Reading Time: 3 minutes

Mike RobinsonBorn into a famous family, our leader inherited a vast fortune from his father. His birthright inheritance was valued at approximately $750 million in today’s dollars.

He was groomed to continue the family business, and throughout his early training he worked hard to present an image of unchallengeable authority and irresistible power. By the time of his adolescence he stood more than six feet tall, and was strong and broad in proportion. He purposefully cultivated a series of facial expressions for maximum visual effect, and generally was seen and thought to be a ladies’ man.

He also intentionally cultivated the image of the Renaissance man, but displayed glamorous excess. He loved tailored garments that showed off his powerful build, and was especially enamoured of all things golden. His homes were extensions of his love of glamour and gilded surfaces – on chairs, tables, curtains and bedspreads. Even his walls featured gold leaf and gilded paint.

His natural instincts led him into building development, and he supervised the original construction of several significant buildings early in his career. He also wrote and published a book of his own, arguably with the assistance of a gifted ghost-writer.

An extravagant spender, he was always on the edge of financial ruin. As he grew into his 30s he began to seek methods of tax avoidance. He also began a trail of costly marriages to beautiful women who were attracted to his growing power and affluence.

As he became progressively more powerful, he began to distrust the governing and spiritual elites of his era. He sought to break ties with the most powerful of them, and to lead a massive reformation of society. This fundamental rethinking of faith and power led him inevitably to the most powerful position in the country. He greatly expanded the powers of his office during his reign.

By banishing the old elites from power, he grew to rely on a band of advisers chosen for their fealty and sycophancy. He typically grew to rely on a very few chief ministers from whom he demanded complete loyalty. Those whom he deemed weak, or with whom he found fault, were banished or executed when they fell out of favour.

His reign is now associated with costly wars, characterized by his dislike of elite European states, and his inability to tolerate a certain religion. Adherents to this faith often faced charges of treason and heresy, which he commonly used to quash dissent. Those found guilty, frequently without formal trial, were often executed with minimal judicial involvement. In the absence of the judiciary he relied on executive decrees (then called Bills of Attainder) which had the full force of law. In fact, our leader came to embody the law in his person.

As he aged, the pressures of office grew, and his health suffered. He became obese, and wore gaudy robes of fine cloth that served to hide his 54-inch waist. To flatter him, his advisers also began to wear padded clothing, giving the entire court a puffed and exaggerated appearance.

Along with the weight gain came pronounced lustful, egotistical, harsh and insecure behaviours. His mood swings had a dramatic effect on his personality and temperament. And his religious hatreds became more and more pronounced as he aged, calling the alien priests “foreign devils.”

When he died, physicians debated the cause of death: likely Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, along with complications from gout and a sporting accident, which wounded his leg. His last words were reportedly: “Monks! Monks! Monks!”

He was succeeded by his son.

Arguably our leader is one of the great personages of history. His story is constantly retold in history books, novels, plays and films. The range of passions and freakish outbursts of character have challenged the best actors of our era: Charles Laughton, Jonathon Rhys Meyers, Damien Lewis, and Robert Shaw. He has also been portrayed by Homer Simpson and Rowan Atkinson.

Henry VIII (1491–1547) is arguably England’s most famous monarch.

Just whom did you think I was writing about? Who could compare with Henry VIII?

Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum and the Bill Reid Gallery. Mike has chaired the national boards of Friends of the Earth, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. In 2004, he became a Member of the Order of Canada.

© Troy Media

Henry VIII

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.