Henry VIII: Crowned Monster


A spot of blood and grease on the pages of English history.

Charles Dickens

Something for the Weekend.  The song Henry VIII by the endlessly talented folks at history for music lovers to the tune of the song Money by Abba.

When he ascended to the throne of England Henry VIII was popularly known as the Golden Hope of England.  His father Henry VII had never been loved by the people of England:  a miser and a distinctly unheroic figure no matter what Shakespeare would write in Richard III.  He had brought the end of the War of the Roses and peace to England, but that was about as much credit as his subjects would give the grasping, unlovable Henry Tudor.  His son by contrast looked like an Adonis when young, strong and athletic.  He had a sharp mind and had been well-educated, intended, ironically, for a career in the Church before the death of his elder brother Arthur.  He was reputed, correctly, to be pious.  He had considerable charism in his youth and knew how to make himself loved with a well timed laugh or smile, and loved he was, by the nobles, commons, his wife Katherine, and the Church.  Few reigns started more auspiciously than that of Henry, eighth of that name.

By the end of his reign he was widely despised by most his subjects.  Called a crowned monster behind his back, his reign had brought religious turmoil to England and domestic strife.  The best known symbols of his reign were the headman’s axe, the stake and the boiling pot in which he had some of the luckless individuals who roused his fury boiled to death.

It of course is small wonder for a Catholic to have little love for Henry VIII and his reign, but the distaste for Henry extends well beyond members of the Church.  Winston Churchill, the great English statesman and historian, in his magisterial History of the English Speaking Peoples has this to say about the executions of Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher:

The resistance of More and Fisher to the royal supremacy in Church government was a heroic stand.  They realised the defects of the existing Catholic system, but they hated and feared the aggressive nationalism which was destroying the unity of Christendom.  They saw that the break with Rome carried with it the risk of a despotism freed from every fetter.  More stood forth as the defender of all that was finest in the medieval outlook.  He represents to history its universality, its belief in spiritual values, and its instinctive sense of otherworldliness.  Henry VIII with cruel axe decapitated not only a wise and gifted counselor, but a system which, though it had failed to live up to its ideals in practice, had for long furnished mankind with its brightest dreams.”


Churchill himself was not noted for being a churchgoer.  When asked if he was a pillar of the Church of England, he quipped that perhaps he could be considered to be a flying butress of the Church, supporting it from outside.  Perhaps this helped give him a certain objectivity regarding Henry VIII.  Here is part of his summing up of Henry’s reign:

“Henry’s rule saw many advances in the growth and the character of the English state, but it is a hideous blot upon his record that the reign should be widely remembered for its executions.  Two Queens, two of the King’s chief Ministers, a saintly bishop, numerous abbots, monks and many ordinary folk who dared to resist the royal will were put to death.  Almost every member of the nobility in whom royal blood ran perished on the scaffold at Henry’s command.  Roman Catholic and Calvinist alike were burnt for heresy and religious treason.  These persecutions, inflicted in solemn manner by officers of the law, perhaps in the presence of the Council or even the King himself, form a brutal seqeul to the bright promise of the Renaissance.  The sufferings of devout men and women among the faggots, the use of torture, and the savage penalties imposed for even paltry crimes, stand in repellant contrast to the enlightened principles of humanism.” 

The final word on the reign of Henry VIII we will give to Saint Thomas More, one of the few men with the courage to stand against Henry during his bloody reign:

23 Responses to Henry VIII: Crowned Monster

  • Donald

    Great post.

    I think you got the wrong YouTube for Thomas More.


  • Henry VIII, the Fred Phelps of his day! “God Hates Romanists!” could have been the picket sign he wold have carried! LOL!

  • Another great historical post from Donald. Yes, the transformation of a bright, charming and well-meaning young man, a man who could have become a great and admired leader, into a sadistic lech is one of history’s great tragedies.

    Speaking of monsters, here’s a little bit of trivia which certainly startled me when I heard it yesterday: Joseph Stalin’s only daughter, Svetlana, now in her ’80’s, is living out her golden years in the town of Richland, Wisconsin. You would not expect to run into the daughter of one of history’s worst mass murderers in the grocery store or post office of a small Midwestern town, now, would you? The poor woman has had quite a confused and tumultuous life and now only wants peace and quiet and obscurity. Who can blame her?

  • Thank you Donna. Svetlana defected in the Sixties. The poor woman has indeed had a very rough life. Stalin was a beast not just in his public life, but other than his mother I think he came the closest to feeling the emotion of love in regard to Svetlana, although unfortunately that didn’t stop him from doing his worst to help make her life hell, including driving her poor mother to suicide. Two doctors refused to phony up a death certificate lying about his wife killing herself and Stalin later had them executed.

    On a much lighter note, any updates behind the Cheddar Curtain in regard to the current mood in Wisconsin over the Governor and the Invisible State Senators?

  • The Cheddar Curtain


    That’s a new one on me – unsurprisingly.

  • Don, Illinois and Wisconsin have had a friendly rivalry since the early days of the Republic when the two territories fought over possession of Chicago and Illinois lost. :)

  • First of all, Don the Kiwi, my condolences for the tragedy that struck your lovely country. I pray for you all and hope that you and your family are well.

    Secondly, Don the Flatlander :-) , I think most up here (excepting the professional protesters in the People’s Republic of Madison, who are still littering our beautiful Capitol building with their trash) are very tired of this standoff. I think Walker, who had some very tough fights with the unions when he was Milwaukee County Executive, will stay strong, but I have no such faith in some of the squishier GOP State Senators. That’s why the Dem fleebaggers are continuing to hole up south of the border; they are hoping to wear down the GOP.

    I admit it, I am disheartened by people who admit we have to cut spending, think the pensions and benes enjoyed by public employees are out of control, say they voted for Walker – and then tell me “But I don’t think Walker’s right about collective bargaining.” Walker has been on television here many times over the past several weeks, calmly stating his case – and it isn’t at all difficult to grasp it. Yet apparently, many cannot, nor do they get that kicking the can down the road will only make the inevitable end that much more painful. People say they don’t want politicians to lie to them, but when one bluntly tells the truth – oh, how he is hated.

    But remember, I am in liberal Milwaukee. Whenever I visit rural Kewanee County, just north of Green Bay, I meet people with a very different perspective than those in my neighborhood, just as downstaters are a world apart from those in Rahm Emmanuel’s fiefdom.

  • Don, perhaps you have not heard that The Wisconsin Cheeseman, a venerable institution for decades, has gone belly up with its bare remnants now up for auction. The Badger State is not only reeling from divisive politics but also imperiled by fast-closing California on its claim for being “America’s Dairyland.” Uneasy lies the crown.

    However, cheeseheads such as myself are still basking in the Packers’ reclaiming Titletown after 15 suffering years.

    As for the AWOL 14, they are now being hunted down by a posse and if they show one hair in Wisconsin, they are subject to be taken into custody “with or without force,” according to a resolution adopted for Senate Republicans.

    Up to now the Dems’ Assembly brethren have been wearing orange T-shirts in protest of Walker’s budget bill. The 14 may yet be wearing orange jumpsuits if the troopers catch up with them.

  • My Wisconsin bred bride of 28 years was just mentioning that to me Joe, and I join all Wisconsin cows in mourning. In Illinois members of the tea party have stayed hot on the trail of the on the lam Wisconsin state senate Democrats, often with hilarious interludes. Some of the Wisconsin Democrat senators are begining to weary of this charade, especially since many of them, apparently, live paycheck to paycheck, and now have to appear in the Wisconsin state senate to receive their share of the largesse courtesy of the Wisconsin taxpayers.

  • “Secondly, Don the Flatlander”

    Thank you for the update Donna. Living in a state that could double as God’s billiard table has its advantages. Driving in flat terrain is easier on transmissions, and one avoids coming over a hill to find that the other driver is taking his half of the road out of the middle. Besides, I get to visit your lovely state for a week each year and see terrain I can’t in Illinois, although judging from Illinois license plates I often think of southern Wisconsin as a colony of the Land of Lincoln anyway! :)

  • Compared to flat-as-a-pancake Nebraska, Wisconsin is positively mountainous. : )

  • And someone from Colorado or even Pennsylvania would find our hills (and references to “Flatlanders”) to be absolutely hilarious. What would a Swiss or Tibetan say? Let’s not even go there…

    although judging from Illinois license plates I often think of southern Wisconsin as a colony of the Land of Lincoln anyway!

    Northern Wisconsin is too! The annual invasion begins Memorial Day weekend. Last summer, in the tourist town of Fish Creek on the Door County peninsula, my sister and I walked 6 blocks to a restaurant – the closest we could get to the place – and we counted exactly 3 other cars with Wisconsin plates parked on the street. Yes, it’s occupied territory :-)

  • Oh, and however much I express distaste for certain Illinois phenomenon, such as the Chicago machine, that city’s eye-popping sales tax, and da Bears, the fact that Illinois was Honest Abe’s home state atones for any number of more recent black marks. It’s just a shame corrupt Chicago casts such a large shadow over the rest of the state.

  • “It’s just a shame corrupt Chicago casts such a large shadow over the rest of the state.”

    That has been my constant mantra all of my life Donna!

  • “And someone from Colorado or even Pennsylvania would find our hills (and references to “Flatlanders”) to be absolutely hilarious. What would a Swiss or Tibetan say?”

    All I can say as someone from Idaho is that its very flat anywhere east of the Rockies. I walk out my back door at 2600 feet. A half hour hike later I’m at 3600 feet. That’s if I take the long way.

  • Oh, I missed this earlier:

    The Badger State is not only reeling from divisive politics but also imperiled by fast-closing California on its claim for being “America’s Dairyland.”

    Hah! Some years ago, I got into a (very friendly) squabble with a Golden Stater who bragged of California’s happy cows. I don’t believe that Hollywood propaganda for a second and you should not either. In reality, I am sure California cows are neurotic and goofy creatures,who obsessively fret about their weight, compete viciously to become TV stars, yearn to be noticed by the star bull, and need constant therapy. In contrast, our sturdy Midwestern cows, their characters strengthened by tough winters and a lack of mollycoddling, look very pleased with life. At least they look quite happy to me when I drive past the dairy farms next to I-43.

    Phillip: I would love to visit Idaho some day. It looks like an absolutely gorgeous place.

  • I’ll put cornfed Midwestern cows up against tofu munching, bulemic California cows any day of the week!

  • Oh, dear, I apologize, Don. I did not mean to pull this thread so far afield that a post about about the perfidy of Henry VIII ended up about the merits of Midwestern cows! I have a bad tendency to sidetrack online discussions with an “OT, but here’s something you might want to know….” For Lent, I will work on sticking to the subject!

  • Hey, I love all this.
    Nothing like a bit of interstate rivalry and banter – just like us kiwis and the Aussies. :-)
    But on a (slightly serious) note, its about time the US Federal and Stae governemtns stopped subsidising your farmers – particularly dairy farmers – to keep out the most efficient dairy producers in the world. Of course, you may have guessed I’m talking about New Zealand dairy farmers. All our farming subsidies ceased back in the early 1980’s, and we have continued to be the worlds most efficient producer of dairy products, landing our products into many parts of the world, including the US. One of our largest companies, Fonterra, has operations now in several countries, including China, somewhere in Europe, Australia, South America, and – yes folks – in the USA.

    So dump your subsidies, buy NZ dairy products – cheaper than what you produce them yourselves – and help lift the Kiwi standard of living. ;-).

    And Don, I do understand Illinois being the loser WRT Chicago – the home town of your beloved president. :-(

  • Donna V.

    Thank you for your kind wishes. I e-mailed Don a photo a couple of hours ago taken from the hills above Christchurch just as the earthquake hit. He may wish to publish it – its quite amazing. Kind regards.

  • That is an absolutely stunning picture of Christchurch Don, but unfortunately I am unable to upload it to the site, because the size of the photo exceeds the limit of what we can upload to the site. I tried. :(

    “Oh, dear, I apologize, Don.”

    Don’t fret Donna. Some threads just take on a strange life of their own. :)

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