Death of Henry VIII…
Age had dug deep trenches upon a face once as pink and delicate as a young bride’s; the soft beard of red and gold had given way to coarse white; the sturdy muscular belly was now a sagging deformity of fifty-four inches; and youth,s proud livery had long since been cast aside for the warm gowns and somber colors of a sick and fearful old man.
In the winter of life Henry began to seek the case and quiet of his Privy Chamber and the pleasures of dice and cards, and as the years slipped by a heavy lassitude settled upon him. Yet the fire was not altogether extinguished, and it could flare up without wrning. He grew suspicious of those to sought to advise him, suspecting them of self-interested counsel. He scolded his councilors as if they were so many schoolboys for “temporizing for their own profit,” assured them that he could well discern “the good servants from the flatterers,” and threatened the latter with dire retribution.
Henry detested the sound of whispering for fear that schemes were being concocted behind his back; and more and more he oscillated between violent suspicion and spells of lethargy during which he left the affairs of state to his councilors and servants. Sick, distrustful, and frightened by the inexorable approach of death, Henry became a monster, the most fearful kind of tyrant- the despot who is secretive, neurotic and unpredictable. His handling of his sixth and final wife was malicious to the point of psychosis; he shouted uncontrollably at his Lord Chancellor, calling him for all to hear a “knave, yea, arrant,knave, beast and fool”; he raged at Bishop Gardiner, branding him a “willful and heady man” and an inveterate troublemaker; and he systematically destroyed the Howards, father and son.
Ill and exhausted as he was,in December of 1546 he read every word of the interrogation during Surrey’s trial, and pondered how the Earl’s “intent” should be judged. He underscored the treasonous words “If the King die, who should have the rule of the Prince but my father or I,” and with his own hand he penned the query that ultimately led to the poet’s execution- “what it importeth?”