All About History

Henry’s hobbies

The pastimes of an all around talented monarch



Henry VIII was a respected composer and musician during his lifetime. There is a common misconcept­ion that he composed ‘Greensleev­es’ for Anne Boleyn but in fact it was not created until after his death. However, he did pen a number of different pieces of music, which are compiled in his famous collection, the Henry VIII Songbook, created around 1518. Out of the 20 songs and 13 instrument­als attributed to Henry, ‘Pastime with Good Company’ is arguably his most famous.


Known to have been a keen sportsman for the majority of his reign, Henry was noted for his athleticis­m from a young age. The king enjoyed partaking in archery, jousting, wrestling and dressage, as well as javelin and other sporting activities on a daily basis. In fact, it was claimed that in his early 20s, Henry could supposedly exhaust up to ten horses a day while out on the hunt, a true testament to his good physicalit­y.


Henry is generally considered as one of England’s most intelligen­t and well-educated kings. He was widely read, with a collection of thousands of books, and was also a learned linguist. He saw himself as a philosophe­r and author, most notably writing the treatise Assertio Septem Sacramento­rum, or The Defence of the Seven Sacraments in 1521 in response to Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, which were nailed to a church door in modernday Germany. This earned him the title of Defender of the Faith from the pope.


Among his many other talents, Henry was also a good dancer. During his brother’s wedding to Catherine in 1501, a ten-year-old Henry was said to have grabbed his older sister as a partner and delighted onlookers with his dancing. The king allegedly enjoyed dancing daily, often partnering with his younger sister when Catherine’s numerous pregnancie­s prevented her from taking part.

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