Henry VIII of England was a good king (3)
Debate Rounds (3)
As you can see, this is the third time that I have attempted to debate this subjuect. The first time, my opponent totally trolled and the second time my opponent forfeited. Therefore I am hoping to have a civil debate about this for once.
The premise for this debate is: Henry VIII was overall a positive influence on England during his reign.
I will take the Pro position of the premise, while my opponent will obviously take the Con position.
The debate structure will be generic, with the first round being for acceptance only.
Good Luck! Also, the person who loses this debate consents to getting their head chopped off, so accept at your own risk.
Accept, and agree not to base arguments on Henry's personal character except as this may have affected his performance as head of state.
I will be arguing that Henry VIII was overall a good king for England. There is lots of controversy surrounding around Henry VIII, and it primarily originates from his six wives and infamous beheading of two of them. I will attempt to show that despite these gruesome events, Henry VIII was overall good for England. For each of my arguments, I will provide the historical context and then make my own personal analysis about the matter.
Henry inherited the throne during a delicate time in England's history. Henry's father, Henry VII, had taken the throne after a bloody war with house of York . This war, often dubbed the Wars of the Roses due to the fact that the Heraldic badges of the houses of Lancaster and York where a Red and White rose, respectively. In order to create peace between the two families, Henry VII announced his marriage to Elizabeth of York to create a joint unity between both houses.
Despite this supposed peace between the two families, the tension between the houses of Lancaster and York has still not been resolved when Henry VIII assumed the throne. In order to avoid another war, Henry VIII took a more moderate approach when it came to dealing with the Yorks. One example would be how he pardoned multiple Yorkists that had been imprisoned by his father following his coronation as king .
The Yorks, however, were not the only problem that was presented to Henry VIII during his reign. One notable issue was the matter of religion. The reign on Henry VIII began and continued throughout a period called the Reformation, when many began to question the authority of the Catholic Church. This event was able to spread due to the invention of the Printing Press, and Henry VIII knew that it would not be long until the Reformation spread to the British Isles. To solve this problem, Henry VIII was remarkably lenient when it came to religion and was able to prevent a religious war similar to the one in the Holy Roman Empire. One way that this was possible was when Henry VIII split off from the Catholic Church in Rome and created the English Church with himself as the head. This was partially because Henry had wanted to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, however it solved many problems. For one, the Church was essentially Catholic and had not changed any of the doctrines, with the one difference being that there was no pope. However, it also kept the Protestants happy because their complaints had been directed towards the Church in Rome, and now that England had split off they were satisfied .
These two examples, amongst many, show clearly that Henry VIII was a natural at manipulating his enemies. He was able to turn his enemies into allies, or at least not threatening. This is a very good trait to have as a king. Given Henry VIII natural ability to prevent war with clearly more powerful enemies, it is clear that England was better off having Henry on the throne.
Making England Stronger
Because of both the Wars of the Roses and the small population, England was a relatively weak country when Henry VIII ascended to the throne. However, Henry managed to strengthen the power of both himself and the country by the end of his reign. One way that Henry strengthened the authority of the crown was by splitting off from the Church in Rome. By creating the Church of England and placing himself in direct power, he made his vassals fear him. This was because Henry now had all political and religious authority. Another method that Henry utilized in order to gain authority was fear. Henry made his vassals fear him because he showed that he was willing to punish anyone severely if they ever plotted against him. This can be seen clearly in his executions of Thomas Wolsey, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, the Duke of Norfolk, etc. This fear of the king allowed Henry to take full control over the kingdom and through his absolutism allow England to leave the lawlessness of the Middle Ages.
Henry VIII made England stronger militarily as well. By the time Henry VIII inherited the throne from his father, England has five royal warships in its navy. By the time he died in 1547, there were over forty far superior war ships in the navy. This strong navy was essentially in providing defense for England and also making England a powerful political force .
One last way that Henry VIII made England stronger was through education. Using his own money, Henry VIII established schools that were called Kings Schools . These schools were so impressive because they accepted talented peasants as well as noble sons. Through these Kings Schools developed some of the brightest minds in the world such as Christopher Marlow and William Harvey. He also had the Tyndale Bible published in a unified English dialect. Before this bible was published, English varied greatly depending on the region. However, the Tyndale Bible allowed England to become a more united nation due to their new common language.
Had Henry VIII not become king, England would have been considerably weaker. They would have faced stronger threats and potentially war with the Yorks, French, German, and Scotland, and may not have been able to overcome these challenges. Henry VIII also allowed England to advance with his acceptance and advancement of the Renaissance.
When one hears the name "Henry VIII" they generally think that he was an evil and bad king because he executed two of his wives. However, given the multiple number of advancements he provided to his county it is clear that Henry VIII was not only not a bad king, but a great one.
My, I'm impressed with Atheist's homework, having had to empty my credenza finding a good response to it. Our Tudor tales will begin at the same place in near agreement with each other. Sadly, in mine we'll watch the monarch tumble down a much less rosy path than our readers just saw above.
Henry's father, King Henry VII, came up hardly short of ruthlessness at Bosworth Field or afterward. He did enter marriage alliance with the rival House of York, determined to put down the Wars of the Roses and end Richard III's chaotic reign. While king, Henry VII kept England out of war so it could recover politically and economically from the disastrous 15th century, even at cost of giving up on Brittany. Henry VIII was a promising, strong young man who acceded in 1509 with a full treasury, a consensus of the surviving noble families, and high popular support . Almost immediately he began to squander this advantageous position. The 1520 Field of Cloth of Gold as diplomatic exercise and joust was an extravagant boondoggle, as he was at war with Francis I by the next year at a time when England had little stake in France .
Then his desire to be rid of a Catherine of Aragon who couldn't birth a male to secure his dynasty began to strain England's relationship to church, and to the broader Christendom, a fracas hardly salved by Cardinal Wolsey's 1529 firing and subsequent arrest after so many years of loyal service . We must remember the Pope had already granted a special dispensation for Henry to marry Catherine, his older brother's widow. An annulment was too much to ask. The wives' tale and beheading of Anne Boleyn on adultery charges, also for failure to produce the desired heir, are well known and need no exposition here.
Significant was that Henry chose such waste of time while Spain and Portugal were building massive empires in the New World. Spain turned particularly hostile after being incensed over Queen Catherine's ouster. If the Tudor king built up to 40 warships during his reign, then the Hapsburg Charles V sent 40 vessels, including 15 large ships of war, against the French in the single Battle of Muros in 1543, managing this while running the Spanish Main to Cuba . England ultimately fell 90 years behind in the naval race. Good thing it was an Englishman who would discover commercial potential in tobacco to become interested in a Virginia Spain overlooked, and that Portugal didn't go after India as seriously as it might have .
England's break with Rome and Henry's confiscation of the monastic estates - for by then he was short of funds after taking his court to dizzy heights of spending - left the country with no allies in continental Europe until common cause with the new Dutch Republic was reached under Elizabeth. Forced loans kept him afloat as he embarked on his fruitless serial conflict with France. The wrong enemy to be fighting would consume 2.1M pounds, the bulk of it during the 1542-1547 war in which he finished his life . That the Catholicism of his daughter Mary, and later of Mary Queen of Scots, would become grave problems for England was now assured . We could stretch to argue that Henry VIII's reign helped set up conditions for the English Civil Wars that would follow in the next century.
Reluctant to bring Henry's corpulence into the picture, I can't help concluding this and the many health problems it caused impaired the king's ability to think clearly. As the physical decline of his final years set in about 1542, he not only engaged that longest of his wars with France, but executed Catherine Howard, his second-to-last wife, and appears to have become mired in habits that ensured he wouldn't live long enough to prevent a minority at Edward VI's accession. Yet another dutiful wife, Catherine Parr, acted as his nurse . In a race to the bottom among future judges, perhaps Henry's wasn't the very worst reign England endured, but I confess a hard task to describe it as a good one. England would never achieve ideal position in the world until the day of the Georges.
 full treasury: BBC History, http://www.bbc.co.uk...
 Cloth of Gold: Diarmaid MacCulloch, ed., 1995. The Reign of Henry VIII: Politics, Policy and Piety. pp. 60-71, 118-119.
 Wolsey: History Learning Site, http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk...
 Batalla de Muros. Instituto de Historia y Cultura Naval, p. 271. http://www.armada.mde.es...
 Rolfe plants tobacco: Encyclopedia Virgina, http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org...
Spain: Cheryl Martin & Mark Wasserman, 2008: Latin America and Its People, 2 ed., vol. I.
 Forced loans: MacCulloch, pp. 86-87; Accounts pp. 86-92, Lifetime estimate and final war, p. 91.
 Mary & Mary Queen of Scots: Alison Weir, 1996. The Children of Henry VIII. pp. 200, 323.
 physical decline, Parr acting as his nurse: BBC History, http://www.bbc.co.uk...
Thanks hatshepsut for your argument. I must admit, I am somewhat frightened to be debating the greatest queen of Ancient Egypt. However, much like the Hyksos, I must ruthlessly attack my opponents arguments!
I concur with my opponent that Henry VIII was not necessarily the most conservative of money spenders, especially during his early reign. Generally this is not an admirable trait for a king, or any political leader, to have. However, Henry's situation is unique due to the fact that when he died in 1547, England still had a large sum of money and certainly was not on its way to economic crisis. This is due to the Dissolution of the Monasteries between 1536 and 1541 . The Dissolution of the Monasteries began when Henry VIII split from the Church of Rome, and essentially converted England to Protestantism. Due to his new church's quasi-Lutheran views keeping the extravagance of the monasteries around obviously contradicts their cause. Therefore Henry VIII saw a huge opportunity to gain a huge sum of money, and by dissolving the monasteries it is estimated that he gained approximately £1.3 million pounds . Obviously this is not to much nowadays, however in the 1500's this is an enormous sum of money. While I will agree that they Dissolution of the Monasteries was one of Henry VIII's less admirable acts, as it destroyed much of England's art in records, it is hard to argue that it did not help Henry VIII's rule, and by extension, England.
Now for the arguments about Henry's early wives. The divorce with Catherine of Aragon may not have been... chivalrous. However the end result-- the splitting of England from the Roman Church-- eventually proved to be a very successful move for England. The reason for this is that it gave Henry near-absolute rule. While modern day Americans may wrinkle their nose at the proposition of an absolute monarch, considering the time period of Henry VIII's reign, it is clear that absolutism was for the greater good of the country. Due to the fact that England, along with the rest of Europe, was stuck in a feudal system for the vast majority of the middle ages. This feudalistic government caused countries to become decentralized, meaning that the feudal rulers had more power over their people than the king did. In essence this means that countries were more like separated states that were barely united under the myth of the power of the king. However, now that Henry VIII was both King of England and Head of the Church of England none of the feudal rulers were willing to object to his rule and therefore the country became more unified. Also, the "unification" of England allowed technological and humanist ideas to spread easier and therefore I would argue that Henry VIII played a large role in entering England into the Renaissance . As for the beheading of Anne Boleyn, it was obviously an immoral and probably unnecessary act, however in all honesty the execution had little effect on England.
I also agree that Henry VIII was not a colonialist king, and in some ways this harmed his kingdom. However their are many reasons for this. For one, when Henry took the throne he had to be careful with his actions due to a possible war with the Yorks and it would have been most wise to keep his entire navy in England as opposed to discovering the New World. Also, given that Henry VIII left his successors in a relatively stable, financially and politically, situation, it allowed Elizabeth to proceed with the colonization's of Virginia and eventually the rest of the 13 colonies . Also, owning colonies does not necissarily guarentee success for a country. A prime example would be Hapsburg Spain under the reign of Philip II. When Phillip II ascended to the throne after his father, Charles I (also V) resigned in 1555, Spain was the most powerful nation in the world. They had huge colonies in the Americas and the Carribean and was producing huge amounts of money. However, this caused massive infaltion withing Philip's empire and when imports of silver began to fautler, Spain collapsed entirely.
One blemish with Henry's reign which was pointed out by my opponent was his failure to convert his daughter Mary to the new Anglican faith. I agree that this was a major flaw, however it too can be justified. Due to the fact that Henry VIII assumed that his son Edward, would succeed him, he payed to majority of his attention to him. Henry did not have the ability to see into the future and therefore could not possibly know that Mary would eventually ascend to the throne.
I have displayed that Henry VIII was both responsible for unifying England under his authoritarian rule and by extension both stabilized and strengthened England. While I will admit that Henry VIII did have a few issues with his reign, if you consider the situation that he was placed in and the end result, it must be concluded that Henry VIII overall had a positive influence on England.
Thanks for the fun debate!
Considering the princes in the Tower, murdered by Richard III just before the Tudors came to power, I had promised not to focus excessively on Henry VIII's personal character. Yet it rises to such egregious proportions I think it affected his rule and the welfare of England. The £1.3M he garnered by sacking 800 monasteries could have been saved had he refrained from that one last war with France I mentioned in round 2. Henry would elevate the hatchet man for the monastery job, Thomas Cromwell, to Earl in April 1540 but chop his head off two months later. While my opponent tells us Henry was strong against the feudal lords, was this beheading done to placate a Duke of Norfolk Henry may have been more afraid of than we suppose? 
And his addiction to jousting, a sport expected of young kings but hardly of a 44-year old monarch, in 1536 caused him a serious accident that would leave him able to walk only with difficulty the rest of his life, as ulcers from the leg wound festered. He had been expected to die right then, and when Anne Boleyn heard the news, she was so shocked she miscarried her baby, who would have been a male and perhaps Henry's long-sought heir. 
Thomas Cranmer, the Architect of the Church of England, burnt at the stake under Mary. Of course I realize Henry couldn't foresee that Mary would become Queen regnant, yet smart monarchs consider such possibilities . Even if Mary had stayed a princess, that would have been a problem itself - her marriage alliance prospects would have been limited to France or Scotland, with no Spanish crowned head likely to offer a hand after Catherine of Aragon had packed her bags.
I will grant my opponent that England had money at Henry's 1547 death, albeit more of this in the private hands of sensible Englishmen than in the Exchequer. Yet I doubt the break with Rome ended feudalism, which was always more a matter of powerful secular nobles than of the Pope. England suffered considerable intellectual loss, because the monasteries had been schools, while the universities at Oxford and Cambridge went through repeated faculty turnovers as religious requirements see-sawed back and forth. Hawkes informs us of Cranmer's paean at the stake, two decades after Henry had declined his request to allow the capable Bishop Fisher to omit the Oath of Succession also costing the latter his life that day:
A heavy rain is
over Oxford. 
Henry's Reformation wasn't worth it at the time. England might have done better had Henry VII's eldest son Arthur lived to mount the throne. Now finished, I tip my hat to an honorable opponent for this excellent debate.
 Thomas Cromwell's fall: BBC History, http://www.bbc.co.uk...
 accident & miscarriage: The Independent, Apr. 18, 2009, http://www.independent.co.uk...
 Cranmer at the stake: John Foxe, Acts & Monuments, 1563.
 paean: Robert Hawkes, Cranmer and Pole: Archbishops, Broken Jaw Press, 2000, p. 31.
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