Monarchy with David Starkey (2004–2007): Season 2, Episode 2 - Henry VIII: King and Emperor - full transcript

In his unquenchable thirst for celebrity and tortuous quest for a male heir, Henry VIII takes the English monarchy to new heights, asserting power over the souls of his subjects as well as their bodies.

The Crown lmperial
was commissioned by Henry Vll

to celebrate the arrival
ofthe newTudor dynasty.

But by the last years of his reign,

Henry had debased both crown
and monarchywith his avarice

and, many thought, his tyranny.


On 24 June 1509,

Henry Vll!s son, Henry Vlll,

was crowned in front of
the High Altar ofWestminster Abbey.

His personality -
sunny and romantic -

was the opposite of his father!s,

and it promised a fresh start.

Though no-one could have guessed
how radical, even revolutionary,

it would prove to be.

Above all, he was no miser.

Shortly after his accession,
a contemporarywrote,

ffOur new king doesn!t want gold
and silver like his miserly old father.

Fflnstead, he aims and thirsts
for nobler goals -

ffvirtue, glory, immortality.!!

He was right.

And Henry!s reign
turned into a quest for fame

as obsessive
as any modern celebrity!s.

It took many different forms.

And it led Henry into territory

where no English king
had dared venture before.

And above all, it threatened
to upset the traditional balance

between freedom and authority

and to turn English kingship
into an untrammelled despotism

that claimed power over men!s souls
as well as their bodies. is deprecated, please
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At the time of Henry!s birth in 1491 ,

the Tudors were a new,
not very secure dynasty.

His father had failed to reconcile
the defeated Yorkist nobility,

was about to embark
on an unsuccessful war in France

and would steadily reduce
the role ofthe Crown

to that of a greedy landlord.

This dubious inheritance, however,
was not destined for Henry

but for his elder brother, Arthur,

Prince ofWales
and heir to the throne.

Henry, as the second son,
wasn!t expected to be king,

and as a result,

he received a rather modern,
unkingly kind of upbringing.

Instead of having
the rigorous demands of kingship

knocked into him
by male tutors and role models,

he was brought up here
at Eltham Palace

by his mother and with his sisters,

who idolised him.

And this early experience ofwomen!s love
made Henry a romantic

and paved the way

to the great passions and crimes
of his adult life.

Henry!s mother also made sure
that his education was ofthe best.

And a succession
of distinguished tutors

gave him a thorough grounding
in the latest Latin scholarship.

Even the super-learned Erasmus
was impressed.

And when he met Henry,
aged only eight,

in this very Great Hall,

he was bowled over by the boy!s
confidence, precocious learning

and star quality.

But when he was only 11 ,

Henry!s life was struck
by family tragedy.

His brother, Arthur,
died suddenly of a fever,

followed soon after
by his beloved mother.

Henrywas nowthe sole heir
to the Tudor dynasty.

For the boy, his new status
was a double-edged sword.

He might be the Prince ofWales,

but the carefree life that he!d known
was gone forever.

There wasn!t much love lost either

between Prince Henry
and his father, King Henry Vll.

Henrywas growing up fast

and he was already taller and broader
than his father.

But the King, aware that the whole future
ofthe Tudor dynasty

depended on the life
of his only surviving son,

was fiercely protective.

The conflict came over participation
in e*reme sports.

Henrywanted to take part

in the manly, aristocratic sport

But because it was so dangerous,

his father allowed him to ride
only in unarmed training exercises.

When, in contrast,
the real thing took place,

Henry had to sit it out,
chafing on the sidelines,

whilst his friends
slugged it out like men.

The result was a clash,
not only of arms,

but ofvalues between father and son

about what it meant to be a king.

On 21 April 1509, Henry Vll died

and the 17-year-old Henry
was proclaimed King

amidst wild scenes
of popular rejoicing.

The most impressive tribute
came from Thomas More,

the great scholar and lawyer

whose life and death were to be
ine*ricably linked with Henry!s.

FfThis day,!! More wrote,
ffis the end of our slavery,

ffthe fount of liberty,
the end of sadness,

ffthe beginning ofjoy.!!

Fired with the idealism ofyouth,

Henry had strong ideas
about kingship.

He!d been brought up
on the myths of King Arthur

and the exploits
of his ancestor, Henry V.

Like them, he believed
in the traditional idea

that a great king
should be a great warlord.

His court took on the feel
of a magnificently armed camp

with an endless round
oftournaments and jousts.

This is the Round Table
of King Arthur at Winchester,

then believed to have been
Arthur!s capital.

Henry had first seen the table
as an impressionable 14-year-old.

And nowthat he was King,

he seems to have decided to take Arthur
as his model of kingship.

Like Arthur,

he would be a greatjouster,
he would have a brilliant court

and above all, he would follow in
the footsteps ofthe once and future king

and conquer France.

To this end, one of Henry!s
first acts as King

was to marry his brother!s widow,

the Spanish princess
Catherine ofAragon,

who was six years his senior.

The marriage would sowthe seeds
of upheaval and revolutionary change

in the English monarchy.

At the time, however,
it was much simpler.

Henry loved Catherine.

But the marriage was also cementing

England!s alliance with Spain
against France.

Henrywas rearming England.

And in 1511 , he got
the Council!s agreement forwar.

On 28 June 1513,

the English army crossed
the Channel to France.

For the first time
in almost a century,

parliament had proved willing to vote
serious war taxation.

The result was the largest
and best-organised English army

since Agincourt.

Henry, like his great hero Henry V,

led the English army in person.

He even came under fire occasionally.

He defeated the French
in the Battle ofthe Spurs -

so called because the French knights
ran away so quickly -

captured important prisoners

and took two French cities
after set-piece sieges.

Henry hadn!t conquered
all of France, of course,

but otherwise he!d done everything
that he!d set out to do.

He!d restored the reputation
of English arms.

He!d made England once more
one ofthe big three European powers

alongside France
and the Hapsburg Empire.

And above all,
he!d covered himself in glory.

At the same time, however,

Henry, or rather Catherine,

since it was always the woman
who was blamed,

had failed to produce an heir.

She gave birth to
a short-lived son in 1511 .

But then followed miscarriage
after miscarriage.

Henrywas surprisingly understanding.

But how long could he wait for a son?

Henry had triumphed in France
and had covered himself in glory.

But he hadn!t done it alone.

The architect of his victories
was Thomas Wolsey.

A butcher!s son from lpswich,

Wolsey had risen from nothing

through his intelligence,
drive and ambition.

Though nominally
only a royal chaplain,

it was he who!d organised
the whole French campaign.

His rewards were to be commensurate.

In quick succession, he became
bishop, archbishop and cardinal.

As papal legate, he was the Pope!s
personal representative in England.

And as Lord Chancellor,

he was the King!s indispensable
friend and counsellor.

Wolseywas now supreme
in Church and state.

But as much as his power,

contemporaries were impressed by
his overweening, flamboyant character,

by his taste, his magnificence
and his sense of display,

whose supreme monument is his
great palace here at Hampton Court.

But we should not let
this outward display

deceive us about the reality
ofWolsey!s power.

Wolsey had risen

only because he was able to deliver
what Henry yearned for -

glory in war.

And he would survive

only if he were able to continue
to deliverwhat Henrywanted,

whatever it might be.

But Wolsey and Henry had a problem.

The gains ofthe French war
proved fleeting,

and by 1519, Henrywas no longer
the teenage star of Europe.

There was a new, young, warlike
King of France, Francis l,

and a new, even younger
Hapsburg Emperor, Charles V,

Queen Catherine!s nephew,

who ruled in his own right
Spain, Germany, the Netherlands

and most of ltaly.

Both commanded much larger resources
than Henry,

which meant that glory in war
was no longer a realistic option.

But for the moment,

England seemed to hold the balance
of power between Francis and Charles

and was courted by both sides.

Wolsey, de*erous and inventive
as usual,

turned the situation
to England!s advantage

by organising
the Field of Cloth of Gold,

which took place
in a dusty, windswept plain

in the north-east of France.

It centred on a personal meeting
between Henry Vlll and Francis l.

And in another first for Wolsey,

it was one ofthe earliest
modern summit conferences.

But thejamboree
was much more than that.

It was also an Olympic Games,

with an international
jousting competition

and an expo-cum-EuroDisney,

with competitive displays

of lavish cloth-of-gold tents
and fantastic pavilions,

which the English were generally
reckoned to have won.

It was also fantastically expensive,
of course.

But still, it was cheaper than war

and it reinforced the image of Henry
and Wolsey as the arbiters of Europe.

But the image,
like the Field of Cloth of Gold itself,

proved to be a mirage.

England!s role as arbiter of Europe

depended on the continuing
balance of power.

But sooner or later,
Francis and Charles would fight,

and one ofthem would win.

What would Wolsey and Henry do then?

The moment came in 1525,

when Charles V!s forces
crushed the French armies

and captured Francis l himself.

But instead oftrying to maintain
the balance of power,

Henry reverted to his
earlywarlike dreams of conquest

and proposed a partition of France
with Charles.

Charles called Henry!s bluff.

If Henrywanted his share of France,
he must conquer it for himself.

That required money.

Parliament wouldn!t have voted
for taxation.

Instead, Wolsey suggested
an e*ra parliamentary le*,

to which, spin-doctor-in-chief,

he gave the emollient name
ofAmicable Grant.

It made no difference.

All taxes are unpopular.
This one caused riots.

And the worst one of all took place here,
in Lavenham, in Suffolk,

which was then
a prosperous wool-weaving town.

On 4 May, 4,000 protesters
poured through the streets,

the church bells rang the alarm

and the rioters swore
that theywould die in their quarrel.

Other, smaller, protests took place
throughout the south-east.

In Lavenham,
the rioters pleaded poverty.

But in London, sophisticated
constitutional objections were raised

to a taxwhich hadn!t been
voted in parliament.

In the face ofthe protests,

the government abandoned
the Amicable Grant

and with it
Henry!s projected invasion of France.

Both Wolsey and Henry
put a brave face on the climb-down,

but it was a terrible humiliation.

Henry had failed
in both peace and war

and his dreams of glorywere dashed.

But there was a ray of sunshine.

Henry had fallen in love again.

He!d also begun seriously
to fall out of love

with his wife, Catherine ofAragon.

He!d had mistresses,

even an acknowledged son
by one ofthem.

The real problem instead
came from Catherine!s own situation.

The age difference between
Henry and Catherine

is now really beginning to tell,

as this pair of miniatures
also shows.

Henry himself here, then aged 34,
has kept his youthful looks.

But Catherine, already 40,
is wearing badly.

As the massive neck and shoulders
in the portrait shows,

her once-trim figure is fat,

whilst her face,
which had used to be so pretty,

is now round and blotched
and bloated.

The explanation, of course,
was child-bearing.

Catherine had been more or less
continuously pregnant

for the first 10 years
of her marriage

and it had played havoc
with her figure.

Ifthere!d been sons,
none ofthis would have mattered.

But of all those pregnancies,

only a single child had survived -
a daughter, Mary.

And a woman who!d lost her looks,

was past child-bearing age
and hadn!t produced an heir

was vulnerable indeed.

Henry and Catherine!s marriage

wasn!t the first royal union
to get into difficulties.

The man whose responsibility it was
to sort out such problems

was the Pope in Rome,
head ofthe Catholic Church

to which England, like all the rest
ofWestern Europe, belonged.

But atjust this moment,

the Pope!s position was under
greater threat than ever before.

The attackwas led by a young
German academic, Martin Luther,

who in 1517
launched a furious assault

on the corruption
ofthe Roman Church,

which began
the Protestant Reformation.

Henry and his minister
Cardinal Wolsey

were united in their horror

at Luther!s heretical attack
on the Church.

In May 1521 ,
Wolsey condemned Luther!s works

in a great book-burning
at St Paul!s Cathedral

whilst Henrywrote a reply to Luther

called the fAssertio Septem

or fDefence ofthe Seven Sacraments!.

It!s the first book to be
written by an English king

since Alfred the Great.

And it!s written in Latin
and set in the latest Roman type

for circulation to a sophisticated,
select European audience.

But above all, Henry!s book
was loud in its defence

ofthe papal monarchy
over the Church,

so much so that Thomas More,

then Henry!s friend
and intimate counsellor,

warned the King that since his
present good relations with Rome

might change in the course oftime,

he should leave that point out
or else touch it more slenderly.

But Henrywas adamant
in his championship of Rome.

And his reward was the title
of Defender ofthe Faith

from a grateful Pope.

Henry neverwavered
in his detestation

of Luther and all his works.

But his attitude to Rome,
just as Thomas More predicted,

underwent a revolution.

The reasons were
Henry!s need for a son and heir,

and love.

The woman he!d fallen in love with
was Anne Boleyn,

sister of one of his
former mistresses.

Sexy rather than beautiful,

Anne behaved as no mistress
had dared to before,

with consequences that no-one
could have imagined.

By the mid-1520s,
Henry!s reign had hit the buffers.

He!d failed in his quest for glory
in both peace and war.

He!d failed to father a son and heir.

He!d even failed to persuade Anne
to sleep with him.

For Anne, supremely confident
in her hold over Henry,

refused him sexual relations
unless he agreed to marry her.

The difficulty, of course,

was that Henrywas already
married to Catherine,

who would never agree to a divorce.

So Henry and Anne
tried to find legal grounds

for dissolving Henry!s marriage.

Their best hope lay in the Bible,

where the Book of Leviticus

forbad a man to marry
his dead brother!s widow

on pain of childlessness.

It was for this reason

that Henry had received
a special dispensation from Rome

to permit him to marry Catherine.

But now Henry!s lawyers argued

that since the marriage
broke biblical law,

Rome had exceeded its powers
and the marriage was invalid.

The case was submitted for decision

to the man who was both the Pope!s
personal representative in England

and Henry!s own chief minister,

Cardinal Wolsey.

Here, in the subterranean bowels
ofthe Ministry of Defence building

in Whitehall, in London,

amidst the ducting, the central
heating pipes and the spooks,

there is an e*raordinary survival

ofthe Tudorworld.

And here it is.

It!s the wine cellar of
the town palace of Cardinal Wolsey,

known as York Place,

that once stood on this site.

And actually, above where
l!m standing here, on the first floor,

there was the principal reception room
ofthe palace

known as the Great Chamber.

It was almost certainly
in this Great Chamber

on 17 May 1527

that there opened the first trial
ofthe marriage of Henry Vlll.

It!s known as the secret trial,
since Catherine was kept in the dark,

and Henrywas confident that Wolsey
would rule his marriage invalid.

Instead, to enormous surprise,

on 31 May, Wolsey adjourned
the court indefinitely

on grounds ofthe difficulty
ofthe case.

Why did Wolsey,
who owed everything to Henry,

defy the King!s wishes?

Was it because ofthe reluctance
of his fellowjudge?

Did Wolsey fear Anne Boleyn!s
power as queen?

Were his legal doubts genuine?

Orwas it, above all, because he felt
that in a matter of such moment

the Pope himself must be involved?

Whatever his reasons,
the delaywas crucial,

for at exactly the same moment,

events were unfolding in Rome

which would make it impossible
for the Pope, even if he!d wished,

to come down on Henry!s side.

Two days after Wolsey
adjourned the court,

news reached England

that the troops ofthe Emperor Charles V
had taken Rome,

sacked and pillaged the city

and driven the Pope to take refuge
in the Castel Sant!Angelo here.

The Pope was now in the power
of Catherine!s nephew

and he would remain so
for the foreseeable future.

This meant that Henry!s hopes
of a quickie divorce were at an end.

Henry and Anne had thought to be
married in months.

Instead, the months
stretched into years

as the Pope strung out Henry

with legal manoeuvres
and diplomatic subtleties.

But with the failure
ofthe second divorce trial in 1529,

Henry!s patience was at an end.

So, just as importantly, was Anne!s.

Wolsey knew his power and his life
were at stake.

Desperate to find his way back
into Henry!s favour,

he wrote the King a long letter,

setting out the case for
his own approach to the divorce.

He sat down at his desk
at 4:00 in the morning,

never, his valet noted,
ffrising once to piss

ffnor yet to eat any meat,

ffbut continuallywrote his letters
with his own hand!!.

But not even Wolsey
could change the reality

of European power politics.

Faced with the brute fact
of Charles V!s power,

Wolsey, for all his cleverness
and confidence,

was unable to persuade the Pope

to disavow his predecessor!s

This failure cost him hisjob
as the King!s minister.

And it would have cost him his head
if he!d lived longer.

Wolsey died cursing Anne
for causing his downfall

and predicting the ruin
ofthe Church of England.

So, blocked in Rome,

Anne Boleyn, who was a Lutheran
sympathiser, encouraged Henry

to turn to Rome!s English opponents,
who were concentrated in Cambridge.

Fflt!s not what you know
but who you know,!! we!re told.

In the case ofThomas Cranmer,
it was both.

When the divorce crisis began,

Cranmerwas an obscure theology don
at Cambridge,

where, along with his colleagues
in the faculty,

he probably preached
from this very pulpit here

in St Edward!s Church.

But in the summer of 1529,

a chance meeting
with two Cambridge acquaintances

brought Cranmer to the notice
of Henry and Anne.

The consequences
transformed Cranmer -

his world and ours.

For Henry, Cranmer said,

had been going about the divorce
in the wrong way.

He!d been treating it
as a legal matter.

But it wasn!t. lt was moral.

And in morals, the Bible
supplied absolute answers

ofwhat was right and what was wrong,

and there were experts
who knewwhich was which.

Theywere university theologians,
like Cranmer himself.

Only, therefore, let Henry consult
the universities

and he would have a clear,
unambiguous verdict

in favour ofthe divorce

which even Rome and the Pope
would have to recognise.

The argument was music
to Henry!s ears,

and the canvass of university opinion
began, starting in Cambridge itself.

This courtyard was the centre of
the medieval University of Cambridge.

Up there on the first floor
is the room where the Regent House,

then the governing body
ofthe university,

debated its verdict
on Henry!s divorce.

Cranmer had thought that it would be
high-minded and straightforward.

In fact, both sides played dirty

and used every device
ofthe academic politician -

rigged committees,
selective terms of reference

and straightforward
bullying and bribing.

But after two days

the university delivered
the verdict that Henrywanted.

Cambridge would be on the side
ofthe winners in Tudor England.

And now Henry!s envoys
set out for the Continent

to pit the arguments
ofthe King of England

against the authority ofthe Pope.

In universities across Europe,

they bribed, cajoled
and threatened theologians

to give a verdict in Henry!s favour.

Over the ne* fewyears,

the whole power ofthe Tudor state

was to be thrown against Rome
and Catherine.

But Catherine wasn!t without
her defenders.

One ofthe boldest was her chaplain,
Thomas Abel,

who combined the very different roles
of scholar and man of action.

In the winter of 1528,
Henry sent Abel on a mission

to Catherine!s nephew,
the Emperor Charles V, in Spain,

where Abel played the desperately
dangerous game of double agent.

Outwardly, he was working for Henry.

Secretly, he was undermining
the King!s whole strategy

on Catherine!s behalf.

Mission accomplished,
Abel returned to England,

where he quickly emerged

as Catherine!s most effective
and outspoken scholarly propagandist,

as this book shows.

Abel called it,
with magnificent defiance,

flnvicta Veritas! -

fTruth Unconquered
and Unconquerable!.

In it, he attacked
the verdict ofthe universities,

which provided the whole
intellectual basis of Henry!s case.

And the attackwent home

as the King!s infuriated scribbles
throughout the book show.

Here, Henry!s irritation
actually overcomes his scholarship,

and he scribbles in the margin

in mere English,

fflt is false.!!

But by the time he!d finished,

Henry!s composure
had recovered sufficiently

for him to deliver
his damning verdict on the book

in portentous Latin,
here on the titlepage.

FfThe whole basis ofthis book
is false.

FfTherefore, the papal authority is empty,
save in its own seat.!!

Not even that magisterial
royal rebuke

was enough to shut Abel up.

Instead, it took
the full weight ofthe law.

He was twice imprisoned in the Tower,

where he carved his name
and bell symbol

on the wall of his cell,

and eventually executed
as a traitor in 1540.

But even Abel!s courage
proved fruitless.

As learned opinions
swung in his direction,

Henry became bolder.

He now asserted that,

by virtue of his God-given office,

the King of England was an emperor.

As such, he was subject
to no authority on Earth,

especially to that ofthe Pope.

Once Henry had been
the stoutest defender

of papal authority.

But that had changed
with the problem of his divorce.

Nowthe achievement of his most
fervent hopes for Anne and for an heir

depended on the idea
that religious truth was to be found

not in Rome, but in the Bible.

Rome instead was the obstacle

that had delayed his divorce
for five long years.

It was the enemy that stood
between him and Anne.

But what ofthe Pope?

Here again the Bible spoke,
for there were no popes in Scripture.

But there were kings,

and it was kings, Cranmer
and his radical colleagues argued,

who were God!s anointed,

ordained by him to rule
his Church on Earth.

The idea appealed
to Henry!s thirst for glory.

It offered a means to cut
the Gordian knot ofthe divorce,

and it even promised to make Henry,
not the Pope,

heir to the power and status
ofthe ancient Roman emperors.

It was intoxicating.

Henry now stood
on the threshold of a decision

that would transform
the monarchy and England

utterly and forever.


On 19 January 1531 ,

convocation ofthe parliament
ofthe English Church

met here in the chapterhouse
at Westminster Abbey.

They faced an unprecedented demand -

to acknowledge that the King
was only protector and supreme head

ofthe English Church.

Over the ne two weeks,
they fought that demand

word byword and letter by letter.

Finally, the Archbishop of Canterbury

that Henry should indeed
be accepted

as supreme head in Earth
ofthe Church of England

ffas far as the law of Christ allows!!.

His announcement was greeted
with a stunned silence,

which the Archbishop
ingeniously took to mean consent.

The weasel words
ffas far as the law of Christ allows!!

Meant what anybody
wanted them to mean,

and the ne year, theywere dropped.

Henrywas now supreme head
without qualification.

He!d also, by his actions,
broken Magna Carta

and the first clause
of his own coronation oath,

bywhich he!d sworn

that the Church in England
should be free.

And he!d become a bigamist as well.

In October 1532, Anne finally gave in
and slept with Henry.

By Christmas, she was pregnant.

And in January 1533,
in strictest secrecy,

Henry married Anne,

despite the fact that Catherine
was still legally his wife.

The ne month, Cranmerwas made
Archbishop of Canterbury

with the mission to implement
Henry!s royal supremacy

over the Church of England.

Cranmer!s first
and most momentous step

came a fewweeks later

when he declared Henry!s marriage
to Catherine unlawful

and Anne instead to be his true wife.


After seven years, Henry had
the woman and the queen he wanted.

The London crowds grumbled,
Charles Vwas furious

and the Pope
excommunicated the King.

But Henry and Anne defied them all.

Henry!s second marriage

and the royal supremacy,
which was its intellectual foundation,

were profoundly divisive.

Some opposed them viscerally

because they hated Anne
or loved the old Church.

Others were more nuanced,

and subtlest of all,

as befits the man who!d warned Henry
about exaggerating the Pope!s powers

when the King wrote the fAssertio!,

was Henry!s old friend and counsellor
Sir Thomas More.

But opponents ofwhatever sort
were whipped into line

by laws which required them
to swear a double oath -

to accept the King!s second marriage
and to reject the papal supremacy.

To refuse the oath
was treason and death.

More refused the oath,
and he was imprisoned,

in steadilyworsening conditions,

in this cell in the Tower
for over a year.

But when, on 1 July 1535,

he was removed from here
for his trial at Westminster Hall,

it looked as though he might escape.

More now did what hitherto
he!d steadfastly refused to do

and spoke his mind.

He could not be guilty, he said,
because the English Parliament

could not make Henry Vlll
supreme head ofthe Church,

for the common consent
of Christendom,

ofwhich England was only
a tiny part,

gave that title to the Pope
and had done for over 1 ,000 years.

Consternation in court,

but the Lord Chief Justice
recovered the situation

with a characteristic piece
of English legal positivism.

English lawwas what
the English Parliament said it was,

he asserted.

More was condemned
and beheaded on 6 July.


Working with parliament
rather than against it,

Henry had hugely outdone his father.

He!d invested
the so-called lmperial Crown

with a truly imperial authority
over Church and state.

He!d even get his hands
on more land and money

than the miserly Henry Vll
could have dreamt of,

and he got it by plundering
the wealth ofthe Church.

There were about 500 monasteries
scattered over England.

Some were desperately poor,

but manywere rich and well-run

and maintained
a 1 ,000-year-old tradition

of prayer, work and learning.

But a change of intellectual fashion,
away from monasticism,

made them vulnerable,

and their collective wealth
made them tempting.

So in 1536,

the process of
dissolving the monasteries began.

At first, the objective
was presented as reform.

But it soon turned
to outright abolition,

and by 1540, the last abbey had gone.

The monks were pensioned off

and their land, buildings
and treasures confiscated.

A fewwere retained as parish churches
or cathedrals, but most were not.

Theywere stripped
ofthe lead on their roofs,

the golden jewels on their shrines

and left to rot.

It was desecration and sacrilege
on the grandest scale.

It provoked shock, outrage
and finally open revolt.

The result was
that in the autumn of 1536,

Henry faced the worst crisis
of his reign -

the rebellion known as
the Pilgrimage of Grace.

The first uprising
was in Lincolnshire,

and it spread quickly
across the north of England.

Under their banner
ofthe Five Wounds of Christ,

noblemen and peasants
joined together,

demanding the restoration
ofthe monasteries

and the return ofthe old religion.

Some monks and priests

played a leading part in the revolt,

preaching incendiary sermons
and even wearing armour.

Adam Sedburgh,
abbot of Jervaulx Abbey here,

wasn!t one ofthem.

Instead, when the rebel hordes
turned up at the gates of his monastery,

he fled to the surrounding moorland.

But the threat to burn down
his monastery

forced him to return,
however reluctantly,

and join the revolt.

Secure in their control ofthe north,

the formidablywell-disciplined
rebel army marched south.

By the time they reached Doncaster,

only the King!s much smaller forces
stood between them and London

and perhaps Henry!s throne.

This area is known as Scawsby Leys,

and this unprepossessing tract
in a field

was once the line
ofthe Great North Road

where it crosses the broad plain

on the northern bank
ofthe River Don.

And it was all around here,

at dawn on the morning of 26 October,

that the rebels called
a general muster oftheir troops.


All the flower ofthe north
was there.

When the final count was taken,
they numbered 30,000 men,

with another 12,000 in reserve
at Pontefract.

It was the largest army
that England had seen

since the Wars ofthe Roses,

and it wasn!t the King!s.

But even though the rebels faced
only 8,000 of Henry!s forces,

they chose to negotiate.

They persuaded themselves
that the attack on the Church

was the work not ofthe King

but of his wicked advisers
like Cranmer.

Theywere also doublecrossed
by the King!s representative.

He promised them pardon,

and, believing him,
the huge rebel army dispersed.

But a few months later,

a new minor revolt in the north
gave Henry the excuse he!d wanted

to break his promises
and exact revenge.

The leaders ofthe revolt
were arrested

and sent to London for trial.

Henrywas especially severe
on clerics who!d been involved,

even when,
like Abbot Sedburgh of Jervaulx,

they!d been coerced
intojoining the revolt.

Sedburgh was arrested with the rest

and sent to the Tower.

Then he was tried, condemned

and saw Jervaulx confiscated.

The aristocratic leaders ofthe revolt
were beheaded,

but the rest,
including Sedburgh himself,

suffered the full horrors
of hanging, drawing and quartering.

Henry!s supreme headship
ofthe Church,

which had begun in the name
of freeing England

from the papal yoke,

was turning into new royal tyranny

to be enforced in blood.

And no-one was exempt.

In May 1536, after only
three years of marriage,

Anne was executed

on trumped-up charges

of adultery, incest
and sexual perversion.

But her real crimes were less exotic.

She!d failed to adjust

from the dominant role of mistress
to the submissive one ofwife.

And above all,
like Catherine before her,

she!d failed to give Henry a son.

Within 24 hours ofAnne!s execution,
Henrywas betrothed again,

and on 30 May,

he married his third wife,
Jane Seymour.

Demure and submissive,
conservative in religion,

Jane was everything
that Anne was not,

and, in October 1537,

she did what Anne and Catherine
had both failed to do

and gave birth to
a healthy son and heir, Edward.

Jane died a few days later,

but the boy lived and became
Henry!s pride and joy.

All ofthe problems which had led
to the breakwith Rome -

the King!s first two disputed marriages,
his lack of a male heir -

were now solved.

With the occasions ofthe dispute
out ofthe way,

why didn!t the naturally
conservative Henry

return to the bosom
ofthe Roman Church?

The answer lies
in this painting here.

The original, ofwhich it!s a copy,

was sighted in the King!s
private apartments,

and, as such, takes us
into his very mind.

The date - 1537 -
is the year of Prince Edward!s birth.

In the foreground
is the proud father, Henry Vlll,

togetherwith the recently deceased
mother, Jane Seymour.

Behind are Henry!s own parents,
Henry Vll and Elizabeth ofYork,

while in the middle
there are inscribed Latin verses

which explain the meaning
ofthe painting.

FfWhich is the greater,!!
the verses ask,

ffthe father or the son?!!

Henry Vll was great,

they reply,

for he brought to an end
the Wars ofthe Roses.

But Henry Vlll was greater -
indeed, the greatest -

forwhilst he was King,
true religion was restored

and the power of popes
trodden underfoot.

This, then, is why Henry
refused to return to Rome.

The supremacy may have begun
as a mere convenient device

to facilitate his marriage
to Anne Boleyn.

But it had quickly taken on
a life of its own

as Henry had persuaded himself
that it was his birthright,

his raison d!ëtre, and above all,

his passport to fame,

not only vis-a-vis his father,

but in the eyes of posterity
as well.

Henry had got what he wanted,

but to do so, he!d had to use ideas

like Luther!s biblically based
approach to religion,

which he detested.

The symbol ofthese compromises

was the new English translation
ofthe Bible.

The titlepage shows

how literally Henry took
his new grand title

of supreme head in Earth
ofthe Church of England.

At the top ofthe page, of course,
there appears Christ, as God the Son,

but he!s very small.

Instead, the composition is dominated

by the huge, fleshly presence
of Henry Vlll.

As king-cum-supreme head,
he sits enthroned in the centre

with, on the left, the bishops,

representing the clergy
and the Church,

and on the right,

the Pri Council,
representing the laity and the state.

Belowthere are the people,

who all join together

with the grateful, obedient cry

of ffVivat, vivat rex,!!

FfLong live the King.!!

FfGod save the King.!!

The titlepage ofthe great Bible

represents, in microcosm,

the eraordinary achievement
of Henry!s reign.

He!d broken the power ofthe Pope,

dissolved the monasteries,

defeated rebellion, beheaded traitors

and made himself supreme
over Church and state.

All the powers and all the passions
of a ferocious nationalism

were contained in his person

and at his command.

But the royal supremacy

also contained the seeds
of its own destruction,

for in employing the new
biblically based theology,

Henry had allowed into England

those very subversive religious ideas
he!d once tried so hard to suppress.

The genie of Protestantism
was out ofthe bottle,

and it was Protestantism which,
only 100 years later,

would first challenge
the powers ofthe monarchy

and finally dethrone and behead

a king of England.