Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Paris seemed to be all about Napoleon. The Arc de Triomphe, the restoration of Versailles, and many of the bridges across the Seine, are all attributed to him. So Paris = Napoleon. And, of course, public displays of affection.

England, on the other hand, bows before the ghost of Henry VIII. The separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church was one of the most significant acts in British history. Additionally, the story of his six wives is pretty fascinating.

Today, those of us who were not sick in our flats traveled by bus and train to Hampton Court, the home of Henry VIII.

Back when I was nine, I visited my grandma at her retirement community in Iowa and read a book about Henry VIII from the community's library. Soon, I could name all the wives and their ultimate fates.

"Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived."
--rhyme to remember the fate of the six wives of Henry VIII

Hampton Court tells the story of Henry with interesting museum displays (including multimedia), an enhanced audio tour, and costumed actors.

Henry VIII in his later years, favoring a leg that just won't heal.

Catherine of Aragon faces off with Thomas Wolsey.

Henry was a man with large appetites. For food: the kitchens at Hampton Court were built to serve 600 people, twice a day. According to the museum website: the annual provision of meat for the Tudor court stood at 1,240 oxen, 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer, 760 calves, 1,870 pigs and 53 wild boar. This was all washed down with 600,000 gallons of beer. And we've all seen the images of Henry VIII. He's like Fat Elvis: imposing, but not as dead sexy as his younger self.

For women: Sure, he had six wives. But also at least two mistresses. It is possible that Anne Boleyn only became queen because she refused to be Henry's mistress, as her sister had been. The other undisputed mistress actually bore Henry a son, Henry FitzRoy, who died as a teen, while Henry was attempting to change the rules of succession that would have allowed his illegitimate son to be king.

For power: It seems that a lot of the divorcing and beheading (and dying for that matter) was related to this issue of succession. Henry wanted a male heir, a son who could be the next king of England. Even better would have been "an heir and a spare," since Henry knew first hand that sometimes the older son doesn't live to be king. 

What do you know of Henry VIII? Have you seen The Tudors? Is it worth watching?

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