Henry VIII and the Pope

It was very important to Henry VIII that his wife, Catherine of Aragon, should give birth to a male child. Without a son to take over from him when he died. Henry feared that the Tudor family would lose control of England. Catherinegave birth to six children but five died within a few weeks of being born. Only one child, Mary, survived into adulthood.

By 1530 Catherine was too old to have any more children. Therefore, Henry decided he would have to have another wife. His choice was Anne Boleyn, the 20-year-old daughter of Thomas Boleyn, Viscount Rochford. Before he could marry Anne, Henry had to gain permission from the Pope.

Henry sent a message to the Pope arguing that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon had been invalid as she had previously been married to his brother Arthur. When Catherine discovered Henry's plans she informed King Charles V of Spain. Unwilling to have his aunt lose her position, Charles warned the Pope that he would be very angry if he granted Henry a divorce.

The Pope knew that once he made a decision, he would upset one of these two powerful monarch. In an attempt to keep the peace, the Pope put off making a decision about Henry's marriage.

In January 1533 Henry VIII discovered that Anne Boleyn was pregnant. As it was important that the child should not be classed as illegitimate, arrangements were made for Henry and Anne to get married. King Charles V of Spain threatened to invade England if the marriage took place, but Henry ignored his threats and the marriage went ahead.

In September Anne gave birth to a daughter called Elizabeth. While Henry was furious about having another daughter, the supporters of Catherine of Aragon were delighted and claimed that it proved God was punishing Henry for his illegal marriage to Anne.

In March 1534 the Pope eventually made his decision. He announced that Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn was invalid. Henry reacted by declaring that the Pope no longer had authority in England. In November 1534, Parliament passed an act that stated that Henry VIII was now the Head of the Church of England.

Henry was delighted when Anne became pregnant again. In January 1536 Anne had a son. Unfortunately the child was born dead. Later that year Henry accused Anne of committing adultery with five different men. Anne and the men were all executed. Ten days later Henry married Jane Seymour. The following year, Jane died giving birth to a son called Edward. Henry now at last had a male heir.

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