Henry VIII, king of England,
Second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509 very young and united the houses of York and Lancaster, the white and red roses. Having been tutored by the poet John Skelton, and entrusting government for the first decade of his reign to Cardinal Wolsey, the young king devoted himself to scholarship, writing songs, court revels, music, hunting, riding, and jousting. Although married to his deceased brother's widow Catherine of Aragon, Henry enjoyed the love of other women. His songs appear to date ca. 1509-20. At least one of them, "Lusty Youth should us ensure," is from a court play. By valuing poetry, the first English Renaissance prince set an example for later court poets, such as Wyatt and Surrey. After a notorious adult life in which he broke from Rome, divorced one wife after another in the search for someone who could bring him a male heir, Henry died in 1547, survived by two wives, Anne of Cleves and Katharine Parr, and three children who would rule England until 1603: the weak Edward VI and two astonishing women, Mary I and Elizabeth I. The portrait is of "Henry in early manhood, artist unknown. (Formerly in the collection of H. Clifford Smith. Sold at Sotheby's, Feb. 1959.)" (J. J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII [London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1968], figure 2, opposite p. 34).