Henry VIII: The Mask of Royalty

By Lacey Baldwin Smith | Go to book overview
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The King Must Die

In old age most people become to some extent caricatures of themselves.

Anthony Storr, "The Man,"
Churchill Revised

DEATH HAD ALWAYS BEEN a demographic possibility; now it was a personal reality and Henry was frightened. Age had been "coming fast on" and for almost a decade he had known that "time slippeth and flyeth marvellously away." Confronted with his own mortality, Henry Tudor sadly acknowledged that time "is of all losses the most irrecuperable, for it can never be redeemed with no manner [of] price nor prayer." 1 Twenty years before there had been no rush, and time had been told to stand still while Henry sought what he desired most--"heart's ease" and "quietness of mind" in the company of Anne Boleyn. 2 For that vision of connubial bliss he had risked losing paradise, only to discover that the gods had devised a worse punishment on earth: they had granted his wish and Anne had become his wife. Thirty-nine months and a revolution later, he had tried again with Mistress Jane Seymour, and this time the deities were more merciful. The King's third wife survived marriage by only 511 days; long enough to bear him a son, short enough to enshrine a memory which a sentimental old monarch took to his grave. Henry never forgot the mother of his only legitimate son. Twice, in 1539 and again in 1543, he paid nostalgic pilgrimages to the cramped medieval manor house of Wulfhall in Savernake Forest, where Sir John Seymour had served his daughter her betrothal feast, and in his will he ordered "the bones and body of our true and loving wife Queen Jane" to be added to his own in the tomb. 3

Thrice more the King had sought happiness and domestic peace in

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