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Qwiz5 Quizbowl Essentials – King Henry VIII

enry VIII, of House Tudor, is one of the most consequential monarchs of English history. Reigning from 1509 until 1547, Henry spearheaded the English Reformation, which permanently separated the Church of England from the Catholic Church. Henry is also known for his profligacy, both in personal habits and in number of wives (he had six), but his reign is notable for other achievements, such as the unification of England and Wales. Let’s learn some more about Ol’ Hank and try not to lose our heads along the way.

By analyzing questions, you can see patterns emerge, patterns that will help you answer questions. Qwiz5 is all about those patterns. In each installment of Qwiz5, we take an answer line and look at its five most common clues. Here we explore five clues that will help you answer a tossup on King Henry VIII.


Like his ancestors, King Henry VIII often antagonized the French. Eventually the French decided to bite back. In 1513 French King Louis XII invoked an agreement known as the Auld Alliance: a mutual defense pact between Scotland and France. Scotland, under the command of Scottish king James IV, invaded England in response to Henry’s incursions into France. Unfortunately for the Scots, England’s forces were commanded by the able Earl of Surrey who routed his opponents and killed James IV. Henry had shown even as a young king that he was not to be trifled with.


Henry wasn’t always bellicose, but he was often extravagant. Nowhere is this extravagance better demonstrated than at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. This 18-day tournament was organized in 1520 by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. Wolsey used the tournament as an occasion to encourage peace between Henry VIII and King Louis XII’s successor, Francis I. The Field of the Cloth of Gold was an ostentatious display of wealth for both kings. The tents were woven out of an expensive combination of gold and silk that gave the summit its name.


We could really write a guide on each of Henry’s wives. Unfortunately, we’ll need to take the bird’s eye view of them. Henry sought to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, due to the lack of a male heir. This divorce, initiated by Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cramner, caused an irrevocable split between the Church of England and Rome. Henry progressed rapidly between wives after Catherine of Aragon: Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. You can remember the outcome of these marriages with the mnemonic “divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived.”


In addition to surrounding himself with many wives, Henry also surrounded himself with many men named Thomas. This included the aforementioned Thomas Cramner, but also Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell, a strong proponent of the Reformation, became one of Henry’s most able ministers, but fell from favor after arranging Henry’s unsuccessful marriage to the German princess Anne of Cleves. Another Thomas was Thomas More. More, unlike Cromwell, was squeamish about the prospect of an English Reformation, and he resigned his chancellorship. More’s refusal to accept the Oath of Supremacy, granting Henry supreme authority over the Church of England, led to his execution.


Henry VIII’s dissolution of the Catholic monasteries in England was not met with universal support. In fact, in 1536 his reign saw an uprising known as The Pilgrimage of Grace. Led by Yorkshire lawyer Robert Aske, the pilgrimage demanded restoration of the monasteries as well as a relief from tax burdens and punishment for Cromwell. The rebels, notably, saw Cromwell as the instigator of the religious reforms and not the King. Shrewd and cunning as ever, Henry agreed to their demands only until the rebels dispersed, and then had them arrested. Many of them were executed.


Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:

  • Visit this site to learn about the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, from the son of a blacksmith to the second most powerful man in England.

  • Each of Henry’s wives had a unique character and history worth exploring. Start here to learn more about them!

  • In addition to his many other accomplishments, Henry was an accomplished composer. Learn more about his artistic ability here!

  • Watch this video to learn more about the The Battle of Flodden.


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