Meet the young Henry VIII

Henry and one of his wives outside Hampon Court Palace

© L. Hutchinson for Historic Royal Palaces

    • Painting of a large bearded man in ornate Tudor dress© Mary Rose Trust
      What do you think of when someone says 'Henry VIII'?

      Do you think of a big man with a beard and a bad temper - the Tudor monarch who loved feasting and who had six wives and beheaded two of them?

      But what was Henry like before he became king?

      Show Me has been finding out more about how Henry VIII looked and behaved when he was a young man.

      At Hampton Court you can see this portrait of a young Henry. It shows him without his famous beard - would you have recognised him?

      Painting of a young Tudor man, in an ornate gold frame.© HRP/
      When he was young Henry was much slimmer - he loved playing sports, especially jousting, and was very popular with girls!

      Did you know that we have evidence that Henry VIII was a football fan?

      This is Henry's first wife, Katherine of Aragon.

      Painting of the head and shoulders of a woman in ornate Tudor dress.
      She was a Spanish princess who had been married to Henry's older brother Arthur, who was going to be King of England.

      But Arthur died only a few months after getting married.

      It was decided that Henry should marry Katherine - this would help England and Spain to remain allies.

      Arthur and Henry's father was King Henry VII. When he died, young Henry became King Henry VIII. He was king for 38 years, and became very powerful.

      What can we learn about Henry VIII from paintings?

      Here's part of a big painting called The Field of the Cloth of Gold. It shows Henry riding out to meeting the King of France, wearing a very impressive gold robe.

      Painting of a man in ornate Tudor dress, including a gold cape, riding a white horse amongst a crowd of armed men
      Henry had pictures like this painted to show off about how great a king he was, and how strong the English army was.

      Sometimes he would display them at meetings with other European kings.

      Do you think that seeing these paintings would have put other kings off trying to defeat England in battle?

      How might you have felt if you were visiting Henry and found him surrounded by art like this?

      You can see lots of different portraits of Henry VIII on the National Portrait Gallery's website.

      Henry's homes

      Shows a photograph of a large red brick castle against a blue sky© Historic Royal Palaces/
      This is Hampton Court Palace, one of Henry's favourite homes.

      If you visit Hampton Court Palace today, as well as finding out about Henry VIII you can immerse yourself in life at the Tudor Court.

      A photograph of a man in tudir dress in a tudor kitchen, he is carving some roasted meat.© News Team International / Richard Lea-Hair
      You can visit the Tudor kitchens and see how much food had to be prepared, then visit the Great Hall where 600 people would have their dinner!

      If you want to know a bit more about what would go into a Tudor feast, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery have this guide to a tudor feast.

      The peacock looks tasty!

      More about Henry VIII

      Henry VIII is famous for having SIX wives. You can remember what happened to each of them if you learn this little verse:

      Divorced, beheaded, died
      Divorced, beheaded, survived.

      Henry's children included Elizabeth, who became Queen Elizabeth I and reigned for 45 years as well as other Tudor monarchs, Edward VI and Mary I. If you want to find out more about the Tudors, check out Show Me's Tudor section.
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