Essays, Historical, and Literary - Vol. 2

Essays, Historical, and Literary - Vol. 2

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Essays, Historical, and Literary - Vol. 2

Essays, Historical, and Literary - Vol. 2

Read FREE!

Excerpt

OLD AND NEW WAYS OF TREATING HISTORY

It would not be easy to name any king who has left behind him a more odious memory than Henry VIII. of England. The incidents of his domestic life have won for him a solitary kind of immortality. The picture of him with which most of us have grown up from childhood is that of a Bluebeard who, as soon as he got tired of a wife, would have her beheaded and forthwith marry another. Probably the popular notion of his reign does not contain much more than this, unless it be a vague remembrance of his quarrel with Rome. But forty years ago Mr. Froude set before the world a very different conception of King Henry, in which he appears as a patriot ruler, endowed with many excellent qualities of mind and heart, and much to be pitied for the perversity of fortune which attended his selection of wives. In these conclusions Mr. Froude no doubt went rather too far, as is often the case when novel views are propounded. With regard to its general effects upon the English people, Henry's rule was, on the whole, eminently good; but the fierce reign of terror which counted Sir Thomas More among its victims is something to which one is not easily reconciled, and in the king's character there are features of the ruffian which no ingenuity can explain away. As for the Bluebeard . . .

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