15. Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon’s separation famously led to the creation of the Church of England
As King of England, Henry VIII, wielded almost unlimited power. But what he lacked the power to do was to separate from his wife, the Spanish Catherine of Aragon. The King’s sole gripe was that she had failed to give birth to a healthy boy, thereby giving him the male heir he so desperately craved. This alone was not sufficient grounds for separation, at least in the eyes of the Church. So, Henry tried a different tactic. Since Catherine was his brother’s 17-year-old widow when they wed, he turned to the Bible, citing the Leviticus passage, “And if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing.”
Henry’s case was somewhat weakened by the fact that he had petitioned the Pope to be allowed to marry Catherine in the first place. What’s more, when he wanted the union ended, the same Pope was being held under house arrest by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles. A Papal blessing for a divorce looked unlikely. So, Henry decided he didn’t need one. He set up his own church. Out of the marriage breakdown came the Church of England and the protestant faith, and the English monarch continues to be head of that Church to this day.