In 1501, a young girl of 15 sailed to England from Spain. She was going to marry Arthur Tudor, the Prince of Wales. Her name was Katherine of Aragon.
However, Katherine had to marry Arthur. They went to live in Wales. Just five months later, Arthur died.
Katherine did not go home to Spain. She was told that she must now marry Henry. When Henry became king in 1509, they had a magnificent wedding.
At first, they were very happy. Henry took her to jousts and feasts. To prove his friendship with the king of France, Henry had said that he would never shave off his beard. When he found out that Katherine did not like beards, Henry shaved it off. It almost caused war!
Henry VIII jousting (left), watched by Katherine and her ladies-in-waiting.
By 1525 the marriage between Henry and Katherine had grown cold.
It had grown cold for two reasons.
One reason was that Henry wanted a son who would be king after him. But Katherine's first child was a girl who died at birth. Then she had a son who died when he was seven weeks old. In all, Katherine became pregnant 17 times, but only one child lived – a daughter called Mary. By 1525 Katherine was too old to have any more children.
The second reason was that Henry had met a young girl called Anne Boleyn. Anne had just come back to England from France. She had beautiful black hair and eyes. She wore the latest fashions, and looked good in green (her favourite colour). She was just 18 years old.
However, when Henry tried to flirt with Anne, she ignored him. He carved her name on trees. He wrote love letters to her. Anne told him that she would only love him if he married her.
Henry told Katherine that he wanted to divorce her. She refused. She told him that she was his true wife, and always would be.
Then she turned and walked out. Her ladies-in-waiting cheered.
Thomas Wolsey was Henry's Chancellor; he looked after government business for Henry. In 1527, Henry told Wolsey to ask the Pope – the head of the Roman Catholic Church – to grant a divorce. But the Pope said 'No'.
Katherine had a nephew called Charles. Charles was the ruler of Germany, Holland, Italy and Spain. In 1527 he had captured Rome. Pope Clement was scared of Charles. He did not dare to give Henry a divorce.
Henry was angry. He sent for Wolsey to stand trial. Wolsey thought he was going to be executed. He died on the way to London. Some people said Wolsey died of fright.
Then Henry talked to two men: Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer:
Thomas Cromwell, a lawyer (who became Chancellor). Thomas Cranmer, a priest (who became Archbishop of Canterbury).
Cromwell and Cranmer told Henry to break away from the Pope, and make himself Head of the Church in England. If Henry did this, they said, he could give himself a divorce.
That is what Henry did. He went to Parliament and got it to pass the Act of Supremacy, which said he was Supreme Head of the Church in England. He married Anne in 1533, and divorced Katherine.
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Henry's 'Great Matter':