It is the 525th birthday of Henry VIII today, he was born on this day in 1491.
He was never originally destined to be King of England, he had an older brother for that, it was planned by his father that he would ‘probably join the church’.
An ironic start, as he would eventually become the one who broke the catholic church in England !
It is said that his mother, Elizabeth of York, doted on Henry as a child. Her elder son had been taken from her when he was quite young, to be trained in kingship as he was the heir. He had an older sister when he was born, Margaret, though they are not said to have been close. A younger sister came along after him, Mary, to whom he had a closer relationship.
His grandmother, Margaret (Beaufort), was also a big part of his life and survived to see him become King when his father died. His other grandmother, Elizabeth (Woodville), had died before he was born, but had been banished to a convent for a time before her death, by his father (how many men would love to send their mother-in-laws away ?!?!).
He was brought up in the royal nursery alongside his sisters, showing great athletic prowess and growing into a strong healthy boy. It was a huge blow to his parents and the royal court as a whole, when his elder brother, Arthur, died, when Henry was just eleven years old.
Becoming the heir to the throne, his father turned to him, to teach him the future role he would be forced to take. The dowager Princess of Wales, Catherine (of Aragon), came to court for her mourning period. It was moooted that Henry and her should marry to cement the alliance between England and Spain. To begin with King Henry was in favour of this marriage, but changed his mind soon after and Catherine was sent to a country house instead, where she would live in almost penury until the death of Henry VII.
Soon after his brother’s death, his mother became pregnant once more, though sadly died in childbirth, along with his baby sister. Two such losses within a year must have been very difficult for the young Henry to deal with.
HIs father kept Henry close to him from then on, probably scared to lose him too. The next seven years were spent learning more about the country he would one day rule, until in 1509, his father died, and he finally accedded to the throne.
His story once he became King is well-known, his six wives, his love affairs, his eagerness for a son, I doubt I need to repeat a version of it here.
He, of course, does appear in my books, as they are based around his daughter, Mary, though not in a large role. I found it dificult to write him in a nasty father role, even though that is what he became. As he got older, many people say he became more evil, but I had difficulty seeing him in that way, so I showed him as being more distant from his family, instead. Whether he was evil away from his family is for my reader to decide, I focus on Mary and her family.
Many reasons for his real life health decline have been suggested, from disease to a head injury. I am no doctor, so I do not feel qualified to make any declarations of his problems. I do feel it is possible that there was some genetic link to ‘madness’ in the bloodline of the crown though. It is said that HenryVI went mad, catatonic in some versions, and some of the later Kings were also said to have times of ‘madness’. So perhaps there is something to be seen in that, who knows.
Henry Viii is probably the best remembered of the English Kings, for many reasons, though I will not say he was the best of the English Kings. He changed the face of the country when he created the Church of England, although it would be his daughter Elizabeth who would bring the vision of a true English church to greater being.
So a happy birthday to Henry, I imagine he will be sat at a big table somewhere in the afterlife, eating a massive banquet, with lots of wine !!!!!!