Portrait of a King: Power & Prestige

He's been called "a blot of blood and grease" and "Machivaelli's Prince in action."

By the time of his death in 1547, this English king - the first to be called "Your Majesty" -- had made church subordinate to state, given England its first real navy and launched multiple bids for the French crown. He had plundered England's monasteries, then persecuted Protestant "heretics." He had used block and rack to destroy friend and foe alike.

Throughout it all, Henry VIII let little stand in his way. His claim to the throne was shaky - he ignored it, and allied England with Spain. For years, he had no legitimate son - he ignored it, and switched one wife for another. He raced through England's wealth - he ignored it, and launched one final invasion of France before he died.

"[H]e is perfectly secure against Fortune," declared Spain's ambassador in 1509 when 18-year-old Henry came to the throne. Maybe not. But Fortune had met its match.



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