How many children did Henry VIII have?
Henry VIII is possibly the most famous King of England, known both for his six wives and for the splitting of the Church. He had several children from different women, but only three were legitimate and survived past infancy. These were King Edward VI, Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I. Many others were born illegitimately and only one of these was recognised - Henry Fitzroy.
Edward VI, born 12 October 1537, was Henry VIII’s first surviving and only legitimate son and the heir to the throne. Henry VIII described him as 'his most noble and most precious jewel.'
His mother Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife, died shortly after his birth from postnatal complications. He was crowned King on 20 February 1547, aged just nine, and he reigned for only six years until his death in July 1553, possibly from tuberculosis. Being raised a protestant he continued his father’s work in the reformation of the Church and the removal of Catholicism across Britain.
Due to his young age, the nation was governed by a regency led by Edward VI’s uncle, the Duke of Somerset, until October 1549. The regency was next led by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland who as the young King aged, worked more with him but still only really allowed the King any control over matters of religion and reformation.
By February 1553, Edward became ill. Fearing that his death would result in Mary I reversing the reformation and taking Britain back to Catholicism, he wrote his ‘devise for succession’. In this, Edward disowned his sisters and outlined his plan to pass the reign to his cousin Lady Jane Grey. He was defeated by his illness on 6 July 1553, aged just 15.
Before Queen Mary I, or Mary Tudor, was born, Catherine of Aragon gave the King three sons and a daughter who never survived infancy. Mary Tudor was born 18th February 1516 and was favoured by Henry VIII until her mother Catherine of Aragon was unable to produce a male heir. After the divorce of Catherine of Aragon and the split from the Roman Catholic Church, Mary Tudor fell out of favour and was reduced from a princess to a ‘lady’. She became a focus for Catholic opposition to her brother and his Protestant followers after Henry VIII’s death.
Upon her brother’s death in 1553, she became Queen of England and aggressively fought to reverse the English Reformation and bring back Catholicism. Mary I had her only opposition Lady Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister, beheaded and during her five-year reign burned over 280 religious dissenters, earning her the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’.
After falling ill in May 1558, she died aged 42 on 17 November 1558. Due to no heir being born, the reign of England was passed to her lawful successor and younger sister Queen Elizabeth I.