On this day in history : 3rd November 1534 – The Act of Supremacy is passed by Parliament, making King Henry VIII head of the newly formed Church of England….

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Image credit : Ann Longmore-Etheridge via Flickr

The Act of Supremacy officially confirmed the split from Rome….leading to the seizure of Church property…. With a need to remove the power of the Catholic Church – and also to raise money for the continuous wars with Scotland and France – over 800 monasteries and convents were dissolved….being either demolished, reclaimed as Anglican Churches – or sold off….

King Henry VIII famously married six times….in search not only of marital happiness but also for political gain – and the desire for a male heir….

Henry was the second son of Henry VII; his older brother, Arthur, was destined for the throne – whilst Henry was being prepared for a life in the Church…. He was educated in music, poetry, languages, theology and sports…. Arthur married Catherine of Aragon (to whom he had been betrothed since the age of 2) in November 1501 – the pair were just teenagers – but tragically Arthur died of a sudden illness a few months later…. Henry became next in line to the throne and was betrothed to his dead brother’s widow….

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Catherine of Aragon – attributed to Joannes Corvus – Public domain

Henry became King when he was 17-years-old and married Catherine of Aragon six weeks later…. Over the following 15 years she gave birth to 3 sons and 3 daughters….all died in infancy – except one daughter, Mary (later to become Queen Mary I)….

Henry – although he had fathered an illegitimate healthy son, Henry Fitzroy, in 1519 – wanted a son who could become his heir…. He was convinced his marriage to Catherine was cursed – because of an old myth about marrying a brother’s widow…. On becoming infatuated with one of his wife’s attendants, Anne Boleyn, he decided to seek an annulment – so that he could remarry…. Of course, his intentions were denied by the Pope – Henry’s response was to put himself in charge of the Church and effectively change the rule book….

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Anne Boleyn – Public domain

In 1533 Henry and Anne Boleyn were married and they had a daughter, Elizabeth…. Mary was declared illegitimate and Elizabeth made heir to the throne in her place…. In January 1536 Henry had an accident whilst taking part in a jousting tournament…. On hearing the news a pregnant Anne miscarried a son…. Henry turned his attentions to another woman in his Court, Jane Seymour…. Within six months he had Anne executed for incest and treason….and he married Jane…. To his joy she gave him his son and heir, the future Edward IV – but at the cost of her own life – Jane died two weeks later….

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Jane Seymour – Hans Holbein – Public domain

Henry then married Anne of Cleves – a political union – to strengthen an alliance with Anne’s brother, who was the ruler of a Protestant Duchy in Germany…. After only a few days Henry had the marriage annulled….

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Anne of Cleves – Public domain

Catherine Howard was to become his next wife….but after two years he had her beheaded for adultery and treason….

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Catherine Howard – Hans Holbein – Public domain

Henry’s final marriage was to Catherine Parr in 1543 – and it was she who managed to reconcile his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth…. Henry died on the 28th of January 1547, his 56th birthday…. His 9-year-old son, Edward VI came to the throne – but died six years later…. Catherine Parr remarried and at the age of 35 gave birth for the first time, to a daughter, Mary Seymour – only for Catherine to die from complications of childbirth 8 days later….

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Catherine Parr – Public domain

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