Henry VIII’s Last Will

On this day, 30th December 1546, a rather ill Henry VIII signed his last will and testament, authorising some changes to be made to a previous document.

At the beginning of the will, Henry hopes that his testament “shall be acceptable to God, Christ, and the whole company of Heaven, and satisfactory to all godly brethren in Earth.” He then “humbly bequeaths his soul to God” and expresses his desire that “the Blessed Virgin and holy company of Heaven to pray for and with him, while he lives and in the time of his passing hence, that he may after this the sooner attain everlasting life.”
Next, he gives instructions to be buried “in the choir of his college of Windesour, midway between the stalls and the high altar, in a tomb now almost finished in which he will also have the bones of his wife, Queen Jane”, to furnish “an altar … for the saying of daily masses while the world shall endure”, to distribute a certain amount of money “in alms to the poor (common beggars, as much as may be, avoided) with injunctions to pray for his soul

As to the succession of the Crown, “it shall go to Prince Edward and the heirs of his body. In default, to Henry’s children by his present wife, Queen Catharine, or any future wife. In default, to his daughter Mary and the heirs of her body, upon condition that she shall not marry without the written and sealed consent of a majority of the surviving members of the Privy Council appointed by him to his son Prince Edward. In default, to his daughter Elizabeth upon like condition” and so on.


Three observations:

♛ Only three years had passed since the Third Act of Succession had returned his daughters to the line of the succession behind their half-brother Edward, superseding the two previous acts that recognised the illegitimacy of Henry’s daughters, the Roman Catholic Mary and the younger Elizabeth, and removed them from succession to the throne.


♛♛ Edward overturned these instructions in his “Devise for the Succession” shortly before his death in 1553. In this document he decided to change the succession, ignoring the claims of his half-sisters, and bequeathed the crown to his sixteen-year-old first cousin, Lady Jane Grey (“the Nine Days’ Queen”).


♛♛♛ The fact that Henry VIII despite being seriously ill at the time seemed still hopeful of heirs through Queen Catherine or “or any future wife” is fantastic!

Il 30 dicembre 1546, il re d’Inghilterra Enrico VIII, molto malato, firmò le sue ultime volontà, autorizzando alcune modifiche da apportare a un testamento precedente.

All’inizio del documento Henry si augura che il suo testamento “ sia gradito a Dio, a Cristo e all’intera compagnia dei Cieli, e soddisfacente per tutti i fratelli devoti sulla Terra”. Poi affida “umilmente la sua anima a Dio” ed esprime il desiderio che “la Vergine Santissima e santa compagnia dei Cieli preghino per lui e con lui, mentre egli vive e nel tempo del suo trapasso, affinché dopo questo possa raggiungere prima la vita eterna.”
Dà poi ordine di essere sepolto “nel coro del suo collegio di Windsor, a metà strada tra gli stalli e l’altare maggiore, in una tomba ormai quasi terminata nella quale avrà anche le ossa di sua moglie, la regina Jane”, di approntare “un altare… per la recita delle messe quotidiane finché durerà il mondo ”, di distribuire una certa somma di denaro “in elemosina ai poveri (evitando i mendicanti comuni, per quanto possibile ) con l’ingiunzione di pregare per la sua anima”.

Per quanto riguarda la successione alla corona, “ essa spetta al principe Edoardo e ai suoi eredi. In mancanza di ciò, ai figli di Henry dalla sua attuale moglie, la regina Catharine, o da qualsiasi futura moglie. In mancanza di ciò, alla figlia Mary e ai suoi eredi, a condizione, a condizione che non si sposi senza il consenso scritto e convalidato della maggioranza dei membri sopravvissuti del Consiglio Privato da lui nominato per suo figlio Prince Edward”. In mancanza di ciò, a sua figlia Elisabetta a pari condizioni simili” e così via.

Tre osservazioni:

♛ Solo tre anni erano passati da quando il Terzo Atto di Successione aveva ristabilito le figlie le figlie nella linea della successione dopo il fratellastro Edoardo, sostituendo i due atti precedenti atti che avevano dichiarato illegittime la cattolica Mary e la più giovane Elizabeth escludendole dalla successione.

♛♛ Edward annullò queste istruzioni nelle sue “Disposizioni per la Successione” poco prima della morte avvenuta nel 1553. In quel documento decise di modificare la successione, ignorando le richieste delle sue sorellastre, e lasciando la corona alla cugina sedicenne, Lady Jane Grey (“la regina dei nove giorni“).

♛♛♛ Il fatto che Enrico VIII, nonostante fosse gravemente malato al tempo, ancora sperasse in eredi dalla regina Caterina “o da qualsiasi futura moglie” mi sembra fantastico

58 thoughts on “Henry VIII’s Last Will

      1. I think that lots of countries had the opportunity to reform how they were governed in the twentieth century, and it is no coincidence that they chose to be republics. Obviously, there’s a lot more to it but that’s a start.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Astute observations Luisa, but what a hypocrite Henry was! He was looking for redemption, but only after he had fulfilled his ambitions. How apt therefore that his coffin was never finished and he lies in the vaults under St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. Not quite the hereafter he was hoping for was it?

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Other of your stories that make us immerse ourselves in the lives of characters that make history.I wish you a new year that removes all evil to make way for health and happiness! May the new year be special, surprising and happy. A big hug Luisa. I hope to continue enjoying your blog in 2022
    Manuel Angel

    Liked by 1 person

  3. . Rileggevo stamattina. Mi ricordo quando il buon Wolsey gli mostro Hampton Court, costruita con estrema cura e amore e Enrico gli disse che era belllssima… e il povero cardinale, esteta, a malincuore gli rispose: “ ma è sua Sire! la storia inglese mi piace molto. Buon anno e ancora e buona giornata.

    Liked by 1 person

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