Co-written with John Fletcher, Henry VIII covers the rise of Anne Boleyn and the King's divorce from Katherine of Aragon. 'Queen Katherine', who is put on trial in Act 2, became a favourite tragic role for actresses such as Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) and Ellen Terry (1847-1928).
From at least 1727, when a revival by Colley Cibber made explicit reference to George II's coronation, Henry VIII was a popular reference point for contemporary royal events. The play's interest in royal women, and in sexuality, made it ripe for comparison with troubled latter-day royal marriages. Meanwhile, its English Reformation backdrop lent it an edge of anti-Catholicism. This made it a useful tool for criticising overreaching by members of the Hanoverian dynasty, who had been installed in Britain primarily because of their Protestant faith.