Portrait of a King: Love Life

As a royal philanderer, Henry VIII was nothing new. What made this powerful paramour stand apart from more lecherous rivals was that he put his feelings to song.

"Oh my heart, and oh my heart/My hart it is so sore.," declared one love ballad. " Since I must from my love depart,/ And know no cause wherefore." Spanish ambassador Eustace Chapuys put Henry's sore heart down to meglomania: "You never saw prince nor man who made greater show of his horns, or bore them more pleasantly."

But in public conversations, the king was ever a timid soul. When asked if he would like to "mount" bridal candidates for inspection and marry whichever he found "to be the best broken in," the response was abashed silence.

One topic was the cause of even greater silence: the king's suspected impotence. During his 1536 trial, Anne Boleyn's brother George declared that his sister had told him of the king's lack of staying power. The indiscretion cost him his head.

But Henry's amorous adventures affected not just his wives. Both Mary I and Edward VI are believed to have suffered from congenital syphilis.



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