In 1521, five hundred years ago this year, King Henry VIII was awarded the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ for his defence of the Catholic Church against the threat of Martin Luther. What does this tell us about England’s most famous king? Why did Henry then break away from Rome, declaring independence from Catholic Europe and creating religious divisions within the British Isles for centuries to come?

This exhibition offers a new perspective on Henry VIII (ruled 1509-47), the power that he wielded and his personality and passions, drawn from the collections of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

We have gathered rarely-seen portraits, manuscripts, objects and books, including royal proclamations enforcing the Reformation and the inventory of his possessions drawn up on his death, to illustrate and to question the controversial life of Henry VIII.

Few English rulers have had such a dramatic impact, in their own time or as remembered by later generations. For better and for worse, this is Henry VIII as you have probably never seen him.