Do you know that Henry VIII was happily married for almost 20 years to the same queen before meeting his other wives? Do you know Queen Elizabeth refused to marry in spite of all the men who loved her? And do you know what particular events during Queen Victoria’s long reign contributed to making the British Empire the biggest ever?
English monarchs have fascinated the world for centuries. We are all curious to find out about their lives, their loves, their ambitions and their secrets.
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Great English Monarchs and their Times by Gina D.B. Clemen
Henry VIII became king in 1509, just before his eighteenth birthday. Young Henry was not prepared to be king. He became king only because his elder brother, Arthur, died at the age of fifteen. Soon after the coronation Henry married his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, who was his brother Arthur’s widow.
Catherine was the only child of King Ferdinand of Spain. Spain was then a very powerful country. This marriage created a strong alliance between the two countries.
Catherine was beautiful and intelligent, and Henry loved her. For almost twenty years they were the perfect royal couple and were happy together.
The new King looked like a hero. Henry was handsome and robust. He was six foot tall. At that time most men were about five foot four inches tall. He had bright blue eyes and red hair. He also had a strong personality. The people of England liked King Henry.
Young Henry was strong and full of energy. He loved playing tennis, riding horses and hunting. He hunted in the forests with hawks. He was a very skilled swordsman and loved mock fights called jousts.
Henry was also a great scholar. He spoke English, French, Latin and Spanish. He studied ancient Greek, religious writings, mathematics and astronomy. He was an avid reader and encouraged others to read too. He loved music and played several instruments very well: the harp, the organ, the lute and the virginals. He was a good singer and dancer, and also composed beautiful songs. We can still listen to some of his compositions.
During this time the Renaissance developed in England. King Henry was a patron of the arts. Writers, poets, painters and musicians were all welcome at his court. The famous Dutch scholar, Erasmus, was Henry’s friend.
The young King was very busy with banquets, dancing, hunting and sports. He decorated his castles and palaces with beautiful furniture and paintings. He wore expensive clothes and jewellery, and was generous with his friends…