Henry VIII, the second Tudor king of England, was born on 28 June 1491 to Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York.
Although he would go on to become the most infamous monarch in English history, Henry was never actually supposed to be king. Only the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth, it was his elder brother, Arthur, who was first in line to the throne.
This difference in the brother’s statuses meant that they did not grow up together — while Arthur was learning to be king, Henry was spending much of his childhood with his mother and sisters. It seems that Henry was very close to his mother, who, unusually for the time, appears to have been the one who taught him to write.
But when Arthur died at the age of 15 in 1502, Henry’s life would change for ever. The 10-year-old prince became the next in line to the throne and all of Arthur’s duties were transferred onto him.
Fortunately for Henry, it would be a few more years before he would have to step into his father’s shoes.
Henry becomes King of England
Henry’s time came on 21 April 1509 when his father died of tuberculosis. Henry became king more or less immediately in what was the first bloodless transfer of power in England for nearly a century (though his coronation didn’t take place until 24 June 1509).
The eighth Henry’s accession to the throne was met with much rejoicing by the people of England. His father had been unpopular with a reputation for meanness and the new Henry was seen as a breath of fresh air.
And although Henry’s father had been of the House of Lancaster, his mother was from the rival House of York, and the new king was seen by Yorkists who had been unhappy during his father’s reign as one of them. This meant that the war between the two houses — known as the “War of the Roses” — was finally over.
King Henry’s transformation
Henry would go on to reign for 38 long years, during which time his reputation — and his appearance — would change drastically. Over the years Henry would transform from a handsome, athletic and optimistic man into a much larger figure known for his cruelty.
By the time of his death on 28 January 1547, Henry would have gone through six wives, two of whom he killed. He would have also strung up hundreds of Catholic rebels in his quest to break away from the authority of the pope and the Roman Catholic Church – a goal that began, in the first place, with his desire for a new wife.
It is not quite clear what the 55-year-old Henry died of though he seems to have been in a bad way, both mentally and physically, for several years before his death.
Obese, covered in painful boils and suffering from severe mood swings, as well as a festering wound he sustained in a jousting accident more than a decade before, his last years cannot have been happy ones. And the legacy he left behind was not a happy one either.