28th June

Born: Henry VIII of England, 1491, Greenwich; Sir Peter Paul Rubens, artist, 1577, Cologne; Jean Jacques Rousseau, 1712, Geneva; Charles Mathews, comedian, 1776, London.

Died: Alphonso V of Arragon, 'the Magnanimous,' 1458; Abraham Ortelius, Dutch geographer, 1598, Antwerp; Thomas Creech, translator of Roman poets into English verse, 1701, Oxford; Maurice, Due de Noailles, French commander, 1766; Francis Wheatley, R.A. (picture of the London Riots of 1780,) 1801; Charles Mathews, comedian, 1835, Plymouth; James Henry Fitzroy, Lord Raglan, British commander, 1855.

Feast Day: St. Irenaens, Bishop of Lyons, martyr, 202; Saints Plutarch, Serenus, Hero, and others, martyrs, beginning of 3rd century; Saints Potamiana or Potamiena, and Basilides, martyrs, 3rd


Henry's cruelty towards several of his wives, and to the statesmen who thwarted him in his views, has left an indelible impression against him on the minds of the English people. Our age, however, has seen a man of signal ability come forward in his defence, and, it must be confessed, with considerable success.

'If,' says Mr. Froude, 'Henry VIII had died previous to the first agitation of the divorce, his loss would have been deplored as one of the heaviest misfortunes which had ever befallen the country; and he would have left a name which would have taken its place in history by the side of that of the Black Prince or of the conqueror of Agincourt. Left at the most trying age, with his character unformed, with the means at his disposal of gratifying every inclination, and married by his ministers when a boy to an unattractive woman, far his senior, he had lived for thirty-six years almost without blame, and bore through England the reputation of an upright and virtuous king. Nature had been prodigal to him of her rarest gifts. In person he is said to have resembled his grandfather, Edward IV, who was the handsomest man in Europe. His form and bearing were princely; and, amidst the easy freedom of his address, his manner remained majestic. No knight in England could match him in the tournament except the Duke of Suffolk; he drew with ease as strong a bow as was borne by any yeoman of his guard; and these powers were sustained in unfailing vigour by a temperate habit and by constant exercise. Of his intellectual ability we are not left to judge from the suspicious panegyrics of his contemporaries.

His state papers and letters may be placed by the side of those of Wolsey or of Cromwell, and they lose nothing in the comparison. Though they are broadly different, the perception is equally clear, the expression equally powerful, and they breathe throughout an irresistible vigour of purpose. In addition to this, he had a fine musical taste, carefully cultivated, and he spoke and wrote in four languages; and his knowledge of a multitude of other subjects, with which his versatile ability made him conversant, would have formed the reputation of any ordinary man. He was among the best physicians of his age; he was his own engineer, invented improvements in artillery and new constructions in ship-building; and this not with the condescending incapacity of a royal amateur, but with thorough workmanlike understanding. His reading was vast, especially in theology. In all directions of human activity, Henry displayed natural powers of the highest order, at the highest stretch of industrious culture. He was 'attentive,' as it is called, 'to his religious duties,' being present at the services in chapel two or three times a day with unfailing regularity, and showing to outward appearance a real sense of religious obligation in the energy and purity of his life.

In private, he was good-humoured and good-natured. His letters to his secretaries, though never undignified, are simple, easy, and unrestrained; and the letters written by them to him are similarly plain and businesslike, as if the writers knew that the person whom they were addressing disliked compliments, and chose to be treated as a man. Again, from their correspondence with one another, when they describe interviews with him, we gather the same pleasant impression. He seems to have been always kind, always considerate; inquiring into their private concerns with genuine interest, and winning, as a consequence, their warm and unaffected attachment. As a ruler he had been eminently popular. All his wars had been successful. He had the splendid tastes in which the English people most delighted, and he had substantially acted out his own theory of his duty.'


In 1811, Sir John Throckmorton, a Berkshire baronet, offered to lay a wager of a thousand guineas to the following effect: that at eight o'clock on a particular evening he would sit down to dinner in a well-woven, well-dyed, well-made suit, the wool of which formed the fleece on sheeps' backs at five o'clock on that same morning. It is no wonder that, among a class of persons accustomed to betting, such a wager should eagerly be accepted, seeing that the achievement of the challenged result appeared all but impossible. Mr. Coxetter, of Greenham Mills, at Newbury, was entrusted with the work.

At five in the morning on the 28th of June he caused two South Down sheep to be shorn. The wool was washed, carded, stubbed, roved, spun, and woven; the cloth was scoured, fulled, tented, raised, sheared, dyed, and dressed; the tailor was at hand, and made up the finished cloth into garments; and at a quarter past six in the evening Sir John Throckmorton sat down to dinner at the head of his guests, in a complete damson-coloured suit that had been thus made-winning the wager, with an hour and three-quarters to spare. Of course every possible preparation was made beforehand; but still the achievement was sufficiently remarkable, and was long talked of with pride among the clothiers.