How will these resources help you?

 It could be argued that no historical legend has more deeply entrenched myths surrounding them than Henry VIII. This can make the secondary History teacher’s role all the more challenging. Henry is one of the ‘two H’s’, much maligned for over-focus in the History curriculum, (the other being a certain Germany dictator of course). If we are to justify Henry’s continued place in the curriculum then it is all the more important to present more than the chant ‘Divorced, beheaded, died …’ and to look beyond the fiery-tempered, larger-than-life figure from Holbein’s famous painting. 

Portraits of Henry VIII

National Portrait Gallery – King Henry VIII collection

published by the National Portrait Gallery (curated by)

Henry was the subject of 98 known portraits and the works on this site provide a very accessible delve into his visual portrayal. With over 40 portraits, from paintings which reinforce the ‘popular’ interpretation of Henry, to works showing both youthful and elderly visions of him, these images would make an engaging ‘Do Now’ / starter activity – perfect for some independent learning / pair work.

Henry the hypochondriac?

The truth about the Tudors: what 5 kings and queens were really like behind closed doors

by Tracy Borman, published by BBC History Magazine, on the History Extra website, (June 2016)

This light-hearted and fascinating article delves into a little-known side of Henry VIII – his various ailments and hypochondria. Again, this material would make a great starter activity, such as a ‘Who am I?’ with the outcome being far from what students expect to hear about Henry.

Henry’s character

Henry VIII: King and Court

by Alison Weir, published by Penguin (Vintage), (2008), 9780099532422

The highly regarded historian and author, Alison Weir, provides a detailed biography of Henry VIII which charts the complexities of his personality and enables the reader to move away from the one-dimensional character fed to us in myths. This resource would be best for teacher background research and to add extra challenge.

Dispelling myths using Tudor sources

King Henry VIII, Dispelling the Myth Behind the Ego

by Charles Laing, published by Kindle Unlimited, (2015), B00X2QO95Q

This concise resource (just 8 pages) is very accessible in tone. While the essay is aimed at 15–18-year-olds, this would be a great resource for adding challenge for higher-ability KS3 readers, too.

Audiovisual clips

Henry VIII: Patron or Plunderer - Early Life of Henry

published by BBC, (2009)

This clip explores the early years of Henry's life, in order to better understand the man who became the famous king.
Henry VIII: Patron or Plunderer - Henry’s Early Education

published by BBC, (2009)

Another insight into who Henry was before he became the much hated sovereign. 

Further Materials

Henry VIII: The Charismatic King who Reforged a Nation by Kathy Elgin, published by Arcturus, (2020), 9781838575854 Find this book
Henry VIII – Man or Myth by B. J. Bradley, published by, (2005), 9781411663176 Find this book
Henry VIII and the men who made him: The secret history behind the Tudor throne by Tracey Borman, published by Hachette (Hodder), (2019), ‎9781473649910 Find this book
Sarah Wilde has 25 years’ experience of teaching history in Trafford and Stockport, where she was Head of History for 16 years. She is now a BBC Bitesize history consultant. 

Text © Sarah Wilde, 2021.