6 Actors Who Played Henry VIII Before Ruairi O’Connor on ‘The Spanish Princess’
Henry Tudor is now Henry VIII. In season 2 of The Spanish Princess — which premieres Sunday, Oct. 11 on Starz — the hot-headed young royal (played by Ruairi O’Connor) is now King of England following his father’s sudden death at the end of season 1. And he’s married to the woman he loves, Catherine of Aragon (Charlotte Hope), who is ruling by his side.
Of course, we all know where Catherine and Henry’s story ends. Though the young couple is on top of the world when the season begins, doubt will soon creep into their marriage, which will also be strained by Catherine’s failure to give birth to a son who lives more than a few months past birth. Eventually, Henry will divorce his first wife, breaking with the Catholic Church in order to do so.
The Spanish Princess is just the latest take on the well-known story of Henry VIII. The king who famously had six wives (two of whom he had beheaded) has been portrayed on-screen numerous times, including in these memorable shows and movies.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers in ‘The Tudors’
Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers played Henry VIII for four seasons on The Tudors, Showtime’s sexed-up version of 16th-century English history. He earned a Golden Globe nomination for his depiction of the king, though some viewers objected to his lack of physical resemblance to the real Henry VIII, especially as the character aged. Streaming on Netflix.
Eric Bana in ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’
Eric Bana plays the king in 2008’s The Other Boleyn Girl. Like The Spanish Princess, it’s based on a book by Philippa Gregory. Natalie Portman plays Henry’s doomed second wife, Anne Boleyn, while Scarlett Johansson is her sister Mary, with whom he also has a romance (in this telling, at least). A television adaptation of the same book from 2003 stars Mad Men’s Jared Harris as Henry VIII. The movie is streaming on Showtime. The TV adaptation is streaming on Amazon Prime.
Richard Burton in ‘Anne of the Thousand Days’
Richard Burton plays Henry in 1969’s Anne of the Thousand Days, another movie focusing on his relationship with Anne Boleyn. Geneviève Bujold plays Anne. It’s available to rent on Amazon and other streaming services.
Damian Lewis in ‘Wolf Hall’
Damian Lewis snagged an Emmy nomination for playing Henry VIII in this well-received BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s acclaimed novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. The series focuses on Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance) and his rise to power in Henry’s court. Streaming with PBS Passport or on Amazon’s PBS Masterpiece channel.
Charles Laughton in ‘The Private Life of Henry VIII’
Charles Laughton played Henry in one of the earlier on-screen portrayals of the king, which unlike some versions, gives time to his later marriages The Private Life of Henry VIII was released in 1933 and was a box office hit, in addition to winning its star an Oscar. It’s streaming on HBO Max, Tubi, and The Criterion Channel.
Robert Shaw in ‘A Man for All Seasons’
This 1966 film focuses on Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield), who declined to support Henry’s break with the Catholic Church, leading to his execution. Robert Shaw plays the king, and his performance earned him a best supporting actor nomination. While Shaw didn’t win, A Man for All Seasons did take home the best picture trophy, while Scofield won best actor. It’s available to rent on Amazon and other streaming services.