Shop  |  Calendar  |  Join  |  Buy Tickets  |  Hamnet  |  Site Rental  |  Press Room  
About UsWhat's OnUse the CollectionDiscover ShakespeareTeach & LearnFolger InstituteSupport Us
Folger Exhibitions
• Past Exhibitions
Vivat Rex!
Verdicts on the Reign

   Sign up for E-news!
   Printer Friendly

Verdicts on the Reign

In some quarters, Henry has been remembered as an ogre, a tyrant, and a man who would do anything to anyone to achieve his personal aims, with his years on the throne a veritable reign of terror. Other views of the reign suggest that the king was more a “creature of his time,” who did not act outside the accepted values and rules of the sixteenth century, who served his country with dignity, grace, and honor, and who helped create the England that has survived and prospered for five centuries since his accession to the Crown.


Pictured below is Henry's final resting place.

William Henry Pyne. The History of the Royal Residences. London, 1819

In Sir Walter Raleigh's History of the World, Raleigh was highly critical of Henry, saying:

if all the pictures and Patternes of a mercilesse Prince were lost in the World, they might all againe be painted to the life, out of the story of this King. For how many servants did hee advance in hast … and with the change of his fancy ruined againe …? How many wives did hee cut off, and cast off, as his fancy and affection changed? 

On the other side, Edward Lewis wrote an eighteenth century biography of the king, and had this to say:

Henry then, was a person of great sagacity and judgment, … of considerable learning himself; a friend and patron to learned men, and to every useful and ornamental art and science; – social, magnificent, magnanimous, – a tender husband, – an indulgent father, – a faithful friend, – a generous master, – not lewd, not cruel, not voluptuous, – an honest open-hearted man, – a sincere christian, and a Patriot King.

Finally, Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, concluded, in his authoritative biography of Henry VIII:

With all his crimes yet, he was one of the most glorious Princes of his time …. But what this Prince was, and whether, and how far forth excusable in point of State, Conscience or Honour, a diligent observation of his Actions, together with a conjuncture of the times, will (I conceive) better declare to the judicious Reader, then any factious relation on what side whatsoever. To conclude; I wish I could leave him in his grave.



Masterful Monarch?

Bookmark and Share   
     Copyright & Policies   |   Sitemap   |   Contact Us   |   About This Site
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions »

Federal Tax ID #04-2103542
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623