Henry VIII: The Mask of Royalty

By Lacey Baldwin Smith | Go to book overview

I
The Faces of Death

Weep not, my wanton, smile upon my knee;
When thou art old, there's grief enough for thee!

Robert Greene, Menaphon ( 1589)

THAT "SERENE AND INVINCIBLE PRINCE" Henry VIII lay dying; pomp and pride had been laid aside for the naked end of life where "worms shall lie under thee, and worms shall be thy covering." 1 As a demigod he lived but as a man he died. Everywhere the vulgar indecencies of death were evident: the heavy scent of rose oil and ambergris to cloak the stench of sickness, the window tapestries to keep out the night dampness, and the chamber fire to purge the "pestilential airs" and "evil vapours." 2 Doctors Owen, Wendye and Huycke, with their urine flasks, cathartic prescriptions and astrological charts, were patiently waiting for what they knew must come before another dawn.* Patrec, the King's own flute player, ministered the only kind of relief possible: soft music, "the medicine of the soul." Everywhere, were subdued voices, whispered conversations, which had once stirred the King to frenzy but now could no longer touch him. Physician, councilor, musician, friend, each according to his nature, made plans

____________________
*
It is not clear who attended upon the dying monarch. The death of a sovereign was a public spectacle, but with Henry there was a deliberate effort to keep his declining health and approaching death as secret as possible ( Spa. Cal., VIII, 475, pp. 330-31). Since the King's will in all likelihood was not signed until the evening of his death (see pp. 266-71), those who witnessed the document may also have watched him die. There were eleven in all: John Gate(s), the first signer, was a gentleman of the Privy Chamber, David Vincent, Henry Nevell, Edmond Harman, Wyllyam Sayntbarbe and Richard Coke were grooms of the chamber; George Owen, Thomas Wendye and Robert Huycke were doctors; Patrec was a musician; and William Clerk as clerk of the Privy Council and private secretary to the King. Who else waited in the bedchamber and anteroom is impossible to say. The only names of which we can be certain are Paget, Seymour, Denney and Cranmer.

-1-

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Henry VIII: The Mask of Royalty
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Author's Note vii
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xi
  • I - The Faces of Death 1
  • II - The "Old Man" 15
  • III - The Emperor's New Clothes 40
  • IV - Behind the Mask 66
  • V - The Conscience of a King 91
  • VI - The Moral Commonwealth 111
  • VII - In Search of a Moral 139
  • VIII - Honor Saved 163
  • IX - Youth Renewed 188
  • X - The King Must Die 221
  • XI - Preparing for the Worst 236
  • XII - The "Old Fox" 259
  • Notes 277
  • Bibliography of Printed Books Cited in the Notes 313
  • Index 325
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