Henry Viii: The Narcissistic King Essay

2310 words - 9 pages

When Henry VIII ascended to the throne in 1509, he became yet another English monarch without absolute power over his realm. Despite not having the same authority as his contemporary European monarchs, Henry was the recipient of two very important prerequisites for a successful reign. The first was a full treasury and the second was a peaceful transfer of power, which had been anything but certain in England since the War of the Roses. At first he was content to enjoy the fruits of his father’s labor, but ultimately he sought glory in his own name. Henry plunged into needless conflict in Europe, eliminated anyone who opposed him, and became so obsessed with securing a male heir that he engineered a split with the Catholic Church. It was this adventurous spirit that would lead to a decline in both of his key inheritances. Henry VIII may not have been an absolute monarch in the sense that his contemporaries were, but he often acted in a manner that resembled a supreme sovereign. Consequently, his reign seems to have been focused on his own ambitions instead of his subjects’ welfare.
Henry VII had won the English Crown in battle in what could be considered a glorious victory. There would be no need for his son to fight in such a battle, but that was a problem for young Henry. He wanted to achieve fame through military conquest and be considered a warrior king like many of his rivals. To meet this objective, Henry sought to capture the French throne for himself thereby extending his power and influence into continental Europe. Henry went to France, but was unable to make any significant gains financially or territorially. Instead he depleted his treasury and left England open for invasion on its northern border. English forces were able to repel the Scottish invasion under leadership from Henry’s queen, Catherine of Aragon, but the glory would not be his. Henry would never gain the French Crown or be known as a warrior king, but he would become known for something of greater significance.
Henry VIII’s desire for military glory was possibly only surpassed by his infatuation with producing a male heir. Although she had been a model queen in many respects, Catherine had not produced a male heir and this was of the utmost importance to Henry. To him, it was unthinkable that the throne could fall peacefully to a girl. He eventually looked to another woman to satisfy this desire, but first he needed to get rid of Catherine. The only way for Henry to receive an annulment was to secure a papal dispensation. In order to achieve this Henry citied a passage in Leviticus that stated, "If a man shall take his brother's wife, it is an impurity: he hath uncovered his brother's nakedness; they shall be childless.” He was seemingly convinced that since he had married his deceased brother’s wife he was to remain without an heir. This passage also presented quite a contradiction however because Henry and Catherine were not without a child, but had just not...

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