Henry VIII (1491-1547)

It was not until his mature years that Henry VIII found an artist of real talent to paint his portrait. Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) created the image of the king (left) that we are familiar with (left), feet firmly astride, waistline already beginning to expand as Henry was forced to give up the athletic pursuits - jousting, archery, tennis, wrestling - that had made him the best-looking monarch in Europe when he first came to the throne (right). Earlier portraits show a strong resemblance to Henry's grandfather Edward IV (who also put on weight in his later years). The close-trimmed beard, a feature of Holbein's portraits, did not appear until Katherine of Aragon, the king's first wife, declined in his affections. She always disliked it and Henry seems to have been generally clean-shaven until he fell in love with Anne Boleyn around 1526.