Happy Birthday to Henry
On June 28th, 1491, Elizabeth of York gave birth to her second son, Prince Henry. His father had been King for almost 6 years, having defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485. Henry was destined for life as a nobleman; his older brother, Arthur, was heir to the throne of England.
Henry’s life changed dramatically in 1502 when his older brother died. Henry was now heir to England. He became King in 1509 and would rule for almost 38 years, his reign being one of the most dramatic in English history. He married his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, later breaking with the Roman Catholic church in order to be rid of her and marry Anne Boleyn. He dissolved England’s monasteries and beheaded England’s enemies. His reign began when he was a young man, the most handsome prince in all Christendom. His reign ended in his infamy.
As a young King, Henry was a pleasure to be around. He jousted, he prayed, he held banquets and his court was a place of fun. Henry’s reputation as a perfect renaissance prince seems to be forgotten, however, in favour of his reputation as a tyrant. His executions of wives, statesmen and religious martyrs are remembered instead of his fun-filled early court. His desperate desire for a son leading him to marry repeatedly is remembered in place of the love and affection he showed Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn early in their relationships. Remembered, of course, for destroying the Catholic church in England, it is often forgotten that Henry was in fact a very religious man who had genuine reasons for wanting his church in England reformed. While it is important to remember that Henry, like everyone, had faults; it is a shame to remember only his faults.
Henry VIII is a fascinating man. 18 years ago, when I was 9, I remember sitting in my classroom at school, learning about public beheadings, royal weddings, princes and princesses. Yes, the information was basic, but building on this in my adult life has been a great experience. Henry VIII was my first love, his reign a fascination for years. I have moved further back in time now in my studies, but there will always be a place for Henry in my heart. This is the rhyme of the wives I was taught at school:
Divorced, Beheaded, Died
Divorced, Beheaded, Survived
Happy birthday, Your Grace, King Henry!