Despite King Henry VIII’s five alliances and desperate attempts to have children, he was blessed with only three children.
King Henry VIII had a passion that led him to commit atrocity: he had to give birth to a child as heir to his crown. It is said that one of the many health concerns of the fearful ruler was the complete destruction of the entire dream.
Henry VIII was born in the summer of 1491 to his father, King Henry VII, and his mother, Queen Elizabeth.
At that time, it was customary to make horoscopes for newborn royalty to predict the future. Little Heinrich’s horoscope was not particularly attractive, as it predicted a life plagued by diseases for the prince.
And this is what the prince ultimately got.
Henry’s title changed from prince to king when he was a teenager, and the entire series of events was the sum of unfortunate coincidences. The prince was not born first in the line of succession to the crown, but the scepter was to pass to his elder brother, Prince Arthur.
The situation first changed in 1502, when Arthur died of illness. It was probably tuberculosis. Six years passed and the same disease struck Henry’s father, King Henry VII.
Henry VIII was born in 1491. Photo: Giuseppe Schiavinotto / Mondadori Portfolio / Zuma / MVPhoto
Thus Henry inherited his father’s title of king when he was only 17 years old.
It is said that the young king was well liked. Described as smart and athletic, the ruler could speak Spanish, Latin, and French and play several different instruments. With the help of his language skills and family connections, he maintained relations with other countries, including France and Spain.
Modesty was evident in Henry’s way of ruling, as he is described as merciful even towards his enemies. Among other things, he released prisoners previously held by his own family during his reign.
The illness predicted by the horoscope began in 1514.
Henry fell ill with smallpox, which spread like wildfire in England. The next tragedy came just over a year later, when Heinrich fell ill with malaria. Like a miracle the king survived again.
It did not go well on the marriage front also. The king married his brother’s widow, Catarina Aragonés, in 1509 with special permission. Henry desperately wanted an heir to his crown, but the two could not. The king’s explicit criterion did not make matters easier: no teenager would become ruler, but the heir must certainly be a son.
The king’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was the widow of Henry’s brother. Photo: PHOTO12/ZUMA/MVPhotos
Katrina had one miscarriage after another. However, in the end, the couple got lucky when they finally had their first child after seven years of marriage. However, to Heinrich’s disappointment, the first child was a girl, Princess Maria.
Outside his marriage, Henry reportedly flirted with several women working at the court, including Boleyn’s aristocratic sisters Anna and Mary. Heinrich liked Anna so much that he wanted to change his wife for her.
The most likely reason for the enthusiasm for the new marriage was poor success in the task of succession to the crown. When trying to get a divorce, Heinrich tried to argue that since the marriage with Katharina was concluded with one exception, it was not actually legally binding. Furthermore, according to them, abortion was a sign that God did not approve of the union. However, this explanation was not accepted by the Pope, who leads the Church.
Henry also had affairs outside his marriage, including an affair with Anna Boleyn. Photo: PHOTO12/ZUMA/MVPhotos
At the same time, Heinrich was plagued with accidents and health concerns. He had died several times, for example after receiving bad injuries all over his body during tournament events and after having mud dripped on his face during a hunting trip. With the near miss, the king realizes there is no more time to waste.
Heinrich took up business and in 1533 managed to get his marriage to Katharina annulled with various tactics. However, at the same time, the King burned many bridges: separation succeeded only by completely separating the Church of England from the Catholic Church. To get his way, he appointed himself head of the Church of England.
Yet that same year, Anna Boleyn was crowned Queen of England as the king’s wife. However, the new marriage did not bring Heinrich happiness. The same problems continued with Anna: the queen suffered a miscarriage, suspected to be at least partly caused by the stress caused by the king’s succession of accidents.
However, one of the pregnancies proceeded to delivery. However, the problem remained: this child was also a girl, Princess Elizabeth.
And this was the end of King Henry’s burning love for his wife.
Jane Seymour gave birth to a son for Henry. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The king was so relieved that he decided to get rid of Anna also. This time, his methods were significantly more radical than the previous divorce case.
Unexpectedly, there were rumors at court that Anna had cheated on her husband with several men. The immense gossip was very likely Queen Anne’s fate. In 1536, after only a few years of marriage, King Heinrich killed his wife.
Heinrich married for the third time the following year, to aristocratic lady Jane Seymour, and it did not take long for Heinrich’s big dream to finally come true. Jane bore him a son, Edward VI. Even at the cost when the wife herself died of complications just weeks after giving birth to the child.
One can imagine that now the king will finally find peace. But it turned out differently.
The initially gentle and patient king had turned into a ruthless dictator due to accidents and the stress of succession, which had long broken him. Especially the Reformation movement angered the people of England and created rebellion among the citizens.
The king had no sympathy for the opponents, rather he demanded that all those taking part in the rebellion and even those living in the rebellion areas be executed.
A specific reason has been suspected for the king’s changed behavior and unsuccessful attempts to have children. It was rumored that the king was suffering from syphilis.
The reasons for the suspicion relate to the numerous miscarriages and childlessness experienced by the king’s wives with this name, which continued after Edward’s birth. King married twice more, to Katrina Howard and Katrina Parr, and neither union produced any children.
After inheriting the throne, the King married twice more, the second time to Katrina Parr. Photo: PHOTO12/ZUMA/MVPhotos
According to speculation, the king himself became infected with syphilis from one of his many sexual partners and he also infected each of his wives with the disease.
According to the Health Library, syphilis increases a woman’s risk of miscarriage by as much as 40 percent.
King Henry’s syphilis is never confirmed in any contemporary source relating to him. However, for this period, a king suffering from leprosy would not be an excluded option at all. At the end of the 15th century, this disease started spreading like an epidemic in England.
Amidst rebellions, illnesses, and accidents, King Henry eventually died due to being overweight. One of the king’s legs was badly damaged in a riding accident, and the once very athletic king was no longer able to walk as before.
Heinrich died in 1547 at the age of 55 as a result of various health problems arising from obesity. It is said that when the king died he weighed around 200 kg.
Sources: HistoriaNet website, Britannica website, Britanhof official website, History Cooperative website, US National Library of Medicine, On the Tudor Trail website, Journal of Military and Veterans Health website.