This last post analyzing the quintessential leadership of Henry VIII will cover the last 11 years of Henry’s life. We will pick up here where we left off at the end of Quintessential Leadership Analysis of Henry VIII – Pt. 2 – 1525 – 1536.

After having Anne Boleyn executed in early 1536, Henry VIII married Jane Seymour. Jane was perhaps, if such a thing existed for Henry VIII, the love of his life. Jane Jane Seymour - Third Wife of Henry VIIIbrought all the qualities of quiet submission, calming influence, virtuous dignity, and careful circumspection that Anne Boleyn lacked to her marriage and to the throne. Her family, as Boleyn’s had been, became ensconced at the royal court once Jane became queen.

While Jane’s character seems to be beyond reproach, the same cannot be said of her two brothers, Edward and Thomas Seymour (who was executed by the Privy Council two years after Henry VIII’s death on charges of treason). The longevity of the Seymour brothers being installed at court shows how mercurial both they and Henry VIII were. Edward and Thomas were good at eliminating their competition, blaming others for mistakes, and twisting things to appeal to increasingly-mentally-unstable Henry VIII. They had no ethics, unlike Jane, who seems to have been quite ethical, much like Catherine of Aragon.

Jane was able to accomplish several important things during her brief tenure as queen. She worked hard to bring Mary I back to court regularly, which enabled Henry VIII and Mary to develop a stronger familial bond. Most importantly, she gave birth to a healthy, live male heir – the one thing that mattered most in the world to Henry VIII. However, the labor was difficult and prolonged, and Jane died on October 24, 1537, twelve days after giving birth to Edward VI.

There are two pieces of evidence that support that Jane Seymour held a special place in Henry VIII’s life. One was that Henry mourned her death for an extended period of time and did not remarry – although Thomas Cromwell was almost immediately searching for marriage prospects for Henry after Jane’s death – for three years. The second was that Henry was buried according to his wishes beside Jane after his death in 1547.

Thomas Cromwell pretty much ran the country during Henry’s period of mourning, and it was in this capacity that he both overreached his abilities and made old enemies greater enemies and made new enemies as well, including the Seymour brothers.

Cromwell was a true religious reformist and saw an opportunity to further the English reformation and strengthen the crown’s coffers by taking over and shutting down monasteries throughout England. A lot of these monasteries had financial and physical assets that made them wealthy, and Cromwell saw an opportunity to both push the religious reform and confiscate those assets for the crown. He assured Henry that there was little to no opposition to it.

Cromwell, aided by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, began a systemic pillaging campaign against all the monasteries. There was organized opposition when the campaign got to the northern part of England, but it was quickly and harshly suppressed by mass executions sanctioned by Henry at Cromwell’s suggestion.

Thomas Cromwell’s undoing came as a result of the marriage he arranged between the German Anne of Cleves and Henry in January 1540. Cromwell touted the beauty of Anne to Henry, while hoping that an alliance with Lutheran Germany would truly bring reform to the English church, but he clearly misread the fact that Henry was thoroughly a Catholic in his dogma and, in true unquintessential leadership fashion,  was just using the church and reforms to achieve his own ends and serve his own interests.

The Anne that Henry met was not the Anne that Cromwell had described to him, and,Anne of Cleves - Fourth Wife of Henry VIII after failing to find a way to void the marriage contract, Henry relented to marry her. However, the marriage was never consummated and was annulled in July 1540.

Henry VIII was generous with Anne of Cleves (she fared the best in life of all his wives) after the annulment, and gave her estates and an income for the rest of her life. Anne and Henry also became good friends and Anne had very close relationships with both Mary and Elizabeth. Anne was instrumental in Henry’s decision to reinstate both daughters in the legitimate line of succession after Edward VI, and she lived to see Mary I crowned in 1553, after Edward’s death.

Henry blamed Cromwell for the marriage fiasco and the enemies that Cromwell had accrued at court saw their opportunity to get rid of him.

Here is an unquintessential leadership trait that Henry VIII possessed. He was always susceptible – perhaps because of his own declining mental health – to believing stories of treason, corruption, and general dishonor. Henry was persuaded by Cromwell’s opponents that Cromwell was a traitor and Henry sentenced him to execution. Cromwell was beheaded, in what by all accounts was a botched execution that required several strokes of the ax before his head was actually cut off, on July 8, 1540.

Cromwell was the most capable, albeit ruthless and unscrupulous, chief minister that Henry VIII had, and Henry later regretted Cromwell’s execution, accusing his ministers of bringing false charges to him about Cromwell to secure his execution.

This is an example of unquintessential leadership as well. Henry VIII consistently blamed other people when things went wrong. He never took responsibility as the ultimate authority in England for decisions that brought consequences he later regretted. We see this trait throughout his life and throughout his rulership of England.

After Cromwell’s death, Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, and Edward Seymour became Henry VIII’s chief advisers, with Seymour handling the duties of chief minister.

It was just after Henry’s annulment from Anne of Cleves that he married Catherine Howard, the niece of Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk. Catherine was much Catherine Howard - Fifth Wife of Henry VIIIyounger than Henry VIII, which by itself made marriage difficult. But she was also flighty, indiscreet in all things  (including her arrogant and contemptuous attitude toward Henry’s children), and promiscuous before her marriage and had affairs during her marriage – most notably with Thomas Culpepper, Henry’s courtier. These were the nails, so to speak, in her coffin.

She was executed by beheading on grounds of adultery on February 23, 1542. Culpepper had already been executed on the same charges in December of 1541.

After Catherine Howard’s execution, Henry turned his attention toward foreign matters. He had become suspicious of the French and saw them as a contributing factor in Scotland’s frequent insurgencies into the northern part of England. Convinced that Francis was reneging on the Franco-English alliance, Henry decided to break the alliance and form a new alliance against France with Charles V and Spain.

In 1543, Henry also married again. His new wife was Catherine Parr. Catherine and Thomas Seymour had been planning to marry, which Henry was aware of, so Henry sent Thomas out of the country before Henry and Catherine were married. CatherineCatherine Parr - Sixth Wife of Henry VIII seems to have been much like Jane Seymour in her circumspection, and she welcomed and was extremely close to all of Henry’s children, taking the responsibility for ensuring the further education of Elizabeth I and Edward VI. She outlived Henry and died after childbirth in 1548 during her final marriage to Thomas Seymour (they married in secret about six months after Henry’s death).

In 1544, Henry and Charles decided to invade France. England supplied the navy and Spain supplied the ground troops. Henry intended to regain the land that the English had lost previously to France in Boulogne. Conquest proved difficult and Henry’s sieges were abruptly ended by Spain signing a peace treaty with France. Unable to sustain an all-out war, Henry and the English army returned home.

By this time, Henry VIII was in full decline mentally and physically. His Henry VIII near the end of his lifegluttony and lack of activity since a wound in a jousting match that never healed and limited his mobility caught up with him and by the time he died in 1547, he weighed about 400 pounds. He became a virtual recluse and his mental health deteriorated further. It now appears that he may have suffered from a rare genetic disease known as McLeod neuroacanthocytosis syndrome, which may explain some of the severe physical and most of the severe mental decline Henry experienced as he aged. Whatever genetic factors contributed to Henry VIII’s mental and physical problems, however, cannot be blamed for his intrinsic lack of good and right character.

The two things that consumed Henry, when he was well enough, the last two and a half years of his life were his son and religion. When he died on January 28, 1547, he left a son who would inherit the throne – although his reign would be cut short by an early death in July 1553, which would throw the English monarchy and England into utter chaos until Elizabeth I took the throne in January 1558 – and he left religious reforms – an English Bible, for instance – that paved the way for the English and their descendants to be able to read the Bible themselves and reject the erroneous idea that any human and any religious organization must be the intermediary between humans and their God, a fight still being fought today almost everywhere, although not always as overtly or as obviously as within the Catholic faith, in the world of religion.

On the whole, though, when we look at Henry VIII’s life and reign, regardless of what physiological factors may have played a role, we see an unquintessential leader.

He lacked the ability to build trust and be trustworthy.

He never accepted his responsibility for anything, but instead blamed others when things went wrong.

He was arrogant and full of pride and made some very bad decisions in attempts to prove his superiority to his peers, both at home and abroad.

He lacked any self-control in his private life and his public life.

He had faulty discernment of other people, and allowed himself to be manipulated by every kind of deception and dishonesty at every turn, especially when it suited his needs, served his purposes, or otherwise fulfilled the selfish nature that characterized this man. For Henry VIII, the end always justified the means.

He truly, in the end, only cared about how people and things were useful to him. If they weren’t useful, they ceased to exist (literally, by execution, and mentally in his memory).

As quintessential leaders, we need to observe and evaluate ourselves in light of the unquintessential leadership traits we see in Henry VIII. We need to be brutally honest and ask some hard questions as we look into our own mirrors of leadership.

Does the end justify the means for us? Are we willing to do or allow our teams to do anything, regardless of the ethics, the rightness, the morality, to achieve an outcome we want? If so, we’re being unquintessential leaders.

Do we practice or allow our teams to practice or allow ourselves to be influenced by any kind of deceit and dishonesty (presenting false information as true information, spinning information, angling information, omitting key or relevant information, or misinforming for any reason)? If so, we’re being unquintessential leaders.

Do we manipulate, allow our teams to manipulate, or allow ourselves to be manipulated to achieve an outcome we want? If so, we’re being unquintessential leaders.

Are our decisions made to serve ourselves or to serve others? Do we care about what we want more than we care about what anyone else wants or needs? Will we willingly and cavalierly sacrifice – or eliminate – anybody and everybody to satisfy our own wants and desires? If so, we’re being unquintessential leaders.

Are we always blaming everyone and everything else when things go wrong or don’t go the way we had intended or hoped, never taking any responsibility for our roles as leaders in making the decision? If so, we’re being unquintessential leaders.

Henry VIII should make all of us, as quintessential leaders, take a long, serious, and totally honest gut check to see if and where we are guilty of any of his unquintessential leadership traits and behaviors.

It takes courage, which it seems is hard to find in today’s society, to do a deep and honest moral inventory that actually looks at, actually admits, and immediately changes anything in our lives that reveals any unquintessential leadership traits and behaviors.

A lot of people in leadership positions today are cowards, much like Henry VIII was, who hid behind excuses, justifications, blame, and other people most of his life. Cowardice is the path of least resistance and a coward will find him or herself surrounded by plenty of company.

So I ask you, my fellow quintessential leaders, the same question I ask myself on a continual basis. Are you a coward or are you courageous?

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