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Henry VIII

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Henry VIII

Henry VIIIHenry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, had been married to his brother, Arthur, for only four months when Arthur died. Henry had fallen in love with Catherine but it was many months before the Pope gave his permission to allow Henry to marry his brother's widow. When Henry's father died in 1509, the seventeen year old became king and he lost little time in marrying Catherine. The people were delighted as they thought highly of this handsome, athletic and artistic king and his adoring wife. Nineteen months later, Catherine gave birth to a son, Henry, Prince of Wales, but the baby died when he was only two months old.

In the following years, Catherine suffered numerous pregnancies and still-births and managed to produce just one healthy child - a girl, the future Queen Mary.

By the 1520s, Henry had ceased to be a loving husband. He had already fathered an illegitimate son and felt that his marriage had not produced a son because he had sinned against God by marrying his brother's wife. By 1527 his mind was made up. He had met and fallen in love with Anne Boleyn, his wife's lady-in-waiting. He tried on numerous occasions to force the Church to allow him to marry Anne but they would not give in to him. When Anne became pregnant, Henry secretly married her in London in January 1533. On the 23rd May 1533, the tribunal taking place at Dunstable Priory, ruled that Henry's marriage to Catherine, who was now being held in captivity in Ampthill, should be annulled and Anne was crowned a very unpopular Queen, a week later.

And so began the separation of church and state. Henry took over total control of the English church, robbing the clergy of its wealth and power and switching the revenues and power of the Pope to the King.

Catherine died in 1536. Anne Boleyn failed to produce an heir to the throne after giving birth to a daughter, the future Elizabeth I. She was beheaded for treason in May 1536 and by the end of the month Henry was betrothed to Jane Seymour.

Henry and members of his family were frequent visitors to Dunstable, where they broke their journey when making hunting trips to Ampthill or Grafton in Northants. Before the Dissolution of the Monasteries, they would have been guests of the Priory.

Henry brought at least three of his wives to the town, Anne Boleyn came to Dunstable in 1532. Then in 1540, Henry and Catherine Howard visited the town during a honeymoon hunting trip. In 1543, Dunstable was included in the honeymoon made by Henry and Catherine Parr, accompanied by Princess Mary.


Henry VIII, by Bedfordshire Libraries, 2006.

Page last updated: 28th January 2014