Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Question from Madison - Henry VIII's spare time activities

Hello. I'm Maddie, a year 8/ 13 year old student at Guernsey Grammar School. Recently, in history, we were set the task of writing an essay on How the Royal Job Description changed between the 1500s and the 1800s. We were told that we had to compare a monarchs reign, so I chose three different monarchs. The monarch from the Tudor period that I chose was Henry VIII, as I thought that there would be a lot to find out about him. I was wondering if you could give me any pointers as to what he did in his spare time or possible links to good websites for information? Thanks.


Marilyn R said...

Hi Maddie,

Henry would have had very little truly spare or private time. He was never completely alone for what we see as quiet time, and even leisure activities could be part of the bigger picture, sometimes staged and designed to make him appear fitter, stronger, more athletic or more intelligent than anyone else, which was all part of building his image.

He liked jousting, which was very dangerous, and had a number of potentially fatal encounters, including knocks or wounds to the legs which resulted in the awful ulcers in mid-life. He also had nasty falls from horses that left him concussed.

He loved hunting and you should be able to find descriptions of the carnage, such as at Hatfield Chase near Doncaster in 1541 when he was visiting northern England with Katherine Howard. Of course, he would have to be seen to kill more than anyone else and you have to wonder just how easy it was made for him to bump off the poor creatures, especially when he was older and so out of condition.

As a young man he was said to cut a handsome figure during a game of real (royal) tennis at Hampton court, where there was also an outdoor bowling alley. He also liked archery. I don’t know about playing card games, but his father certainly did.

Henry was a cultivated man who loved music and composed a number of pieces himself, including ‘Pastime With Good Company’, which you will probably find on youtube.

He was well-read but hated writing which, he complained, gave him a headache; his handwriting is large and smudgy. His daughter Elizabeth used to translate a piece from Latin into English and then back again for recreation and to keep her mind alert, rather like we do crosswords or Sudoku puzzles today, but I can’t see Henry doing that, although he would probably have been capable of it.

You will find all sorts of bits of information online – this is quite funny

Good luck with the project.

Mary R said...

Hi Maddie,

I agree with what Marilyn R said.

I would also like to add that one of Henry VIII's favorite pastimes was wrestling. He was pretty much undefeated until he met up with King Francis I of France. Francis pretty much kicked Henry's royal rear-end.

So here is the question: Was Henry really a great wrestler, or were his English opponents just too scared to win?

In later life, Henry, as he put it, "wrestled with his conscience" (over issues like his divorce, from K of A, etc.). No surprise! His conscience was defeated!

Unknown said...

Henry VIII also loved masques, as well as just dressing up and playacting. He enjoyed surprising Catherine of Aragon and her ladies and of course while they certainly were not unaware of who was behind the mask they played along.

Another interest was bowls. Where he and Thomas Wyatt argued over the placement of their ball each one measuring the distance while at the same time showing keepsakes they each had from Anne Boleyn.