Lately I've taken to watching the TV show The Tudors. While Jonathan Rhys Meyers isn't exactly what I envision Henry VIII to have been (starting with the fact that he's far too scrawny), he does a decent (though not great) job catching his tempestuous nature.
Anyways, I'm not looking to critique the show.. it's entertaining enough as is. What does strike me about the show is related more to historical accuracy. Watching the show makes me wonder about the accuracy of the re-creation and about the truly astounding success of Elizabeth I's rise out of such an environment. If you read historical accounts of Henry VIII's reign, they all talk about how his time was a period of enlightenment and humanism, though I'd be pressed to believe that that's what the average person recalls when they think of his reign vs Elizabeth I's reign.
I would wager that despite all of his great achievements, history will always remember him as the fickle, womanizer who left one wife after another in his quest for a son and to appease his lust. For all that he accomplished, he is remembered for having been ruled by his dick. Maybe that is crass, but true nonetheless.
What really strikes me as I watch the show (accuracy issues aside) is how hard it must have been for both Mary and Elizabeth to have reigned when then men around them were so determined to undermine them. That Elizabeth rose to such greatness is a testimony in and of itself. I know she had her flaws but I think history has been far gentler to her memory than that of her father. Just random thoughts, prompted by watching the show...