There is no doubting that King Henry VIII was a man to be remembered! Aside from having 6 wives, he was a sizeable man, and in paintings of him sitting on the throne he still appears taller than his standing counterparts!
So was he actually gigantic for his day, were the paintings of him true to size and how tall was he really?
Let's investigate more to find out!
How Tall Was Henry VIII Really
Judging by his suits of armor, and also paintings of the man himself, King Henry VIII appears to have been comfortably 6'1.5" or 186.7 cm tall, fluctuating between 6'1" and 6'2" throughout the day.
Suits of Armor Height
According to The Guardian (1) at ages 23, 28, 29 and 48 Henry had suits of armor made up. In all examples the suits of armor stood at the same height of 6'1" tall.
Henry's chest however, is a different story. This area expanded from 41.7"-54.5" throughout his active years, so we can clearly see henry was a man who liked his food!
Height in Artwork
If we take a look at Henry's height in artwork, he appears very large and tall in some paintings but smaller and shorter in others, so we can't rely on these as height evidence.
For example, in the painting "The Family of Henry VIII" (1543-1547) Henry looks huge sitting on the throne. Yet in the painting "Allegory of the Tudor Succession" (1572) Henry looks tiny, and shorter than some of his family members!
In general, however, Henry looks like a domineering size, as demonstrated in his full-length portraits by Hans Holbein the Younger. Similar to other historical figures, he is clearly well above the average male height, and 6'1"-6'2" does seem to perfectly fit the way he generally appears in the artwork.
The Top 5 Tallest Kings of England
Believe it or not, there was an English King that was not only comfortably taller than Henry, but also reigned before him! King Edward IV, who was born 49 years earlier than Henry was a very tall man for his time!
The tallest English Monarchs in history are as follows:
- King Edward IV (Henry's grandfather), Reign 461-1470 and 1471-1483, height 6'4.5" (194.3 cm)
- Richard the Lionheart, Reign 1189 –1199, is another anomaly on the list. His body remains were never measured, but he has been said to have stood between 6'2" - 6'5" tall!
- Edward I, Reign 1272-1307, height 6'2" (188 cm)
- King Henry VIII, height 6'1.5" (186.7 cm)
- Both Mary Queen of Scots, Reign 1542 –1567, and Mary II, Reign 1689-1694, stood at 5'11" (180.3 cm) tall. This is exceptionally tall for a woman of their time who averaged 5'2"-5'4".
In contrast, the shortest ever King of England was Charles I (reigned 1625-1649) who stood 5'4" (162.6 cm) tall!
Looking to The Future
Similar to American Presidents, English monarchs tend to greatly vary in height! For instance, in the UK when Prince Charles takes the throne from Queen Elizabeth ii he won't even come close to being on the tallest King list at 5'9", but when his son Prince William eventually takes the Throne, he will be 2nd/3rd tallest on the list, overtaking Henry VII, standing at 6'3" (191 cm) tall!
After King Louis XIV of France died in 1515, he was succeeded by Francois I (1515-1547). As the book "Henry VIII by Pollard" (2) mentions, Pasqualigo, a Venetian at Henry's court of England traveled to France and met Francois in the flesh. Upon his return to England, Henry summoned Pasqualigo for a conversation, and as he recounts, Henry asked:
' Talk with me awhile. The King of France, Is he as tall as I am ?' I told him there was but little difference. He continued, ' Is he as stout?' I said he was not; and he then inquired, 'what sort of legs has he? I replied 'Spare.'
Which of Henry VIII Wives Was The Tallest?
Henry had 6 wives in total, most of which we can find physical descriptions, allowing for height estimates.
- Catherine of Aragon (m. 1509–1533), described as "short", so between 5'0-5'2" is likely.
- Anne Boleyn (m. 1533-1536) was described as having "middling stature", meaning she was most likely between 5'2"-5'4" tall.
- Jane Seymour (m. 1536–1537), was described as of "medium height", and was most likely between 5'2"-5'4".
- Anne of Cleves (m. 1540–1540), is described as tall and slim (for her time), therefore 5'6"-5'8" is likely as her real height.
- Catherine Howard (m. 1540–1542), has been described as "short', and most likely measured Somewhere around the 5'0"-5'2" mark.
- Catherine Parr (m. 1543-1547), her height is debatable as she has been described as 5'4", but her coffin measured 5'10". Yet, given her general descriptions of average height, her real height was most likely closer to average than tall.
So Henry had wives both short and tall, but one thing was for sure - he was considerably taller than all of them!
After investigating Henry VIII's height I believe that he stood somewhere between 6'1"-6'2" tall, and will list his height at 6'1.5" 186.7 cm on this page.
Heights Related to Henry VIII
- King Henry VII, Predecessor 1485-1509, 6'1.5" (186.7 cm)
- King Edward VI, Successor 1537 – 1553, 5'5.5" (166.4 cm)
- Charles Brandon, Close Friend, Described as "tall" so most likely 6'0 (182.9 cm) +
- Richard III, Defeated and slain by Henry in battle (1485), 5'8" (172.7 cm)
- Thomas Cromwell, Chief Minister, Described as "middling" in height, meaning around 5'8" (172.7 cm) tall.
1: theguardian: A life in armour: how Henry VIII grew from L to XXXL
2: Henry VIII by Pollard, A. F. (Albert Frederick), 1869-1948, Page 64