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Home  > News  > Meet The Young Henry VIII At Hampton Court Palace

Meet The Young Henry VIII At Hampton Court Palace

July 06 2007

What do you think of when someone says 'Henry VIII'? Do you think of a big man with a beard and a bad temper - the Tudor king who had six wives - and beheaded two of them?

Show Me has been to an exhibition at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey to find out more about how Henry VIII looked and behaved when he was a young man.

Painting of a large bearded man in ornate Tudor dress

First a reminder of Henry VIII as we usually see him - with a beard, and very fat.

You see lots of different portraits of Henry VIII on the National Portrait Gallery's website.

© Mary Rose Trust

In the Hampton Court exhibition you can see this portrait of a young Henry. It shows him without his famous beard - would you have recognised him?

When he was young Henry was much slimmer - he loved playing sports, and was very popular with girls!

© HRP/

Painting of a young Tudor man, in an ornate gold frame.

Painting of a woman in ornate Tudor dress

This is Henry's first wife, Katherine of Aragon.

She was a Spanish princess who had been married to Henry's older brother Arthur, who was going to be King of England.

But Arthur died only a few months after getting married. It was decided that Henry should marry Katherine - this would help England and Spain to stay friends.

© The Royal Collection 2007, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Arthur and Henry's father was King Henry VII. When he died, young Henry became King Henry VIII. He was king for 38 years, and became very powerful.

Some of the paintings in the exhibition are enormous and full of detail, and show England's victories on the battlefield.

Here's part of a big painting called The Field of the Cloth of Gold. It shows Henry riding out to meeting the King of France, wearing a very impressive gold robe.

Henry had pictures like this painted to show off about how great a king he was, and how strong the English army was.

© The Royal Collection 2007, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Detail of a painting showing a man in ornate Tudor dress riding on a white horse, surrounded by armed men

Sometimes he would display them at meetings with other European kings.

Do you think that seeing these paintings would have put other kings off trying to defeat England in battle?

How might you have felt if you were visiting Henry and found him surrounded by art ilke this?

Photo of a Tudor palace in red brick with a gateway and turrets.

Hampton Court Palace was one of Henry's favourite homes.

If you visit Hampton Court Palace today, as well as finding out about Henry VIII you can immerse yourself in life at the Tudor Court.

© Historic Royal Palaces/

You can visit the Tudor kitchens and see how much food had to be prepared, then visit the Great Hall where 600 people would have their dinner!

© News Team International / Richard Lea-Hair

Painting of a bearded man in ornate Tudor dress.

Henry VIII became famous for having SIX wives. You can remember what happened to each of them if you learn this little verse:

Divorced, beheaded, died
Divorced, beheaded, survived.

He looks so gentle and friendly in this pic, but we bet some of his wives thought differently!

© The Royal Collection 2007, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Henry's children included Elizabeth, who became Queen Elizabeth I and reigned for 45 years.

You can explore a portrait of Elizabeth I in Face It! from Show Me and the National Portrait Gallery.

Screenshot from 'Face It' game, showing child sitting on the gallery floor in front of a portrait of a regal looking Tudor woman standing on a map.

Shows detail from screenshot of the Show Me tudors page.

To find out more about Henry's reign, and what life was like in Tudor times, check out Show Me's Tudors topic page.

It's packed full of games to play and things to make.

Are you learning about the Tudors at school? Maybe you've drawn pictures of Henry or Elizabeth? If so, send them in, we'd love to publish them on our Show and Tell pages.

2009 is the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII becoming King of England, and exhibitions at Hampton Court Palace in 2008 and 2009 will explore the later years of his reign, and the stories of his other five wives.

Kristen Bailey