Personality and Legacy

Who was Henry VIII behind the mask of power, and what was his legacy?  Historians discuss many different versions of the king, from a domineering would-be tyrant to a man desperate to be liked and vulnerable to the influence of others. 

Here we explore some of Henry’s consistent passions: his love for hunting, which took him on a series of progresses across southern England; his relationships with women, complex and frighteningly violent but also capable of devotion; and his obsessive acquisition of luxury goods, from tapestries and jewels to sumptuous clothes and clockwork toys. 

Following the death of Henry’s son Edward VI (ruled 1547-53) aged just fifteen, the power and prestige of the Tudor crown were inherited by his two daughters: first Mary (ruled 1553-58), devotedly Catholic in honour of her mother and defiance of her father; and then Elizabeth (ruled 1558-1603), whose achievements and fame today exceed those even of Henry VIII.

The wealth of a Tudor King

This exceptional document is the first of two volumes inventorying the belongings of King Henry VIII….

The importance of appearance

This manuscript is ‘A Booke or Inventorie of the Remaine of his Majesties Warderobe Stuffe, Ornaments of Howsehold … Remaineing now at Denmarke Howse …’….

The last will and testament

This is the Society’s copy of the last will and testament of Henry VIII, drawn up in December 1546, before his death at Whitehall Palace on 28 January 1547….

A return to Catholicism

This portrait of Mary I (r. 1553-1558) was the first major portrait to be painted shortly after her coronation, some time around her 38th birthday, and before her marriage in July 1554 to Philip (later Philip II) of Spain.

The Catholic Court of Mary I

The illuminated title page displayed here, belongs to Mary I’s Book of Fees and Offices that was drawn up almost immediately on her ascension to the throne in 1553….

A Tudor title and modern monarchy

Seen here is an engraved colour copy taken from a miniature of Elizabeth I, designed by Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619), and stored in the collection at Ham House….

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