We common folk can hardly be blamed for our sometimes prurient interest in the sex lives of the Kings and Queens of England.
Henry came to the throne an 18-year-old virgin, and was first married to the widow of his brother, Catherine of Aragon, and did not embark on his first affair until 1514, when Catherine was pregnant (it was believed that having sex with a woman while pregnant could cause miscarriage).
Anne and Mary’s ambitious father offered his wife to the King, but Henry declined, with the immortal words, “Never with the mother,” according to the writer Nigel Cawthorne’s masterful and encyclopedic book on the subject, “Sex Lives of the Kings and Queens of England,” shortly to be reissued on Kindle.
He kept one mistress, Henrietta Dowd, for twenty years, and when he finally dropped her, his wife begged him to reconsider, for fear he would go on the tear with a string of feisty new lovers, which he duly did, hanging a portrait of one of them at the base of his bed.
Of course, there is no King who can compete in the popular imagination with the original Tudor Bad Boy, King Henry VIII, who came to the throne in 1509 and had six wives.
He swiftly made up for lost time thereafter, having affairs with several noblewomen at court, including Lady Anne Hastings, and Jane Poppincourt of Flanders, who was at the time also the mistress of the Duc de Longueville, who was being held hostage, in great comfort, within the Royal household.Henry had several illegitimate children, including one with Mary Boleyn, the sister of his second wife, Anne Boleyn (see Philippa Gregory’s book, ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’).