What It Was Like To Be Henry VIII's Child

It's a classic trope: a child, unhappy with their lot in life, sits under a blanket and thinks "They're not my real parents. My real parents are probably royalty. One day they'll take me away and I'll be a prince/princess/member of the royal court who doesn't allow gender roles to dictate their job title. Then," they continue, "everything will be awesome."

But would everything be awesome? What if, for example, you were Henry VIII's kid? Would life be all strawberries and high fashion as the child of England's most notorious ladykiller?

The answer, unsurprisingly, is "no." The world was not particularly kind to most of Hank's wee ones, even by 16th century standards. To start out with, Henry's kids had an upsetting habit of dying before they'd learned their first words. Four out of his first six progeny were either stillborn or died immediately after birth, and a fifth, Henry Duke of Cornwall, only survived for two months. Of the four children conceived with Anne Boleyn, three were miscarriages. Dour? You bet, but just wait until you hear what happened to the ones that survived.

What to expect when Henry's expecting

Henry VIII had three legitimate children who managed to scrape their way out of the cradle. The first grew up to be Queen Mary I, and her childhood was filled with lavish treatment and extravagances until, as Biography points out, her father's famous difficulties with maintaining a healthy work/homelife balance led to her being declared illegitimate. She was downgraded to the position of Lady in Waiting for her younger half sister, Elizabeth, which she took issue with. She and her father didn't speak for years, and he kept her more or less confined, refusing to let her visit her mother even on her deathbed.

Elizabeth had a rough introduction to royal life as well. She was a few months shy of her third birthday when her mom was beheaded. After Henry's death, her stepfather, Thomas Seymour, got decidedly gross with her. Weirdly, she never warmed up to the idea of marriage.

And then there was Edward VI, Henry's only legitimate male heir. Edward became king at nine whole years of age, and aside from running the kingdom into the ground, he seemed to have a blessed and comfortable life. All 15 years of it.