Henry VIII's Armor Proves He Was as Enormous as He Was Stylish


Even weary New York Times Business readers must've feasted their eyes on the photos that ran with "Tudormania" in the Style section yesterday. Rich red velvet and golden brocades of the Tudor era just beg to be reinvented for our dismal modern times...and Dolce & Gabbana has taken the hint.

Writer Ruth La Ferla asks why this distinctive style is being revived. Kenneth Jurkiewicz, an associate professor from Central Michigan U's School of Broadcasting and Cinematic Arts, comments, "There was this placid formality that covered Byzantine machinations beneath the surface." (For those of us who don't speak gorgeous prose fluently, that translates, "Fancy clothes disguised a complex and sneaky government.")

La Ferla piqued my interest in Tudor style -- specifically, Henry VIII's raiment. About a year ago, the New York Post ran an article about Joan Bergin, costume designer for Showtime's series on the Tudors. Bergin's pretty candid about her work and says that Jonathan Rhys Meyers carries the clothes well. Like Henry, Meyers is supposed to be somewhat of a fashionista. Bergin explains that Henry "had such charisma that when he entered a room people would stop talking."

Charisma, sure. But he was also enormous! The Royal Armories in Leeds has assembled a collection of Henry's suits of armor for display at the Tower of London. Researchers have deduced that the king was about 6'1" and expanded in girth throughout his reign. His waist and chest measured 32- and 39-inches (respectively) in his youth, but by the end of his life, he was up to a 52-inch waist and 53-inch chest. Historians say that Henry's massive size could be attributed to an indulgent lifestyle as well as medical issues. While flattering royal portraits show the relative mass of Henry's size, his suits of armor are clearer indications that "he was an absolute monster," as Peter Armstrong, director of the Royal Armories, says.

For more, read: Top 10 Heads That Rolled During the Reign of Henry VII History of England How Body Armor Works