Who’s Who – Henry VIII

A guide to the key names in the Henry VIII episode:

The King

Henry VIII – the second Tudor monarch.

The Dead (featured in previous episodes but relevant to this one too!)

Edward IV – the first Yorkist king and Henry VIII’s maternal grandfather, whom he resembled in appearance and character.

Henry VII – Henry VIII’s father and the first Tudor monarch who won the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

Elizabeth of York – Henry VIII’s mother and the eldest daughter of Edward IV, she died before Henry became king.

Prince Arthur – Henry’s older brother, who died in 1502.

Margaret Beaufort – Henry VIII’s formidable paternal grandmother, who dies shortly after his coronation.

The Wives

  1. Catherine of Aragon (m. 1509-33) – A Spanish princess and the widow of Henry’s brother, Arthur. Years of happy marriage were undone by their ‘failure’ to conceive a (surviving) male child.
  2. Anne Boleyn (m. 1533-36) – The niece of the Duke of Norfolk. Her sophisticated manners and fashions of the French court, as well as her ready and bold wit, infatuated Henry from c. 1526/27. Her refusal to be anything other than Henry’s wife and her subsequent influence on Henry changed the course of English history but her ‘failure’ to produce a son and accusations of adultery saw her become the first queen of England to be executed.
  3. Jane Seymour (m. 1536-37) – A more conservative character than Anne, Henry fell in love with her in the last months of his second marriage. By giving birth to a son and dying shortly afterwards she gained Henry’s everlasting love.
  4. Anne of Cleves (m. 1540) – Cromwell’s urging of a Protestant marriage alliance led to the unfortunate match with the daughter of the Duke of Cleves. Not an ugly woman as if often portrayed but her personality did not suit Henry until she agreed to an annulment.
  5. Catherine Howard (m. 1540-42) – Another niece of the Duke of Norfolk but without the intelligence or depth of her cousin. Henry was infatuated with his young bride, but when he learnt of her affair with his favourite courtier she was for the chop.
  6. Catherine Parr (m. 1543-47) – Henry’s final wife and a talented woman, she brought Henry’s children back to court, helped restore Mary and Elizabeth to the succession and acted as regent in 1544, but sailed close to the wind when she tried to push religious reforms on Henry.

The Children

Henry, Duke of Cornwall – Born in 1511, Henry’s reign seemed to have got off to the perfect start until the child died less than two months later, with profound historical consequences.

Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond & Somerset – Henry’s illegitimate son by Elizabeth Blount, born in 1519. Henry acknowledged the child as his own and was considering naming him as heir until he died in 1536 before the birth of his only legitimate son.

Lady Mary – Henry and Catherine of Aragon’s only surviving child and for many years his only child. Henry’s desperation for a son and his relationship with Anne Boleyn saw Mary fall from favour, but Jane Seymour and Catherine Parr helped restore her.

Lady Elizabeth – The only child of Henry and Anne Boleyn. Like Mary, her fortune fluctuated greatly throughout the reign.

Prince Edward – The only child of Henry and Jane Seymour and Henry’s only male son, who succeeded him as king.

Henry’s Ministers

Cardinal Wolsey – Henry’s Chancellor from 1515-30, who for many years totally dominated English affairs until his failure to secure an annulment from Catherine led to his dramatic fall from power.

Thomas More – Henry’s one-time friend and one of the great humanist thinkers of the age. Succeeded Wolsey as Chancellor but his opposition to Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn and the Reformation led to his resignation and execution.

Thomas Cromwell – Often considered Henry’s most loyal servant, becoming Henry’s chief minister after More’s resignation and helping to spearhead the religious reforms of the Reformation. He fell from grace suddenly and fatally after the failure of the Cleves marriage.

Thomas Cranmer – Formerly the Boleyn family chaplain and later the Archbishop of Canterbury, a Protestant who played a vital role in securing Henry’s annulment.

Nobles and Notable Victims (if not already featured!)

Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk – Restored to the family Dukedom after winning the Battle of Flodden in 1513. One of the chief conservatives at court, his fortunes fluctuated widely, with two of his nieces becoming queen but then being executed. Was himself facing execution for treason in 1547 after his son, the Earl of Surrey, had been executed, but received a lucky reprieve.

Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk – Henry’s closest friend, who managed to stay out of factional politics and die in his bed in 1545 after an eventful life. His marriage to Henry’s younger sister, Mary, gave Lady Jane Grey a claim to the throne in the reign of Edward VI.

Edward Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham – A potential rival to the throne, thanks to his descent from Edward III, and his arrogance and dislike of Wolsey led to his downfall in 1521.

Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley – Chief ministers under Henry VII responsible for exacting the harsh financial policies of the reign’s later years. Upon Henry VIII’s accession they were arrested for constructive treason and executed a year later in 1510.

Edmund de la Pole – nephew of Richard III and chief Yorkist rival to the throne, but imprisoned under Henry VII’s reign. Was promised life by his father, but Henry had him executed in 1513.

Robert Aske – A lawyer who led the Pilgrimage of Grace. Trusted Henry to keep to his promises but was later executed for his role.

Bishop Gardiner – the Bishop of Winchester and one of the chief conservative and Catholic men at court who dominated in Henry’s later years. His failure to secure the arrests of Cranmer and Parr later led to his (living) downfall.

Henry’s Rivals

James IV – King of Scotland, became the last British monarch to die in battle in the disastrous Scottish defeat at Flodden in 1513.

James V – King of Scotland, died after hearing the news of the Scottish defeat at Solway Moss in 1542, leaving a week-old daughter, Mary Queen of Scots.

Francis I – the King of France for much of the reign and a great rival of Henry, along with…

Charles V – King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor. Along with Francis and Henry, these three dominated European politics throughout the period. By taking hold of Rome in the 1520s, Charles prevented Henry from divorcing Catherine of Aragon.