• The Mary Rose
  • Plan your visit
  • What's on
  • Learning
  • Venue hire
  • Collections & research
  • Support us
  • Shop
  • About the Trust
  • Contact us
Henry VIII and the Tudor story

A brief guide to Henry VIII and how he changed the shape of English history.

The Tudors

The Tudor family were the ruling House of England and Wales between 1485 and 1603. They came to power when Henry VII became king after his defeat of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

The Tudor period really took off under the rule of Henry VII’s son, Henry VIII. Born in 1491, Henry became king after his father died in 1509, and he went on to become one of England’s most well-known rulers.

The six wives of Henry VIII

Henry VIII’s most famous for his six marriages;

Catherine of Aragon: 1509-1533 (mother of Mary I of England, divorced)

Anne Boleyn: 1533-1536 (mother of Elizabeth I of England, beheaded)

Jane Seymour:  1536-1537 (mother of Edward VI, died in childbirth)

Anne of Cleves: 1540 (divorced)

Catherine Howard: 1540-1542 (executed)

Catherine Parr: 1542-1547 (widowed)

The Church of England

It was partly Henry VIII’s desire to annul his first marriage that inspired his main impact on English history – The Reformation, where he broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and established himself as the Supreme Head of the Church of England, a title the British Monarch holds to this day. Henry VIII also began the Dissolution of the Monasteries, dismantling churches and monasteries to claim their assets for the royal treasury. Henry VIII changed the face of religion in England forever.

'Fit' for a king

Henry is also known for his girth, and is often shown as a large, rather gluttonous man. However, in his early years Henry was quite an athlete, taking part in sports such as archery, tennis, wrestling and jousting. Sadly, it was while jousting in 1536 that Henry VIII suffered a serious leg injury that prevented him from competing again, but the lavish lifestyle of the royal court meant that he began to get larger. Towards the end of his life, he weighed around 145kg (320lb), and needed a pulley system to get in and out of bed. The same jousting accident also caused a severe head injury, which appears to have affected his behaviour, making him paranoid and cruel. He died aged 55, on 28th January 1547.

Henry VIII's legacy

He was succeeded by his son, Edward VI, who was only 9 years old. A sickly child, he died aged 15 in 1553, and was succeeded by his older half-sister, Mary I, who ruled until 1558. In turn, she was succeeded by her younger half-sister, Elizabeth I, who ruled England until her death in 1603. As Elizabeth produced no heirs, the crown was passed to the House of Stuart, making James VI of Scotland James I of England and Wales. The reign of the Tudors was over, but their legacy lives on.