Separating from the Catholic Church

The monarch rules the Church in England

Thomas CranmerWhen Henry realised that the Pope would not grant him a divorce, he took matters into his own hands. He declared that the Pope's rule did not extend over England and that he himself, and not the Pope, was Supreme Head of the Church in England.

Henry appointed Thomas Cranmer as Archbishop of Canterbury, and Cranmer used his authority to declare the marriage of Henry and Katherine annulled. Henry then married Anne Boleyn.

The new law is enforced

Henry ordered that everybody should swear an oath of loyalty to him confirming that:

  • Henry was Head of the Church in England
  • His children with Anne were legitimate and his rightful successors.

There were severe penalties for refusing to accept. Many loyal Catholics, most notably Henry's former Chancellor, Sir Thomas More, were executed because they would not bow to his will.

A third attempt to secure an heir

Anne BoleynAnne Boleyn failed to produce the male heir that Henry wanted, and, within three years of her marriage to Henry, she had been beheaded on a charge of treason. It was alleged that she had been unfaithful to the king, an accusation that was almost certainly untrue.

Henry had decided that it was time to try another lady-in-waiting as his wife. In 1536, eleven days after Anne's execution, Henry married Jane Seymour. In October 1537, she produced the longed-for male heir — Prince Edward. Jane would presumably have remained as Henry's well-loved Queen, but she died shortly after Edward's birth.

Further marriages

Henry married three more times:

  • Anne of Cleves, whom he married and soon divorced in 1540
  • Catherine Howard (1540-2), who was executed for extra-marital affairs
  • Catherine Parr (1543), who outlived him.

Henry died in 1547 and the ten-year-old Prince Edward came to the throne as Edward VI.

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