When it came to matters of religion, we can see a tyrannical Henry rearing his head again. As previously mentioned, Henry orchestrated the break from Rome in order to marry Anne Boleyn, this was a very selfish move, and it plunged religious life within England into turmoil, as there was no definitive answer to what the right way was to worship as life revolved around the church. In the prelude to the break from Rome Henry issued a praemunire, which prohibited the assertion of papal power at the expense of the Monarch’s power. Upon the issuing of this praemunire Henry exercised complete control over the whole of the English church, took the title of Supreme Head of the English Church and fined the church £100,000. The Dissolution of the Monasteries from 1536 to 1541 was cruel and tyrannical, and changed the lives of over 10,000 Monks and Nuns. The Dissolution of the Monasteries fundamentally changed the landscape of the nation, as religious buildings were sold off to raise finances, and religious orders were broken up in order to destroy one of the last bastions of Catholic resistance in England, those who resisted were executed, whilst others were paid off. Furthermore, in response to the break from Rome, there was the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion, which protested against the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the move away from Roman Catholicism, and the actions of Thomas Cromwell. Henry was seen to have responded to this crisis in a cruel manor, and an excessively forceful way; 200 Rebels were executed for dissent, whilst Norfolk and Suffolk were sent to ruthlessly crush the revolt in the North. However, punishments were done to the letter of the law, and Henry did not act ultra vires in anyway.
Henry’s treatment of the Pole family, after the actions of Cardinal Reginald Pole demonstrates Henry’s tyrannical nature. Cardinal Pole was the Papal legate in England and left England in 1536 after refusing to accept Henry’s right to divorce Katherine of Aragon. Henry saw this as treason, and in 1538, in response to this Henry and Cromwell imprisoned the entire Pole family. In order to further punish Cardinal Pole Henry had Exeter, Montagu, and Sir Edward Neville executed, whilst the rest of the family were attainted, removing their power to respond, and possibly rebel against Henry. Furthermore, in 1541 Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury was executed, this prevented a figurehead for a Plantagenet revival. The Tudor family were still seen as usurpers in certain quarters of the aristocracy, and whilst Henry’s actions can be explained as dynastic protection, Margaret Pole had given Henry no reason to not trust her. Margaret had been Mary’s governess, and had been appointed to this position by Henry, and to execute an elderly woman is a tyrannical move, especially when there was a precedent established by Henry VII to keep dynastic opponents such as Edward, Earl of Warwick in the Tower until they committed treason.
To conclude, Henry VIII was a tyrant, and he consistently acted ultra vires, and in an arbitrary way. He was cruel to many people, including his wives. His treatment towards Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, and Catherine Howard in particular really highlight this tyrannical nature of his. If one is able to have their wife executed, or to essentially imprison them for refusing to bend to one’s will, or doing as they are told, one would have to be slightly unhinged, or even tyrannical. Furthermore, Henry executed two of his closest advisors for not bending to his will. Thomas More was executed for not accepting the validity of Henry’s second marriage, and for accepting Catholicism and the Pope. Thomas Cromwell was executed for essentially becoming too powerful, and for arranging Henry’s failed marriage to Anne of Cleves. These executions show Henry to be excessively tyrannical, and angry at anyone putting up strong opposition, or demonstrating independent thought. The punishments Henry levied against them were cruel, and unreasonable. Lipscomb supports this, claiming that whilst many contemporaries were very complimentary about Henry. However, towards the end of his reign Henry was being called a tyrant due to many of his actions, and if even contemporaries were calling him a tyrant, one can conclude that Henry was indeed a tyrant.