I, too, am enjoying David Starkey's Henry VIII: Mind of a Tyrant, but more for its moments of Tudor calligraphy than anything else. To watch a confident quill at work, its curlicued lettering thickening and thinning as if by special effects, is to witness all manner of nonsense made formal by ultimate elegance - rather like a Christopher Hitchens sentence: an act of style over substance.
Starkey himself is an irksome performer: all camp emphasis and tabloidy rhetorical questions. He is also given to overstatement. In the latest episode he tried to persuade us, to rousing music and crashing sea waves, that Henry's imperious stamp remained indelible up to WW2, because of a few forts he built along the south coast of England. Perfect nonsense. Anyone would think the English Nero had saved Blighty from Hitler.
Starkey is recycling a lot of stuff from his earlier tome on Henry - and it's a perfect disgrace that Arundel Castle couldn't be bothered to put on the heating as Starkey exhaled steam in a cold chamber over a Christian emblem. No wonder he never took off his coat.
What I wanted was more about the actual nature of Tudor religious piety. If the papacy was so honoured, why did the French King go to war against the Pope and why did Henry so wantonly reinvent himself as England's pontiff? Starkey too easily scours the calligraphic scrawl and simply tells us what was written, but does not explain the cynical religious double-think of the age. Did European royalty regard the Pope as just another king, pissing on their parade? Starkey would do well to address that question.
Also: How big was Henry's cock? That's another question.