The Earlier Tudors, 1485-1558

By J. D. Mackie | Go to book overview

VIII
SPLENDOUR OF YOUTH

Meta haec servitii est, haec libertatis origo, Tristitiae finis, laetitaeque caput.1

H ENRY VIII succeeded to the throne on 22 April 1509, at the age of seventeen years and ten months. It is a tribute to his father's achievement that he succeeded without incident. Ferdinand anxious to emphasize his own importance, to win the gratitude of the young king, and to establish the position of his daughter, busily proffered help,2 whilst at the same time he warned his ambassador in England and Catherine herself that they must conclude the marriage as soon as possible. He might have spared his pains. Henry encountered no opposition to a marriage with his brother's widow. On 11 June, scarce a month after the splendid obsequies of his father had been completed, and only a fortnight before his own coronation on 24 June Henry VIII was married to Catherine of Aragon by Archbishop Warham. The ceremony took place 'in the Queen's closet at Greenwich'. Its privacy was doubtless justified on the ground that the new king was still in mourning, but it is not without significance. That his son should complete the marriage had been the expressed wish of the dying monarch; the councillors hurried on the match because they wanted the new king to produce an heir as soon as possible, because they wanted to secure the Spanish money, and because they sought above all things to carry out the policy of their dead master.

The advent of the new king made little alteration in the conduct of affairs. What change there was was brought about by the attempt to execute Henry's will. The public promise of redress of grievances produced a storm of complaints, and the council saved itself on the backs of Empson and Dudley, who

____________________
1
'In suscepti diadematis diem Henrici octavi', &c. More's poem, published amongst his Epigrammata in 1520(p. 17), draws a sharp contrast between the unhappiness of Henry VII's reign and the new day believed to be dawning with the accession of Henry VIII. Delation, exaction, sale of offices, neglect of laws, advancement of the ignorant -- all these things were to end. There is a reference to the imprisonment of Empson and Dudley. Cf. Alexander Barclay's glowing tributes to Henry VIII in The Ship of Fools, 1509( 2 vols. ed. Jamieson, 1874), i. 39, ii. 16, 205-8, and in the Eclogues (1514), i and iv where Henry VII is praised also, though there is some animadversion upon his ministers.
2
Spanish Calendar, ii. 4.

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