Henry VIII is one of the most famous and controversial kings of England. His father and mother, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, were loving parents, although they saw little of their children.
Henry, their second son, was named the Duke of York. He had his own servants and minstrels, and a fool named John Goose. He even had a whipping boy who was punished when Henry did something wrong. In 1509 Henry VII died of tuberculosis and his son became King Henry VIII.
His fickle passions and demand for a male heir led him to marry six different women. Henry’s divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, led to his split with the Catholic Church and set the stage for the English Reformation and for religious battles which lasted for centuries. Henry VIII was the father of Elizabeth I, who became one of England's most powerful and longest-reigning monarchs. Henry is also known for his great girth; his obesity probably contributed to his death at age 56. He was succeeded by his son, Edward VI, born to Jane Seymour.
Henry VIII loved entertainers, and the court attracted acrobats, jesters, magicians and musicians. Prince Henry enjoyed music and grew up to be an accomplished musician (although he did not write “Greensleeves”, as legend suggests). At the age of 10 he could play many instruments, including the fife, harp, viola and the drums.
Although most people today think of Henry VIII as a fat tyrant, in his youth he was admired for his intelligence, good looks, good nature and athletic ability. One of his contemporaries wrote that he was "one of the goodliest men that lived in his time, in manners more than a man, most amiable, courteous and benign in gesture unto all persons.