Behind every man, there’s a great woman — or women. In history, womanizers are in the list of the main characters. You have the likes of Casanova, the Italian aristocrat of the 18th century; King Charles II of Cromwell’s time; English politician and nobleman Lord Byron; popular painter Pablo Picasso; and the late former U.S. president of the 1960s, JFK, and many more.
Nevertheless, who wouldn’t forget about Europe’s womanizer, Europe’s playboy, Henry Tudor, otherwise known as King Henry VIII. Historical accounts say he had six wives. In photo depictions, he is usually presented as a bearded, stout man, perhaps looking like the dirty old guys who come looking for woman dates on dating sites. He must be a wild womanizer then.
Who Is King Henry VIII?
But no, more historical data also say that the young Henry VIII was the most handsome prince in Europe during his time. If he would create a profile on Facebook, he would have millions of friends and followers. If he would live in our time, he might be on the cover of GQ, leading against Ben Affleck or Henry Cavill. He was said to stand at six feet, two inches, relatively enough for a man of the high society like him. According to Tudor Society, a website that publishes articles about the well-renowned British family, “he was of the broad shoulder, with strong muscular arms and legs, and striking red and gold hair.”
Furthermore, he resembled his father and grandfather very much. There are also exact physical attributes and measurements. Based from the Tower of London armory in the 16th century, King Henry VIII has 35 inches of waistline and 42 inches chest. In his prime, he was interested with hunting, tennis, archery, wrestling, dancing, jousting, and music. Jousting was a local sport in England, which tested the athlete’s (known as jousters) strength and overall endurance.
His style? Impeccably impressive. It has been said that he adorned himself most of the time with the finest clothing in Europe or even imported materials, not to mention jewels from various parts of the world. If he lived today, his staff won’t make him wear those without the sophisticated brand names.
The photos you might have been seeing on your history books or online may be the way he looked the moment he grew older. Cells degenerate as a person ages so everything’s all fair. Believe it or not, he had smallpox at the age of 23, but recovered thereafter. He caught malaria at the age of 30 and was injured many times as a sportsman. Perhaps the worst one he acquired were varicose ulcers starting at the age of 36 years old.
And in his later years, he gained a significant amount of weight out of overeating, causing his increased blood pressure and type two diabetes. These were the depictions in the photos. Despite these, it is interesting to note that he still had changing partners during this phase in his lifetime.
Continuing on, we’re learning more about the womanizer of Europe, the playboy of England, he who queens and future queens chased, a few moments back from the details above — his childhood. Did his childhood ever influence the way he acted during his reign?
King Henry VIII's childhood
History denotes that there is little information about King Henry’s childhood, but this was a very crucial point in his life that made historians question whether his childhood turned him to what was he during his rule. David Starkey, an English historian and TV presenter, dished out these details in his 2009 article on BBC History Magazine.
“I have found one of the principal accounts of Henry’s christening in this same cache of documents. That’s where I’ve got all this stuff about his upbringing,” Starkey stated in the article.
He was born at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, Kent one day in June 1491. The third child and second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, he had six siblings but not everyone survived infancy. He had an interesting childhood. King Henry VIII had an elder brother, Arthur who was direct heir to the English throne but never pursued it because of his early death, at the age of 15. His brother was raised differently from him, given his would-be reputation. On the other hand, Henry grew up “in an almost exclusively female household with his sisters, his nurses, and most importantly his mother, Elizabeth of York.”
Meanwhile, there are also historical details which say that during his infancy, he was never raised with his mother but in far-flung household from the castle, known as Farnham, said to belong to the territories of the Home Counties. At five years old, he moved and settled at Ludlow to be raised a little price, this time, in a heavily male household. However, it was his mother who taught him how to read. There was also a moment where his mother’s ladies-in-waiting interacted with the young Henry VIII.
Medical experts would say that in a person’s five years of age, their developments include learning about the world through their childhood games and playtime activities. It is when they start to experience through becoming more inquisitive about themselves and their surroundings. It is also the time they understand the meaning of privacy, among many other development milestones.
“All previous accounts assume that he was brought up in the shadow of Arthur. Not so at all. He hardly meets Arthur. They probably spent no more than two or three months together in the whole of Arthur’s life,” Stark added. “Even when they were together - we know they are in the summer of 1497 at Woodstock - but even then Arthur is with his father and Henry is with his mother, and the Italian ambassador is introduced to him separately. Henry, therefore, is never one step down from Arthur. He is always at the right hand of his mother.”
Historians are saying that his feminist upbringing, especially that of his mother, pieced together his personality as a womanizer with six wives the moment he grew up to become an adult. Technically speaking, the most perfect woman in his life would be his mother. He might be in a personal constant search of this ideal woman in his mind, the feminine figure and woman who raised him up and taught him life’s important lessons.
In the books, King Henry VIII had a total of six wives. Wives, not girlfriends or flings. In conventional society, one is considered moral and adding another wife should consult the law. He was among the men in history who had the most number of wives. Plus, he also had mistresses apart of these women. This includes Mary Boleyn, the sister of Anne Boleyn; Elizabeth or Bessie Blount; and Anne Boleyn’s first cousin, Margaret Shelton.
He loved his women tirelessly. During his relationship with Anne Boleyn, he gave up on her idea of building the Church of England, which still has followers until today. Interestingly enough, he could not give up the very legacy that his parents had for him so at the end of the day, with the help of his advisors, he punished this wife of his out of the kingdom and its people’s call. Furthermore, this king wasn’t a violent, abusive lover. He was a romantic alpha male, dragging his wives pregnant privately within the castle grounds, and author Philippa Gregory would even dramatize these scenes. When Katherine of Aragon was pregnant, he gave her a special room in the palace with all the staff needed to attend to her. There were claims that he was not able to devote much time hunting because of the pregnancy.
His six wives were Catherine Parr, Catherine Howard, Anne of Cleves, Jane Seymour, Anne Boleyn, and Catherine of Aragon. These women were important figures in European history, and indeed, this king knew when to be in the sidelights and when to peak. King Henry VIII died of natural causes at the age of 55 at the Palace of Whitehall in London.