great and successful king whom he could become. He was cruel and was guilty of the death of at least fifty thousand people during his reigning. In addition, his obsession to have a male heir has led to the break with the Catholic Church and the beginning of the Church of England. At the same time, his fragility about the women influenced the changeability of the religious views, too. Consequently, the above mentioned events from Henry VIII’s life show that the country and its ruler are closely interconnected. The personal view and life can influence the country development as well as the needs of a country can influence the choice of the king.