The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws. — Tacitus

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

Henry's Wives

Although Henry had won his new wife with so much trouble, he was not long pleased with her. She was very beautiful, but two years after their marriage, and some time after the birth of her daughter Elizabeth, she was accused of a crime and sent to the Tower. Some writers say that Anne Boleyn was quite innocent, but that the king was tired of her and wished to marry another wife. Others insist that she was guilty, and deserved the death to which she was soon condemned.

However that may be, the fact remains that Anne Boleyn was led off to the block. She never complained about the king's cruelty, but merely said, with a sad smile, that she would soon be out of pain, for she had a very small neck. As soon as Anne had been beheaded, Parliament decreed that her daughter Elizabeth should not reign, just as it had already decreed with regard to Mary.

The very day after Anne Boleyn's death, the unfeeling king married a beautiful English girl, Jane Seymour. The new queen was gentle and good, and, happily for her, died before her fickle husband could get tired of her too. She left a little son named Edward, and the people were so glad to hear there was a male heir at last, that they celebrated his birthday with great rejoicings.

Ever since Wolsey's fall from power, the king had been helped by a man named Cromwell, who now held high office. Seeing that Henry was anxious to marry again, Cromwell suggested that he should choose some princess.

But none of the European princesses wanted to marry a king who had already had three wives, one of whom had been beheaded and another divorced. Indeed, one of the ladies who was asked to share his throne, refused, saying, "I have but one head; if I had two, one would be at his majesty's disposal."

As Cromwell was a reformer, he wished his master to marry a Protestant, and showed him the portrait of Anne of Cleves. Henry was so pleased with the lady's appearance that he sent for her to come and marry him. But when he saw her, and found out that her portrait had flattered her, he was very angry, and was rude enough to mutter, "I don't want to marry that Flanders mare!"

To avoid quarrelling with the lady's relatives, however, he did marry her; but as she was stupid, and could speak only Dutch, he soon decided to divorce her. First, he vented his displeasure by beheading Cromwell. Then he had Parliament declare his divorce from Anne of Cleves, who received a palace and a handsome income, and lived very comfortably all by herself.

A fortnight later Henry VIII. married a fifth wife, Catherine Howard. But when he discovered that she was a wicked woman, he promptly had her beheaded, and married Catherine Parr, a widow, who had the good fortune to survive him.

Ever since Henry had been named head of the church he thought that he knew all there was to know about religion. Whenever he argued about it, he was very angry if any one disagreed with him. He was so self-willed that if people had different opinions from his they were persecuted. Roman Catholics were put to death for considering the pope head of the church, and Protestants were treated in the same way if they did not accept certain Catholic doctrines which Henry still believed.

During his long reign Henry's opinions underwent sundry changes. For instance, he first ordered that an English Bible should be placed in every church, where people could come and read it for themselves if they chose. But when he found out that those who read the Bible often formed opinions different from his own, he decided that the books should be removed, and that none but learned men should have the right to see them.

Besides squandering his father's savings and Wolsey's property, Henry spent all the money he received as head of the church. He also sent men to examine all the churches and religious houses, and closed many of the latter, because, he said, the monks had grown rich and lazy and were not doing the good work they should among the poor. The only person who never felt Henry's anger was Cranmer, who, however, often disagreed with him. But Cranmer generally did as the king wished him to, and some say that whenever Henry wanted to do anything specially wrong he sent the archbishop away for a time, so that he should not try to oppose it.

It was owing to Cranmer that English came to be used in the services of the church. This marked him as a leader among those who favoured Protestant ideas. Both Cranmer and Wolsey were, like Henry, very fond of books, and encouraged learning as much as possible.


Front Matter

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee