There’s a legend in Britain that one day, King Arthur will return to save us all. Well, one of our most infamous kings seems to have been reincarnated, but not in the way we might have hoped. We may have hoped for King Arthur, but what we got was Henry VIII. Fortunately for Britain, he’s come back as an American, so the extent to which he’s our problem is debatable.
You don’t believe me? Let’s look at the evidence.
“Donald Trump will never be President!”
Henry was never the heir — he was the pampered, grinning oaf that stood next to the rightful heir, enjoying a life of luxury without anyone ever expecting he would end up in power. He was the spare to Prince Arthur. Arthur was the one trained for leadership, not Henry. Then there was a terrible accident, and oops, there he is.
“Trump’s fragile male ego craves the dangerous drug of adulation”
Being called ‘your Grace’ wasn’t enough for Henry. He wanted to be called ‘your Majesty’. And the new upgraded honorific stuck through the ages. But this was just one of the signs of his raging egomania. It was all about him. Fed up with the Pope being more powerful than you? No problem — invent a new religion, and make yourself the head of the Church too! Fancy a tour of the nation? Force your citizens to accommodate you and your entourage at their own expense, until you have eaten them out of house and home, and they are begging you to go back to your palace. Obsessed with creating a dynasty, it was all about the family name: five letters, beginning with a T; a name used disparagingly by some in England when it first became attached to power. A family whose rights to claim the throne were tenuous at best, and taken with a combination of force and PR spin. This was a guy with a chip on his shoulder, who wanted to be worshipped rather than just obeyed. All that tough talk just proved how thin his skin was.
“I’m a germaphobe!”
Henry was renowned for fleeing the city whenever there was an outbreak of anything vaguely contagious. When the woman he loved (at that time, it was Anne) came down with the sweating sickness, he galloped off without a word. I mean, to be fair, the sweating sickness was fatal, and he didn’t have a male heir, but still, bit harsh, Henry. Who charges off leaving the woman they claim to love languishing behind them in the dust? Not very chivalric.
“Does his wife hate him?”
Some of his wives could barely veil their contempt and distaste. That’s allegedly what ruined his marriage to Anne of Cleves — she took one look at him, thought ‘ew’ and Henry, who still thought of himself as a dashing young hotty, suddenly realised how grotesque he was. Katherine Parr did her duty without complaining too much, but married the love of her life with almost indecent haste after Henry died. I’m just going to leave this here:
“Win at all costs!”
Henry VIII broke from Rome to get his divorce, throwing Europe into chaos because he wanted an heir of his body (if you are being kind) or he wanted a hot new wife (if you are being more cynical). He believed that whatever he desired was what God wanted him to have. His way was the Divine Way, and opposition was evil.
“Let’s destroy an institution that cares for the poor to give my rich friends more money!”
Ah, the Reformation. Now look, I’m not saying that Obamacare and Catholicism are exactly the same thing, but the parallels are there… Catholicism served another master (the Pope), and Obamacare bears the name of another President, even though it’s only a nickname. Monasteries provided for the poor and the sick, and the dissolution of them raised a huge amount of money for Henry, who was able to then give properties to his allies.
“I shall prove my manliness to other foreign leaders with grand macho displays! Also, my bomb is bigger than yours.”
Hooray, it’s time to talk about the Field of the Cloth of Gold! This was meant to be a diplomatic mission, a chance for Henry and King Francis I of France. It become more ‘competition’ than diplomacy though. Whose tent was the grandest? Who could joust the best? The jousting was organised so that the kings didn’t have to fight each other. It was a way to save face. But then it got embarrassing, when Henry challenged Francis to a wrestling match because he felt that people didn’t think he was manly enough. He lost.
“If they say mean things about me, it’s Fake News, and I’ll punish them!”
Flattery got you everywhere with Henry. It’s usually safer to agree with a tyrant, especially when he beheaded his closest friend for disagreeing with him on a matter of theology. Don’t speculate about his health- that’s treason. Anything can be treason if he says it is, even if his logic is flawed… Speaking of which:
“I never said that.”
Trump’s not the first to want to re-write history. How many wives did Henry VIII have? 6? No. He had 2, from his point of view. His other marriages were annulled, which meant that they never legally took place. He stuck to this even when it undermined his charges of treason against Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, for cheating on the King. (This infidelity was true in Howard’s case, but not at all in Boleyn’s case.) If the marriage never happened, they weren’t cheating on him in the first place, but hey, it’s easier to be widowed than divorced, eh?
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Henry could do what he liked to women, even if they were physically repulsed by him, which, let’s be honest, in his later years was more likely than not. In fact, fathers encouraged their daughters to let him do what he wanted. Men encouraged their wives to do the same thing. After the first three wives it got harder to find willing candidates for marriage, admittedly, but scandalous whispers of abuse weren’t enough to put off everyone. He still managed to marry again. In the end, he had children by three different women. Fancy that.
“This job is hard. I’m going to play some golf instead.”
Why spend your days working hard at governance, when you can appoint someone else to do the hard work? There are rich-guy sports out there that aren’t going to play themselves. (Henry’s favourites were tennis and hunting.) If something goes wrong, you can just get rid of the other guy and blame him for everything. That’s what people like Thomas Cromwell are for, right?
“I’m the most popular President ever!”
It wasn’t enough to have undisputed power. Henry wanted to be loved. He wanted more than acceptance and obedience- he wanted to be the prince of everyone’s hearts. His flatterers played along, assuring him that serving him was an act of devotion, even when their job was to wipe his bum.
“Is there something seriously wrong with him?”
Was Henry’s paranoia and egomania evidence of some sort of terrible illness? The result of a brain injury during a jousting accident perhaps? Some historians have tied to diagnose Henry from a distance, thinking there must be some sort of medical reason for all the awful behaviour…
Wait a moment- I might be having a change of heart. Henry was a least a hotty in his youth, and an athlete too. He wrote poetry, and sang to the women he loved. He wasn’t the prince they thought would be in charge, but he was at least raised and educated as a prince - with some diplomatic training, we would assume. Plus Henry was smart, well read, and a patron of the arts. And I’ve yet to see Trump jousting, or (I’M SO SORRY FOR THE MENTAL IMAGE) wearing a codpiece.
Let’s hope and pray that Ivanka isn’t Elizabeth I, anyway…