Esteemed historian redefines ‘Horrid’ Henry at Hurst talk

Dr Suzannah Lipscomb visits Hurst SUS-140205-113918001
Dr Suzannah Lipscomb visits Hurst SUS-140205-113918001

Henry VIII was the focus of a compelling presentation at Hurst this week by historian, Dr Suzannah Lipscomb, of the New College of Humanities in London.

As part of the Hurst ‘Talk’series, Dr Lipscomb aired her argument to an audience of 60 pupils, parents and staff on the drastically changing image of the iconic 16th century ruler.

Just how did the young, athletic, gentle and compassionate young Henry become the murderous tyrant we think of him as today?

All rests on the year 1536, Dr Lipscomb explained. The year brought crushing blows to Henry’s honour, family and physical prowess.

It included the near fatal fall whilst jousting, Anne Boleyn’s miscarriage and later execution, the sudden death of his favoured illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, and finally the threat to his supremacy posed by the Pilgrimage of Grace Rebellion.

Dr Lipscomb (pictured) depicted the most devastating series of events, unpicked theories to the contrary but didn’t go as far as to say Henry should be given sympathy.

In the Q and A session, Year 8 pupil, Monty Graham, asked Dr Lipscomb about the ways in which Henry had been portrayed by those around him. Afterwards, Lower Sixth student, Chelsea Hartman, commented, “She was a passionate and motivating speaker and she has given me fresh ideas for my essays.”

Dr Lipscomb’s sweeping and impressively detailed knowledge of the 16th century inspired both the children and adults alike.

Head of History at Hurst, Joanna Clarke, said, “The students have been left with an experience of history teaching at its best: knowledgeable, humorous, challenging but accessible to a curious mind.”

Report and picture contributed by Richard Cox, news reporter and web editorial assistant at Hurstpierpoint College.