In the whole range of English history there is no monarch whose character has been more variously depicted by contemporaries or more strenuously debated by posterity than the "majestic lord who broke the bonds of Rome". To one historian an inhuman embodiment of cruelty and vice, to another a superhuman incarnation of courage, wisdom and strength of will, Henry VIII. has, by an almost universal consent, been placed above or below the grade of humanity. So unique was his personality, so singular his achievements, that he appears in the light of a special dispensation sent like another Attila to be the scourge of mankind, or like a second Hercules to cleanse, or at least to demolish, Augean stables.
It is perhaps a matter rather for regret than for surprise that so few attempts have been made to describe, as a whole, the life and character of Henry...