1. King Henry VIII’s older brother Arthur was set to take the throne and married Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of the Spanish king, in 1502. But just four months later, 15-year-old Arthur died of a mysterious illness. This left Henry as next in line to the throne and he took the crown in 1509 at the age of 17.

2. Arthur’s death left Catherine of Aragon a widow and meant that Henry VII might be required to return a 200,000 ducat dowry to her father, something he was eager to avoid. Instead, it was agreed that Catherine would marry the king’s second son, Henry.

3. Contrary to the popular image of Henry VIII, in his younger years he had an athletic frame. The enduring image of Henry as fat and sedentary isn’t inaccurate — in his later life he weighed nearly 400 pounds. But prior to his physical decline, Henry had a tall (6 foot 4 inches) and athletic frame. Indeed, armour measurements from when he was a young man reveal a waist measurement of 34 to 36 inches. Measurements for his final set of armour, however, show that his waist expanded to about 58 to 60 inches in the last years of his life.

4. Henry was rather paranoid about illness and would go to great lengths to avoid contracting the sweating sickness and the plague. He would frequently spend weeks in isolation and steered well clear of anyone he thought might have been subjected to disease. This included his wives — when his second wife, Anne Boleyn, caught the sweating sickness in 1528, he stayed away until the illness had passed.

5. Henry was a big spender. By his death on 28 January 1547, he had accumulated 50 royal palaces — a record for the English monarchy — and spent vast sums on his collections (including musical instruments and tapestries) and gambling. Not to mention the millions he pumped into wars with Scotland and France. When Henry’s son, Edward VI, took the throne, the royal coffers were in a sorry state.

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