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Henry Tudor VIII of England Trivia

Updated on September 2, 2012

Anyone who loves history or is a fan of the television show, “The Tudors” knows who Henry the Eight of England was; or at least; has a good idea of what his most salacious moments were. But if all you know is that old song by Herman’s Hermits, that he had six wives and was really heavy, then you’re missing out. So, I put together some trivia and highlights (and some less than pleasant parts) of the life and reign of Henry Tudor of England (6/28/1491—1/28/1547).

1. Henry was born in 1491 one year before Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World.

2. He was the second son of Henry Tudor VII. His elder brother, Arthur was set to be king after his father, while Henry (the “spare” heir) was raised with his mother and sisters.

3. Henry was very tall, even at a young age. It was said that at around the time he was 11 or 13 years old, he was already taller than his father. His grew to around 6’3”.

4. His older brother, Arthur who was to be king, died at the age of 15 in 1502.

5. His mother died in child-birth when Henry was 11.

6. He became king in 1509 at the age of 17 after the death of his father Henry VII.

7. He grew up and cultivated a romanticized view of the world. Riddled with tales of love and gallant knight. He styles himself after the legendary king Arthur.

8. He had the famous 13th century Round Table at Winchester repainted and had King Arthur’s face redrawn and painted to resemble his own.

9. His image as an overweight man in his old age overshadows the slender and trim figure he had in his younger years. In his youth he was extremely athletic and was in great physical condition.

10. He gained weight, primarily, because he had a riding accident that kept him from being very active. He was always very athletic in his youth. Like many athletes, he would eat furiously and burned off the calories hunting, jousting and riding, as well as other activities. After his accident, which wounded his leg, he still ate the same amount, but didn’t exercise, thus gaining massive amounts of weight.

11. By 1540, at the age of 50, he weighed about 300 lbs.

12. The riding accident he suffered, left a piece of bone lodged in his calve muscle which caused a cyst or ulcer to form (with a putrid stench). It needed to be physically drained every day by his surgeons.

13. It was a fashionable style at the time to broaden the shoulders of your clothes to maintain the illusion of a slimmer waist; he eventually had shoulder pads that were as wide as he was tall.

14. He had an illegitimate son (born 1519) Henry Fitzroy (“Fitz” was used as a moniker for an illegitimate child. It was place in front of the surname, such as Fitzroy, Fitzpatrick, Fitzsimons, etc.). His mother was Elizabeth “Bessie” Blount. He died in 1519.

15. He had two named sons by his first wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon; both christened Henry, Duke of Cornwall. The first Henry was born in 1511 and died a month later; and the second Henry, born 1514 and died with the week.

16. He wished to divorce Catherine, and marry Anne Boleyn, not simple because he had fallen in love, but because Catherine had not given him a surviving male heir.

17. He denounced the pope and the Catholic Church and founded the Church of England. He began a religious war among the English which last for the rest of the 16th century.

18. It was said that he loved lying in bed and that he even held court in bed.

19. His three children, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, changed the national religion from Protestant to Catholic and back whenever one of them took the throne.

20. His is famously known for having six wives: Catherine, Anne, Jane, Anne, Catherine, and another Catherine.

21. His first wife, Catherine of Aragón, was queen from 1509—1533. She was his brother, Arthur’s, wife. After he died Henry married her. She was 6 years his senior. Although she was constantly pregnant for the first ten year of their marriage, she had many miscarriages and the only child was Mary I of England. Henry needed a male heir to carry on his legacy. He wanted get out of the marriage so he could marry someone else and get a legitimate son. He tried to quietly divorce her, but it became a six-year long scandal that ended with an annulment/divorce and Henry separating England from the Catholic Church.

22. Anne Boleyn, his second wife, was queen from 1533 to 1536. She was the sister of one of Henry’s mistresses. Henry hoped that she could give him a male heir. She was well educated for a lady-waiting. Henry was very much in love with her, but she made him wait to sleep with him; forcing him to find a way to divorce Catherine and marry her. After they were finally married, she only had one child: Elizabeth I of England. This angered Henry since the only reason he left Catherine for Anne was in hope of a MALE Heir. Henry, not wanting another drawn out divorce, found her guilty of adultery and had her beheaded. Within 24 hours after Anne’s execution Henry was engaged again.

23. Jane Seymour, his third wife, was queen from 1536 to 1537. She was the only one of Henry’s wives to give him a son, Edward VI of England. She died within days of Edward’s birth, due to complications from the labor.

24. Anne of Cleves, his fourth wife, was queen from January to July 1540. She was a German noblewoman and a match made for Henry by Thomas Cromwell. Henry was told of her beauty and agreed to marry her, but after the marriage he found her sexually repulsive and couldn’t bring himself to consummate the marriage ("I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse.") He had the marriage annulled, but made her the “King’s Beloved Sister” and gave her Richmond Palace and Hever Castle. They remained good friends.

25. Catherine Howard, Henry's fifth wife, was from queen 1540 to 1542. She married Henry 3 weeks after the annulment of his fourth marriage (She was one of Anne’s maids of honor). She had an affair with Thomas Culpeper in 1541. She was found guilty of treason and imprisoned (1541-1542). The marriage was annulled. One day, it was said, she escaped and ran to the church where Henry was and called his name while banging on the doors. She was beheaded on February 13th 1542.

26. Catherine Parr, Henry VIII sixth and final wife, was queen from 1543 to 1547. The marriage was mostly free of scandals, with the exception of a spat about religion (She was a Catholic). She never gave Henry children, but worked to bring Henry’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, back into the line of succession (the Third Succession Act of 1543). She also was close to his son, Edward. After Henry’s death she became Queen Dowager (Queen Mother). This gave her the same respect as if she was still queen. After Edward became king in 1547, she married an old love, Thomas Seymour and retired from court life.

27. Henry the Eighth has been portrayed on film for over 100 year; the first appearance being in 1911 by Arthur Bourchier. Others to play him throughout the years are: Charles Laughton, Rex Harrison, Robert Shaw, Richard Burton, Charlton Heston, Ray Winstone, Eric Bana, and John Rhys-Davies.

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