Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Three Faces of Henry VIII

I noticed that The Tudors is back on TV. I have always had a great passion for history - particularly European. I'm embarrassed to admit I know very little about American history. In fact, when I was a teenager I thought Native Americans were a Hollywood invention just so John Wayne could show off his spurs. 

In 1970 Keith Michell gave an excellent portrayal of Henry VIII in "The Six Wives of Henry VIII."  (I am showing my age.) 

Of course, Jonathan Rhys Meyers does the most incredible job as Henry but let's face it, physically, they are as different as chalk and cheese. Even so, as the current series progressed, I gradually became captivated by Meyer's interpretation of Henry. He was utterly mesmerizing. 

Keith Michell
Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Here is a little history lesson ...

When Henry VIII came to the throne in April 1509 he was 17 years old, 6ft 2in tall, and had pale skin, blue eyes and auburn hair. He was physically active and enjoyed sport, hunting and jousting. However he became fatter with age and gluttony. His suits of armour show that in 1512 he had a 32 inch waist , which increased to 35 inch by 1520s, and then grew to an enormous 54 inch by 1545. 

Henry suffered increasingly from ill health, swelling of the joints and an ulcerated leg claimed to have been caused by a jousting accident. His pain added to his mood swings and unpredictable temper. In 1544 Henry's  portrait shows him puffy and bloated. By 1546 he could hardly walk and was carried around on a wooden chair . He had to be winched onto his horse and his armour cut open to accommodate his swollen legs. 

Henry is estimated to have weighed a staggering 25 stone (350 lbs or 158kg) when he died in January 1547.