Choosing a monarch that has impacted my quest to become a historian was quite easy. There was no other leader that affected me more than Henry VIII, and did so for many reasons. The early modern period was full of great leaders, but Henry VIII created a legacy for himself that has stood the test of time. Furthermore, he was the father of Elizabeth and Mary, both of whom contributed to British history.
Throughout Henry’s early childhood he was not groomed to be King, making him unprepared for the station he would soon fill. Being sheltered for much of his youth created a gentle soul, but that would change by the end of his reign. Marrying Catherine of Aragon changed him, and there is much debate to the reasons behind their union. In the Tudor period Henry VIII was seen as quite a catch, a ‘Renaissance Prince’, and was thought to be a leader that would lead England into a Golden Age.
By the 1520s Henry VIII had evolved into a strong personality, making him a more confident ruler. As a leader of a powerful empire, Henry was well versed in language, philosophy, and endorsed many great artists. He believed strongly in the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ – a theory that asserted a sovereign’s legitimacy and right to rule.
Henry’s disregard for authority makes him all the more appealing, especially when he broke from the Roman Catholic Church. A break that caused a Reformation in England, and was responsible for the formation of the Church of England. When he fell for Anne Boleyn, Henry’s popularity declined, but it’s this event that adds to his influence on European history.
Of Henry’s six wives, Anne is the most researched, making their love story one for the history books. For someone who did not like to write, Henry wrote numerous love letters to Anne Boleyn, making him a romantic at heart, and emulating the art of court chivalry. A statement that gains more validity due to the fact, he and Anne did not consummate their relationship for years. Additionally, Henry’s motto was ‘loyal heart’, a saying he took very seriously. As the years progressed, Henry exposed people to his other wives, which were all strong and interesting women.
Making questionable choices generated polarity, which caused Henry to become one of the most memorable monarchs in British history. Having the confidence to marry six women showed how much control Henry exerted over his realm. No one dared to question his decisions, at least not publically. Due to all of the changes made during his time as king, historians are able to identify the equilibrium needed to withstand the geopolitical landscape in Europe. It also gives a lot of insight into the cultural changes that occurred during the sixteenth century.