Besides his six marriages, Henry VIII is known for his role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. Henry's struggles with Rome led to the separation of the Church of England from papal authority, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and establishing himself as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. He did this and suppressed the monasteries, while however remaining a believer in core Catholic theological teachings, even after his excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church. Henry oversaw the legal union of England and Wales with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535â€“1542.
Henry was an attractive and charismatic man in his prime, educated and accomplished. He was an author and a composer. He ruled with absolute power. His desire to provide England with a male heirâ€”which stemmed partly from personal vanity and partly because he believed a daughter would be unable to consolidate the Tudor Dynasty and the fragile peace that existed following the Wars of the Rosesâ€”led to the two things that Henry is remembered for today: his wives, and the English Reformation that made England a mostly Protestant nation. In later life he became morbidly obese and his health suffered; his public image is frequently depicted as one of a lustful, egotistical, harsh and insecure king.
Born at Greenwich Palace, Henry VIII was the third child of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Of the young Henry's six siblings, only three â€” Arthur, Prince of Wales; Margaret; and Mary â€” survived infancy. In 1493, at the age of two, Henry was appointed Constable of Dover Castle and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. In 1494, he was created Duke of York. He was subsequently appointed Earl Marshal of England and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Henry was given a first-rate education from leading tutors, becoming fluent in Latin, French, and Spanish. As it was expected that the throne would pass to Prince Arthur, Henry's older brother, Henry was prepared for a life in the church. Elizabeth of York, his mother, died when Henry was aged 11.
Financially, the reign of Henry was a near-disaster. Although he inherited a prosperous economy (augmented by seizures of church lands), Henry's heavy spending and high taxes damaged the economy. For example, Henry expanded the Royal Navy from 5 to 53 ships. He loved palaces; he began with a dozen and died with fifty-five, in which he hung 2,000 tapestries. By comparison, his neighbour and nephew James V of Scotland had five palaces and 200 tapestries. He took pride in showing off his collection of weapons, which included exotic archery equipment, 2,250 pieces of land ordinance and 6,500 handguns.