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Why did King Henry VIII break with the Roman Catholic church?

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The historical answer is that Henry VIII established his control over the Church in England because he was very anxious to father a son to continue his dynasty. He was denied a divorce by the Pope, leading to the schism that eventually formed the Anglican Church.

The immediate cause of Henry's breakaway from the Pope was so that he could get a divorce from his aging wife, Catherine of Aragon, who had failed to produce a male heir. Theoretically, it was not impossible for him to get an annulment on some pretext, but for purely political reasons, it was impossible. Catherine's nephew, Charles, was the King of Spain and both the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope had a lot more to fear from him than from Henry. At that time, England was a minor power, while Charles' empire was both geographically closer and militarily stronger. The ugly fate of Boniface VIII is a stark illustration of what powerful rulers could do to a Pope who crossed them.

There is equal reason to believe it was because he wished to stop the Inquisition from taking hold in England.

England became a part of the reformation more through politics than theological debate. King Henry VIII (1509-47) needed an heir to the throne and with his wife was unable to produce one. The Pope would not grant a divorce and so Henry convinced Parliament to declare him head of the Church in England. After his death, Henry's daughter (Mary Tudor) was a staunch Catholic and persecuted the Protestants. When Henry's other daughter, Elizabeth, inherited the throne, she tolerated the Protestants just enough so as not to irritate the Pope. When the English fleet defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, the Anglican Church permanently replaced the Catholic one in England.

(Below is an excerpt from the biography of Henry VIII)

King Henry VIII requested that Pope permit him to divorce his wife and marry his mistress. The Pope refused and Henry married his mistress anyway and renounced Catholicism. He removed England from the Pope's control, seized many of the Church's assets and declared himself to be the head of the Church. Henry's repudiation of papal authority led to the Church of England's existence as a separate entity: a new branch of the Christian Church that was neither Catholic nor Protestant but a hybrid that became known as the Anglican Church or the Church of England. It became official in 1536. Henry funded the first printing of the Bible in English to spite the Pope.

Henry at no time broke away from the Catholic Church. The Church in England was simply reformed because a great deal of error was creeping in, both in England and on the Continent. Also there had been much trouble in the Catholic Church over authority: where did it lie? King Henry and the English Church followed the teachings of the early saints and claimed it was in the Ecumenical Councils. That was the same Catholic teaching as preserved today by the Orthodox Church as well as the Anglicans.

Henry VIII had no male child through his wife, Catherine, so he petitioned the Vatican for an annulment (statement that no marriage had ever been validly contracted). The Holy Father denied his petition as he had previously requested and been granted permission to marry her, so the marriage was valid. In order to divorce Catherine, he declared that no foreign prince (i.e. the Holy Father) had authority in England, and henceforth he would be head of the church. So he divorced her and married again. Eventually the child of the second wife became Elizabeth the First, and she is the one who formally broke all ties with Rome and established the Church of England pretty much as we know it today, with herself as head.

Henry did not actually break away from the Church. Certainly there was a rupture between Henry and Rome, but it didn't originate from Henry or from the English Church. The fact is there had been a fall out between Henry and the Pope, the pope refused Communion with Henry, and and in return Henry pointed out that the Bishop of Rome was breaking the ancient canons of the Church by interfering in another Bishop's See. This was probably the breaking point because it struck at the basis of the Bishop of Rome's authority.
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