Henry VIII – Success or Failure? Essay
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Henry the eighth was born in 1491. His father’s good reign meant that Henry succeeded the throne without any problem. He became king in 1509. He was courageous and skilled, also ruthless and savage – one of his first actions was to behead two hated tax collectors. This made him popular. He married Catherine of Aragorn – his brother’s widow. This was against church rules, but the Pope gave special permission.
Henry spent all of the money his father had given him on battle against France.
This was the battle of Spurs, 1513 – the French spurred their horses and ran away straight away. Meanwhile, Scotland attacked England. Catherine of Aragorn and Henry’s nobles quickly built up an army. A tactical error on the side of the Scots meant that Scotland lost and suffered a political disaster.
He also had many friends – one famous one was Thomas Wolsey. Wolsey’s intelligence had meant that he hade gone from rags to riches. Henry made him rich and powerful – many people said that Wolsey was more powerful than Henry. However, when Wolsey asked the Pope not to grant Henry’s divorce, Henry told him to attend a court trial which meant that he would go back to rags. Wolsey died just before the trial.
Henry’s divorce is one of the most important religious changes in History. To acquire it, he changed England’s church so that it was separate (but still Catholic) from the Pope – who wouldn’t grant him a divorce. He then simply asked his archbishop to grant him a divorce. This created the Church of England and later meant that England would become Protestant.
In order to get a son, he married three times. He then married another three times. He married Catherine of Aragorn, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Katherine Parr. Of these, 2 were beheaded.
He decided to shut down the monasteries, possibly due to the fact that they owned 1/4 of England’s land and were very rich – his excuse was that some did a bad job. The 1535 Black Book of the Monasteries was a biased report on how well the monasteries functioned. By 1536, many smaller monasteries had been shut.
In Yorkshire, where the monasteries were very good, there was an uprising of 30,000 men. Henry crushed this by lying to the rebels, waiting until they disbanded and then breaking his promise. This meant that by 1540, nearly 400 monasteries and their lands were owned by the king. Henry spent his last years fighting with Spain and France.
To determine whether Henry was successful of not, we must first think, what is a successful king? What makes an unsuccessful king? Kings and Queens such as Mary Tudor and King John have often been called failures because they were not popular. At times, Henry was not popular at all – he had a great uprising. Does this mean that he was definitely a failure?
Henry did many good and bad things during his reign. He was very ruthless – he executed many people without proper reason. He spent all of his money on wars. He lied and was arrogant and greedy. He also protected England from attacking countries. He changed the church and destroyed the monasteries. His son succeeded the throne without any problem.
Henry himself had a bad personality. He did, however, improve the country a lot, keep it safe from opposing countries and keep his Barons and rebels under control. If you look at it one way, Henry had a bad personality, married 6 times and would not have been a very nice person to be with (he executed people without thinking). He was however; a very successful king and England did gain a lot from him. He went to a lot of trouble to prevent political disaster and acquire a male heir. If being a successful king requires a good personality, then Henry was a failure. But if being a good king depends on how many good things he did for his country, he would have been a successful king.
Henry did however, do many bad things that some other ‘failure’ monarchs would probably not have done, such as ignore and mistreat his children/wives and fall out with the Catholic Church. In conclusion, Henry VI was a dictator and a failure, but his motives were not all bad and he, although using ruthless measures did succeed in his main aim to secure the throne of England with a male heir. Therefore overall, if the historian studies what he achieved, then he achieved a great deal more than many other monarchs and is therefore a success.