Henry VIII was never meant to be king, but after the death of his older brother Arthur in 1502, he became his father’s sole male heir.
Henry VIII ascended the throne in 1509, just before his eighteenth birthday. Shortly afterwards he married his brother’s widow, Katherine of Aragon.
At this time, England’s political system was based around the individual monarch. However, unlike his father, Henry VIII had little interest in the day to day workings of government.
As a result, either the royal council or, alternatively, an individual minister was elevated to a preeminent position in order to maintain regular governance, with Henry overseeing the process.
Neither system of power worked perfectly, and Henry’s reign witnessed the dramatic rise and fall of several key advisors.
Henry is about 30 years old, and is not yet shown as the barrel-chested, dominant figure so familiar to us.
The king is lavishly dressed. On his right hand he is either removing or placing a ring. This is a common gesture in royal portraits, and may refer to his acceptance of kingship.
At the top corners of the portrait are the Tudor Rose and a portcullis. Both were heraldic symbols of the Tudor dynasty.
The young Henry VIII was tall and athletic. In 1515, the Venetian ambassador to England declared that Henry was
“The handsomest potentate I ever set eyes on”
The Year 1520