Henry VIII is the most infamous and recognisable monarch in English history.
Henry VIII is famed for his six wives, of which he beheaded two.
But there is more to Henry VIII than executing wives and being a bit fat. These remarkable facts give an insight into some of his achievements, interests, and strange habits.
Henry tells all in this great video. If you don’t want to watch, then scroll down to read instead.

Fact I

Henry VIII had a servant, called the groom of the stool.

One of his principal functions was to assist the king when Henry VIII attended the “close stool” – the toilet.

Yes, the groom of the stool had to wipe the royal bottom.

Strangely enough, this wasn’t a job, given to some menial servant. This was actually quite a high ranking member of the courts, that would be honoured to take this position.

Why? Was the pay good?

The groom of the stool would be in close daily contact with the king. Much confidence was placed in the groom of the stool by his master. It was believed that this contact and trust with the king would enable the groom of the stool to extract favours for himself, friends, or people who had bribed him to ask for something from Henry.

In his later years, Henry VIII used to suffer from chronic constipation. On the days he managed to “perform” on the toilet, Henry was always in a better mood and hence, more likely to grant favours to people at court. People would pay the groom of the stool to tell them when Henry had “performed” and would be more likely to be receptive to their requests.

Fact 2

Henry VIII was responsible for the upgrading of the English coastal defences.

In 1538, Henry made a personal inspection of some of the defences and decided that radical improvements were needed.

A lot of these defences were brand new, they were called device forts. They house artillery which would have been used against enemy shipping before they could land forces.

Also, Henry VIII was responsible for upgrading some of the existing castles and forts on the south coast.

So comprehensive and so well built were many of these defences that they were actually still in use, defending the country during the Second World War.

Fact 3

Henry VIII feared illness.

Some people might have gone as far as to call the king a hypochondriac, such was his obsession with getting ill.

When Prince Edward was born, Henry VIII instructed that his nursery walls be scrubbed down with soap and water daily. Henry VIII was obsessed with cleanliness before it became known that dirty conditions could cause health issues.

Henry would devise his own remedies for certain illnesses, often giving a friend a concoction to take. Did they work? We don’t know.

But there was one thing that Henry VIIIl lived in mortal fear of – the sweating sickness.

It had already claimed the life of his older brother, Arthur Tudor, he was going to be sure that it didn’t take him as well.

Henry was absent from London between 1517 and 1518 for almost a whole year while a particularly nasty outbreak occurred.

When the king was courting Anne Boleyn, she contracted the illness. And what did Henry VIII do?

Instead of tending to his beloved, he simply ran away and prayed that she would get better.

She did. No thanks to Henry.

Fact 4

Henry VIII is famed for having six wives, but he was married to his first wife Catherine of Aragon for over 24 years.

That is longer than the rest of the other five wives put together.

Fact 5

Henry VIII was an accomplished author.

His most famous work was almost 30,000 words long. It was a book that refuted the teachings of the German monk, Martin Luther.

It was entitled, “The defence of the seven sacraments.” It was written in Latin and was published as Assertio Septem Sacramentorum.

The book may have been written with the help of Henry’s friend, Thomas More. A man that he would later execute for opposing the break with Rome.
Such was “The defence of the seven sacraments,” impact that before his break from Rome, the Pope awarded the king the title “Defender of the Faith.”

This title the monarchs of Great Britain, still use to this day.

Fact 6

Henry VIII was a pretty suspicious type of character, and he lived in almost constant fear of being poisoned.

He would have somebody test all of his food and drink before he ate and drank a thing.

That way if he was poisoned, they’d die, and not him. Smart move, I guess, if you were a king.

To put poisoners off a little more, Henry VIII introduced a new execution method, only for those found guilty of poisoning. The poisoner would be boiled to death.

Richard Roose was a cook working for Bishop Fisher. He was accused of killing two members of the household by adding a strange white powder to porridge. He was boiled alive at Smithfield in April 1532.

Fact 7

As well as being an author, poet and sportsman Henry VIII was also a pretty handy musician. Henry VIII used to love playing both the recorder and the lute.

He also composed his own pieces.

A songbook, known today as the Henry VIII songbook, was published around 1518 and contained many of his works, including Pastyme with Good Company (Pastime with Good Company.)

However, Greensleeves is the piece of music most closely associated with Henry’s name. But there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Henry VIII wrote it.

Fact 8

The final fact about Henry VIII is a favourite of youngsters.

At the Field of the Cloth of Gold summit in 1520, Henry VIII and the King of France had a wrestling match.

Much to Henry’s disgust, Francois won the fight.

The next day Henry decided to get his own back at archery. He challenged Francois to use his longbow, but it was too heavy for the King of France to draw!


The proceedings finished well; after all, there were fountains at the event provided free wine.