London, Apr 4 (ANI): Known as the scourge of the Catholic Church, Henry VIII has long been regarded as a religious sceptic, however, a "new extraordinary discovery" has revealed that he was a firm believer in the religion he later attempted to destroy.
A prayer roll (bede) once owned by Henry and inscribed with his own handwriting has emerged. The roll, which is around 13 feet long and 5 inches wide, will be kept for public display for the first time at the British Library's exhibition 'Henry VIII: Man and Monarch,' which opens later this month and marks the 500th anniversary of Henry's accession.
The roll is made of narrow strips of parchment stitched together, and bears Henry's official badge of arms and the Tudor rose. It is decorated with a series of illuminations including the Trinity, the Crucifixion and scenes from Christ's Passion.
Under the central image of Christ's Passion is an inscription written by Henry, which reads: "Willyam Thomas, I pray yow pray for me your lovyng master: Prynce Henry."
Inscribed with Latin prayers and religious instructions, the roll explains how the devotions are to be performed and what rewards the faithful might expect, such as remission of time in Purgatory and protection against illness.
Experts reckon that the teenage Henry gave the roll to William Thomas, one of his personal servants in his Privy Chamber, some time between 1505 and 1509, when Henry was the Prince of Wales.
Dr David Starkey, the historian, who has curated the British Library's exhibition, described the roll as "a very exciting discovery".
"I knew nothing of its existence until I began my research for the exhibition, so it has been a very exciting discovery. Many academic historians have long argued that Henry was sceptical of religion from his youth, and that this scepticism ultimately led to the break with Rome and the Reformation," The Telegraph quoted him, as saying.
He added: "But what we have here, for the very first time, is absolute concrete evidence to the contrary. The Ushaw roll shows just how conservative and pious he was as a young man and how he was, in fact, two very different men before and after his divorce.
"We tend to remember Henry for all the extraordinarily revolutionary things he did, but this highlights how incredibly old-fashioned the young Henry was.
"It is proof that he actually believed in the religion characteristic of late medieval piety and believed that the sacraments carried out miracles - beliefs which he tried to destroy with the Reformation. It will surprise a lot of people."
Dr Starkey said that Henry would have used the roll as a talisman that he carried with him, which he would have unrolled when he wished to pray. (ANI)