Henry VIII: 500th Anniversary Celebration

Henry was the name of eight kings of England. Son of Henry VII, Henry VIII (1491-1547) reigned 1509-47. The great Tudor monarch was a gifted athlete, strong soldier, fine musician and lover of the arts. Behind the caricature, he was a ruler of high intellect, political skill and bold ambition.
He had six wives (Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr). He executed two and divorced two. His first divorce, from Katherine of Aragon, was opposed by the Pope, leading to England’s break from the Roman Catholic Church. During the middle ages there was recurring war between England and Scotland. On 9 September 1513 Henry VIII’s army defeated the Scots at the Battle of Flodden when the Scots invaded England after allying with France.
His desire to make England a notable European power was pursued from 1515 by the English churchman and statesman, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (1475-1530). Lord Chancellor (1515-29) to the King, Wolsey fell from power after failing to persuade the Pope to permit Henry to divorce Katherine of Aragon, dying on his way to face trial.
Breaking from Rome, in England the Reformation began when Henry VIII was proclaimed supreme head of the English Church by the Act of Supremacy (1534).
Man and Monarch
Major events at the British Library, Hampton Court Palace, Tower of London and Windsor Castle mark the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession to the throne. A wide range of talks, family activities, live music and debate are part of the programme to commemorate one of England’s most memorable monarchs who shaped the course of English history as no other monarch has done before or since.
The unique exhibition at the British Library Man and Monarch: Henry VIII follows Henry from his infancy through childhood to manhood with sound archives and contributions from historians and others. It includes Henry’s personal Prayer Book, containing his handwritten notes, his marriage contract with Katherine of Aragon, a list of people executed in his reign, including wives, favourites and ministers, and a love letter to Anne Boleyn, concealed in the Vatican for almost five centuries.
Treasures from the British Library’s unrivalled collection of correspondence, key official documents, maps and books are exhibited alongside important loans from other museums and collections, including portraits, tapestries and jewellery.
Together they reveal the extraordinary transformations – personal and political, intellectual and religious, literary, aesthetic and linguistic – that took place during the turbulent life and reign of England’s absolute Tudor monarch, Henry VIII?
Ita Marguet, July 2009
Note: Acknowledgement is given to all sources used in preparation of this text including Man & Monarch: Henry VIII, British Library exhibition (23 April-6 September 2009).