Henry VIII: Nice guy or psychopath?

Trying to pass off an illegitimate son as his wife’s would NOT have worked. Royalty had zero privacy. Actual witnesses to the child emerging from the queen’s body were required in order to prevent just such a swap.

His first wife was past childbearing age, there would be no more sons from her. He might well have actually thought that the lack of a surviving son (IIRC she had a few miscarriages or stillbirths of male children) was his punishment for marrying his brother’s widow.

Well, Elizabeth was the product of marriage two, and Edward from marriage three, so both were born prior to the excessive corpulence.

In Elizabeth’s case at least, I think there’s a definite family resemblance.

I’m not talking about an actual swap. I’m talking about a convenience everyone knows is false but respects anyway, because Henry puts together a ring of supporters for the young prince.

That would rather defeat the purpose of a hereditary monarchy, which derives stability from the mechanism of passing the crown to the monarch’s oldest son. Any substitute would cast doubt on on the legitimacy of the monarchy and make it vulnerable to attack. Passing the crown to a daughter was also considered dangerous, because she would almost certainly marry a foreign prince who would almost certainly drag England into foreign affairs.

Henry wasn’t irrational to feel that he needed a male heir. He tried to sever his marriage peaceably, but Catherine fought him, for good reasons of her own. Only after being thwarted for several years did he grow vicious.

IANHVIII, but I did research him a fair amount in preparation for playing him in Royal Gambit some years back. I paid particular attention to his life as a boy and young man, on the theory that influences during that period can have a great impact later on.

Briefly (for me), the one impression that stood out above all was that Henry grew up in an atmosphere which seems tailor-made for producing paranoia. Henry VII had overthrown both Richard III* and the Plantagenet dynasty; and while it is true that both the Lancastrian and Yorkist factions were exhausted, there was no lack of conspiracy theories, complete with hot and cold running assassins behind every arras. It didn’t help matters any that HVII was apparently a rather dour and suspicious sort, constantly making notes about real or imagined wrongs. Put these things together with the megalomania which seemed to come naturally to princes of the time and a touch of general instability — exacerbated by syphilis later on — and it would be kind of surprising if one didn’t end up with a despot.

Overall, I feel that Henry VIII really did have his country’s best interests in mind. But his methods were more reminiscent of a crime boss than a statesman.

*A discussion about the accuracy of our image of Richard III (mainly courtesy of Master Shakespeare) would be wildly OT. Suffice it to say that it is my considered opinion that Richard got the shaft in more ways than one.

One of the things I don’t quite get is that there seemed (seems?) to be a healthy amount of mostly-tolerated extramarital sex throughout royalty/aristocracy. Both Boleyn and Howard were executed ostensibly for screwing around on Hank 8. I can’t help but think that he perhaps privately encouraged them to do that in hopes they’d get preggers and he could claim the child as his own. The execution was lacking, however, and when the women were too open with their affairs that the court system (both versions) got involved.

Perhaps none of the heads would have been removed if the castles and palaces had more secret passages.

It was considered treason for the queens to have an affair (and for those they had the affairs with). Both Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard could have been burnt at the stake rather than beheaded. For Anne, a French swordsman was brought in and her death was quick.
Commoners were executed in a much more grisly manner—hung until they were almost dead, gutted, and then quartered.

For the psychopath argument, Henry had a rather elderly relative executed. His mother’s cousin, Margaret Pole, was executed at the age of 67 for her supposed part in a conspiracy based in Yorkshire. The executor was not very skilled at his job, and just kept hacking at her. Not a quick or pleasant death.

Henry the VIII? A psychopath he was, he was.

Check the link in my OP, the bellowing I’m referring to is from that version, not The Tudors. Rhys-Davies plays it much more subtly than the guy from the PBS Henry VIII.

I was wondering about that myself. Surely there were chambermaids and serving girls and whatnots for Henry to have affairs with and who would have found their lives considerably improved if they kept a royal secret. (Well, that or they’d get killed, but the impression I got from both shows that just about everybody at court was ready and willing to roll the dice big time if they thought it would bring great advantage to themselves or their families.

It could have been done MUCH more frequently than is generally known. No DNA testing in those days.

Well, considering that they combine his two sisters into one, call her Margaret, have her marry the King of Portugal instead of the King of Scotland (like his real sister Margaret) or the King of France (like his real sister Mary) and then marry Charles Brandon (which Mary did) and… die childless ??? … it’s entirely possible he and Anne Boleyne reconcile, or that he goes back to Catharine of Aragon, has twin sons named Charlemagne and Buddy, and finds happiness as a baker and puppet show operator in Leeds.

Dramatic license I can understand, but with his sisters… DAMN! (Well, it’s not like their respective granddaughters Mary Queen of Scots and Jane Grey ever did anything worth remembering I suppose.) I was also irked when ROME did away with Augustus’s first two marriages and his daughter Julia (thereagain, not like Julia or her descendants Caligula, Agrippina, and Nero ever did anything worth remembering in Roman history).

Nah, Henry the VIII wasn’t a psychopath. This guy was a psychopath.

Well, Henry the VIII was fucking these women and presumably their relationship was a personal one, not just an official one. Did he love them? Like them? I can’t see a normal person doing so and then killing them. I can see enormous pressures for him to dump a wife who couldn’t produce a male heir, but chopping off two of their heads seems extreme. Even if they committed treason, he was king and above the law and could presumably have had them sent to a nunnery somewhere. But he didn’t do that. I figure he must have been unable to form real emotional attachments, and hence his wives were … disposable.

In any event, I find all the blubbering and caterwauling when those he had sentenced to death were killed to be totally unbelievable. Seems to me there was an easy route for him short of that.

Oh, and Ivan the Terrible wasn’t a psychopath, he was mentally ill in another way. Psychopaths can often function quite well in society. I think Ivan woulda been locked up or on strong psycho meds in modern society. Henry the VIII might do well as a corporate honcho.

Remember the marriages were political and business arrangements - he may have had a personal relationship with them, but they were married to produce an heir, and if they couldn’t do that, then he needed to end the marriage and find someone else. He set aside Catherine of Aragon (1), and pensioned her off. He didn’t kill Anne of Cleves (4), who went along with her divorce. If Jane Seymour (3) hadn’t died, its unlikely he would have married again - he had the son he needed and a wife who he appeared to love. His six wife outlived him.

The problem with Anne was that his divorce from Catherine had theological grounds (“brother’s widow”) that gave it some legitimacy. A divorce from Anne would not, and would cast doubts on the legitimacy of the issue from a future marriage. He was starting the dissolution of the monastries at the time, so putting Anne in a nunnery left her open to be used as a political pawn by the church. Anne was reputedly unpopular with the people, and had powerful enemies at court (including Thomas Cromwell). Letting her live after she had an affair (real or rumoured) could be seen as a sign of weakness, and Henry could not afford to show any. Also, he may have felt personally betrayed - he had split England from the church for this woman (costing him his best friend and advisor) and she could not give him a son. There are very sound political reasons not to let her live, and with a number of people at court playing on any feelings of resentment or betrayal he had towards her, any personal attachment is likely to fade quickly. Some sources say he was also tiring of her personally as he regarded her as meddling in politics which were not her concern.

Its not necessarily a sign of a sociopath to stop loving someone, when all you hear is that they have betrayed and used you. Note he gave her a quicker death - beheading instead of burning - than he could have. Given the rumours Anne had poisoned Catherine of Aragon when she died, a public and awful death would probably have strengthened his position more.

I haven’t read up on Katherine Howard recently, so I’d have to dig out the papers. All in all, he seems to have been more vengeful and utterly ruthless than he was a sociopath. Not necessarily a bad thing in a monarch at that time.

(Dropping a woman who is infertile despite a personal relationship, due to succession requirements, is not a middle-ages issue only - Crown Prince Rainer III of Monaco broke up a long term relationship because he needed an heir to the throne.)

Was she the “Flanders mare?” If so, you’re right he was very generous to her. They both took a look at each other and said, “This isn’t going to work” and went their separate ways. That seems extremely rational tome.

Yes, they got a trial but neither were allowed to mount a defense, as was customary with the charge of treason. (And given that the King annulled his marriage to Anne Boelyn prior to her execution, it would have been impossible for her to commit adultery against him.)

Re having a baby switched and passing it off as the Queen’s: Catherine was the daughter of the ruling Spanish King & Queen. Her bloodline can be traced back to Edward I. To think that she would have agreed to pass off a bastard child of some chambermaid as her own is utterly ridiculous. Besides, she had no problem getting pregnant with her husband throughout most of their 20+ year marriage; they just didn’t survive long.

As far as Henry’s mental health, how do you separate ruthlessness from sociopathy in a culture where heads frequently rolled? How do you separate arrogance from narcissism in a culture where people literally wiped the king’s ass? How do you separate suspicion from paranoia in a culture where coups were routine?

There is one piece of evidence that lends me to believe that Henry did have some bit of conscience. Henry’s last wife, Catherine Parr, was a hair’s breadth away from being put to death herself by her politico-religious enemies. An arrest warrant was actually handed down but she was given word ahead of time and managed get to the King before it (and she) was executed. She had the distinct advantage of being able to appeal to the King himself before being hauled off. And that made all the difference. Remember that neither Anne Boleyn nor Katherine Howard ever spoke to or saw the King following her arrest. Had they been able to leverage his real affection for them, or even appeal to his massive ego, they may well have succeeded in saving their respective necks as did Catherine Parr. They weren’t given that chance.

There’s a scene in the finale that just disturbed me.

Henry, throughout the episode, has been admiring two swans that are swimming in a pond on the palace grounds. He has this wistful look on his face as he watches them drift across the water. After Anne is beheaded, a parade of servants come in, bearing a tray draped in a largish tent. I feared at first they were bringing him Anne’s head…but no, it’s one of the swans, cooked and dressed and ready for eating. Henry digs in with gusto.
Maybe because I think JRD is so damn pretty, it was a bit shocking to see that bit of Henry’s character revealed…that he wasn’t admiring the swans for their graceful beauty and maybe reminders of Anne in happier times, but because they looked mighty tasty.

I think Henry is less psychotic and more and example of absolute power corrupting absolutely.

He truly must have thought his feces gave off a pleasing bouquet to have gotten to the point where he could cavalierly murder his ex-lovers the way he did.

Actually his lovers and mistresses tended to make out quite well. It was two of his wives who got the chop.

Barely though, on the pensioning part. His post divorce treatment of Catherine and Mary was probably the most bastardly thing about him in my opinion. Poor Catherine, who had a roller coaster of a life before Henry ever met Anne Boleyne and who was by all accounts a not particularly exciting but very intelligent and good woman, had to sell pretty much everything she had of value (which wasn’t much since Anne had taken her jewels and even her bedclothes and finer gowns [to be recycled] but she had some silver plated cups) just to buy food for herself and her ladies. When items of value ran out she had to live on the gifts of food and firewood from the villagers (the people continued to love her).
She was forbidden to see her daughter (and vice versa) who was the one person on Earth she loved most, and they could only write each other if one of Henry’s creatures read the correspondence. There were times before and after her mother’s death when Mary honestly didn’t know if her father was going to have her arrested or marry her off to some nothing 70 year old sycophant just to humiliate her and her mother. At one point her incestuous marriage to her illegitimate half-brother was actually proposed (though I don’t think Henry ever seriously considered it since he married the boy off quite well, though he died soon after).
Anyway, his utter cruelty and humiliation of a wife who had always been loyal, faithful, and a good queen both politically and personally (she was his regent when he was away and did a good job- even was present at the battle where the King of Scots was killed) and letting her die in poverty and separated from her child was enough to make me glad of the impotence and leg ulcers and pain of his later years. Bastid.