Henry VIII re-assessed

There seems to be a lot about Henry VIII in the news at the moment. First of all the Royal Armouries has re-measured his suits of armour and debunked one of the 'facts' about Henry VIII as myth that I have clung to since I was about 5 years old... that Henry VIII was so fat that he had to be winced into bed by a crane. Reported in The Times, Graeme Rimer, academic director of the Royal Armouries, said.

“The armour tells us unequivocally that he was 6ft 1in and that he was pretty enormous but still vigorous at the end of his life.”

The popular idea of the ageing Henry having to be hoisted on to his horse with a crane is also “nonsense”. “There is no evidence that he was incapacitated in any way by his weight; the armour suggests that he was still riding and still active late in life.”

I've never liked Henry VIII for all his supposed forward-thinking ideas about Church and State, which were in reaction to his desire to have a male child rather than any real adherence to the new faith sweeping England as far as I can tell. Which is why I was interested to see in The Guardian today a kind of apology for the man who, in my opinion, is more like a tyrant than the 'moderniser and nationaliser' depicted in this short article. Have they not read their History? Perhaps the result of Henry's reign was what Guardian journalists might recognise as a modern nation however I do not think it was planned by Henry, nor was it entirely due to him as for the men who served him (most of them in fear of their heads at one time or another). Another example of how history is used to justify the present - it 'was meant to be this way.'


J said…
6'1"?? He really was enormous for the day! Must have been an impressive sight, what with all the fine linen and jewels and velvets on his doublet and codpiece, eh?
Amy said…
Yeah - I'm surprised too. I was saying to Ceri the other day how I'd always imagined him to be really short - an image formed from seeing his armour at the Tower of London. We decided that he wasn't that short, but was probably as wide as he was tall, creating the illusion of 'stoutness'. Or, something like that. Anyway, I think I'll hang onto my nineteenth century image of Henry VIII thanks very much. You know, enormously fat, clasping a chicken leg in one hand and a buxom wench in the other. Or, his spectre at Cambridge - seen by Prince Charles no less - moaning and dragging his gouty leg behind him.
Ceri said…
I'm always dubious about the apparent consentious over how small everyone was in the past, after all I am sure they have not conducted an extensive measurement of everyone! It was apparently after the Industrial Revolution that the average height began to drop because of bad working conditions, overcrowding and poor food produced by manufacturers who filled their food with rubbish to bulk it up. So not much different from today then! But it is perfectly reasonable to assume I think that before the 19th century people were probably the same height on average as today. And to be honest people over 6 foot are still quite rare, I knew five people at University over that height but none since I came to live in Leicester.

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