8 Things You Might Not Know About Henry VIII

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We’ve all encountered Henry VIII time and time again throughout school and his womanising ways are as famous as his growing waistline. He is renowned for having six wives, most of whom ended up being divorced or beheaded, breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church, and the Pope, while being the victim of factional rivalries that turned his court into the perfect EastEnders’s script for modern day television. But there is a lot about the man that you might not realise, and that could really affect how we live (and how we judge him) today.

  • He was a victim of 16th Century Tinder…

Fed up of using Tinder to find a ‘match’ when people don’t look like their profile? Well it turns out Henry would have some sympathy. In 1540 he was presented a portrait of the German prince Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein and fell in love. Sadly for him when he met her he was very disappointed and is rumoured to have called her a ‘flanders mare’ to Cromwell, and demanded a divorce on the grounds of her ugliness. It was no happy ever after…

  • He was sporty!

Did you know that Henry VIII was renowned in his younger years for his sporting abilities? He was a keen hunter and jouster but was often recognised for his unrivalled skill on the tennis court, and Hampton Court even has its own specially designed court. So keep in mind that he could have given Andy Murray a run for his money!

Henry VIII by Hans Holbien. Image: hansholbienhenryviii.com.
Henry VIII by Hans Holbien. Credit: hansholbienhenryviii.com.
  • He was a fan of photoshop, or rather portrait-shop.

You probably think you know what Henry VIII looks like from his portraits, most notably the ones by Hans Holbein, like the one on the right. But really they are quite inaccurate as Henry (at least until he became obese later in life) famously asked for his thighs and his shoulders to be made bigger to give him a more majestic stance. So unlike the modern man, he wanted to make it look like he’d gone up a jean size

  • He fancied himself as a bit of an interior designer.

We’ve all spent a little bit too much money on home décor on an exciting trip to IKEA. Well, Henry VIII had a massive soft spot for luxury; during his lifetime he spent vast amounts on the most extraordinary fabrics, cloths and tapestries as-well as investing in a huge property portfolio. Most notably was the Anglo-French ‘Field of the Cloth of Gold’ meeting in 1520 where Henry spent on an elaborate make-shift golden palace for a short diplomatic meeting. It all got the better of him eventually and unfortunately his dream Nonsuch palace never came to be!

Credit: reformationhenryviii.com.
  • He was a foodie.

Ever thought that you’ve ordered too much takeaway? Well you probably wouldn’t want to attend a Tudor banquet, many of which were unbelievably over-the-top. Take the coronation feast of Anne Boleyn in June 1536, at this event 75 dishes were served over three courses with a mixture of meat, fish and pheasant options (there were no vegetarians). Needless to say there was some leftovers for breakfast in the morning…

  • Henry would have easily been fine after a Jesticle, or 4…

Many modern students like a pint (or two) in the pub. Well Henry VIII, and his court, liked more than just a little tipple, and drunkenness is often listed as a ‘public indecency’ in Tudor criminal records. It’s no surprise though; Henry would have drunk at least 17 pints a week and would have had beer for breakfast! Then add on all the gallons of wine that were consumed, with one of Henry’s wine cellars now being privately kept under the Ministry of Defence. Henry probably could have done with a trip to Alcoholics Anonymous!

  • He had some unusual pets…
    Catherine of Aragon with her Pet Monkey. image: raucousroyals.
    Catherine of Aragon with her Pet Monkey. Credit: raucousroyals.

Like many of you, I can’t avoid a cute cat or dog and Henry’s devotion to the animal kingdom was no different. He, however, had a much more unusual array of pets including the iconic falcons, a monkey during his relationship with Catherine of Aragon (I wonder who Justin Bieber got that idea from…) and nightingales hung in bird cages at Hampton Court.

  • He wasn’t such a great dad…

Ever worried that you’re not the favourite child? Well Henry certainly didn’t always show a lot of love to his children. In 1534, he wrote ‘The Act of Succession’ which bastardised one of his own children, the Princess Mary, and in the process attempted to ensure her humiliation by blocking her access to her mother, Catherine of Aragon, and making sure she had to serve Anne Boleyn who had been critically important in the downfall of Catherine. It would be like someone forcing you to cook dinner for that ex that cheated on you! I’m sure if this had happened today, Jeremy Kyle would have something to say about that.

So now you can go back to your day swiping right on Tinder, going down the pub and ordering takeaway and have Henry VIII in mind. It turns out, despite the huge political events he is so well remembered for, that his life isn’t so different from ours after all.

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I’m a third-year Philosophy and History student whose interests (outside my love for Tudor history) pertain to issues on equality, sex and moral ethics and education. I’m also Philosophy Academic President 2016-17.
@russb005

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