Henry VIII as a King, Evaluation Essay
To an extent Henry VIII achieved his aims as King between 1509-1515. Whilst he achieved aims such as to have glory in battle such as with France to earn prestige and therefore establish greater power within the European countries, he did fail in some aspects with most set aim as king. An example of this is his inability to produce a male heir to the throne which arguably was one of his prime aims as king. One of Henry’s main aims as king was to be a different leader in terms of his style from that of his father; he wanted to be a more warlike leader who was more dominant across Europe and also to be a generally more popular king.
We know that this would have been one of Henry’s main aims as in the first year of his reign he executed Empson and Dudley. These two people were corrupt and unfair leaders and were very unpopular within England; they were very much associated with Henry’s father.
By Henry executing them publically in 1510, by way of a big public ceremony illustrated two things to the people; firstly that he is a perhaps fairer king and that their desires were what were to shape his decisions and secondly that he would be a completely different, more popular and significant leader on a larger scale, so within Europe, by having more of a dominant presence, this is shown through the bold and trademarking execution.
Henry succeeded in this aim, he indeed did become a more popular leader by taking the interests of his people very seriously, and he even built a strong army to protect everyone from frequent civil wars so making England more of a unity in itself and therefore a stronger nation. Also Henry, in an attempt of gaining the popularity from the nobility, cuts back on bonds and recognizes to please them as well as letting the nobles into his private life more and inviting them to private events of his, this in turn would’ve made them feel more important and involved with the king’s affairs, and so again has a stronger force which is more connected and contrasts to his fathers. On the other hand, it could be said that Henry didn’t need to be as precise and organised as his Father was, because Henry was left with all the money and financial stability his Father had spent his career accumulating and so he had the time and money to go to war or spend leniently rather than saving and building up money. Henry VIII aims appear to emulate more his forefather Henry V’s aims instead by being a great warrior king and so achieving honour through War.
Through conquest he intends to extend his supremacy over the lands of rivals. Henry V owned more French land in his reign than the king of France did himself, this could have been the ownership Henry VIII also desired, this brought about Henry VIII first War with France. In credit to Henry, I think he was very brave in choosing to go to war With France in 1513, because despite his father’s council being very experienced people who he should listen to, he chooses not to, following their titles as ‘ministers of peace’ they tried very hard to persuade Henry to keep peace with France. Given that he was newly king at this point I think it shows a lot of courage to foresee the opinions of the experienced council to pursue your own ambition even if faced with potential big consequences if he were to lose battle.
Henry was victorious in his first battle and so he would’ve appeared a bold leader. Henry did earn a great deal of prestige in not only going to War with France and winning it, but actually leading his troops in 1513 into the battle of the spurs personally which in itself brings about great honour. Impressively at the same time, the French allies, the Scottish, invaded England and so came about the battle of Flodden, again England won this too and although Henry had little personally to do with this war because it was Surrey who won it, Henry as king still took credit and so as the unity of England, it had won its first 2 wars. As well as this he achieved his aim in cementing a good relationship with the Nobles by using their armies. However in 1514 he was almost forced to sign a peace treaty because financially England was desperate for money as henry in only one year had spent all his inherited money (estimated at about £960000).
This shows his somewhat lack of organisation as a king and more his ruthlessness and desperation for war. Another factor detracting from the prestige of this war is that Henry was used by Ferdinand and left by him at the last stage before the battle, so showing dishonour by Ferdinand towards him. In aims such as securing the Tudor dynasty Henry didn’t really succeed. Although he did make attempts such as marrying Catherine of Aragon in order for her to give Birth to a male Heir it didn’t work. Unfortunately as king this was one of his most important aims, we know this because he married Catherine the same year he was king and so it was obviously of key importance to produce an heir. This having failed, as it did, Henry did still try and secure the dynasty, by taking actions such as marrying his sister to the French King, Louis, he was creating the possibility of a Tudor dynasty on the French throne.
Henry even wanted an annulment from Catherine because he believed it was her who couldn’t give him a son, he went to great lengths and disrupted his very important relationship with the Pope just to get an annulment and I think this shows how important it was to him to have a male heir as king. However, as far as fulfilling this aim early on in his reign goes he didn’t manage to do this, still he was dedicated in trying to do it. Henry knew that it was very important to have a secure and good relationship with the Pope; he understood that he was a very influential figure with a lot of power over the people and so for unity within his country, he would have aimed to have an important relationship with the Pope. Examples of Henry’s efforts to appease the Pope would be after the Battle of the Spurs, the pope wants Henry to make peace with France, even though Henry is reluctant to do so, he does because he understands the importance of having a good relationship with the Pope.
It is only when Henry starts to have problems with the notion of shared power between himself and the king, tension starts as a lot of their roles cross over causing friction by occasional conflicting views. As a result Henry achieves senior power which is what he wants but he then compromises his relationship with the Pope for this. So only for a short while Henry did succeed in his aim of having a strong relationship with the Pope. Clearly in the way Henry behaved and ruled as a king, it is evident that Henry wanted to be different, rule in a different way and allocate his time differently than to how other kings before him may have. Presented with being king at the age of 18 he chose to be a king known for doing everything in excess, living lavishly, playing sport for example tilting and generally enjoying himself seemingly far more than his worn down father had done. Henry wanted to be the ‘renaissance king’ and in terms of this aim, it is one Henry definitely achieved by his new ideas and new style of kingship, he had a huge interest in the arts and music too which shows him to be a more cultural king.
Historians say that he didn’t want to worry himself with the daily burdens of government and administration instead he would put others in charge to do this for him. Whether this style of leadership is right or effective it is still a new approach and perhaps a refreshing one to England at this time as when he came to throne he was very much liked by England and most importantly the nobles. As much as Henry spent a lot of his money in warfare, he too seemingly had interest in the wealth of the English crown in order for it to have dominance over Europe, at the beginning of his reign England was not as powerful as Spain and France and this was a lot down to the lesser financial position England were in. By taking actions such as selling land acquired in war to the nobles he not only is making money but is also becoming more ‘liked’ with the nobles.
On the other hand it is decisions like this which I think weren’t very strategic, if Henry was so determined on going to war and making an impact on Europe, it would’ve seemed more proper to devote new land for the army or war related things such as weaponry manufacturing or housing for the army, this would’ve strengthened the English army and therefore brought about more global respect. I think Henry to a greater degree achieved most of his aims as king well given his young age and personal interests that he had. He did become a renaissance king and in doing this he also gained popularity, he was a very different King to his father as he was more warlike which was his intention as well as securing personal relationships with the nobles, however he didn’t produce a male heir and his control with the money his father spent a career building up I think wasn’t spent very efficiently for the benefit of the whole country.