Saturday, July 17, 2010

Question from Anon - Eye glasses

Did Henry VIII wear glasses?

7 comments:

Adrian said...

Click here for a picture of a Henry VIII helmet complete with spectacles.

Aly said...

That helmet is really cool, but I've never actually read about him wearing glasses. The helmet itself doesn't have lenses in it (at least now it doesn't maybe it did back then?).

Lara said...

I can't recall that Henry VIII wore glasses, but I want to say that I read that his daughter Mary used something to aid her sight, which was apparently pretty poor. Eyeglasses as we know them date to the 13th century, so it isn't impossible that she (or Henry for that matter) used them.

emma said...

i have been in touch with the royal armouries Leeds were the helmet is kept this is the reply i got

The glasses worn by the mask of the horned helmet of Henry VIII have never had glass in. They were merely decorative, to exaggerate the strange nature of the mask and as part of the image which perhaps inspired the creation of such a deliberately grotesque face. My own belief is that the mask was inspired by images of fools, characters who became popular in German culture by the end of the 15th century. In 16th century German collections of drawings and playing card designs a few images of fools show them wearing this typical form of spectacles with circular lenses.

The helmet was part of a lavishly decorated armour presented to Henry VIII by Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor, in around 1514. The helmet is all that survives of the armour, which sadly seems to have been sold as scrap metal in the years after the English Civil Wars in the 17th century. The helmet was doubtless saved as a ‘curiosity’ because of its peculiar appearance, and indeed it was chosen as the motif to represent the Royal Armouries museum in Leeds when it opened in 1996. It still appears on all local road signs to help people find the museum.

Henry VIII died in January 1547 and an inventory was made of everything the king owned at that time. This huge list recorded the king’s personal possessions in all his palaces and at the Tower of London, and many pairs of spectacles, and spectacle cases, were listed. Henry was a man of 56 when he died, and was not in good health, and it seems that he did indeed need glasses later in his life, but we have no information that he needed them when he was a fit young man in his mid 20s, which he was when he received the gift of the horned helmet from the Emperor Maximilian.

Anon said...

Thanks, that's really interesting

Anonymous said...

For more info on the history of glasses, check out "Renaissance Vision from Spectacles to Telescopes" by Dr. Vincent Ilardi. Incidentally, Dr. Ilardi was my great uncle. :) Running around his house, which was filled with replicas of Renaissance paintings, and watching him pouring over his massive microfilm collection is what started my lifelong love of Renaissance history.

-Casey Lynn

Susan Higginbotham said...

This is very late in the game, I know, but I just came across this question while looking for something else. Henry VIII's inventories show that he owned numerous spectacles.