The Biography of Henry VIII (1491-1547)

Henry VIII
Henry VIII

The Biography of Henry VIII (1491-1547) King of England
From The Dictionary of National Biography – Volume 9, 1908

Henry VIIIHENRY VIII (1491-1547), king of  England, was the second son of  Henry VII, by his queen, Elizabeth of York q. v. He was born at Greenwich on 28 June 1491. When little more than three years of age he was, 12 Sept. 1494, appointed lieutenant of Ireland, with Poynings as his deputy. On 31 Oct. following his father dubbed him knight of the Bath, and next day created him Duke of York. In 1495 he was admitted into the order of the Garter, and installed on 17 May. In 1501 a marriage was proposed between him and Eleanor, daughter of the Archduke Philip, but the project was soon dropped. After the death of his brother Arthur (1486-1502) q. v. he was created Prince of Wales on 18 Feb. 1503, and soon after contracted to his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon q. v.  A dispensation was granted for the match by Julius II on 26 Dec. 1503, and was sent by Ferdinand of Spain to England in 1504. But on 27 June 1505, being then close upon the age of puberty, he protested that the contract made during his minority was against his mind, and that he would not ratify it (Collier, Exl Hist., ed. 1862, ix. 66). This, however, was merely a device of his father to keep himself free from any engagement to Ferdinand until the latter should send to England Catherine’s stipulated dowry, only part of which had been paid see under  Henry VII. Owing to the dispute on this subject,  Henry VII to the close of his reign would not allow his son to proceed to the completion of this marriage, and young Henry himself was not impatient for it. Rumours were even spread that his father intended to marry him to Margaret, sister of Francis, count d’Angouleme, afterwards Francis I, a match first suggested by Cardinal d’Amboise. In 1506 Philip, king of Castile, who was driven by storms to land in England on his way from the Netherlands to Spain, conferred upon young Henry the order of the Toison d’Or.

From his earliest boyhood he was carefully educated. Erasmus, who visited the royal household when he was nine (or more probably only eight) years old, was struck even then with a sort of royal precocity of intellect which he combined with a highly polished manner. Boy as he was, he wrote during dinner a note to the great scholar requesting to be favoured with some production of his pen, which Erasmus gave him three days after in the form of a Latin poem (Prefatory epistle to Botxheim, in Catalogo Erasmi Lucubrationum, Basle, 1523). Nor was he less devoted to bodily than to mental exercises. At seventeen he was daily to be seen tilting at the ring with friendly rivals. At twenty-nine, when he had been some years king, and was the handsomest prince in Europe, he could tire out eight or ten horses in the course of a day’s hunting, mounting each successively after one was exhausted. His tennis playing also excited the admiration of the Venetian ambassador Giustinian. Added to these gifts was a great delight in music, and a devout observance of religious ordinances.

On 22 April 1509 he was called to the throne by his father’s death, and on 11 June following he married Catherine of Arragon. They were both crowned together at Westminster on the 24th. His father had been on ill terms with his father-in-law for some time before his death. But now many things were changed. A general pardon had been proclaimed at his accession; many debtors of the crown were released from their engagements; Empson and Dudley were thrown into the Tower, and were next year beheaded. Young Henry was at peace with all the world, and the first two years of his reign went merrily in pageants and festivities.