I once had a heated discussion with my history tutor Carol (who happens to be an alumni of Oxford University) about Henry VIII, in which I maintained that Henry VIII was probably a closeted gay man. Of course, she took my theory with a pinch of salt, but also added, “I’ve thought many things about Henry VIII, but NEVER this! Maybe you could write a PHD on this.” And you know what? I actually might. I think most of us have heard of the Showtime TV series The Tudors, which stars the absolutely gorgeous (hey just because I’m straight doesn’t mean I can’t have a man crush on JRM!) Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the fabulously flamboyant and outrageously arrogant King Henry VIII of England. If you haven’t seen The Tudors and you’re a history buff, that series is a bloody excellent show in itself, as both a historical drama and academic supplement. The following facts are of Henry:
Made homosexuality a crime punishable by death
Henry VIII’s reign was possibly the most violent period of British history. Not only did he legalize the capital punishment of boiling, as well as the execution of the insane; he also made homosexuality a crime punishable by death, an overt expression of homophobia, or hatred towards homosexuals. Contemporary research has shown that extreme cases of homophobia is in many cases, a sign of denial by closeted gay men who are ashamed of their sexuality, and attempt to disassociate themselves from homosexuality by expressing their outright disgust and repulsion towards homosexuality. David Karofsky on Glee should give you an idea.
Was aggressively masculine and bad-tempered
Many contemporary academic sources also maintain that many closeted gay men attempt to disguise their sexuality by taking up extreme, aggressive sports, e.g. Football/Muay Thai/etc and buying monster cars (He must’ve had a monster-sized horse!). Besides that, they may attempt to police other men to hegemonic masculinity (e.g. Men’s magazine editors of FHM/GQ/etc), and scorn men who do not fit the traditional notions of Anglo-Saxon masculinity. Henry’s insecurity with his masculinity, as can be seen in his persecution of homosexuals, as well as his aggressive promotion of hegemonic, pencil-straight masculinity in order to disenfranchise himself from anything non-mainstream
Six wives yet no erection
Many gay men marry women in order to fit into hetero-normative society, but 6 wives makes it seem as if he was trying to prove just how “straight” he was. Another thing worth noting was that Henry was mainly interested in a son. Part of the reason for Henry’s numerous female partners was his anxiousness at having a son to succeed him. It was the obsession with having a son, which was the reason Henry kept re-marrying younger and younger women. His second wife Anne Boleyn was known for her extremely sharp tongue and recklessness, displaying an utter lack of political savvy by exclaiming publicly that the king was “not able to satisfy a woman, having neither the skill or the virility.” This phrase of hers no doubt contributed to sealing her doom, but perhaps it may say more than intended on Henry’s sexuality. (Can you imagine a gay man trying to make love to a woman? That would be the equivalent of a heterosexual man trying to make love to another man! No doubt it would be an awkward and uncomfortable experience for the subject in question.)
Of course, if we are to confirm the true nature of Henry’s preference, we are going to have to take a time machine back to the past and ask him ourselves. For the sake of argument, let us assume that he truly was a gay man. Even if that were the case, he cannot be blamed for going all out to conceal his sexuality. Remember that back then (and in many parts of the world today), homosexuality was considered a “sickness”, and a “sin against nature”, and homosexuals “evil”. If he truly was gay, it is therefore understandable why he would want to take his sexuality with him to the grave.