The friends of King Henry VIII

Firstly, my apologies for not posting for ages. I’ve been kept very busy…  And just to prove the point, it’s been exactly a month since I worked on Thy Kingdom Come, which I think may be the longest I’ve ever left between writing. I’m hoping to post more frequently over the next few weeks and hopefully pick u where I left off!

Back to Henry VIII now though… We all know about Henry’s women- the legendary six wives, multiple mistresses, two daughters who would cause much fascination later on and two surviving sisters who are attracting more and more attention just to name a few (and that’s not even mentioning his ancestors!)- but how much do we really know about the men who served him company? Today (by this I mean the day I started this post before my laptop started acting very weirdly) marks the anniversary of the execution of Thomas Cromwell in 1540, so I think it’s a good time to start learning…

It is now agreed by most historians that in his early years, Henry was kept int the same household as his sisters, headed by his mother, Elizabeth of York. As the second son, it was expected that Henry would be granted an important clerical position and for the first decade of his life he was educated as such whilst Henry’s elder brother, Arthur, was being prepared for kingship. Henry’s only other brother, Edmund, died just after his first birthday. Henry had four sisters, of whom two lived into adulthood (Margaret and Mary), with one, Elizabeth, dying aged three (when Henry was four) and the other , Katherine, dying at just eight days old. This meant that Henry started life under much female influence, which would perhaps affect some of his choices later on. However, when he was ten years old Arthur died, quickly followed by the birth and death of Katherine and of Elizabeth of York, who fell victim to a post-birth infection and died just a day after Katherine. This completely changed Henry’s life and sent him into the very male-dominated world of the crown.

Henry found much support throughout his reign by many people, the most famous of which are perhaps: Wolsey, More, Cranmer and Cromwell. Here are the basics…

Thomas Wolsey was born in Ipswich around 1475 and was in fact the son of a butcher. He received a good education and went on to study at Magdalen College, Oxford. Wolsey was ordained in 1498. He became chaplain to the archbishop of Canterbury and later chaplain to Henry VII, who employed him on diplomatic missions. He son became known as a highly efficient administrator, both for Church and Crown and quickly established himself in Tudor politics. When Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509, Wolsey’s rapid rise began. Five years into his reign, Wolsey was created Archbishop of York, Cardinal and Lord Chancellor in quick succession. Wolsey’s power and influence was undisputed, with some even calling him ‘the other king’. He controlled almost all of England’s foreign policy and arranged the Field of Cloth of Gold. Perhaps his greatest legacy is the building of Hampton Court Palace, which was given to Henry by Wolsey at the height of his power. He also founded Cardinal College (now Christ Church), Oxford. However, he was also gaining many enemies and was extremely unpopular at Court.  His failure to give Henry his annulment triggered his downfall. He died in Leicester on his journey south to face trial.

Thomas More was born February 1478 in London. His father was a successful lawyer and as a boy More spent much time in the household of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He later studied at Oxford and qualified as a lawyer. In 1517 he entered the King’s service, becoming  Henry’s most trusted civil servant, advisor, friend, interpreter and diplomat. He was knighted in 1521 and in 1523 became speaker of the House of Commons. He was a close friend of Erasmus and wrote ‘The History of Richard III’ and ‘Utopia’. He quickly gained a reputation as a scholar and pious Catholic, defending the papal orthodoxy and writing many pamphlets against heresy, even taking responsibility for the interrogation of heretics. More replaced Wolsey as Lord Chancellor in 1529, at a time when Henry was determined to get his divorce and was coming very close to breaking with the Catholic Church, all of which More strongly disagreed with. When Henry declared himself supreme head, More resigned the chancellorship. He was arrested in 1534 after refusing to swear the oath of succession. He was executed on Tower Hill on July 6 1535.

Thomas Cranmer was born July 2 1489 in Nottinghamshire. Thomas and his younger brother joined the clergy as their father only had enough land for their elder brother to inherit. Cranmer was given a fellowship at Jesus College, Cambridge in 1510, which he lost when he married the daughter of a local tavern-keeper. She died in childbirth and he was re-accepted by the college. He took an active role in the beginnings of the Reformation, presenting the case for the divorce to Rome in 1530 and was made ambassador to Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, in 1532. At one point he was sent to Germany to learn more about Lutheranism. It was then he met Margaret Osiander, a niece of a reformer, who he married. In 1533 he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. He declared Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon void and married him to Anne Boleyn four months later. He survived Henry VIII and headed many religious reforms throughout the reign of Edward VI. He supported Lady Jane Grey as Edward’s successor. However, when Mary I was declared Queen, Cranmer was presented with quite a problem. In the Act of Supremacy, Cranmer had argued that monarchs are appointed by God and therefore must be obeyed. But would he stretch as far as his faith? At his heresy trial he recanted his Protestantism and publicly acknowledged his error in accepting it. However, Mary owed Cranmer a strong grudge for his role in the Reformation and how he had personally divorced her parents and decided that he should burn, although it was against Church law. It was planned to be quite an event, with a public reenactment of the recantation before being taken to the stake, intended to humiliate Cranmer further. Instead, Cranmer repudiated the recantation and for the last time expressed his beliefs and declared the Pope as antichrist. On the stake, he put his right hand, which had signed the recantation, into the heart of the fire, saying that it had sinned so should be punished first. It was just one act which would work as propaganda against Mary, giving the basics for her reputation as ‘Bloody Mary’.

Thomas Cromwell was born in London in around 1485. He spent much time in Europe working as a merchant, accountant and soldier, returning to England in 1512 to study Law. In 1520 he became legal secretary to Cardinal Wolsey and became a MP in 1523. He quickly rose to favour under Henry VIII and was made the King’s Chief Minister in 1532. He played a great role in the Reformation, accompanied by Cranmer. He led the dissolution of the monasteries with a great efficiency and was rewarded by Henry VIII when he was created Earl of Essex in 1540, despite being a target for much hatred in England and a key cause of the Pilgrimage of Grace. In 1540, Cromwell triggered his downfall by helping to persuade Henry to marry Anne of Cleves, which was a complete disaster. Henry had an increasingly ill temper and blames Cromwell for the marriage. He was executed July 28 1540, the exact same day Henry married Kateryn Howard.

In conclusion, I think Henry just used men  to get what he wanted. If they failed in doing Henry’s bidding, the chances are they’d be charged with Treason and executed. If they dared to disagree with him, he’d fly into a rage. I certainly wouldn’t want to know him!


1 Comment

Filed under Henry VIII, The Unknown..., Tudor

One response to “The friends of King Henry VIII

  1. History

    I enjoyed reading this. I want more posts 🙂

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