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Henry VIII "my world is law": life in the court of king Henry VIII may have been lavish, but it was far from happy. (World History Play).


Henry VIII, King of England

Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the King's chancellor (chief adviser)

Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio, the Pope's representative

Thomas Cromwell, the King's counselor

Sir Thomas More, the King's chancellor after Wolsey

Lady Frances Dorset, a duchess

Lady Margaret Bryan, a lady of the court

*A Crier, trial clerk

* Alfred Hays, a fish seller

* Doreen Hays, his wife

* Doctor

Narrators A-E

Names in yellow are leading roles.

* Starred characters are fictitious.

In 1522, Christians in England considered Pope Clement VII, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, to be their spiritual leader. As King of England, Henry VIII also answered to the Pope. But Henry would soon find this arrangement inconvenient.

After 13 years of marriage to Catherine of Aragon, the King had no male heir to the throne. Catherine had given him six children, but only one, a girl, survived.

A robust and brilliant man, Henry, 31, was in the prime of his life. But Catherine, the widow of Henry's older brother, was approaching 40. Could she still give Henry a son?



Narrator A: A masked ball is in progress at the court of Henry VIII, King of England.

Lady Frances Dorset: Anne Boleyn, my lord, the Queen's lady-in-waiting.

Henry VIII: Who is that dark-haired damsel [girl] with the flashing black eyes?

Henry: Why have I never seen her?

Lady Frances: She just returned from Paris, your majesty. She lived there for six years.

Henry: A comely [lovely] lass and sprightly dancer! I shall not soon forget her.

Narrator A: At a marketplace in London, two years later...

Alfred Hays: Word is that the King plans to leave the Queen.

Doreen Hays: That young Anne Boleyn bewitches him.

Alfred: I can see why. Her looks captivate men.

Doreen: A scandal, say! Queen Catherine is a holy, humble soul.

Alfred: But good for nothing if she can't give the King a son. Who will continue the Tudor legacy?

Doreen: Well, he has a daughter...

Alfred: Don't be ridiculous! Whoever heard of a Queen ruling England?


Narrator B: It is 1527, and the King has grown increasingly restless. At Westminster Palace, he speaks with his chief adviser, Cardinal Wolsey.

Henry: The Queen still has not presented me with a son and heir, Chancellor. You must ask Pope Clement to annul [invalidate] my marriage.

Narrator B: The Church does not allow divorce, but an annulment can be granted in special cases.

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey: Excellent, sire. Unfortunately, your late father--

Henry: Yes, he wanted this marriage for me, simply to preserve the alliance with Catherine's father, the King of Spain.

Wolsey: And now England desperately needs an heir.

Henry: The Pope should never have approved my marriage to Catherine. The Bible forbids a man to marry his brother's wife. Pope Clement should annul our union.

Wolsey: I will write to His Holiness.

Narrator B: Henry's request puts Pope Clement in a bind: Catherine's nephew, Charles V, is the Holy Roman Emperor. Charles, who conquered Rome, has the Pope at his mercy. Annulling the marriage would make Charles furious, but the Pope does not want to enrage Henry either. He sends Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio to England to resolve the dilemma.

Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio: His Holiness is concerned that we do the right thing in this delicate matter.

Catherine of Aragon: The Pope can be assured of my desire to honor the sacred tenets [laws] of the Church. Clearly, divorce is a sin.

Campeggio: Yes, but perhaps there is a solution. Were the Queen to enter a convent, great works could be done therein her name.

Catherine: I will do whatever the Pope asks--if Henry will retire to a monastery and renounce [give up] the pleasures of the court.

Campeggio: But, madam ...

Narrator B: Needless to say, King Henry rejects the idea.


Narrator C: In 1529, the Church convenes [assembles] a court in England to discuss Henry's request.

Crier: Silence in the chamber! Catherine, Queen of England, what say you in this court?

Catherine: I ask only justice, sir.

Wolsey: That alone is the duty of this court, madam.

Catherine: As God is my witness, I have been a humble and obedient wife. I throw myself on my knees before the King.

Henry: Madam, rise up. It sorely grieves [saddens] me to see you so.

Catherine: Why do you cast me out? Have I not granted you love and a child?

Henry: Alas, but not a son.

Wolsey: Do you not see, madam? Your King and country need an heir.

Catherine: This court is a farce [mockery]! I appeal to His Holiness the Pope for justice!

Narrator C: The Queen flees in tears. Cardinal Campeggio adjourns [dismisses] the court, and Pope Clement delays a decision. The angry King dismisses Wolsey.


Narrator D: For three more years the Pope refuses to annul Henry's marriage. Henry finally banishes Catherine to a remote castle. He then turns to Thomas Cromwell, a close adviser, for counsel.

Henry: Why should the Pope be the sole judge of my affairs?

Thomas Cromwell: Quite right, your majesty. England must become independent of Rome's meddling.

Narrator D: Sir Thomas More, the King's new chancellor, disagrees.

Sir Thomas More: Respectfully, sire, to violate the will of the Pope would only stir up trouble and serve the cause of heretics [those who reject Church teachings]. And what of the risk of excommunication [exclusion from the Church]?

Henry: I care not a fig for the Pope and his threats!

More: My lord, it is my duty to tell you what I believe: Your actions are ill-advised.

Cromwell: Sir Thomas, you are a learned and pious [religious] man. But you must bend to reality.

More: Neither the Pope nor Parliament will ever agree to this heresy [denial of the Church's teaching].

Henry: They will have to. My word is law in this land!

Cromwell: Fate will act soon, Sir Thomas. You would do well to bow to it.

More: That is precisely what I cannot do, as long as I live.


Narrator E: In January 1533, Henry secretly marries Anne Boleyn. The Pope declares the marriage invalid. Two months later, Parliament passes the Act in Restraint of Appeals to Rome. The law declares England independent of foreign authorities, including the Pope.

Henry: I am free of Rome's chains.

Narrator E: Thomas Cranmer, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, grants the King his annulment. In June, Anne is crowned Queen. A stately procession [parade] accompanies her through the streets as she rides to her coronation [crowning]. Lady Margaret Bryan: Why does the Queen look so uneasy?

Lady Frances: Have you not noticed the silence of the crowd? The people blame her for the fate of poor Queen Catherine.

Lady Margaret: Maybe so, but Queen Anne is with child.

Lady Frances: Let's pray it's a boy!

Narrator E: On September 7, 1533, Queen Anne gives birth to a girl, Elizabeth. Henry is miserable.

Lady Margaret: How could the King not attend Elizabeth's christening?

Lady Frances: He is in a foul mood. He desperately wanted a son.

Lady Margaret: Queen Anne had better be careful. If the King doesn't get his heir soon, there will be trouble.

Narrator E: Two years later, Anne has a miscarriage and, in January 1536,. she gives birth to a stillborn boy. That same month, Catherine dies.

Doctor: His majesty must try to contain his grief.

Henry: I cannot. Look at this letter from Catherine.

Doctor: She wrote to his majesty?

Henry: She has been writing to me for years-always as a loyal Queen.

Doctor: An extraordinary woman!

Henry: I never should have forsaken dear, sweet Catherine.


A few months later, Henry accused Queen Anne of adultery and had her beheaded. Increasingly unhappy, the King charged many people, including Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More, with treason (betrayal) and executed them. In 1542, five years before his death, Henry accused another wife of adultery. She, too, was beheaded.

Henry had six wives in all, one of whom bore him a son, Edward VI. Edward assumed the throne at age 9, but he died soon afterward. Henry and Catherine's daughter, Mary, then took the throne. She brought Catholicism back as the state religion.

After Mary's death, the crown passed to the only child of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, who reestablished the Church of England. Elizabeth became one of the greatest monarchs in English history.

Your Turn


1. comely A. crowning

2. tenets B. dismisses

3. adjourns C. religious

4. pious D. lovely

5. coronation E. laws


How did Henry's personal decisions affect England's history?

World History Play word match

1. D

2. E

3. B

4. C

5. A
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Author:Adelman, Louis C.
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Apr 11, 2003
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