Happy Birthday Henry VIII! He was born to Elizabeth of York and Henry VII on this day in 1491. For his older brother Arthur’s birth Elizabeth had gone to Winchester, legendary home of the Arthurian Round Table. No such special measures were taken for ‘the spare’: Henry was born at Greenwich, near London, later the birthplace of his daughters Mary I and Elizabeth I. He had a lavish christening of course, but the royal historian wrote just fifty words on his birth. It was expected that he would not be the one to continue the new Tudor dynasty.
As it turned out he grew from being a comparatively uncelebrated second son to one of the most gargantuan British monarchs in the national consciousness – both the fattest and the most famous. For Kateryn Parr, my current heroine, he was an irresistible force: a tyrant who could not be refused, a killer who held the lives of everyone in the country in his hands.
Image: Henry VIII in 1542, the year that Katherine Howard was beheaded and the year before his marriage to Kateryn Parr. From the studio of Hans Holbein. Currently in the Castle Howard collection.