Here's How Much Henry VIII Was Worth When He Died

Henry VIII had six wives, four children, and two personas. The Royal Museums Greenwich writes that prior to 1536, Henry reveled in sports and culture. As History details, in the 1520s, he avidly championed Catholicism and chastised Protestant reformer Martin Luther, calling him "a venomous serpent, a pernicious plague, infernal wolf, an infectious soul, a detestable trumpeter of pride, calumnies and schism." However, legend has it that a jousting accident in 1536 transformed the monarch into a monster. An armor-clad Henry fell off of his armor-clad horse, which fell on top of him. The chain of collisions knocked the king unconscious for two hours. He awoke as a whole new man, a maniacal tyrant who abandoned sports and bullied people for sport instead.

If the story is true, then one might liken Henry to a medieval Phineas Gage minus the impalement. Either way, he behaved like an evil fiend. He executed two of his wives and as many as 72,000 people during his reign, making him way bloodier than his daughter, Mary I. However, a broken brain wouldn't explain Henry's break from the Catholic Church, which occurred in 1533, per the BBC. It also wouldn't explain his insane lack of restraint when it came to feasts and finances.

Henry the ate

Henry VIII was almost as hungry as he was bloodthirsty. Per How Stuff Works, the king loved stuffing his gullet witch such delicacies as grilled beaver tails, whole roasted peacocks, and whale meat during exorbitant banquets. He enjoyed excess so much that he expanded "the kitchen of Hampton Court Palace to fill 55 rooms" and had a 200-person kitchen staff that cooked 14-course meals. 

These feasts weren't cheap. The BBC reports that in 1509, he spent nearly a year's worth of tax revenue just to celebrate Christmas. As Henry went whole hog on his meals, his body got porky. By the time he died in 1547, the portly king purportedly weighed 400 pounds, per History. In addition to battling his own bulge, he waged a series of wars that drained the kingdom's coffers.

Milking the war chest

According to the UK National Archives, Henry VIII's financially prudent predecessor, Henry VII, amassed an ample war chest and was careful about plunging the country into war. However, the apple fell far from the tree. England pretty much bungee jumped into battle with Henry VIII at the helm. As History describes, he fought France three different times but only managed to acquire a minor port that the French quickly regained. Because if at first you don't succeed, try, try again, and if at last you don't succeed, you're King Henry VIII.

Maybe he just wasn't fit to be a great military leader. His lack of fitness became most evident during the third campaign against France, when Henry was so heavy that he couldn't ride a horse to lead his military into battle. In addition to warring with France, he continually tried to conquer Scotland, which was forced to join forces with the French. Henry also invested heavily in the navy. His gigantic flagship, the Mary Rose, took 600 large oak trees to build, according to History. However, the resources he poured into construction went down with the ship in 1545. An upset Henry could only watch "from his perch," which presumably wasn't a horse, as French forces sunk his battleship.

Henry VIII's reign of terrible

As detailed by The Guardian, in 2015, the Historical Writers Association officially declared that Henry VIII sucked like the dickens. The association surveyed 60 writers, who denounced the king as a "self-indulgent wife murderer and tyrant," with some calling him "syphilitic and "obsessive." When asked to name the worst monarch in UK history, Henry took the cake and probably ate it. To put that in context, he ranked worse than King John, who was so epically despicable that he's literally remembered as "Bad King John."

Henry's contemporaries were even harsher in their assessments. Reginald Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, issued this blistering rebuke: "Thou hast cast thy kingdom into miserable commotions, and made it the spectacle of the world."

How to blow through your inheritance

After accusing the king of "[making] England the slaughterhouse of innocence," Pole listed the victims of Henry's "malignant fury," claimed he made "all nations cry," and delivered a wicked gut punch: "Lucifer, alone, who set himself against the Most High, may fitly be compared to thee."

Henry didn't just suck as a ruler; he was a financial vacuum. He blew threw his massive inheritance of roughly $490 million (£375 million) and had to introduce new taxes and dissolve monasteries to cover his humongous bills. According to the Wall Street Journal, when you account for the value of his palaces, jewels, and military equipment, Henry had a net worth of about $250 million at death.