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Henry the Scholar

Episode 2 of 5

15 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 26 May 2009

Five academics present portraits of unknown, intimate and surprising aspects of Henry VIII's character.

Speaking fluent Latin and the author of four books, Henry was not a boorish, uncultured tyrant. He was one of the most educated of our monarchs, a Renaissance Man. Historian Dr Steven Gunn from Merton College, Oxford, and Dr Andrea Clarke, curator of the Henry VIII: Man and Monarch exhibition at the British Library, present the unexpectedly studious side of Henry.

The young Henry was well versed in poetry, music and religious discourse. He was keen to be seen as a philosopher king, and the notes in the margins of his books reveal how closely he read, and his intellectual striving. His love letters to Anne Boleyn show a man with a vast vocabulary and a keen sense of amour courtois.

Joining the discussion is Professor James Carley, who has catalogued Henry VIII's books - and he had several thousand. It was his collection of books which is at the centre of what became the British Library.


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