Portrait of a King: Looks

For a man who died with a 54-inch waist, Henry VIII started out a regular pin-up boy. At 6'2", he featured a "small but sensual mouth," an "admirably proportioned frame" and "a round face so beautiful it would become a pretty woman." When Henry played tennis, his fair skin "glowed" through his shirt, according to Venetian Sebastian Giustinian, who added "His Majesty is the handsomest potentate I ever set eyes on."

Like any beauty pageant contestant, though, the king kept a sharp eye on the competition. Appearing as Robin Hood at May Day festivities in 1515, Henry quizzed the French ambassador about Francis I. Henry won on girth, but the two were neck and neck on height. It all came down to legs. "Look here! ," Henry exclaimed, tearing open his doublet. "I also have a good calf to my leg!"

But Henry's shapely legs wouldn't last. Damaged in jousts, they featured seeping ulcers, left open to safeguard the king's health. By the time of his death, this "Adonis" among kings could barely walk.



Thirteen/WNET PBS