Henry VIII's Kingship



Now you have studied the events of Henry VIII's reign, it is time to review your learning and evaluate his kingship.

How much power did he have was it all show, or was there real substance?

What about Parliament  did Henry take Parliament as a real partner in his government, or did he use them merely as a rubber stamp?

And how did Henry VIII exercise his power was he a tyrant, or just a strong king?


This is a subject on which historians disagree you will need to read the BBC Bitesize notes on interpretations.



After you have read this story, answer the question sheet by clicking on the 'Time to Work' icon at the top of the page.


The following websites will help you research further:


Henry VIII's Kingship:

BBC Bitesize - essential, especially the section on interpretations


A-level notes - very difficult but lots of ideas;


1  Henry VIII

This text comes from my textbook for Hodder and Stoughton (2000), written for less-able readers.  It summarises the reign in a few lines.

Henry VIII Henry became king in 1509.  He wanted to be a great and memorable king. 


He built 50 warships in 1512 the biggest warship, called the Great Harry, was built.  In 1513, the English army crushed the Scots army at Flodden.  Also in 1513, Henry went to fight in France, but he could not defeat the French army.


In 1520, Henry met the King of France.  Henry wanted to look good. 
He took 4,000 people with him.  They ate from plates of gold!  The meeting place was called 'The Field of the Cloth of Gold'.


In 1533, Henry said that HE was the Head of the Church in England.  And in 1536, he used his new power to close the monasteries down, and took their land and money.


But Henry 'dipped his hand in blood'.  In 1536, he hanged hundreds of people who protested about the monasteries.  In 1536, his second wife, Anne Boleyn, had her head chopped off because she could not have a son, and in 1542 he executed his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, when she slept with other men.


Henry VIII became the richest king in the world and he made England very powerful.  In 1536 Wales became part of England.  And in 1541 Henry made himself King of Ireland. 

People did as the king said because they were afraid of him, or because they loved him.  In 1537, Jane Seymour, Henry's third wife, gave him a son.  And when Henry died in 1547, NO ONE rebelled when the new king Edward VI came to the throne, even though he was only a nine-year-old boy.


'A wonderful man,' wrote the French ambassador.



2  Henry VIII - an assessment

This opinion of Henry VIII was written in a modern school history textbook.

Henry wanted to be known to history as 'Henry the Great'.  He wanted to be loved.

But when he died he was a fat, sick, murderous old man, hated by his people.



3  Henry VIII's Power

Henry VIII did not control the whole of the British Isles.  He did not even fully control the whole of England! Henry VIII united Wales and England in 1536. 

But it was not until 1707 that an Act of Union combined Scotland and England into what was called the 'United Kingdom', and Ireland did not become part of the United Kingdom until 1801.