The Tudors Wiki

"Don't YOU know that I can drag you down, as quickly as I raised you?!"
— King Henry expressing his anger to Anne Boleyn.

King Henry VIII, the second monarch of House Tudor, was a notable king of England, famous for having six wives and for breaking the Church of England from Catholicism; he is the central character of The Tudors and, other than Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, is the only character to appear in all episodes. He ruled for nearly forty years and became one of England's most infamous kings, both a charismatic leader and a monster in his own right. The Tudors does not historically accurately chronicle Henry's life in terms of the passage of time, but they did stay true to most historical events during his reign, including his obsession in wanting a son to carry on his dynasty. He is played by Irish actor Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in an award-nominated role.

Henry's six wives reigned in the following order: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr.  He had three children by the first three, each of whom succeeded him on the throne: King Edward VI (the youngest), son of Jane Seymour, Queen Mary I (the eldest), daughter of Catherine of Aragon, and Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn, who was the last and greatest monarch of House Tudor. Henry also had at least one bastard son, Duke Henry Fitzroy of Richmond (by one of his mistresses, Elizabeth Blount) who died at age 16 (in the series he dies as a little boy) and may have had other illegitimate children. His more prominent mistresses (besides Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour and Katherine Howard before they respectively became Queens) include Elizabeth BlountMary Boleyn, Princess Margueritte of France, Eleanor Luke, Madge Shelton and Ursula Missledon. Henry's only consistant friend throughout the series is his childhood companion Charles Brandon, whom he invests as Duke of Suffolk.

Season One[]

Henry talking with Cardinal Wolsey in Season One

Season One focuses mostly on Henry's Annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. His affair with the beautiful Anne Boleyn. The first episode opens with everybody receiving news of Henry's uncle's death, which has made Henry mad with grief and extremely furious. Henry declares that they must declare war on France. He then goes to sleep with his mistress. Henry is constantly cheating on his wife Catherine, however she is not aware of his adulterous ways until she discovers that his mistress, Lady Elizabeth Blount is pregnant with his child. Henry is ecstatic when Lady Elizabeth has a son, who is named Henry Fitzroy. Henry sends the boy away to his own establishment when he is of old enough age, however, Henry's happiness at having a son is short-lived, as Henry Fitzroy catches the sweating sickness and dies. Lady Elizabeth, dressed in black, comes to her son's bed where he lies dead and cries, while episode 5 ends with a devastated Henry crying about his son's death while looking at the crown his son wore when he was named Duke. Anne and Henry make plans to get married and when Henry announces to Catherine of Aragon, his wife, that their marriage was null and void and that it has come to an end, she is devastated. Anne promises Henry a son. The first season ends with Henry riding with Anne on horseback into the forest; they get off their horses and have sex but Anne shoves Henry off and tells him "No you must not " after he attempts to get her pregnant. Henry, furious, screams in anger and storms off out of the forest.

Season Two[]

Henry, triumphant on being named Head of the Church of England

Henry's beard indicates that he and Anne have been together for a few years now. His court is changing; his former teacher and friend Sir Thomas More, a Catholic, has been displaced as 'First Minister' by the cunning Thomas Cromwell, a supporter of Protestantism. Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury is eventually bullied into declaring Henry Head of the Church. Henry's interest in reforms stems primarily from his determination to remove Papal authority from England; to this end, he allows Cromwell to close down various monasteries that are deemed "corrupt" or refuse to take the Oath of Supremacy (recognizing Henry as Head of the Church). When More and Cardinal John Fisher also refuse to take the Oath, Henry has them executed- despite the fact that More was one of his closest friends. Henry's actions enrage the Pope, as well as offending the Catholic monarchs of Spain and (to a lesser extent) France. Although neither monarch is confident enough to declare war on England, diplomatic relations with both countries have been damaged, which will mean trouble ahead for Henry.

Henry sleeps with Anne while they are in France (to present her as his betrothed to King Francis), causing her to become pregnant. In episode 2.03, he and Anne marry secretly to legitimize the baby, which is subsequently crowned King of England as the new, Protestant archbishop of Canterbury (Thomas Cranmer) nullifies Henry's marriage to Catherine; Catherine is then sent into solitary exile at the Castle Moore, where she eventually dies of illness. However, much to Henry's disappointment, Anne gives birth to a girl who is named Elizabeth. Henry is mildly annoyed by this, but has genuine love for Elizabeth and figures Anne is fertile enough to have more babies. Although he initially still loves Anne, Henry promptly breaks his promise 'not to have a thought or affection for anyone else' and resumes his philandering with Anne's ladies-in-waiting; Anne catches on to this quickly and is upset.  Prompted by her father, she reluctantly approves of Henry having a mistress as long as they are her choice, but Henry continues to gradually drift away from her, especially after her second pregnancy ends in miscarriage.  Anne's outspoken nature on political matters- formerly what made her attractive- are now an annoyance, and by episode 2.06 there is a definite rift between Henry and his wife, though they appear to be somewhat reconciled in episode 2.07

After getting pregnant again, Anne catches Henry kissing Jane Seymour, a woman who has been made Anne's lady-in-waiting, and goes into shock, miscarrying Henry's male child. Anne tells Henry, "you have no-one to blame but yourself for this!" but he simply walks away, furious at having lost a son. This episode, episode 8, closes with Henry declaring his marriage to Anne null and void. Henry's affections begin shifting as the Seymour family is awarded new and more luxurious rooms at Court, replacing the Boleyns as the new royal favourites.  During episode 8, Henry recieves a serious wound to his leg while jousting that would cause him great pain in later life; this wound gives him ulcers repeatedly in later seasons.  Anne, having lost a son, has lost her chance at a lasting marriage with Henry. Her enemies at court, such as Cromwell and Charles Brandon, move against her, feeding Henry accusations of adultery and witchcraft. Four men, including Anne's friend Mark Smeaton and her brother George are arrested and sentenced to death; Anne herself is eventually arrested and likewise found guilty despite unconvincing evidence. Her four supposed lovers are executed at the Tower; Anne awaits her own death, grief-stricken. Her execution is delayed due to the executioner's late arrival. Henry visits Jane Seymour, asking for her hand in marriage. Jane and Henry become engaged. Anne is executed; Henry devours a swan and smiles. This is how season 2 ends.

Season Three[]

Henry at his marriage to Jane Seymour (Season Three episode 1)

Henry and Jane marry. Henry falls deeply in love with Jane, who in turn mends Henry's relationships with his family. Jane becomes a good friend of Henry's daughter Mary, and helps Henry reconcile with both her and his younger daughter Elizabeth. Henry's newfound happiness, however, is disturbed by a large Catholic-backed rebellion in Northern England, known as the Pilgrimage of Grace; the rebels are opposed to Thomas Cromwell's religious reforms and his seizure of their monasteries and abbeys, which Henry had approved (mainly for his own benefit). Fearful of the size of the uprising, Henry blames Cromwell for provoking it (despite having just rewarded him handsomely) and orders Charles to ready the Royal Army. After seeming to negotiate with the Pilgrimage's leader, Robert Aske, he launches an attack once the majority of the rebels have dispersed. Henry's vengeance against the Pilgrimage is boundless, as he has thousands of men, women and children executed even though they had laid down their arms. This atrocity severely damages Henry's already infamous reputation abroad, especially with the major Catholic powers of Spain and France. Whereas before the kings of Spain and France were angered, but largely aloof about Henry's internal affairs and quarrels with the Vatican; Henry's oppression of English Catholics has given the Catholic monarchs casus belli to prepare for a holy war against England. Charles V and Francis I are both urged by the Pope to make a joint invasion of England, with the intention of putting Henry's Plantagenent cousin, Cardinal Reginald Pole, on the throne to restore Catholic rule by force. Ultimately, Francis' feud with Charles gets the better of him, and France eventually resumes its' war with Spain/the Holy Roman Empire. As a result, the invasion of England, while often feared by Henry and Cromwell in Season Three, never actually happens.

After almost a year into her marriage to Henry, Jane subtly implies her pregnancy by her craving quail eggs. Jane gives birth to a son, but the birth is long and painful. She contracts an illness and dies 12 days after Edward's birth, much to Henry's devastation. He isolates himself in his chambers, depressed and devastated.  When Henry recovers from his depression, he becomes determined to return (for the most part) to the Catholic doctrine he formerly devoted himself to, to the horror of Cromwell.  When Henry decides to re-marry, Cromwell steers him towards a marriage with Anne of Cleves in order to re-establish Protestant links with England, but this backfires on Cromwell when Henry is repulsed on actually meeting Anne; the marriage is a failure that ends after six months, while Henry is infatuated with his new 17-year-old mistress, Katherine Howard.  Fallen from royal favor, Cromwell is placed in the Tower where he desperately gives Henry grounds to annul his marriage to Anne and pleads for mercy, but Henry allows Cromwell's enemies to put him to death.

Season Four[]

While the rivalry between Protestants and Catholics burns hotter than ever, Henry appears to be weary of the conflict in Season Four; while he is still capable of enormous rage, he loses his temper less often and makes gestures of kindness more frequently.  During the first half of the Season, Henry tries to get back a taste of his youth and vitality through his marriage to 17-year-old Katherine Howard, but his increasingly infected leg means he is unable to keep up with her sex drive, with the result that she eventually begins an affair with his groom, Thomas Culpepper.

Despite Henry's outward good cheer, he begins to show some repentance for his many of his past actions of cruelty- and regret for those he has lost through it, especially his wives.  Watching his daughters Mary and Elizabeth grow up, he remembers and regrets the tragic ends of their mothers Catherine and Anne; watching his beloved son Edward prosper, he reminisces sadly about the loss of Jane; making a progress of the North, where he once dealt out horiffic repressions, he makes gestures of reconcilliation when the crowds come to cheer him.  Greeted by begging and sickly citizens outside his gate, Henry gives them his blessing and distributes alms among them personally.  While he still has some imprisoned nobles executed and shows anger towards his Privy Council, Henry also releases 50 prisoners from the Tower in 4.01 and pardons them.  Amazingly, Henry even goes as far as saying he mourns the execution of Cromwell, though this is mainly because Cromwell ran his government so efficiently.

Henry's progression towards a more humane personality, however, is sharply interrupted when Katherine's scandalous past is revealed, which convinces him to coldly annul their marriage despite her pleas; when further investigation reveals Katherine's adultery, Henry goes into his characteristic fury once more, having her and all those involved in her affairs executed.

Deciding he will no longer have further children (Katherine only had one false pregnancy despite all of Henry's 'attentions') Henry instead goes back to his warlike ways, seeking war first with Scotland and later with France.  His success against Scotland (mainly thanks to a new royal favorite of his, the Earl of Surrey) perhaps convinces him that France is the next target, and at long last he makes a new alliance with Emperor Charles. 

Henry also makes a powerful gesture of fatherly love to his daughters in Season Four, one that would have world-changing results historically: he restored Mary, and Elizabeth after her, to the line of Succession after their brother, should he die childless while King. Eventually, his interest is taken by Lady Catherine Parr, and when her husband dies in 4.05 he proposes marriage to her. Catherine proves a very stabilizing force in Henry's life; she does her duties as Queen Consort impeccably, looks after Henry during his bouts of illness, and becomes a loving stepmother to his children.

Having at last secured his family life, Henry then takes advantage of the renewed war between France and Spain/ the Holy Roman Empire, allying with Emperor Charles V in the hopes of pressing his claim to the throne of France. To the dismay of the Catholic faction at his court, Henry leaves the Protestant Catherine as Regent in his absence; he sails to France and quickly lays siege to the city of Boulogne, aided by Surrey and his longtime friend Charles Brandon. After a long and costly siege, the city finally falls, but the English are in no position to exploit their victory further and Emperor Charles has made peace with France, being busy against their allies the Turks.

Undeterred by his incomplete victory or the fact that he is virtually bankrupt, Henry returns to England celebrating his 'great triumph'- only to find London simmering with religious schism. Although Henry largely takes the side of the Catholics (as he does not intend to allow any further reforms) he is angered by the constant conflicts at his Court and publicly asks both factions to reconcile. While this plea for reconciliation gains Henry great favor in England, his increasingly poor health simply divides the Court even further over the succession. The Protestant side (headed by Edward and Thomas Seymour) favors Henry's son and legal heir, Prince Edward, while the Catholics (led by the vindictive Bishop Gardiner and supported by Council members Wriothesley and Richard Riche) hope that his eldest daughter Princess Mary may succeed him instead. Meanwhile, Henry's former favorite the Earl of Surrey- already unpopular with both factions for his arrogant, brutish behavior- is implicated in an unclear conspiracy to kidnap Prince Edward and sentenced to death.

The religious schism finally comes to a head when Gardiner brazenly attempts to charge Queen Catherine Parr with heresy; aware of his wife's Lutheranism but tolerant as long as she keeps it hidden, Henry furiously banishes Gardiner from court, leaving the Protestant faction dominant. He finally makes peace with France by ransoming back Boulogne, then instructs Edward Seymour to act as Lord Protector during his son's minority, as his own life is clearly drawing to a close.

Shortly after the death of his best friend Charles Brandon (which greatly upsets him) Henry has a vision of his first three wives (Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour) with their children; each of them reprimands him and gives him some hint of what will happen to his three heirs. At the end of the final episode, a dying Henry is shown Hans Holbein's portrait of him in his classic 'man of destiny' pose; Henry's final words of the series are "Master Holbein... it is well done."

The final credits show that Henry died on January 28, 1547. He was succeeded by his nine-year-old son Edward VI, who furthered the Protestant Reformation far more than his father had; however, Edward died only six years later of illness. Edward's Council (with approval from the dying King himself) removed Edward's half-sisters from the succession (contrary to Henry's will) in attempt to prevent the Catholic Princess Mary from succeeding him. However, Mary's popularity overcame this and she was crowned in 1553. Her repressive religious policies- which included the burning of many Protestant martyrs- earned her the epithet "Bloody Mary" and her marriage to the King of Spain quickly undid much of her support in England. When Mary died childless in 1558, she was succeeded by her half-sister Princess Elizabeth (historically called "the Virgin Queen"), who restored Protestantism and ruled for forty-four years in what is now known as the "Golden Age of England".

"In Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, the Tudor dynasty produced the two most famous monarchs in English history."

Henry (center) rallying his soldiers at the Siege of Boulogne. With him on horseback are Charles Brandon the Duke of Suffolk, Commander of the Royal Army (right) and Henry Howard the Earl of Surrey, Marshall of the Field (left)


Henry's personality is shown to change considerably over the series; yet, the most consistent trait, unfortunately, is that he is extremely quick to anger.  Even his beloved or most trusted ones are not safe when Henry's wrath is aroused, though he may later show regret after their inevitable demise; in Season Two the executions of his old friend and teacher Thomas More, and Henry's wife Anne Boleyn, demonstrated how far Henry's anger can go.  Only Henry's best friend, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, survives the entirety of Henry's reign and remains in favor at his death, and this is because he is careful not to become too closely involved in political/religious matters.  Henry's paranoia of plots or deceptions against him makes him increasingly unpredictable in Seasons Three and Four. At least part of Henry's poor performance as a ruler was due to his father (who was a much more capable King) having shut him away for many years prior to his older brother's death, leaving him untrained in the art of Kingship when he finally took the throne (something mentioned by Jane Seymour's ghost in the series finale).

Although he genuinely loved all his wives (with the possible exception of Anne of Cleves) Henry's love could be very conditional, as was proved by the downfalls of Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, and Katherine Howard.  Henry remained a phenomenal womanizer throughout his reign until his final years, even cheating on his most beloved queen, Jane Seymour; he would take and later discard various mistresses for short periods of time, although the only one he ever asked to become his maitresse en titre ('official mistress') was Anne Boleyn, who refused.  Henry was never shown to cheat on Catherine Parr, but by then his health had declined to the point that he was in no shape for sexual activity anyway.

Despite saying "I esteem the good of the commonwealth and the love of my subjects far above any riches" to Robert Aske in episode 3.03, Henry does not hesitate to use brutal violence against the people of England if provoked.  This was proved  by his most horiffic act of repression against his subjects, the destruction of the Northern Rebellion in Season Three known as "The Pilgrimage of Grace".  Initially seeming pacified by the rebels (despite having condemned their actions in a rage and ordered the arrest of all their leaders), Henry seemed mollified after talking with Aske (the main leader, who was more moderate than his followers) but, despite his promises, he never had any intention of meeting the rebels' demands other than issuing a general pardon once they dispersed.  Henry's deliberate inaction provoked a second, smaller uprising, which he and Cromwell capitalized on as an excuse to destroy the rebellion once and for all; even after all the leaders were executed, Henry ordered thousands of civilians in the North- men, women and children- hanged, even though the vast majority of the rebels had obediently laid down their airms.  This massacre, not long after the execution of Henry's own wife, Anne Boleyn, severely damaged his reputation at home and abroad.

Henry's health also affects his unpredictable personality as the series progresses.  During Season Two when he is knocked unconscious during a jousting match in episode 2.08, an old wound on Henry's leg re-opens and becomes infected; the wound would periodically give Henry ulcers and bouts of illness for the rest of his life, causing him excruciating pain and shortening his temper still further.  As a result of being unable to continue in his usual intense exercise (as he once did) due to his crippled leg, Henry increasingly gains weight from his continued extravegant diet (though he is far less obese in the series than he was in real life).

Despite his hair-trigger temper, self-indulgence and ruthless nature, Henry cares deeply for all his children (even though he disowns his two daughters at various points due to his quest to father a son) and ultimately refuses to harm any of them; his love for his children is perhaps his only consistant redeeming quality. When his daughter Mary falls ill in Season Two, despite having disinherited her as a legitimate offspring Henry immediately sends his personal physicians to care for her.  In Season one, when his bastard son Henry Fitzroy dies of the plague, Henry is shown weeping and staring at a miniature crown he had given the little boy a few months before, having bestowed him as a Duke.  Henry's passions never truly die; he shows overwhelming grief on the death of his third and most beloved Queen, Jane Seymour, and shows eventual regret over the deaths of his first and second Queens (Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn) despite both marriages having ended badly. In the series finale, Henry's humanity is most significantly shown; he is forced to face his past regret when confronted by the ghosts of Catherine, Anne and Jane, and thereafter bids a loving farewell to Catherine Parr and his children. Henry also goes into deep mourning when Charles Brandon dies of illness, as Charles had been his closest friend since childhood.

He occasionally shows acts of surprising and stirring generosity (though these are rare).  One of the most notable was in episode 4.03, when Henry-on his way to make a progress to the North- pauses at the gates of Whitehall Palace, where a small crowd of sickly poor citizens have gathered to ask for his blessing.  Despite his well-known, pathological fear of disease, Henry gently lays his hands on the heads of each of the people in turn and gives them his blessing, as well as a gold coin apiece.

For all the selfishness Henry displays in his relationships with his wives, there is a deeper reasoning behind his frantic quest to father a son. Prior to Henry's own daughters Mary and Elizabeth (who both ruled after him), the only precedent for a Queen Regnant in England was "Empress" Matilda during the Anarchy (an English Civil War in the 1100's) who attempted and failed to claim the Crown and rule on behalf of her son, King Henry II. Henry's own father, Henry VII, had begun his own reign by narrowly winning the final battle of the War of the Roses; clearly, the pressure to maintain the peace and order in England that his father had established was a great weight on Henry's shoulders. He thought the only way to stop potential rebellions or plots against his family by ambitious nobles such as the Dukes of Buckingham and Norfolk, was by producing a legitimate male heir whose rights to the throne could not be contested.

Despite his deeply flawed personality and impulsive nature, Henry is actually quite well-educated for his time; while he is rather oblivious to the rivalries and motivations behind them that plague his court and council, he keeps himself well-informed on matters of state and governance, and understands what he is talking about. While generally a religious and political conservative, Henry occasionally displays a hunger for knowledge and social change- a trait which he notably passed on to his daughter and eventual successor, Elizabeth (though her open-mindedness came more from her mother, Anne Boleyn). In some episodes of Season One, Henry displays an effort to make his name known in the sphere of arts and intellect, such as his handwritten pamphlet affirming the Pope's supremacy and his supposed composition of the famous song 'Greensleeves' (which is rumored to have been written by Henry VIII).

Henry enjoys sports of every kind as well as gambling, but he is a bit of a sore loser; he reacted badly on several occasions when three of his respective queen consorts (Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, and Catherine Parr) beat him at cards.

Henry at a jousting tournament, Season One

Economy/Military/Foreign Relations under Henry[]

While Henry was not an unintelligent man, his short temper, inflated ego and self-indulgence meant he largely delegated matters of State to his Privy council, though he was still very actively involved in his rule.  Henry's kingdom was, for the most part, financially stable under the first half of his reign thanks to the careful management of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, though Henry's expensive ship-building programs and above-mentioned self-indulgence created a certain amount of debt.   This debt was added to by Wolsey's secret embezzlement of certain funds into his own coffers (though many of these were for educational and charitable causes).  Although Wolsey was eventually disgraced and fell from power in "The Death of Wolsey", England's relative stability continued at first once the Reformation began in Season Two; Henry's new first minister, Thomas Cromwell (Wolsey's former subordinate and protege), proved just as effective- if not more so- at administration.

However, Cromwell's Dissolution of the Monasteries- which provided Henry with such wealth that he became financially independent from Parliament- proved, in the long term, to be a mistake.  It removed the main source of financial charity for the common folk and destabilized the economy, since Henry wasted much of the revenue going into his exchequer on weaponry and luxuries.  It also provoked a massive uprising in Season Three in the form of the Pilgrimage of Grace, though this was ultimately, and brutally, repressed. The Reformation itself drew hostility from the Papacy, and in turn from the major Catholic kingdoms of Europe (Spain and France), isolating England. 

Cromwell's attempt to correct this isolation by allying with the wealthy Protestant League in northern Germany ultimately failed, and resulted in his own execution.  Henry soon realized was left without an effective first minister and regretted Cromwell's execution, as his new Privy Council was far less effective.  His costly and ineffective war against France in the latter half of Season Four, as well as his military skirmishes with the Scots in the first half of the season,  bled the royal treasury dry; by the end of Henry's reign, England was severely in debt. 

Henry is, however, remembered for establishing a Royal Navy (the weapon on which English and later British power has been built for centuries) which proved vital to his foreign policy with more powerful countries such as Spain and France.  Development in naval capabilities under Henry's reign was manifest, and his fleet grew from a modest handful of ships to a moderately-sized but formidable force.  When observing the size and firepower of Henry's frigates in episode 1.03, the much more powerful Emperor Charles V of Spain remarks, impressed, "I have nothing like this."  He also keeps the Royal Army up-to-date in weaponry and equipment, though ultimately the bloody Siege of Boulogne weakens Henry's standing armed forces considerably.

His foreign policy was erratic and depended largely on his attitude and his first ministers- and his Queens, if they were influential enough.  In Season One, Henry swings back and fourth between France and Spain then finally allies with Spain against France (playing off the Emperor's relationship with his aunt and Henry's current wife, Catherine of Aragon).  However, not long after Emperor Charles rescinds some of his promises to Henry.  Offended, Henry yields to the advice of Wolsey and his mistress, Anne Boleyn, and switches sides to favor France (though they make peace with Spain at the end of Season One).  This Anglo-French alliance largely holds together until near the end of Season Two, by which time Wolsey is long dead, Anne (now Henry's wife) has fallen from favor and Thomas Cromwell, now the most powerful figure in Henry's government, is encouraging him to favor Spain again instead.  

Henry's brutal actions towards his Catholic subects, however, alienate him from both France and Spain in Season Three, and he is persuaded by Cromwell to form an alliance with Cleves and the Protestant League- solidified by his reluctant marriage to Anne of Cleves.  This alliance is never favored by Henry, and as soon as Spain and France begin attacking each other again he abandons it and annuls his marriage.  During Season Four, Henry at first ignores Spain and France and instead begins aggressive actions towards the Scots, successfully cowing them into submission.  He is finally persuaded to re-enter the Franco-Spanish conflict on the side of the Emperor, but the alliance once again fails due to Charles not holding to his obligations, and Henry reluctantly ransoms his war gains back to the French not long before his death, leaving England (shakily) at peace.

As a whole, Henry left England in a state of decline at the close of his reign, despite the huge impact of the Protestant Reformation.  Although his daughter Mary I made tentative actions to reform the economy and financial system during her short reign, her military failures in France (along with those of her brother against Scotland) decreased the country's prestige considerably.  England's stagnation would not be reversed until the reign of Elizabeth I- who paid off every debt her father had accumulated, improved the economy, and won glory for England's navy through her long sea warfare with Spain, while healing the rift in Anglo-French relations for much of her long reign.



Henry had distinctly different relationships with all six of his wives; most of them ended badly, either through not giving birth to a son, through disobedience or other factors, but his first three had much of a more significant impact than the latter three.

Catherine of Aragon []

Catherine of Aragon

Originally betrothed to Henry's brother Arthur by their father Henry VII in a betrothal alliance with Spain; when Arthur died shortly after and the marriage was apparently unconsummated, she was betrothed to Henry (now Prince of Wales) instead.  Catherine's marriage to Henry was extremely popular throughout England, as she was known for her good religious character, dignity and generosity to the people.  Despite being somewhat older than her new husband, Catherine fell deeply in love with him and remained devoted to him; she was also a devoted mother to Mary, their surviving daughter.  Henry initially returned Catherine's love, but when she suffered several miscarriages and stillbirths, Henry increasingly felt resentful for her inabilty to give him a surviving male heir; Catherine picked up on this and became increasingly self-loathing and sad for being unable to bear Henry a son, which further distanced him from her.  He increasingly took mistresses during her failed pregnancies and afterwards, and as she reached menopause he spent increasingly little time with her, despite her continued love for him.  Their only remaining connection was through their daughter.

By Season One, Henry's relationship with Catherine is quite deteriorated, though outwardly they present a happy appearance to the world.  Catherine is also resentful of the King's anti-Spanish minister Cardinal Wolsey.  Although she has learned to (reluctantly) accept Henry's infidelities, since he always discards his mistresses in the end, Catherine is grieved over her inability to give him a son and fears Henry may try to divorce her.  She initially takes no notice of Anne Boleyn (thinking she is simply Henry's next sexual conquest) but is shocked and devastated in episode 1.05 when her worst fear comes true: Henry asks her for a divorce.  Considering that Catherine was never anything but devoted to him (despite their increasing arguments) even Henry clearly felt guilty about annulling their marriage, as he was visibly choking back tears when he informed Catherine.  In spite of her pain, Catherine continued to act as Henry's dutiful wife (since the annulment was not yet granted) but she acted increasingly hostile towards Anne Boleyn, correctly recognizing that Henry's interest in her was different than his previous mistresses.  She also gained assistance from her nephew the Emperor, who used his influence in Rome to block the annulment process.  This created a further rift between Henry and Catherine.

Impatient to bring an end to his "Great Matter" Henry resorts to increasingly unorthodox and unscrupulous means to coerce Catherine into going along with the divorce, including attempting to guilt-trip her or persuade her to enter a nunnery; despite being unwilling to defy Henry, Catherine adamantly maintains she is his legitimate wife and would not damn herself by claiming otherwise.  Her blind devotion to Henry actually furthers the strain between the two, as she is seeking to repair a broken relationship despite the glaringly obvious fact that Henry is doing the opposite.  Henry still feels some guilt for what he is doing, but he becomes angry, fearful and resentful towards his wife for her popularity and her unwillingness to yield.

At the start of Season Two, despite the Papacy having postponed the case at the end of Season One, Henry's shift towards the Reformation leaves Catherine in a dangerous position; nonetheless, she continues to play the role of dutiful wife until Anne Boleyn browbeats Henry into exiling her from Court.  Henry forces Catherine to leave for the Castle Moor, where she remains in increasing poverty; Catherine sadly notes that Henry did not say goodbye.  Though she remains devoted to Henry and refuses to yield (despite threats towards her and her daughter Mary) Catherine never sees Henry again and privately seems resigned to her defeat; though the Papacy have decided in her favor, Henry has already initiated the Reformation in England, breaking with Rome and acknowledging Anne Boleyn as his Queen.  Now referred to as the Dowager Princess of Wales, Catherine's health begins to fail; Henry does not read her letters until her death in episode 2.07, when he receives her will.  Perhaps touched by her loyalty, and the strong love they had many years ago, Henry weeps over the document.  In episodes 3.05 and 4.10 he also shows some remorse for his mistreatment of Catherine, though he tells her ghost to "go away".

The type of love Henry loved Catherine with was "true love". He truly loved her initially, but when he saw her failure to have a boy, he became impatient, possibly even scared. Catherine had actually, in real life, had a boy. He survived a few days, then died. Henry became desperate, and Catherine was six years older than him. Anne Boleyn however, was the opposite of Catherine, young, lively, intelligent. She became what he desired. So Henry wanted to pursue her, and Catherine refused to back down. He loved her, but they were just different.

Anne Boleyn[]


Henry and Anne's relationship is arguably the most complex of the six, full of both passionate romance and intense resentment and even hatred on Henry's part.  Anne initially had no interest in the King, but was being used as a political pawn by her ambitious father.  The King, on encountering her during a masquerade, developed an interest in her as a potential next mistress, spurring Boleyn to send Anne to court as Catherine's lady-in-waiting; however, though deliberately 'putting herself in his path' as she was told, Anne pointedly refused to succomb to Henry's advances, unwilling to be used for sex and then thrown aside as her sister Mary had been.

Rather than losing interest, Henry became more intrigued, appreciating Anne's boldness and intelligence as much as her exotic appearance.  When, in episode 1.05, she outright refused to be his official mistress, saying she would only give in to her husband, Henry became upset; Anne, realizing the strength of Henry's passion for her, began to fall in love with him in turn.  Anne's promise to bear him a son if he would hold off sex until they could marry made the option of divorcing Catherine very attractive to Henry.  Throughout the rest of Season One, his affections for Anne are passionate and unwavering despite the two arguing occasionally; he does not pursue any other women once Anne promises she will be his.  In contrast to his indifference towards Catherine's illness in Season Two, Henry becomes genuinely afraid for Anne when she nearly dies of the sweating sickness in episode 1.07.  He also showers favor on her father, uncle and brother, and allows her considerable influence in political affairs, despite her not having a position of any kind in his government.  Both become frustrated, however,by delays to Henry's attempts for the annulment of his marriage, and twice before the "Great Matter" can be decided by the Papacy, Anne and Henry succomb to their sexual desire for each other.  Anne eventually reveals her secret support of Protestantism; when she indicates the advantages it will afford Henry in gaining control over the Church and nullifying his marriage, this combined with his desire to make Anne Queen compells the once-Catholic Henry to initiate the Reformation in Season Two- one of the most vital themes of the Series.  Henry becomes somewhat irritated by Anne's insistance that he remove Catherine and his daughter Mary from court, but he gives in to her.

Anne becomes pregnant from their second sexual encounter, and Henry marries her in secret just before his marriage to Catherine is nullified by his new, pro-Lutheran clergy; she is swiftly crowned Queen of England to legitimize their chid as an heir, though the lack of attendees at the coronation attests to her lack of popularity.  At first, Anne and Henry's marriage seems just as passionate as before, but Henry's sexual appetite is soon cut off when she becomes too pregnant to make love; when she gives birth to a girl (Elizabeth) instead of a boy (which she promised Henry) in episode 2.03, both she and Henry are upset and dissapointed, though both insist they will still have sons later and both love their daughter.  While Anne is still recovering from childbirth, Henry (following a pattern similar to when he was with a pregnant Catherine) takes one of Anne's ladies as his mistress, breaking his promise to her to have eyes for no-one else.  Unlike Catherine, who was hurt by Henry's infidelity but tried to ignore it, Anne is unwilling to tolerate this, and she has her brother banish the woman in question.  When she becomes pregnant again, she attempts to control Henry by procuring a mistress among her ladies that she can control, but she is still uncomfortable with anyone else having Henry; after her unborn child dies in miscarriage, she sees Henry less frequently and is less able to supervise his sexual activity.  

Henry is increasingly put off by Anne's more negative traits after her miscarriage, since (like him) she has a short temper and is extremely jealous, unwilling to endure his mistresses as Catherine always did; he also begins to resent her for her unpopularity and her outspoken nature, since he expected her to play a more submissive, ceremonial role once she was Queen.  Scared for her marriage, her family and her daughter's legitimacy, Anne finally begins to back down, though she continues to defame Catherine and Henry's daughter Mary.  Henry seems to reconcile with her somewhat during 2.07 (partly because she is pregnant for a third time) but he is also developing an unusual interest in Lady Jane Seymour, to Anne's irritation and the alarm of her family.  Following Henry's recovery from an injury that knocked him out for two hours (during which Anne was praying for him the entire time), Anne walks in on him kissing Jane and is full of shock, grief and rage.  Not long afterwards, she suffers a miscarriage of a male child, to Henry's fury; each blames the other for their miscarriage.  Anne remains Henry's Queen during her recovery, but her relationship with Henry has been destroyed permanently by her failed pregnancy- which, had her son lived, would have saved it permanently.  She attempts once to appeal to him through their mutual love for Elizabeth (since Anne still loves him) but Henry refuses to listen to her, his mind consumed with anger over the death of his unborn son; he insists to his minister, Thomas Cromwell, that he was 'bewitched' into marrying Anne and insists he will take a new wife.  When Cromwell, knowing Henry wants to marry Jane in Anne's place, hatches a plot to implicate Anne in false accusations of adultery, Henry is quick to believe them and has her sentenced to death; his initial furious reaction at her 'crimes' is so strong that he has the marriage nullified and disowns his and Anne's now-bastardized daughter, Elizabeth.

In spite of this, Anne remained as loyal and loving towards Henry at her death as Catherine had been, and Henry surely realized, at the back of his mind, that she was actually innocent; this explains his brief show of remorse for Anne in episodes 3.05 and 4.10.  Although he almost never discusses her again, Henry continues to remember his relationship with Anne with conflicted feelings, which influence his awkward relationship with their daughter Elizabeth.

Then this brings us to the million dollar question: What if she had been the one to have the son? Though it is possible that Henry would have tired of her eventually, she would have had more to plead with and longer to live. Perhaps even to gain lands enough to live on! Anne Boleyn can be noted as one of Henry's favorite wives out of two categories of love: lust and true love.

Jane Seymour[]


Although Jane may seem to be Henry's most favorite wife, what if she hadn't born him his precious son Edward? Or what if Catherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn had been the one to have the son. Then there probably wouldn't be anymore Queen Consorts. Jane was lower in both rank and education than his two former wives (actually all except maybe Katherine Howard). Her demure nature and dumb mind made her pleasing to Henry; it gave him a rest after the lively and shrewd Anne Boleyn.

Anne of Cleves[]

821502 1314951870794 full.jpg

Henry's relationship with Anne of Cleves is the only one, among his wives, in which neither Henry nor Anne ever had any degree of romantic attraction for one another. Henry had never favored the prospect of the arranged marriage to begin with, and he only approved it after running out of options and constant prodding from Thomas Cromwell, his first minister who favored association with Protestant Cleves. She was the second of his wives to be born outside England, and to be married for the sake of an alliance.

Anne was frightened of the King due to his reputation and the fate of her predecessors, and when the two actually met, they were both very ill at ease; Henry (for some unknown reason) found her unattractive, while Anne was repulsed by his infected, crippled leg. Anne's reign as Queen lasted only six months, and went unconsummated. While neither was unkind to the other, both clearly found the marriage an ordeal; Anne's only benefit from it was her friendship with Henry's children. Henry's eye quickly turned elsewhere when several of his Council members presented Katherine Howard to him, and when he offered Anne terms for an annulment, despite being hurt by this final rejection she hastily accepted them, probably fearing for her life. Fortunately for Anne, she received a generous settlement from Henry; the one who truly suffered from the annulment was Cromwell, who was beheaded shortly afterwards by his enemies in the Council, having lost Henry's favor.

Weirdly enough, Henry later became good friends with Anne; he encouraged her friendships with his daughters, and corresponded with or visited her occasionally. This increase in her favor after the marriage ended could most likely be chalked up to the fact Anne did not resist the dissolving of the marriage, as her predecessors Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn had. In the series, he apparently slept with her on one occasion (apparently finding her more attractive than during their marriage) and praises her many good qualities. However, despite their brief sexual encounter, the two were really nothing more than friends.

Katherine Howard[]

Tamzin merchant the tudors.jpg

Henry made Katherine Howard- briefly his mistress- his Queen in order to reclaim his lost youth, as she was hardly his equal; he saw in this sex-driven, dimwitted 17-year old something that would be perceived as forbidden to a king of his age and career.  The relationship was passionate at first, but there was always an underlying of superficiality to it.  Henry overlooked her obviously childish nature and showered her with gifts, which the attention-seeking Katherine saw as a necessity in their relationship; she had no real connection with the King, who-after their initial whirlwind of sexual encounters- increasingly became tired and arrested by his crippled leg, leaving Katherine frustrated.  Manipulated by her handmaidens Joan Bulmer and Jane Rochford, she began an affair with the King's sociopathic groom, Thomas Culpepper, which put her in an increasingly uncomfortable position whenever the King wanted to lie with her again. Unsurprisingly, this quickly unraveled when her former lover Francis Dereham arrived at court; her past dishonesty with the King about her sexual history and her adultery were discovered, and she was beheaded along with Dereham, Rochford and Culpepper.

The love Henry had for his "Rose without a thorn" was sexual. She made him feel young again, and that was what he wanted to be - young and have a son. While Henry had accomplished his goal of siring the long-awaited Crown Prince, he was always focused on as many children as possible. However, had Katherine succeeded in bearing children, her attitude as a generally poor wife would have arguably translated into being a lousy mother.

Catherine Parr[]

Henry's relationship with his final wife, Catherine Parr, is shown only briefly in the final five episodes (though in real life their marriage was slightly longer than Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn).


The relationship was mostly one-sided, although Catherine feigned love for the King very convincingly; having seen him divorce two wives and execute two more, she rightly feared him by reputation. Henry originally became interested in Catherine while she was married (though her husband was clearly dying) and she was infatuated with another man at the time. However, after inviting her into his court several times Henry began to see her as a good candidate for marriage, since she had many traits he admired/approved- intelligence and intuition, yet deference, kindness and compassion as well. Although Catherine never truly loved Henry during their marriage, she performed her role as Queen Consort perfectly, always caring for Henry during his illness and becoming a genuinely loving stepmother to his three children.

Henry, for his part, was always warmly affectionate towards Catherine, and because she never challenged him as Anne Boleyn or Catherine of Aragon did, he never became significantly angry with her. His attitude towards her might have been less approving, had he learned exactly how fervently she supported the Protestant Reformation; Henry disapproved of ambitious, intelligent women and of religious reform (despite having broken his own church from Rome). Catherine might not have wanted to be Queen, but she was certainly an avid promoter of Lutheranism, and Henry is eventually able to guess this. However, she had learned from the martyrdom of her equally-Protestant predecessor, Anne Boleyn, not to be outspoken about such matters around the King, and because she showed him the appropriate deference, Henry never felt the need to expose her for it, and in fact didn't want to because of his love for her; when Bishop Gardiner claimed he had proof of Catherine's heresy, Henry replied that even if it were true he would pardon her. When Chancellor Wriothesley later tried to arrest Catherine on the heresy charge, Henry furiously insulted him and banished Gardiner from court. When Henry bade his family farewell shortly before his death, his final gift to Catherine was permission to re-marry whomever she chose after his death; Catherine wept with Princess Mary as Henry left, having clearly grown to care for him if not actually love him.


Henry's relationships with his children are complex, but he genuinely loves all them and is nearly always concerned with their well-being and futures (though there are notable exceptions with his daughters during Seasons Two and Three).

Mary Tudor[]


Henry's oldest legitimate child, born before the Series by his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Mary is the only one of his surviving children who grew up with both of her parents; as a result, she has both her mother's devout Catholicism and her father's iron will. While a small child, Henry does seem to have genuine love for her. As a young woman she is banished from Court and made to be a nursemaid to her half-sister Elizabeth. Through a chance meeting of checking on his daughter Elizabeth, Henry sees Mary at looking at him from a veranda and bows to her, of which kings are often the ones to return bows to others, not give them. This shows that either Henry has some gentlemanly qualities, showing deference to women regardless of their age or rank, or more likely, that he respects Mary as a father to his daughter. In the third season, Mary's situation becomes precarious, as she has lost an ally in her cousin, the King of Spain (who is valuing relations with England over Catholicism), and her closest friend, Eustace Chapuys, warns of what happened to fellow Catholics John Fisher and Thomas More. Henry, expecting a scathing letter from Mary, is shocked to see it actually contains the Supremacy Oath with her signature on it, to his great pleasure. Henry's relations with Mary warm significantly after this, with him reinstating her at Court.

Henry FitzRoy[]

A bastard son born to Henry in episode 1.02 by one of his mistresses, Elizabeth Blount.  Henry is delighted by his son's birth despite him being illegitmate.  It proves he is capable of siring male children (he viewed the alternative as a slight on his manhood) and allows him to conveniently blame Catherine of Aragon

Bessie Blount

for his lack of male issue.  Henry orders massive celebrations in London after visiting his newborn son; he bestows FitzRoy with a very wealthy Dukedom in episode 1.05, to the anger of Queen Catherine.  However, at the end of the episode, Henry is devastated to learn that FitzRoy (by now a little boy) died of the sweating sickness.  He sobs quietly in Whitehall, looking down at the miniature crown and dirk he gave to FitzRoy while ennobling him.

Elizabeth Tudor[]

Henry's daughter born in episode 2.03 to his second wife, Anne Boleyn.  Initially usurping her older half-sister Mary as heir to the throne, Elizabeth is showered with as much love, affection and gifts by her parents as Mary originally was- until Anne is accused of adultery and executed, with the nullification of her marriage to Henry making Elizabeth illegitimate.  Despite her being an innocent child barely three years old, Elizabeth is put in real danger; her governess Lady Bryan removes her from her estate to protect her from her father's anger, which continues to flare up even after Anne's beheading.  Henry refuses to recognize Elizabeth as his daughter for some time and will not provide for her needs, claiming she is the child of one of Anne's 'lovers' despite the fact that Elizabeth resembled him more than all his other children and Anne was actually innocent.  However, when Henry actually sees the young Elizabeth face-to-face in 3.03 (thanks to her stepmother and sister, who took pity on her and brought her to court) he becomes startled.  He almost immediately relents and affectionately reunites with her; like Mary, he does not restore her to the line of Succession, but he does resume treating her as his daughter and providing for her. Ultimately, Elizabeth is eventually restored to the Succession (after her brother and older sister) in 4.06.  

Henry after reconciling with Elizabeth

Nonetheless, after her brother Edward is born Elizabeth is somewhat sidelined by her brother the Crown Prince and her older, more experienced sister; she spends more time with her later stepmothers, Anne of Cleves and Catherine Parr.  Henry seems glad that she has relationships with them since, despite having nothing but favor for Elizabeth, he avoids her the most of his three children.  He encourages her intellectual pursuits and dancing lessons, shows her affection and always praises her triumphs,  but he always seems to regard her somewhat uneasily; when talking with a vision of Elizabeth's mother Anne in the finale, Henry explains that he keeps Elizabeth at a distance because she reminds him a great deal of Anne, especially in personality.  However, Henry admits to Anne's ghost that he has always been very proud of Elizabeth and that he wishes he could love her more.  Unknown to Henry, Elizabeth would prove a more ideal ruler than the son he constantly sought for, and in fact a much better ruler than Henry himself- she was the true success story of the Tudor dynasty, even if she was also the end of it.

Edward Tudor[]

Edward taken ill

Henry's long-sought and only legitimate son, born in Season Three to his third wife Jane Seymour.  Unlike Edward's older half-sisters, his father's love for him never wavers.  Henry dotes on his son and obsessively protects his health, becoming frantic in episode 4.04 when Edward becomes ill.  The little boy seems uncertain of what to make of his father, but plays happily with him and loves his sisters and stepmother.  Henry apparently sees much of Edward's mother Jane (Henry's most-beloved Queen) in his appearance, further increasing his affection for his son and heir.


Charles Brandon[]

Charles Brandon is Henry's oldest friend. The king made him Duke of Suffolk in Wolsey, Wolsey, Wolsey!. He was once his brother in law when Charles married his sister in Season one episode five. Henry had a love and hate relationship with Charles throughout the series. Henry respects Charles and listens to what he says even though Charles can sometimes cross a bit of a line with Henry. By the end of the series, Charles is Henry's oldest and closest friend because many of their other friends have died or have left. Charles and Henry eventually bond over their losses. When Charles dies Henry is in complete mourning in a much larger scale than he has ever done for anyone. lord president of council.

Anthony Knivert[]

Anthony Knivert was one of Henry's childhood friends, most likely a former servant; he is frequently at Henry's side during Season One. Unlike many of Henry's courtiers, Anthony is humble-natured, and has no ambition beyond gaining recognition for his jousting skills. He earns the contempt of many of the nobles in Henry's court for his low birth (which is emphasized by his accent) but Henry continues to treat him with affection. Anthony accidentally injures Henry in a jousting tournament when Henry forgets to close his visor, but the king forgives him and challenges him to a rematch, in which Anthony is severely injured; however, he recovers, and Henry gives him a knighthood. Anthony disappears after Season One, for unexplained reasons.

William Compton[]

Knighted by Henry 1.4. Died episode 1.7 of sweating sickness. The king seemed saddened by the news of his friend's death, saying that he would miss his company.

Sir Thomas More[]

Thomas More is one of Henry's former teachers, and one of the few people completely unafraid of him. Thomas guides young Henry as he is new to being king and the trials of everything. Henry trusts Thomas, but when it comes to Thomas' views, they differ from Henry. Henry attempts to bend Thomas into Henry's liking, but Thomas stays faithful to God, which eventually is Thomas' downfall.

First Ministers[]

During the series, Henry relies on a circle of government administrators and advisers within his Privy Council to run the kingdom for him; however, he would tend to delegate his authority to one particular member of the council whose advice he favored far above the others. This person is often referred to (historically and by characters in the series) as the King's "First Minister". Originally, this role is indisputably held by Cardinal Wolsey, who falls from favor at the end of Season One. Thomas More briefly appears to take his place, but early in Season Two the position has clearly been assumed by Thomas Cromwell, who holds it until his own downfall at the end of Season Three. During Season Four, with Henry's counselors divided based on their religious allegiance (and Henry himself indifferent to their rivalry) there is no clearly indicated "First Minister", although Thomas Wriothesley comes close to assuming the role before ceding dominance in the council to Edward Seymour shortly before Henry's death.

Cardinal Wolsey[]

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey is Henry's First Minister prior to and during Season One. 

Henry with his original chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey, in Season One

Thomas Cromwell[]

Thomas Cromwell is Henry's First Minister during Seasons Two and Three, having risen in Henry's Privy Council during Season One.

Henry and Thomas Cromwell


  • (To Thomas More) "I've recieved a book by Niccolo Machiavelli, called The Prince...  It's not like your book, Utopia- it's less... Utopian. (chuckles) Nonetheless, in it he asks an important question: is it better for a King to be feared... or loved? (pause) Buckingham is going to try and kill me."

Quotes about Henry[]

  • "He wants more power. He enjoys this power, and it's almost psychotic."- Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, on playing Henry in The Tudors.