10 Odd & Fascinating Facts about King Henry VIII

RealClear Staff


Photo Source: HP.org.uk

King Henry VIII is one of the most famous kings in world history. He is most well known for having 6 wives, 2 of whom he executed at the Tower of London. 

Henry VIII is also known for breaking with Roman Catholic Church and establishing the Church of England just so he could get divorced from his first wife.

However, there is so much more depth and interesting aspects to Henry's life besides his wives and infamous temper.  He was a Renaissance man, thoughtful, smart, and extremely athletic, among other fascinating things. Read about them here!

Photo Source: Wikipedia

Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales

10. King Henry VIII was married to his 1st wife for 22 years – Longer than his 5 other marriages combined

Henry married his first wife, a Spanish princess, Katherine of Aragon, in 1511. She was first married to his  older brother, Arthur, but he died shortly after their marriage. 

Katherine and Henry had  one child, a daughter, Mary, who would later grow up to be queen of England. However, Henry desperately wanted a son and heir so in 1533 he divorced Katherine to marry Anne Boleyn. This marriage lasted 22 years, which was longer than the rest of his 5 infamous marriages combined.

9. Henry was just 17 years old when he became King of England

Because Henry was the 2nd son, he never expected to become king. However, when his older brother Arthur died in 1502 at the age of 15, Henry became next in line to inherit the throne. 

Prince Henry was 17 years old when he was proclaimed King Henry VIII on April 22, 1509. He went on to rule England for almost 38 years until his death in 1547.

8. King Henry had great legs

The attractiveness of men’s bodies in the 1500s were described by the beauty of their legs and Henry VIII was widely renowned to have very fine calves!

Henry was over 6 feet tall, strong, athletic, and good looking. Unlike the typical portrayal of Henry as an obese tyrant, he was extremely attractive and charming in his youth. 

Photo Source: HRP.org.uk

Young Prince Henry Tudor

7. King Henry acknowledged one illegitimate child

While it was rumoured that King Henry fathered a few illegitimate children, he only acknowledged one, Henry FitzRoy, which literally means Henry "son of the king." The child's mother was Elizabeth Blount, Henry's mistress and a maid of honor to Queen Katherine of Aragon.

6. Henry was a great composer of music

Henry VIII was a composer of music. In his musical collection, he owned 78 flutes, 78 recorders, 5 bagpipe sets and a harpsichord. The English folk song "Greensleeves" was at one point attributed to King Henry, who was said to have written it as a love ballad for his future Queen, Anne Boleyn. He also wrote "Helas Madame"and "Pastimes with Good Company."

5. Henry fancied himself a physician, of sorts

Henry VIII was known to self-medicate. The king had a book of prescriptions for treating his own ailments, and even concocted some of his own remedies. 

In the book, a prescription for the treatment of ulcers reads, "An Oyntment devised by the kinges Majesty made at Westminster. And devised at Grenwich to take away inflammations and to cease payne and heale ulcers called gray plaster."

4. King Henry had the largest collection of tapestries in the 16th Century

As a major patron of the arts, and all things luxury, Henry VIII amassed a huge collection of colorful cloth tapestries. Henry’s extensive tapestry inventory is now largely dispersed or destroyed. 

King Henry identified himself with historic, religious, and mythological figures in the tapestries, putting England in dialogue—and competition—with the leading courts of Early Modern Europe.

Photo Source: Yale

3. Henry ate around 5,000 calories everyday later in life

Later in his life, Henry became obese and inactive, from too much eating and no exercise due to sports injuries.

Henry VIII would eat around 13 courses of food everyday, and his diet diet consisted mainly of meat dishes which included pork, lamb, chicken, beef, game, rabbit and a different variety of birds such as peacocks and swans.

King Henry and other Tudors drank a lot of ale, the total being some 70 pints a week, as well as a lot of red wine sweetened with sugar. Henry would have consumed around 5,000 calories a day, which is more than twice the recommended calories for a man of today!

2. Henry divorced his 4th wife after only 6 months

Anne of Cleves, who came from Belgium as part of a hopeful alliance with Germany, became Henry’s 4th wife in 1540. He found her to be hideously ugly, never consummated the marriage, and divorced her after 6 months. 

They remained good friends, however, and she was given the honorary title of ‘the King’s Good Sister,' as well as a handsome pay-off that included Hever Castle and a generous yearly stipend. She never remarried and lived until 1557.

1. King Henry executed a Catholic nun and mystic for making prophecies about him

Elizabeth Barton, known as "The Nun of Kent" and "The Holy Maid of London," was a Catholic nun and mystic who experienced prophecies and visions throughout her life.

In 1532, Barton began prophesying that if Henry married Anne Boleyn, he would die shortly thereafter, and said she had seen the place in Hell where he would go. He did live for another 15 years after her prophecy, but they surely weren't easy years. 

Barton was arrested in 1533 and forced her to confess that she had fabricated her revelations. She was executed for treason and hanged at Tyburn, and her head was put on a spike on London Bridge, the only woman in history accorded that dishonor.

Photo Source: Britain Magazine

Henry VIII with his son Prince Edward and wife Jane Seymour



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