King Henry VIII

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Henry VIII as played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Motto: " Dieu et Mon Droit" (God & My Right - traditional motto of English Kings)*

Born June 28, 1491 - Died January 28, 1547
Crowned June 24, 1509
64px|King Henry VIII - The Tudors Wiki Character's backstory: the third child and second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. He was the first English monarch to be educated under the influence of the Renaissance, and his tutors included the poet Skelton. In his youth, Erasmus commented on his intelligence, and as second son, he studied to possibly enter the clergy. He became an excellent poet, scholar, linguist, athlete and musician.
Gentility: Royal House of Tudor.
Position: In 1493, Henry was appointed Constable of Dover Castle. In 1494, he was created Duke of York. He was subsequently appointed Earl Marshal of England and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland before he became Prince of Wales in 1502 upon the death of his elder brother Arthur, who was first in line to the throne. Henry became King of England at the age of 17 when his father Henry VII died. His coronation took place just four days before His 18th birthday.

Personality type: Witty, talented & gregarious but also narcissistic, vain, proud, egotistical & craved admiration.
He was very insecure & could brood and become sullen for days if disappointed. The first 20 years of his rule, he was a benevolent ruler. He became selfish, cruel, grandiose, melodramatic, malevolent & a hypochondriac in later years.
As he grew older, he became devious, vindictive, and autocratic. He beat Thomas Cromwell, his second chief minister, around the head and swore at him.
He called Sir George Blagge, a gentleman of the king's Privy Chamber, 'my pig'.

Of Henry's megalomania, Ambassador Chapuys said :
"You never saw prince nor man who made greater show of his horns, or bore them more pleasantly."

Ambassador Castillon said he was: "the most dangerous and cruel man in the world."

Ambassador Marillac summed up Henry in his middle years : "This Prince seems tainted with three vices; the first is that he is so covetous that all the riches of the world would not satisfy him. Thence proceeds the second, distrust and fear. This King, knowing how many changes he has made, and what tragedies and scandals he has created, would fain keep in favour with everybody, but does not trust a single man, expecting to see them all offended, and he will not cease to dip his hand in blood as long as he doubts his people. The third vice lightness and inconstancy".

"In his agony, the King's two most unattractive qualities were well in evidence. First there was his self-pity --everything was someone else's fault-- and then there was his self-will -- no one must oppose him on anything at any time ever." - Antonia Fraser The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Signature look: A charismatic presence. Grandly dressed & always reaching for excellence in appearance. Physically magnificent. His tudor red hair [Although not shown in the series] But this certain matter gave him the nickname "The Redhead".
Endearing trait(s): Handsome, and he is... well... The King! "The Tudors" portray him much like a pop star of today. Full of enthusiasm and energy. Until around 1525, he was affable and willing to trust his counsellors.

Interests: included writing both books and music, and he was a lavish patron of the arts. An accomplished player of many instruments and a composer. He loved pomp and pageantry.
Annoying trait(s): Obsessed with producing an heir. By the end of the reign, Henry had deteriorated physically and mentally, becoming corpulent and immobile. He suffered from a festering leg wound as well as issues with his bowels causing him to be bloated and irritable. He was a hypochondriac & became paranoid demanding service but proving impossible to serve. A mass of contradictions and frustrations made him a conflicted and confused man.
Health: possibly severe uncontrolled diabetes 2, leg ulcers and dementia. Henry had a bout with malaria in 1521, at the age of 30. This was the beginning of his health maladies. He would later suffer from ulcers on both legs, a painful fistula from 1537, a lung blockage in 1542, dropsy and possibly scurvy and diabetes due to his diet. He would also get Tertian fever in 1541. This ailment resulted in severe attacks and increase in violent behaviour which would occur every other day. Tertian fever or ague was a malarial fever that made its host have hot and cold flashes and sweaty fits.

*For more on Henry`s health click here
& also check out
The Tudors Medicine

Buried: St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, next to his third wife, Jane Seymour. Henry had 4 marriages annulled, so he only recognized his marriages to Jane & Catherine Parr.
As Jane had Edward, the only male heir to the throne,it would make sense dynastically to be buried with the mother of this heir to the throne.

*Henry sometimes used other more personal mottos for short periods during celebratory tournaments such as "Coeur Loyal" (Sir Loyal Heart) after the birth of Katherine of Aragon's son who died 52 days after birth and "Declare I Dare Not" generally believed to be in reference to Anne Boleyn in the early days of their romance.

Henry in his hat

“Henry was a huge, consequential and majestic figure. At least for some, he was everything that a people could wish him to be – a bluff, confident patriot king who was master of his kingdom and feared no one. By the end of his long reign, despite everything, he was indisputably revered, indeed, in some strange way, loved. He had raised monarchy to near-idolatry. He had become the quintessence of Englishry and the focus of swelling national pride. Nothing would ever be quite the same after he had gone.
Yet, for all his power to dazzle, for all the charm and bonhomie, which he could undoubtedly sometimes show, and for all the affection which he could certainly give and receive, it is difficult to think of any truly generous or selfless action performed by him and difficult not to suppose that, even those who enjoyed his apparently secure esteem, like Jane Seymour or Thomas Cranmer, would not have been thrown aside if it had been expedient to do so, along with the many others who had entwined their lives around his, given him so much, and yet been cast away.” ~ J.J. Scarisbrick "Henry VIII"

Free EBook from the Gutenberg Project:
<a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="Henry VIII., by A. F. Pollard">Henry VIII., by A. F. Pollard</a>
Released 2007

King Henry VIII as played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Henry VIII Signature

Though some say that youth rules me,
I trust in age to tarry.
God and my right, and my duty,
From them shall I never vary,
Though some say that youth rules me.

- a poem written by Henry VIII

When we compare the present life of men on Earth with their time of which we have no knowledge; it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through a banqueting hall on a winters day. After a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even so, man appears on Earth for a little while but of what went before this life or what will follow, we know nothing.
~ King Henry's voice is heard in the opening sequence
of the last episode from season 4 (this is a quote
from a latin work by Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum -Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Book II, Chapter 13 written in 731 Ad)

"You could practically smell the testosterone. Any way and anywhere he could flash his burly energy, he flashed it in the saddle, on the dance floor or on the tennis court, where a besotted courtier wrote excitedly of the king's skin glowing through his finely woven shirt. Six feet tall, with a neck described by another admirer as long, thick and beautiful enough to belong to a woman. Henry wallowed in the praise droolingly lavished on him by his courtiers and foreign ambassadors:
Henry the gallant,
Henry the clever,
Henry the nimble
Henry the superstar."
[Tudor Historian Simon Schama's description of the young King Henry in his "History of Britain" ]

“The 18 year old who was crowned ...was a slim, beautiful, elegant, musical, poetical, reasonable, charming, sweet-tempered young man who’d married for love. How does he turn into the Henry who is the horror, the Henry who is the tyrant?”
~“Henry VIII: The Mind of a Tyrant”, David Starkey

" ...undoubtedly the rarest man
that ever lived in his time...
~ from The Pilgrim: A dialogue on the Life and Actions of King Henry the Eighth (1547) by William Thomas
- a zealous protestant

King Henry VIII - The Tudors Wiki

"Henry was... one of the most accomplished diplomats of Europe, and even his enemies conceded that he was a dangerous and cunning foe. Obstinate and ruthless he may have been, but as the Imperial Ambassador acknowledged, he was more accessible to persuasion than to threat . Educated in the Machiavellian atmosphere that knew the value of the adage three may keep counsel if two be away, Henry could be both nefarious and merciless, but he also had that rarest and most precious of gifts the ability to inspire loyalty and devotion. For all his brutality, the man had magnificent animal magnetism, and even when old and fat and helpless he could hold men to him. In a strange fashion, all men respected and many loved this bulging bully who wept and blustered, pranced and preened. It may have been that such loyalty was wasted upon a man who would sacrifice both friend and foe, minister and subject, upon the altar of his egotism...Nevertheless, councillors were loyal both to the man and to the crown he wore. ....

Henry VIII, for all his massive dignity and consuming egotism, was strangely accessible, and his restless and vital personality stamped every facet of his household. The energy of the man was inexhaustible
; at fifty he kept the court alive with music and masquing, tennis and dancing, archery and hunting, tournaments and hawking."
~ Lacey Baldwin Smith in A Tudor Tragedy

"..Hans Holbein Junior was a genius....He has provided us with that image of Henry VIII which, whether we like it or not, automatically comes to mind when ever the name of the king is mentioned. We see him standing belligerently, hands on hips, his barrel chest adorned with jewel-encrusted vesture, his codpiece thrusting forward. He glowers at us from the canvas, warning us to not even think of contradicting him. The portrait is a magnificent piece of propaganda, which has proved its effectiveness from the time of its creation in 1537 right down to the present day. However, (leaving aside issues of art appreciation) that is all it is -- propaganda. A starting point for a realistic understanding must be the rejection of this forceful icon. This is the Henry as he wanted to be seen-- strong, assertive, his own man, not only powerful but worthy of power. This image of 'Henry the magnificent" has always ,in the popular imagination, seen off other less flattering evaluations.....To Martin Luther, [he]...was a 'fool'. a 'liar' and a damnable rotten worm'. ...Jacob Burckhardt found him 'loutish and disgusting'. Charles Dickens was repelled by a man who was nothing more than 'a blot of blood and grease upon the history of England'. In our own day Diarmid MacCulloch has not hesitated to compare the second Tudor to Joseph Stalin. The prevailing interpretation seems to be that of a monster but one who is nevertheless compelling -- aggressive, macho and definitely sexy. Like him or loath him, there is absolutely no doubt that 'Bluff King Hal' remains everlastingly fascinating" ~ Derek Wilson's A brief History of Henry VIII 2009

British TV Channel Five series "Kings & Queens"
Episode 6 looks at the life and reign of Henry VIII
The series looks at key monarchs in the history of England and gives some simplified facts about their reigns. This is a good series for those who have little prior knowledge of English history.


Family members:
Father: Henry VII, King of England
Mother: Elizabeth of York
Brother: Arthur Tudor
Sister: Margaret Tudor
Sister: Mary Tudor
Sister: Elizabeth Tudor (died as a young child)
Sister: Katherine Tudor (died as a young child)
Brother: Edmund Tudor (died as a young child)

Sir Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk
Sir Henry Norris
Sir John Seymour
Sir Thomas More
Sir Francis Bryan

Changed with the times:
Francis I of France alternated between being a friend and enemy as did Charles V
Mary Tudor as played by Sarah Bolger

by Katherine of Aragon -
Princess Mary- born February 1516

Henry FitzRoy as played by Zak Jenciragic
by Elizabeth Blount - Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond & Somerset - born June 1519

Elizabeth Tudor as played by Laoise Murray

Anne Boleyn
- Princess Elizabeth - born September 1533

Edward Tudor as played by Eoin Murtagh

by Jane Seymour -
Prince Edward - born October 1537

Many rumoured illegitimates but only one (Henry Fitzroy) acknowledged.
Click this link : Mistresses - for more detailed info on each mistress

- Anne Stafford, Lady Hastings 1510 (named Anna Buckingham in the series)

- Jane Popyngcort 1514 - possibly basis for fictional character Lady Jane Howard played by Slaine Kelly

-Elizabeth "Bessie" Blount 1514 -1519 - first acknowledged mistress

-"Mistress Parker" who could have been either Arabella Parker, the wife of a city merchant, or Margery Parker, who had been part of Princess Mary´s household since 1516

-Mary Boleyn c. 1521 - 1524/5 (the other acknowledged mistress)

- Joan Dingley (Dobson) 1520s - who had a daughter Ethelreda (Audrey) Tudor.

- Agnes Blewitt early 1520s her son, Richard Edwardes was born sometime between October 1523 to 1525 was claimed to be Henry's, Agnes was allowed to display the Tudor rose on her coat of arms

- Mary Berkeley 1525-1527 - had two sons <a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="Thomas Stucley">Thomas Stucley</a> and <a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">John Perrot</a> both of whom were rumoured to be illegitimate children of Henry.

-Elizabeth Amadas, 1520's, daughter of Hugh Brice, courtier & wife of Robert Amadas, the richest goldsmith in England.

- possibly Elizabeth Bryan,sometime before 1528,

- Lady Mary Shelton Feb - Aug 1535 (Anne's 1st cousin) - possibly confused with Margaret Shelton.
* Madge Sheldon in the series

- In the late 1530's a man named William Webbe reported the king abducting his "mistress" (wife) - played by Katie McGrath in the series

Katherine of Aragon as played by Maria Doyle Kennedy
Katherine of Aragon

Queen Consort June 11th, 1509 - January 7th, 1533 - DIVORCED
(annulled) - died 1536 (aged 51)

Anne Boleyn as played by Natalie Dormer2nd: Anne Boleyn
Queen Consort January 25th, 1533 - May 19th, 1536 - BEHEADED
on Tower Green accused of adultery/treason despite the marriage being annulled. (aged 29/35)
Jane Seymour as played by Annabelle Wallis
Jane Seymour

Queen Consort May 30th, 1536 - October 24th, 1537 - DIED
soon after childbirth (aged 28/29)

Anne of Cleves as played by Joss Stone
Anne of Cleves

Queen Consort January 6th - July 9th, 1540 annulled - DIVORCED
- died 1557 (aged 42)

Katherine Howard as played by Tamzin Merchant5th: Katherine Howard
Queen Consort July 28th, 1540 - February 13th, 1542 - BEHEADED
on Tower Green like her cousin Anne (possibly aged not quite 18yrs)

Catherine Parr as played by Joely Richardson6th: Catherine Parr
Queen Consort July 12th 1543 - 1547 - SURVIVED Henry who died January 28th, 1547. After his death, she married Lord Thomas Seymour & died after childbirth in August 1548 (aged 36 yrs)
  • "You are my wife. You are not my minister, you are not my chancellor, but my wife!"
  • "So you were a f-----g Virgin; that's not the point!"
  • "Anne, I want to say something to you. If it pleases you to be my true loyal mistress and friend; to give yourself to me body and soul, I promise I'll take you as my only mistress. I won't have a thought or affection for anyone else."
  • "And don't you know that I can drag you down as quickly as I raised you!"
  • "Everyone has an agenda and what I want doesn't matter.........Oh the Poles have an agenda. They have plantagenet blood in their veins and my father told me that if you leave even a sapling in the ground it will grow into a tree and that little boy in the tower will have 40,000 troops flocking to his banner and you will be the succor." to Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk
  • "Don't go, please don't go, Just because you have done everything that you've promised , Please don't leave me, you are the milk of human kindness, the light in my dark, dark world, without you, life is a desert, a howl in the wilderness. Please God in your mercy don't take her away from son needs his mother and I need my queen" Henry to Jane Seymour on her death bed
  • "What I hate above everything is the interpretations. It doesn't seem to matter who I talk to at court. Ambassadors, Clerics, Courtiers. They all interpret the facts to suit themselves, For myself I have always spoken with candor and honesty but all about me now is guile, hypocrisy and dishonesty".
  • The wrestling match with the King of France at the Cloth of Gold.
  • When Henry speaks to Wolsey about seeking a lasting friendship with Charles V rather than maintaining a French alliance.
  • Henry confronts ambassador Mendoza after learning that Charles V has released the King of France as a prisoner without consulting him "a friend and ally".
  • Henry confesses his concerns about marrying his brother's widow.
  • Henry approaches Anne asking her to be his official mistress.
  • Henry promises to honor Anne's maidenhead until they marry.

King Henry VIII - The Tudors Wiki
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King Henry VIII - The Tudors Wiki

JRM as Henry
Season 3
Henry by Joos Van Cleve 1535
Henry VIII by Joos Van Cleve c. 1535
aged 44
Henry as portrayed by Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Jonathan Rhys Meyers aged 30
playing Henry VIII
in Season 2
King Henry VIII c. 1520
Henry VIII aged 29
JRM as Henry
Season 1
Henry VIII by Horenbout
Henry VIII c. 1525/6 aged approx 35
Miniature by Lucas Horenbout

JRM in Holbein's painting of Henry
Season 4
Painting shown as last scene of the series

Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1543
after Hans Holbein 1543

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Arguably, Jonathan Rhys Meyers finest performance as the King and a man who mourns the loss of his wife

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Promo for Season 1 with clips of interviews from the cast & writer about Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII
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We all know about the Fat Old Henry VIII, what about the Young Henry VIII (A showtime promo video for Season 1)
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Promo for Season 2 with clips from the cast & writer
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Promo - Making a king : Bypassing the typical costume drama for a more scandalous take on the times
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Jonathan Rhys Meyers talks at length
about his character's life & loves
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The End Of An Era
For more on Henry VIII - click links below