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Henry VIII: The Womanizer

Five centuries ago - oh how we Brits love our history - Henry VIII was crowned King of England. He was slim, athletic, witty - and by one new account - a jolly nice chap indeed, ruling with kindness and consideration and being nice to his wives.

Well that's not quite true. He split up with wife number one, Catherine and married his mistress Anne Boleyn. The repercussions of that led to the formation of the Church of England, because the Pope didn't approve. So Henry simply told the Pontiff what he could do with his Church, and created a new Church of his own and made himself boss.

But since 2009 is a big anniversary, this is "be nice to Henry year". The curator of the Royal Palace has just published a special history and it makes our Henry look like a misjudged saint. He and Anne were apparently a lovely couple. They had a daughter. Anne got pregnant again. Life at Hampton Court was bliss.

Then on January 24th 1536 it all started to go a bit wrong. Henry went for a ride on his favorite horse. Someone or something knocked him out of the saddle and he was unconscious for two hours. The accident burst an ulcer in his leg, he had constant pain, couldn't exercise, got disgustingly fat and was extremely irritable. Poor old Anne had a miscarriage. Failed to produce a son and so had her head chopped off.

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Henry then married Jane Seymour, one of Anne's Ladies-in-Waiting - who gave birth to a much-awaited son, but unfortunately dropped dead a short time later.

The next one, Anne of Cleves looked better in the portraits than in the flesh, so he annuled the marriage almost immediately after exchanging vows.

Katherine Howard didn't suit him and had a couple of flings which cost her her head - and the last one was Catherine Parr, who had the dubious privilege of surviving him. So despite the fresh lick of paint being carefully applied to his reputation, in truth Henry VIII was a ruthless scheming womanizing old rascal.
By Ed Boyle

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