The success of Henry’s reign is mixed. Economically, England flourished, partially at the expense of countless monasteries and religious houses. But Henry was also a patron of the arts and humanist learning, and was a driving force behind an enthusiastic building campaign.
He also fortified England, building an impressive navy that would impact the reigns of Mary I and Elizabeth I. But it is perhaps his break with papal authority and his six marriages for which he is best known.
The break with Rome arguably gave England a sense of national identity, and Henry’s numerous wives and matrimonial dramas have captured our imaginations.
Lauren Mackay is the author of Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and his Six Wives through the Life and Writings of the Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys (Amberley Publishing).