Weird History

15 Strange Facts About Henry VIII You Definitely Didn't Learn in History Class  

Carly Silver
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Henry VIII might be famous for killing two of his wives, but there was a lot more to the life of this early modern monarch than marital madness. So just who was Henry VIII? A superior athlete, a guy who liked to strut around and show off his gorgeous legs, a talented musician who might have composed a song or two, and an all-around egomaniac. But there are other things that raise the question of "What did Henry VIII do"?

In great contrast to his later break from the Church in Rome, Henry was once fervently pro-Pope, so much so that he went to the mat for the Holy Father and got quite the honor. In his spare time, he arranged marriages for close relatives, played a lot of tunes, and loved animals. And that's just the beginning of the odd facts about Henry VIII. Keep reading to find out more bizarre things about the life of Henry VIII.

Henry's Toilet Attendant Was The Most Important Royal Servant
Henry's Toilet Attendant W... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 15 Strange Facts About Henry VIII You Definitely Didn't Learn in History Class
Photo:  Wellcome Images/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 4.0

In Henry's court, his servants vied to be as physically close to the king as possible - at all times. The monarch reserved the honor of being close to his royal person for only a few people. During his reign, only four men got the gig of "Groom of the Stool," the most physically intimate position - and therefore the most honored - of his attendants.

These grooms not only helped dress and undress the king before and after he went to the bathroom, but also controlled access to the monarch and some of his finances. They even had power over a stamp of the King's signature, a powerful financial tool.

He Was So Fat He Had To Be Hoisted Into His Horse Saddle With A Crane
He Was So Fat He Had To Be Hoi... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 15 Strange Facts About Henry VIII You Definitely Didn't Learn in History Class
Photo:  tpsdave/Pixabay/CC0 1.0

Everyone knows that Henry, once an athletic, svelte man, got plump, but how fat was he? Once he got into his 40s, he'd gained so much weight (some sources put him at upwards of 400 pounds) that he couldn't even mount a horse by himself. In fact, Henry needed a crane to hoist him up and drop him into his war horse's saddle.

Some scholars believe that he also needed an early version of a wheelchair to get around.

Eventually, his waist ballooned to over 50 inches.

Henry Once Planned To Marry Two Of His Kids To One Another
Henry Once Planned To Marry Tw... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 15 Strange Facts About Henry VIII You Definitely Didn't Learn in History Class
Photo:  Lucas Horenbout/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

For the longest time, Henry didn't have a legitimate male heir, so he decided to concoct what, had it come to fruition, might have been the grossest marriage ever. Though he didn't have a son by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, he did have an illegitimate boy by his mistress, Elizabeth "Bessie" Blount.

Henry Fitzroy (a surname meaning "son of the king") was named duke of Richmond and Somerset. In order to ensure that his country didn't descend into war again over his lack of a male heir, King Henry wanted to make Fitzroy the next monarch with the boy's half-sister, Mary, as his wife. This incestuous match got the green-light from the Pope, but thankfully Fitzroy ended up marrying someone else. He actually died at the age of 17, leaving the door open for Henry's legitimate kids to take the throne.

Henry's Bloody Nature May Have Been Due To Genetic Insanity
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Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Many have wondered why Henry VIII killed so many people during his reign including wives and close friends. Various theories have pointed at syphilis and brain injuries as possible causes, but it might come down to hereditary psychiatric problems in the family.

His paternal great-grandmother, Catherine of Valois, Princess of France, was the daughter of the famously mentally ill King Charles VI. Her family's psychiatric issues seem to have been passed down through the generations to multiple British monarchs, ranging from Henry VIII to George III and onward.