How could King Henry the VIII who was a philanderer and murderer write the poem "Green Groweth the Holly"?
Saw poem in the Norton Anthology of Poetry and thought I was reading the name of the author wrong!
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Henry VIII was more than just a man who discarded his wives through murder, divorce and humiliation, he was an intelligent, complex man who became King of England at the age of 18, rather unexpectedly, as the second son of the King.
"While reading any biography of Henry VIII, one must remember the flavor of his times and judge him, if at all, by sixteenth-century standards. It's always amusing to read descriptions of Henry as the lustful tyrant torn between bedding and beheading innocent women; in truth, he blushed at dirty jokes and was more faithful than many 20th century husbands."
Henry VIII is often remembered for his later years, but he actually was married to his first wife for almost 20 years, for the most part was faithful to her, he had a few mistresses.
"Although most people today think of Henry VIII as a fat tyrant, in his youth he was admired for his intelligence, good looks, good nature and athletic ability. One of his contemporaries wrote that he was "one of the goodliest men that lived in his time, in manners more than a man, most amiable, courteous and benign in gesture unto all persons."
As a young Prince, he was a musician who wrote his own lyrics, and had an insatiable desire to learn. He was, therefore, more than just a murderer, a Catholic first, then a Christian his entire life, he expresses love and respect for God in this work.
King Henry VIII (1491-1547) ruled England from 1509 till his death. Interestingly, from the the historian's point of view he ruled England at the end of the medieval age. The Renaissance and its poweful influence hadn't yet made its impact in England and English culture. King Henry wrote under the the direct influence of medieval culture.
The lyric in the medieval age was impersonal and closely intertwined with music. Medieval love poetry was merely conventional expressions of insincere love expressed in conventional forms. It was only much later, at the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign (1558) with the publication of "Tottel's Miscellany" (1557) that the lyric became truly subjective and personal and foreign literary forms like the sonnet became substitutes for the music of the medieval lyric.
As such, King Henry's lyric is impersonal, that is, it does not mean what it actually says.The poem is not king Henry's sincere expression of his faithfullness and loyalty towards his love. He is only posturing and expressing conventional feelings in a conventional manner-very much in keeping with his character of a philanderer.
King Henry was not a murderer, he simply went on the things whch he had been told by his council and advisors about both Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. Not to mention the fact that his life had taken an unexpected turn when his elder brother Arthur died in April 1502, as the second son it was unlikely that he would ever be king, and so he wasn't as prepared for it as he should have been. Furthermore he led England and half of Europe into a Reformation which was to shape the foundations of the Church of England and broke free of the tyranny of the Roman Catholic church and the Pope.
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