These Were Henry VIII's Greatest Military Achievements

Henry VIII captures the popular imagination for mostly the wrong reasons. He was man of many marriages, with an executioner on the 16th century equivalent of speed dial. Don't forget breaking with the prevailing Christian denomination of the day and replacing it with his own church. And his regal diet. (At one point he had a waistline reportedly measuring 54 inches, he weighed 400 pounds, and even at 6'2" he was no one's idea of height-weight appropriate.)

'Tis a pity, because there was much, much more to the story, not the least of which were Henry's military accomplishments. Granted, that included a successful military campaign against Scotland not once, but twice, and his revitalization of the English military establishment meant that French troops landing in England between 1545-46 were repulsed.

Earlier, he had taken the fight to France itself — English kings had long laid claim to the throne of France as well — and had some success there. According to Historynet, what stopped him from going further was the same thing that stops people from paying for a lot of things: lack of funds. Henry expressed a desire to actually lead the troops himself, but, for good or ill, was dissuaded by advisors.

The 'Mary Rose' was state-of-the-Tudor-art

It was Henry who moved ground troops from reliance on the longbow to embracing the new gunpowder weapons, including hand-held firearms, not just cannons, though he loved those, too. He imported over 100 cannons, according to War History Online, including a bronze demon named "The Twelve Apostles." Convinced of the value, Henry encouraged England to manufacture its own guns, both bronze and cast-iron.

Perhaps his greatest achievement was his commitment to sea power. As an island nation, England was clearly vulnerable. Henry increased the fleet of English warships from 5 to 60 during his reign, and established dockyards at Woolwich and Deptford, says Elizabethan England Life. His pride and joy was the royal gunship Mary Rose, built over the course of two years, a state-of-the-art vessel used to great effect for years before tipping over in a high wind and sinking in minutes as Henry watched. Only about 35 of her 500 men survived, but archaeologists have been excavating since the wreck's discovery in 1971, per the Mary Rose website.

Besides ships, Henry oversaw creation of coastal fortresses for the continued defense of what Shakespeare called "this sceptered isle."