How and why did Henry VIII turn from a glamorous Renaissance prince into this country's greatest tyrant? David Starkey's magesterial concluding biography, published to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Henry's accession to the throne, tells this remarkable, bloodthirsty story. As a young prince, Henry distinguished himself as an accomplished author, poet and musician. A true man of the Renaissance, his shift in character to an all-powerful tyrant is one of the most vivid and significant aspects of British history. Frustrated by the lack of a male heir, King Henry's impatience with his wife, Catherine of Aragon, only increased after he became infatuated with the beautiful Anne Boleyn. Anne's refusal to become his mistress led to a divorce that set the course of British history for the next 500 years, and catapulted the King to the height of his personal power. Forbidden by the Church to have his marriage annulled, Henry ordered his lifelong friend, Thomas More, to implement his wishes on divorce and religion. More could not accept his old friend's denial of the Pope's authority, and was eventually allowed to resign. In 1535, Henry had him executed for high treason. The most powerful monarch to have ever ruled Britain, Henry VIII soon established the Church of England giving himself complete control over Church and State. Yet behind this image was a man deeply traumatised by a bitter divorce. With so many of those closest to him siding with Catherine, his personal life had begun to spiral out of control.
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