Few historical celebrities excite the modern imagination as much as Henry VIII. This most famous of English kings is probably best known for his marital escapades. Remember, he is the guy who regularly divorced and beheaded wives in his quest for a male heir to inherit his throne. But Henry was much more than a bad husband. Here are a few things you probably don’t know about him.
He was a pretty good composer and musician
Henry was a music lover. He surrounded himself with the best musicians he could find, but he could also play and write music himself. He kept such instruments as flutes, harpsichords, and bagpipes around, though he probably didn’t play all of them. At one point, it was believed that he wrote the song, “Greensleeves,” but historians now think this is untrue. He did, however, write several songs that were popular during his reign, including “Pastimes with Good Company” and “Helas Madame.
He was an amateur doctor
Henry was a renowned hypochondriac. Medical science was not very advanced at the time, so Henry formulated his own medicines and preventative potions to keep himself healthy. He would dose himself at the slightest sign of illness or if anyone in his vicinity became ill. He would also prescribe his home remedies to friends and acquaintances. Whether his “patients” followed his advice is unknown.
He was a hoarder
Kings typically have a lot of “stuff” because they are rich and because people like to give them gifts to keep them happy. But Henry took acquisitiveness to the next level. At the time of his death, he owned 50 palaces, which was a record for the monarchs of England. Many of his residences have since fallen apart because he had them built so quickly. He also had massive collections of such things as musical instruments, tapestries (the largest such collection ever recorded), and weapons. His hoarding habit was so bad that he left England in severe debt when he died.
He was quite the looker when he was young.
Most of us only think of later portraits of Henry VIII when we imagine his appearance. The obese tyrant we see in these paintings is the furthest thing we could imagine from a ladies’ man. But Henry was actually quite attractive in his younger years. He was healthy, athletic, and over 6 feet tall. He is also described as having nice legs, an important feature in an era where men wore hose. It wasn’t until he injured himself in a tournament and had to stop regular exercise that he began putting on the weight. By the time he died, he was consuming over 5000 calories a day and weighing over 300 pounds.
He was never supposed to be king
Henry was actually a younger son. He had an older brother named Arthur who was supposed to be king. However, Arthur died from an unknown cause at age 15, making Henry heir to the throne and changing his life forever. Incidentally, his brother Arthur was married to Catherine of Aragon at the time of his death. Catherine would later become Henry’s first wife and the mother of the future Queen Mary, also known as Bloody Mary.