Henry VIII is one of the most famous monarchs in English history. He was born in 1491, he became king in 1509, and he ruled England until his death in 1547. We tend to think of Henry as a fat old man at the end of his life, after marrying and disposing of several of his six wives, suffering from what doctors now believe to be gout and potentially even untreated diabetes. This is only part of Henry’s story and, as a young man, he was rather different.
Henry was over six feet tall at a time when this was unusual, and in early paintings of him we can see that he also looked fit and handsome. Although it is important to remember that the court painters would have tried to make him look as good as possible, his athletic shape was not a lie. Henry loved sport, particularly jousting and hunting, and he firmly believed that a king should be good at it.
Like many men of the time, Henry much preferred being outside to being indoors and reading books. However, this does not mean he was stupid! He was particularly interested in heraldry (the study of coats of arms) but he only wanted to deal with his responsibilities as a king in the morning or late at night. He preferred to leave the boring details of government to his advisers. This meant he could spend more time out hunting on his horse!