Friday, January 28, 2011

The Death of Henry VIII


It was just past 2 AM when Henry VIII breathed his last, on this day in 1547, at the Palace of Whitehall in London. Having lived lavishly, and ruled tyrannically, he died ignominiously; his legendary beauty and strength gone to a life of dissipation, in the last hours of his life he was unable to speak or move or even offer his last confession (a rite of which he was sorely in need).

Long plagued by an ulcerated leg wound suffered at a joust in 1536, it's been the received wisdom for three centuries that his death had been hastened by the onset of syphilis; contemporary biographers also feel that it's just as likely the impaired mental state famously demonstrated in his final years was the result of untreated Type II diabetes. Born in June 1491, he was six months to the day shy of 56, and died on what would have been his father Henry VII's 90th birthday.

His nine-year-old son - for whom he had so devoutly wished that he broke with Rome, cast off wives, and generally carried on like a 16th Century King - became Edward VI under a council of regency which numbered 16 peers of the realm (as per the terms of the Act of Succession of 1543); from among them Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford - his mother Jane Seymour's brother - was chosen by them to serve England's new King as Lord Protector.

Henry VIII's body was buried at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle alongside his beloved Queen Jane, but his spirit haunts history still; nearly 500 years after his death he remains one of the most biographied people who ever lived.

In addition to appearances both major and minor in myriad books, he's been played on film by Charles Laughton in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), Robert Shaw in A Man for All Seasons (1966), Richard Burton in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), and Sid James in Carry On Henry (1970), and has more recently been played by Eric Bana in The Other Boleyn Girl; on television he's been played by Keith Michell in The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1973), Jared Harris in a BBC adaptation of The Other Boleyn Girl (2003), and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in The Tudors (2007).
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1 comment:

Mathias N Oz said...

I'm Henery the Eighth, I am!
Henery the Eighth I am! I am!
I got married to the widow next door,
She's been married seven times before.
Every one was an Henery
She wouldn't have a Willie or a Sam
I'm her eighth old man named Henery
Henery the Eighth I am