22 Dec 2017

Six wives and one hell of a party

9:30 pm on 22 December 2017

King of England Henry VIII spent almost an entire year's tax revenue celebrating Christmas in the first year of his reign, National Archive files in the UK reveal.

A postage stamp depicting Henry VIII.

A postage stamp depicting Henry VIII. Photo: andylid/123RF

Expenses for 1509 show the 19-year-old king spent the equivalent of £13.5m ($25m) on a series of lavish events. Total revenue for the year was £16.5m ($31m).

The money went on food, entertainment and gifts - including generous individual presents for staff.

Beneficiaries included choir boys, musicians, actors and servants.

The king paid his blind court poet, Master Bernard André, £5 - the equivalent of £2400 ($4500) in today's money, and another £1, now £483 ($920), to a woman who brought a perfumed ball to the palace residences to keep the air fresh.

The children of the Chapel Royal were rewarded with a very generous £2 - worth £967 in modern prices - for singing the hymn Gloria in Excelsis on Christmas Day.

The monarch was staying at Richmond Palace, a royal residence on the river Thames, when the payments were made.

Dr Sean Cunningham, Head of the Medieval Records team at the National Archives, said: "These records really do allow us to see the amazing wealth that surrounded the early Tudor kings.

"Right at the start of Henry VIII's reign, when he was still a teenager, it is fascinating to get an impression of his generosity and sense of fun from these documents showing what he spent his money on.

"In 1509, the familiar figure of the often-married, overweight, paranoid and grumpy king of the 1540s could not be further from the bright and vigorous young ruler."

Henry VIII is one of the most famous monarchs in history, known for his six wives, and his break from the Roman and ruled from the papal church and the establishment of the Church of England. He reigned from 1509 to 1547.