The Effect of King Henry VIII of England on the French Revolution and WWI

Hi everyone! Sorry i haven’t written anything in a while! As a treat, (well probably more torture than treat) i’m going to post a 7-page essay i had to write for my IB extended essay. Not only will this hopefully help future IB students, but it will show the extent of my hate for Great Britain and why i blame them for everything wrong in the world (this is the background section). In my next post, i’ll expand on modern maladies and how England is at fault for that (ya…i really hate them)! Anyways, enjoy! 😀

King Henry VIII of England, who ruled from 1509-1547, led a very unstable, although politically active life. He is most known for having married six wives in a time when divorce was taboo, particularly if the marriage had been consummated. Furthermore, he established the Church of England, and further propelled what was to become the Protestant Reformation. However, was King Henry VIII also responsible for the French Revolution of 1789 and World War I as well? Whether he was the cause or not can be analyzed by his familial interactions, political and economic choices, and his military movements.
French Revolution – Familial Relations:
It can be stated that Henry VIII is the direct cause of the French revolution. He married Catherine of Aragon, the youngest daughter of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Spain, and his first child, died two months later, which may have contributed to King Henry VIII to take his frustrations of losing a potential heir out by going to war with France, whose ruler was King Francois I. This happened several times in Henry’s life, where he lost a potential male heir, as only one of his many sons lived to his teenage years. Four of these sons were born by Catherine, although all of them died within days of being born. Unfortunately, Henry never forgave Catherine for the death of his child, which he blamed entirely on her. This is exhibited by the many affairs that he had at the time, particularly with Bessie Blount, Mary Boleyn, and Anne Boleyn, each affair resulting in illegitimate children. This became a trend with Henry – blaming his wives for not giving him a son, and then taking his frustrations out in a politically inadvisable way. There is also evidence supporting the notion that Mary Boleyn was Francois’ mistress while she was in France. King Henry VIII’s sister Mary Tudor was also married to King Louis XII, making Francois I of France his step-nephew ( King Henry VIII’s daughter with Catherine, Mary I, had an arranged political marriage with Philip II of Spain. The marriage was an unhappy one and she died without leaving an heir to the Spanish or English throne. The king of Spain became Philip III. Ultimately, King Henry VIII’s family was a very mixed one, furthering the point that Henry was related to almost every royal family in Europe at the time.
French Revolution – Financial Crisis:
King Henry VIII’s war with Francois I depleted France’s treasury funds, causing them to go into debt; something that even with 300 years to recuperate, they were never able to completely repay or restore their economy back to its original state from. With debt, and lack of influence, the Valois dynasty, the French monarchial family at the time, died only to be replaced by the Bourbon dynasty. The Bourbon, established by King Henry IV, was quite successful. He could produce no heir and was incapable of winning any wars or battles. Eventually, Louis XIV’s grandson won the Spanish throne in the war of Spanish succession as Philip V of Spain, and France became bankrupt again after the war (Goubert). After Louis XIV’s death, the empire began to crumble. Louis XVI became king in a time of civil unrest after France had just lost the Seven Years War and the War of Austrian Succession, both of which pitted England versus France ( Essentially, King Henry VIII initiated a long standing feud between England and France that existed up to the French Revolution.
During the French Revolution, George III was king of England. His father, King George II who was the first king to be administered a prime minister due to his poor ruling skills. George II’s great-great grandfather was King James I of England who was the nephew and successor of Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII. It was James’ daughter who married the King of Bavaria at that time, thus making all their descendents of German descent as part of the Hanover Dynasty. Unfortunately, George II of the Hanover dynasty, did not posses his ancestors’ ruling skills and quarreled frequently with both his father and his son. George III, on the other hand, is known for having caused unrest in the American colonies and furthermore, allowing them to successfully revolt against the British Empire. The American Revolution is known as one of the great reasons of the French Revolution. The political system of France, called the Estates-General, was one that had begun years ago and was incredibly outdated by the time the French Revolution came about, also contributing to the revolution ( Therefore, it becomes evident that the financial crisis, which fueled political crisis, Henry VIII and his family instigated in France, in part allowed for the French Revolution to take place.
French Revolution – Military Movement:
King Francis I was the French foil of King Henry VIII. Francis’ heir after 7 generations was Louis XIV, who helped his own grandson, Philip V, win his throne in the War of the Spanish succession. The war was eventually fought with France and Spain on one side and England and the Holy Roman Empire on the other side. Spain and France lost the war and many Spanish lands were conceded to Austria (
During King Henry VIII’s final years, he attempted to take military control of France and Spain for what appears to be no reason, other than greed for expansion. King Henry VIII attacked Louis XII (Goubert). It is hypothesized that King Henry VIII was losing his sanity in the final years of his life and therefore several events may have accounted for this. Firstly, King Henry VIII’s lack of a successful male heir for so many years lead to an unimaginable frustration for him, partly in fault of his chauvinism as well, as it has been shown that he did in fact consider men the greater of the species, and women only for bedding and producing heirs. Furthermore, many feel that it was King Henry VIII’s life ambition to surpass his ancestors militarily, economically, and in overall power, which may have caused several of his unwarranted attacks on sovereign nations. It can be argued, in addition, that a sane person, and particularly a ruler, would not take these actions unless they were mentally unstable. Thus, not only can Henry be considered mentally unstable, but his instability caused him to declare wars with several nations, mainly France, that should have been avoided. These wars with France ultimately led to a public distraught with their rulers.
French Revolution – Analysis:
Early in life, a restless King Henry VIII had decided that he would gain control of as many lands as were possible. Unfortunately for France, they were the target of King Henry VIII’s conquest. King Henry VIII fought with Francois I, launching a war that completely depleted French funds. Furthermore, not only were they depleted for years, but the French monarchy was never able to raise enough revenue to pay the debt back, and recover from their economic slump. Essentially, King Henry VIII’s attack pushed the French to retaliate, causing the English to retaliate, starting an endless cycle, which ended with a complete depletion of the French treasury, as well as tax problems throughout the years. Furthermore, the wars of King Louis XIV made the situation far worse, as his numerous conquests and wars, such as the War od Spanish Succession, increased the overall debt of the country. By the late 1780s, the French life was so encompassed by war, that it was no wonder the country was on the verge of revolt. And the worst of it was that they had failed to garner any land during these wars and had lost two key opportunities to gain possession of another crown – that of the Spanish in the War of Spanish Succession and the Austrian throne in the War of Austrian Succession – as the Scots had lost the opportunity to do so with the English some two hundred years earlier. Essentially, the citizens of the French kingdom were poor, hungry, and over-taxed. They had been at war with England for years, and the fighting had depleted their funds. Yet, rumors of food being constantly thrown away at the French palace were relentless and many, exciting the common folk into an unstoppable rage – a rage the balled itself into what eventually became the event of the century – the French Revolution.
Economic problems, however, were not the only cause of the French Revolution; political instability within Europe is also another cause. Interestingly enough, part of this instability can also be traced back to King Henry VIII. King Henry VIII pushed forward the inter-familial marriages taking place at the time and in the future. The first example of this is having his own daughter, Mary I, married Philip II of Spain, who was technically her nephew as her grandparents were his great-grandparents. He arranged many other marriages as well, most of them between cousins or some form of relation. Keeping this in mind, and not knowing the repercussions of it, his ancestors kept up this policy, which is also shown in the case of his sister Margaret Tudor, whose grandchildren married each other. These grandchildren, Mary Stuart or Mary Queen of Scots as she is better known, gave birth to James I/V of England/Scotland. There are many more examples of these types of marriages, originating from King Henry VIII’s plans, but over several hundred years, every single European family was related to each other. This being the case, no one wanted to help their French brethren at the risk of offending another relative. If one looks even deeper at the situation, it may have been that since every royal family had some sort of claim to another throne, that if they had foreseen Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s deaths, they would have simply ignored them, for they would have wanted the throne for themselves. Nonetheless, had all the families not been related, then the close Franco-Spanish may have benefitted France as a whole, and the Revolution would not have taken place if the Spanish had offered food, clothing, or even monetary compensation. But since this was not the case, France finally fell into a state of irreparable disrepair, and unable to fix their economy or their political situation. Thus, the seeds for the French Revolution were embedded in the minds of the population and it was destined to take place.
Other factors, such as the political system in France at the time, also contributed to the French Revolution. The French had a body known as the Estates-General that was had been in place since 1302, only about 500 years after the formation of France itself. But throughout the years, the Estates-General had not changed with the times. This being the case, it was seriously outdated, essentially causing a political backup with the peasantry and lower class citizens. These citizens wanted rights, clothes, and food, yet the Estates- General was unable to provide any of that. However, most historians will agree, that the number one instigator of the French Revolution was, in fact, another very famous revolution – The American Revolution. The American Revolution flared Enlightenment thoughts and ideals across Europe and in France particularly. Ironically enough, King Henry VIII can also be connected to the American Revolution, directly linking him to the French Revolution once again. King George III was ruler of Britain during the American and the French Revolutions. George III had actually picked up his ruling style from his father, who had learned his style from being pampered by his father. George I was actually the great-grandson of James I of England, showing that the ruling style had actually filtered down rather succinctly. However, since King Henry VIII was insistent on getting things exactly as he wanted (which he seems to have passed down to George III), and he was known to have megalomania (which also seems to have been passed down to George III), and those did pass down to his descendants, he would in fact be responsible for the American Revolution , much like in the case of the Estates-General, which is in turn responsible for the French Revolution, because the old style of rule did not fit the new age, along with being responsible for several causes of the French Revolution.
World War I – Familial Relations:
Henry can also be attributed for helping to start World War I. Henry is also directly linked to the Hanover Dynasty, making all of his decedents of Anglo-German decent. The Hanover dynasty was directly involved in the causes of WWI. King George V lost his territories to Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, after which many of the European nations began to scramble for alliances, which would inevitably lead to WWI at the slightest sign of political stress. Furthermore, Henry VIII ruled at the same time as Charles V of Spain, who at the time was also king of the Holy Roman Empire, Italy, as well as Duke of Burgundy and a Lord of the Netherlands, respectively. He created permanent, bitter relations with Spain when he insulted Charles’ aunt, Catherine of Aragon, with an annulment after a 24 year marriage through the Roman Catholic Church to a consummated marriage. Coincidentally, the reason he claimed for his divorce was that his first wife had consummated her marriage with his elder brother Arthur, before he died, though she claimed that was not the case. The fact that he did this after such a long period of time is most likely the reason the Pope denied the annulment. At the same time, this directly insulted his daughter, the future Queen Mary I, and made her an illegitimate child of Henry. Also, Elizabeth I took the British throne as opposed to her older half-sister, Mary, thus angering Mary. Mary eventually married her cousin Philip I, and lived the rest of her life in bitterness towards the English due to the many insults bestowed upon her by her father and half sister, but mainly from the heavy insults paid to her mother from her father, as her mother lived out the rest of her divorced life in an isolated manor, hating Henry for his actions and dying incredibly ill. Mary further blamed her father for her mother’s death, which she claimed could have been avoided if he had taken care of her, like a proper husband was supposed to, instead of gallivanting off and marrying two other women before her death. Charles V thus insulted with the English from their actions towards his aunt, Catherine of Aragon, and towards his cousin and future daughter-in-law, Mary I, the Spanish throne became tainted with hate towards the English. His descendent was Charles I of Spain, who was brother to Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I. Ferdinand was convinced to abdicate his throne in favor of his nephew Franz Joseph I of Austria. After the suicide of Franz’s son, due to Franz’s not accepting of Rudolph’s mistress, his nephew Franz Ferdinand became Archduke. It was his assassination that immediately led WWI. Consequently, one can see that Henry’s family was clearly confusing. With so many important relations in one family, the most insignificant problem could become an international crisis, as it did with World War I.
World War I – Military movement:
Henry set the precedent during his time to annex territories when he repeatedly tried to take over neighboring nations, most notably Scotland. His descendents continued this policy, and it can be said quite safely that every European Royal family has some relation to him in some way or another. Since all these families essentially engaged in a battle over territories, a power struggle eventually began; this set off many smaller wars such as the wars of Louis XIV. After Louis XVI was overthrown and executed, the state of France fell into disarray, as there was no solid leadership within the nation, except Napoleon I and Napoleon III, both of whom were exiled. One such war was the Franco-Prussian War which took place when the Hapsburgs, or the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire, became suspicious when the Prussians began to grow powerful in ways of land acquisition, politically and militarily. The leader of France at the time was Napoleon III. However, when he lost the war, he was exiled to England, ending his relatively short rule, and making him the last monarch of France. After the Franco-Prussian War, European nations scrambled to build alliances. When Franz Ferdinand visited Bosnia and Herzegovina, he was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist, who resented him occupying the area Serbia felt was rightly theirs. This Serbian nationalist was a part of a secret organization known as the Black Hand which had originated from a semi-secret organization known as Narodna Odbrana, which was created after the annexation.
World War I – Analysis:
Several causes of the First World War can be contributed to the precedents that Henry set forth himself. Up until his death, Henry was always attempting to conquer a neighboring nation, mostly Scotland or France. One of the reasons for WWI was the competition created between the European nations. Not only were many of these countries vying for international colonies, such as in the Americas and Africa, they were also competing to see who had the biggest and strongest armies. Henry too, had set this precedent by continuously increasing his naval and army’s powers, in his conquest to rule over France and Scotland. He passed on his armies to his daughter Elizabeth, and although they served her in fighting off the Spanish Armada, they are also what eventually caused tensions to spring up between England and the rest of the continent, as well as with a young, colonial, America. Nationalism was also a major aspect in increasing tensions. Henry had set up a common belief in England that prevails to this day, that Britain was meant to conquer over the rest of the world. This is most prominently shown by saying that “The Sun never sets on the British Empire.”He did this by separating himself from Rome, and creating the Church of England. To the rest of the world, he essentially announced he was above the Pope and to some extremists, that he thought he was above God. With this done, and the war between his daughters over religious control of the country, the newly established followers of the Church of England began what became known throughout the world as a type of superiority complex, one more reason for the American Revolution, as they tried to overly-impose themselves onto the American colonists, according to said colonists. However, there is suspicion that the French may have also been involved in the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, as it was his nation that had taken over the Lorraine area of France, for which the French had become resentful for quite some time, as they wanted the immediate recovery of the area. Ironically, Ferdinand was a member of the Hapsburg-Lorraine family, thus France effectively wiped out a member of their own “family”. Henry also created some alliances, which caused some nations to support one over another. This was mainly accomplished by the intermarriage system he set up, not only within the Tudors, but within the Hanovers and the Bourbons as well. Although most royal families were all related, some were more connected than others. For example, two different branches of the Hanover Dynasty ruled over Germany and England, causing them to be aligned with each other for a relatively short period of time. And although the French monarchy no longer existed at this time, the relations between the monarchial families of England and France had been long since established through numerous marriages, creating a long lasting national alliances with each other, when both were in the face of danger (as there hate for each other at this point had worn off to a point of friendship).
French Revolution – Conclusion:
King Henry VIII was in fact responsible for the French Revolution. Both his political and social life ultimately led to the destruction of thousands of families in France and even some in Austria. Not only did he set up the system which led to almost every European monarch being related to every other European monarch, but he also was the monarch who pushed France into a permanent state of debt, which was a direct and major cause of the French Revolution. Not only was King Henry responsible for his descendents actions, but he made life miserable for those around him, which thus influenced their decisions. One such case is Mary I where she tried to kill her sister, Elizabeth I, several times. In present day, this is similar to the Georgia/Russia situation. Georgia, in constant repression, is much like the French middle and lower class, while Russia is like the monarchy, making laws that only benefit him directly. This example, shows that not only was King Henry VIII responsible for the French Revolution in more than one way, but that his effect is still present, as his technique of ruling has even spread to a more general level, such as small political and social elitist groups, instead of just the royal elite.
World War I – Conclusion:
Furthermore, Henry was responsible for the First World War. His social life led to the precedent of “conquer first, ask questions later.” This ultimately threw Europe into a state of dismay as 400 years worth of political turmoil and spying imploded onto Europe after what was supposed to be a simple assassination, which should not have caused six major world powers to declare war on each other within a few weeks. Furthermore, Henry essentially pushed the incestual relations to another level, as he married his eldest daughter off to her first cousin. This proceeded throughout the ages, as is most pertinently shown with Carlos of Asturias, the first son of King Philip II of Spain, who only had four great-grandparents, and eight great-great grandparents, making his parents half-siblings. Also, Henry set up the pattern of attempting to conquer territories and establishing advanced armies even more so than his ancestors had. If relations were not already stressed enough, this show of military force was certainly enough to instigate nations to attack before being attacked, such as with the Spanish Armada’s attack on England. The Spanish loss to an underdog, due to the sheer number in forces, as well as several other factors, was not only humiliating, but kept nations even more alert than they had been before. With this example came not only the threat of being attacked by neighboring nations, but also the possibility of having one’s colonies rebel against rule, which is precisely what happened to Britain with its American colonies and in South Asia with India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In conclusion, it can be proved that King Henry VIII indirectly caused both the French Revolution and World War I.

“Bessie Blount”. Google Timeline. 28 February 2010
Brown, Lorri. “What Caused the French Revolution?”. 6-9-09
“Causes of the French Revolution”. 6-9-09.
“Causes of World War 1”. PageWise. 28 February 2010
Doyle, William. The Oxford History of the French Revolution. New York: Oxford University
Press, 1989.
“France”. History Channel. 6-9-09
Goubert, Pierre. The Course of French History. New York: Library of Congress Cataloging-in-
Publication-Data, 1988.
Joyce, Paul. “British Perception of Germany”. University of Portsmouth. 28 February 2010

Karpilovsky, Suzanne, Maria Fogel, and Olivia Kobelt. “The Great War Causes.” CUSD. CUSD,
n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2010.
Kelly, Martin. “Top 5 Causes of World War 1.” American History. The New York
Times Company, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2010.
“King Henry VIII”. 6-9-09 .
Ridley, Jasper. King Henry VIII: The Politics of Tyranny. New York: Viking Penguin Inc., 1985.
“SUCCESSORS OF ROME: FRANCIA, 447-Present”. 6-12-09
“United Kingdom.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 12 Jun.
2009 .
“World War I.” The First World War (1914-18). The Corner, 2007. Web. 28 Feb. 2010.
Weir, Alison (2002). “Henry VIII: The King and His Court”, p. 216-217. New York: Ballantine

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About RB

Hello all! Firstly, thank you for taking the time to read my blog! I'm an incredibly opinionated, college graduate, navigating my way through the real world. Although I firmly believe that the opinion of one, represents the opinion of many, that is no guarantee I'm not going to offend anyone. More often than not, I'm probably going to offend most people. However, I take pride in being open-minded and loving discourse, so if you have an alternative (non-bigoted and intellectually based) opinion, I would love to hear it! The comment section is always available for that reason! Otherwise, I hope you enjoy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: