He was not the natural successor, his elder brother Arthur having died just a few weeks into his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Despite going on to marry the widowed Catherine, Henry soon grew tired of her and desired to marry a new bride, Anne Boleyn.
His subsequent battles with the pope led to his separation of the Church of England from papal authority, with himself, as king, as the supreme head of the Church of England and to the Dissolution of the Monasteries. However, Anne’s inability to provide the king with a male heir meant her time as queen was short, and Henry had her executed in 1536. His next marriage – to Jane Seymour – brought Henry a longed for son, but ended in tragedy with Jane’s premature death. At Thomas Cromwell’s suggestion, Henry married Anne of Cleves, but her physical appearance repulsed Henry so much that the marriage went unconsummated. Henry’s next bride, Catherine Howard, also ended her life in tragedy, after her affair with courtier Thomas Culpeper.
By the end of Henry’s life and his marriage to Catherine Parr, he was physically immobile and grew increasingly obese until his death at the age of 55. His son and successor Edward VI lived only six years into his kingship, whereupon the crown passed to Henry’s daughter Elizabeth. Henry VIII’s reputation as a Renaissance man, his remarkable relationships with women, and his political and religious reform make him of one of the most engaging and real kings of England.