“Henry VIII was a big fat man”?


Does the national curriculum encourage making fun out of the kings of England? At a recent assembly at our boys’ school where Damon’s year 3 class was giving a presentation on the Tudors there was a big focus on Henry VIII.


First of all, the young guy who does the audio visual for the assemblies had ‘Mercy’ by Duffy on a loop while everyone filed in to the hall. Didn’t quite make the link between Duffy (who does have a great voice) and the Tudors. But I was wondering if it was cool or not to have a group of 8 year olds waiting to give the assembly mouthing the lyrics to ‘Mercy’:






I love you

But I gotta stay true

My moral’s got me on my knees

I’m begging please
Stop playing games

I don’t know what this is
But you got me good
Just like you knew you would
I don’t know what you do
But you do it well
I’m under your spell

You got me begging you for mercy
Why won’t you release me?
You got me begging you for mercy
Why won’t you release me?
I said release me


(I get it now; it’s a reference to Ann Boleyn asking for “mercy”!?)

photohenry-8th_thumbAnyway back to Henry VIII who they focused in on. They did a great show illustrating how he was a bit ruthless, especially with his wives, and some great acting. But they essentially presented him as a fat pig, someone who ate too much and treated his wives badly. They sang along to a song on a tape that went like this:

“Henry 8th was a big fat man, He loved to stuff his face at the frying pan, If he had been a little bit littler he would’nt have ended up like Adolf Hitler,”

I think he might have got slightly better treatment at a Church of England school, as a pivotal historic figure.
I asked the head teacher about all of this. I got the impression she felt a bit defensive, cuz she replied without pausing. (She had smiled initially when I had mentioned how I thought the kids acting was very enjoyable.)

I really was trying to be constructive, but I got the impression feedback in the form of constructive criticism was not really wanted.
On the Duffy song, she said “they play all kinds of music for the assembly, and there were no swear words were there?”
On Henry VIII she said “they learn a lot more about the Tudors, but for their assembly they wanted to focus on the humorous, and not mentioning the fact that he started the Church of England was fine cuz that had anyway been self serving.”
The point of teaching history should be to start with facts and then later consider opinions. I asked Damon what else he had learnt about the king: he invented Tennis, and killed people who prepared his food the wrong way, and liked to eat off plates made of sugar.
Anyway, what I am trying to figure out is am I am being a fussy opinionated parent?

Do I not understand the context of teaching 8 year olds?

Or is it that despite having had a poor education myself (and lazy on my part) , somewhere deeper down I have some values that have skipped a generation or two?

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About simoncooper

working at 43LG church community in West London

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5 Responses to “Henry VIII was a big fat man”?

  1. Profile photo of Toby Warren
    Toby Warren May 16, 2009 at 10:16 pm #

    Your blog throws up so many points that a proper response would be longer than your wordage! I’ll just say, having got my degree recently in Primary Ed. that the horror of an assembly you describe would best be swallowed with a massive dose of humour. Things are so bad out there that the poor teachers are hoping that a bit of pop music and some catch phrases will put you to sleep. Just smile and wave, smile and wave. (Interesting about the sugar plates though and thanks for the tennis, Hen!)

  2. Profile photo of Timothy Read
    Tim Read May 16, 2009 at 10:47 pm #

    In answer to your questions:I hope not, No, You do understand, Yes.
    I guess that the person who ran the assembly was trying so hard to appeal to the children and be simple, that they lost the point (if they ever understood it themselves because *their* teacher also lost the point)- that there’s good and bad in everyone’s life and it’s easy to be superficial and make fun, but you you have to work a bit harder to point out the good things – they’re not so obvious or superficial.

  3. Profile photo of Colm
    Colm O Cionnaith May 17, 2009 at 10:20 pm #

    I’ve been watching “The Tudors” recently and although I’ve only seen two episodes it seems to be largely historically accurate. Has anybody else seen it? If so can they tell how accurate it is historically?

    Maybe its good not to have too much reverence for these individuals, such as Henry or Cromwell, etc. They may be icons of British history, but it’s worth bearing in mind that they are not univerally revered.

    Although, of course, God could use them to bring some great providential victories, it is our job to try to educate the public about this through The Divine Principle. It might be a bit much to expect our school teachers to share our worldview, howevermuch we may decry their lack of respect for the past and its important figures and milestones, etc.

    As for Duffy, bad and all as that song is, having seen how much Chapter Two is in “The Tudors” its just as well they weren’t playing something more explicit.

    Has anybody actually listened to the lyrics of the new Lily Allen hit “It’s not fair”. Lovely message to be sending out to young women. (Let’s not even mention the God-awful “I kissed a girl”). What a pity that these tunes are not subject to any sort of censorship anywhere. Its a constant battle to stop the kids hearing it in the supermarket, etc – so as they don’t end up humming it back to us half an hour later!

  4. Natasha Huish May 26, 2009 at 7:14 pm #

    If you flick through any history book aimed at primary school children you will notice that although they do state historical facts, the emphasis is definitely on the ‘more juicy’ bits of information such as description in great detail of how people were tortured in the tudor days or how babies used to be sawddled too tightly and hung on rusty nails from walls or a tree (some died because of this). Teachers shamelesssly make fun of historical figures to keep the children interested and few retain any knowledge of the truly important information about how our world was shaped by the actions of these important figures in history.

    I am so happy we are going to be home educating David through primary school!

  5. Toni Minson February 1, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    Dear Simon,
    I’m sorry to hear you feel your child has not taken the value of his history topic too seriously with the entertaining display his class presented. However you stated that your own education may not have been all that good…. even if it was a little to do with your own lack of participation…. However do you not feel that in among the dull facts and dates of Tudor history that it would have been fun (dear I say this) to have helped recall some of the information through another form of media (song, dance etc.). I can only say that the teacher who put the time into this creativity should be commended and as making our own opinions…. why is this left only to the adults of our world. I know for a fact that the 8 year olds in my class have some very valid opinions and after our Tudor topic I would be a very happy teacher if they held their own opinion of Henry VIII rather then just what I taught them!

    Just some food for thought!

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