Things you might not know about Henry VIII

I got this fun press release from the British Library in conjunction with the opening of the Henry VIII – Man and Monarch exhibition

They’ve also started a Henry VIII exhibition blog and a podcast!

And here is my previous post about the exhibition catalogue. I ordered mine yesterday and it has already shipped. Can’t wait to see it!



Henry VIII would have been at home in today’s recession, research from the British Library suggests. As a youngster, Henry spent £2.5 million on capturing a small town from France, Tournai, equivalent to about £5.6 billion today and he died in massive debt. Frittering the State coffers is just the tip of the iceberg. Using evidence from manuscripts, paintings and artefacts on display in a major new exhibition, Henry VIII, Man & Monarch, opening this week, a list of thirteen startling facts has been unearthed.

Henry the hoarder

* By the time he died, Henry owned 50 palaces, a royal record for England. These included Hampton Court, Whitehall Palace (where he died) and St. James’s Palace (where he lay in state).

* Foreshadowing modern day credit crunch and overspending, Henry was a monarch who died in massive debt.

* On display is the Post-mortem inventory of Henry VIII. It lists nearly 20,000 items, including the largest tapestry collection on record, seventy ships and 6,500 handguns.

Henry the lover

* Henry VIII was a happily married man. He was married to Katharine of Aragon for 20 years.

* Henry was a bit of a toy boy: Katherine was 7 years his senior when he married her aged 19 in 1509.

Henry the musician

* He was a keen composer, although he didn’t write Greensleeves as is widely reported, he did however write music such as ‘Pastime with Good Company’ which is on display.

* The music-loving monarch owned 78 recorders, 78 flutes, five sets of bagpipes and a virginal – a type of harpsichord.

Other Henry Facts

* By the end of his life, Henry’s waistline measured four-and-a-half feet round. He was 6ft 2 inches tall.

* He self-medicated – Henry’s prescription book shows methods for treating ulcers, some of them apparently devised by Henry himself. (ff. 43v-44): ‘An Oyntment devised by the kinges Majesty made at Westminster. And devised at Grenwich to take away inflammations and to cease payne and heale ulcers called gray plaster’.

* Henry was terrified of catching the plague, and spent most summers away from London to avoid it. His court painter Holbein was not so lucky, and succumbed to the so-called Black Death in 1543.

* The Bishop of Rochester’s cook, taking vengeance against an ungrateful master, added a toxic herb to a dish and two guests died. Henry ordered that the cook should be boiled alive in his own pot, rather than hanged, and this remained the standard punishment for poisoners for five years.

* As a child Henry had his own ‘whipping boy’ who was punished every time the young Prince did something wrong

* Henry had a remarkable memory and could remember the names of every single servant employed in the Royal households.


  1. Yes.By the time king Henry VIII’s reign ended the country was bankrupt.Henry was also a hoarder and a tyrant.The king was also obsessed too.obsessed with cleaning that is.Henry was also very securitised.He made sure that any palace he stayed at had the appropriate locks fitted.He would also have had a locksmith to add extra locks if needed.

  2. he also founded the British navy

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