Jonathan Rhys Meyers: the surrogate sex symbol

Henry was a ginger for heaven’s sake. Using Jonathan Rhys Meyers to depict England’s most… red-headed King is a stretch of the imagination by any means. Henry VIII was gorgeous in his prime – oozing athleticism, charisma and charm – but in later life he was morbidly obese and well… rather grotesque. Mr Dark-and-Deadly-Sexy-Himself Rhys Meyers is not exactly the portrait of an ultimately debilitated King and his portentous potbelly.

Michael Hirst, creator of The Tudors, takes full advantage of an artist’s right to creative license and asks his audience to suspend belief for just a moment. And in all honesty, who really wants to watch Henry flaunt his fabulous fat? A romanticised interpretation of the King’s sixteenth century court is far more enticing than the real life threat of disease, death, discrimination, disinheritance and destitution that embedded itself in in the existence of Tudor aristocrats. More to the point; how sexy could any dangerous liaison have possibly been within the context of the unavoidable publicity and paranoia that pervaded Henry’s court? Not very sexy, in all likelihood. That said, Henry’s story is one of mesmerising melodrama – love, lust, sex, deceit, mystery and murder permeate Henry’s reign as King – which lends itself so well to the theatre of glamorous intrigue. Who cares about poor hygiene, rampant scurvy and the complications associated with quick copulation in the midst of masses of heavy layered clothing when Henry VIII’s licentiously lewd loins are on the rove.

Rhys Meyers may not look exactly like Henry VIII but he has certainly captured the essence of the tremendous tyrant with heart-palpitating precision. Henry’s childish egotism and insecurity, his acerbic wit, his intelligence, his propensity for violent temper and equivocally his great aptitude for love… and lust, and his status as revolutionary leader and almighty King resonate through The Tudors series. Henry the character reverberates through the sex symbol status of Jonathan Rhys Meyers, which justifies the decision to impede historical accuracy’s attempt to appropriate the looks of so interesting a personality.

Not that justification of Jonathan was ever in public demand.