Catherine of Aragon (annulled 1533) Anne Boleyn (executed, 1536) Jane Seymour (died of natural causes, 1537) Anne of Cleves (annulled, 1540) Catherine Howard (executed, 1542) Catherine Parr (survived him, died 1548)
Henry VIII (28 June 1491 - 28 January 1547) was a Tudor king of England, the son of that dynasty's founder, Henry VII.
In 1521, Henry wrote a scathing Counterblaste against Martin Luther in defense of the Catholic Church. This led the Pope to award Henry the title "Defender of the Faith."
However, he did not defend the faith for long. Henry was unsatisfied with his wife, Catherine of Aragon, who had not produced a male heir for Henry in nearly twenty years of marriage; their only child who survived infancy was a daughter, Mary. He petitioned the Pope for annulment, on the grounds that, since Catherine had previously been married to Henry's brother, the marriage had never been lawful to begin with. (This despite the fact that a previous Pope had granted Henry a special dispensation to marry Catherine.) The Popes demurred for many years: Henry was a powerful potential ally, but so was King Carlos I of Spain, Catherine's nephew, and Rome was reluctant to offend either king. Henry grew impatient, especially when he fell in love with Anne Boleyn, and he began flirting with the possibility of refusing to recognize papal ecclesiastical authority in England. After Henry initiated a series of reforms moving in this direction, and after he executed John Cardinal Fisher and Thomas More, Pope Paul III definitively refused to grant the dispensation.
Furious, and desperate, Henry began the English Reformation. In 1531 England officially broke with the papacy, with the King as the highest religious authority, and Henry granted himself a divorce (actually an annulment, which would be officially rescinded by royal decree in 1553). Henry forced the English clergy, aristocracy, and other prominent people to recognize him as head of the church, and found many ways of persecuting recalcitrant Catholics. However, Henry retained a good deal of Catholic orthodoxy in his theological, liturgical, and ecclesiastical beliefs. Though he is considered England's first Protestant king by many historians, he did not consider himself a Protestant, resisted the attempts of Protestant reformers to gain influence in the Anglican church hierarchy, and periodically persecuted Protestants.
Henry's second wife (he would ultimately have six) produced only one child who survived infancy, and she too was a girl, Elizabeth. Henry had only one legitimate son, Edward VI. (He had at least one and possibly as many as four bastard sons who could not inherit his throne.) Edward succeeded Henry upon his death in 1547 but died young without marrying or having children. Edward was succeeded (after an attempt at reigning by Henry's niece, Lady Jane Grey, which lasted merely nine days) by Mary, who restored Catholicism as England's official state religion, and bore no children in her brief marriage to Spain's King Philip II. Mary died after five years on the throne and was succeeded by Elizabeth. Elizabeth's reign was long, but during her tenure as monarch she neither married nor produced children. Henry had no grandchildren. Upon the death of the last of his children, the throne was claimed by James VI of Scotland, a descendant of his sister Margaret, whose heirs Henry had specifically disinherited in his will decades earlier to prevent the kings of Scotland from ruling England.
One of King Henry VIII's harshest policies in the de-Catholicising of England was the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Churches were plundered of their treasure, and a number of monks were executed for resisting the order. In far northern York, the monks of the Abbey of St. Oswald, anticipating the arrival of Henry's enforcers, had time to prepare. They built hidden niches into the walls to hide their most precious relics, which remained undiscovered for four centuries, until being unearthed by an Anglo-American archaeological team in 1991.
Long after Henry VIII's death, his second daughter, Elizabeth I, became Queen of England in 1558 and continued to reign for 30 years until being deposed in 1588 following the invasion and conquest of England by the Spanish Armada. Henry's Protestant reforms were rolled back for a second time (the first had come during the reign of his eldest daughter, Mary, from 1553 to 1558.) Elizabeth was restored by a popular uprising in 1598, restoring the Tudor dynasty and Henry's Reformation.