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history maker

Taking a more in-depth look at the real historical characters played by the man himself

Henry Tudor

King Henry VIII of England

Royal House: Tudor

Reign: 1509-1547

Born: 28th June 1491, Palace of Placentia, Greenwich, London

Died: 28th January 1547, Palace of Whitehall, London

Buried: 1547, St George's Chapel, Windsor


Shaw was nominated for an oscar and a golden globe for his powerhouse performance as the king and he's only on screen for 12 minutes.

Henry Tudor was the king of England from 1509 until his death in 1547. The son of Henry VII of England and Elizabeth York, Henry became king of England following the death of his father. He married six times, beheading two of his wives, and was the main instigator of the English Reformation. His only surviving son, Edward VI, succeeded him after his death.


Henry Tudor was born on June 28th, 1491, at the royal residence, Greenwich Palace, in Greenwich, London, England. The son of Henry VII of England and Elizabeth York, Henry VIII was one of six children, only four of whom survived: Arthur, Margaret and Mary. As a young man and monarch, second in the Tudor Dynasty, Henry VIII exuded a charismatic athleticism and diverse appetite for art, music and culture. He was witty and highly educated, taught by private tutors for his entire upbringing. He loved music and wrote some as well.

A lover of gambling and jousting, he hosted countless tournaments and banquets. His father always envisioned Arthur as king and Henry as a high-ranking church official—the appropriate role at that time for his secondary birth order. As fate would have it, Henry instead inherited an entire peaceful nation after his father ended the Wars of the Roses.


Henry’s older brother Arthur was expected to take the throne. In 1502, Prince Arthur married Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of the Spanish king and queen, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile. After less than four months of marriage, Arthur died at the age of 15, leaving his 10-year-old brother, Henry, the next in line to the throne.

Upon King Henry VII’s death in 1509, Henry VIII took the crown at age 17. Henry was good-natured, but his court soon learned to bow to his every wish. Two days after his coronation, he arrested two of his father's ministers and promptly executed them. He began his rule seeking advisers on most matters and would end it with absolute control.

English Reformation

From 1514 to 1529, Henry VIII had relied on Thomas Wolsey, a Catholic cardinal, to guide his domestic and foreign policies. Wolsey enjoyed a lavish existence under Henry, but when Wolsey failed to deliver Henry's quick annulment from Catherine, the cardinal quickly fell out of favour.

After 16 years of power, Wolsey was arrested and falsely charged with treason. He subsequently died in custody. Henry's actions upon Wolsey gave a strong signal to the pope that he would not honour the wishes of even the highest clergy and would instead exercise full power in every realm of his court.

In 1534, Henry VIII declared himself supreme head of the Church of England. After Henry declared his supremacy, the Christian church separated, forming the Church of England. Henry instituted several statutes that outlined the relationship between the king and the pope and the structure of the Church of England: the Act of Appeals, the Acts of Succession and the first Act of Supremacy, declaring the king was "the only Supreme Head in Earth of the Church of England."

These macro reforms trickled down to minute details of worship. Henry ordered the clergy to preach against superstitious images, relics, miracles and pilgrimages, and to remove almost all candles from religious settings. His 1545 catechism, called the King's Primer, left out the saints.

Fully separated now from the pope, the Church of England was under England's rule, not Rome's. From 1536 to 1537, a great northern uprising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace took hold, during which 30,000 people rebelled against the king's changes.


It was the only major threat to Henry's authority as monarch. The rebellion's leader, Robert Aske, and 200 others were executed. When John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Sir Thomas More, Henry's former Lord Chancellor, refused to take the oath to the king, they were beheaded at Tower Hill.

Henry VIII’s Death

On January 28th, 1547, at the age of 55, King Henry VIII of England died. As a middle-aged man, Henry became covered with pus-filled boils and possibly suffered from gout. A jousting accident opened a violent wound in his leg which ulcerated and left him unable to play sports. His eventual obesity required that he be moved with mechanical inventions. His habit of binge-eating highly fatty meats was perhaps a symptom of stress. A recent and credible theory suggests that he suffered from untreated type II diabetes.

Henry VIII was interred in St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle alongside his deceased third wife, Jane Seymour. Henry's only surviving son, Edward, inherited the throne, becoming Edward VI. Princesses Elizabeth and Mary waited in succession.


George Armstrong Custer

Born: December 5th, 1839
New Rumley, Ohio, U.S.

Died: June 25th, 1876 (aged 36)
Little Bighorn, Montana, U.S. (then Little Bighorn, Montana Territory, U.S.)

Buried: Initially on the battlefield; Later reinterred in West Point Cemetery

Allegiance: United States Union

Service/branch: United States Army
Union Army

Years of service: 1861–1876

Rank: Lieutenant ColonelUSA
             Major GeneralUSV

Commands held: 

Michigan Cavalry Brigade
3rd Cavalry Division
2nd Cavalry Division
7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment

Early Life and Education

George Armstrong Custer was born December 5th, 1839, in New Rumley, Ohio. One of five children, at a young age he was sent to live with an older half-sister and brother-in-law in Monroe, Michigan, and spent much of his youth bouncing between the two states. After high school, he attended the McNeely Normal School and worked odd jobs to help pay his way, eventually earning a teaching certificate.  

But Custer had greater ambitions than being a grammar school teacher and soon set his sights on the military academy at West Point. While he lacked the qualifications that many of the other candidates had, his confidence eventually won over a local congressman, and with his recommendation, in 1857 Custer was enrolled at the school. 

But West Point was not a perfect fit for Custer, who, though he longed to climb to a higher rank in life, possessed a deep rebellious streak. A poor student prone to misbehaviour, he was frequently disciplined, nearly expelled and ultimately finished last in his graduating class in June 1861.

Compounding his poor academic showing, just a few days after graduation, Custer failed as officer of the guard to prevent a fight between two cadets. Nearly court-martialed in the aftermath, Custer was ultimately saved by the outbreak of the Civil War and the desperate need for officers.

Military Career

Custer was placed in command of a cavalry unit as a second lieutenant, and in July 1861 quickly earned recognition for himself with his brilliant direction of its actions at the First Battle of Bull Run. He also seemed to possess a gift for avoiding injury, which he came to call "Custer's luck." (Unfortunately, the men under his command weren't always so lucky, suffering disproportionately high casualties during the war.)

Having only recently been an unremarkable student, with his brave actions at Bull Run and elsewhere Custer soon earned the positive attention of high-ranking officers and earned himself an assignment to General George B. McClellan's staff. In turn, the visibility of that post led to his promotion to brigadier general in 1863.

The Boy General 

Placed in command of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade, over the next few years Custer distinguished himself at such important battles as Gettysburg and Yellow Tavern and earned himself the nickname "Boy General," in reference to his relatively young age. "Future writers of fiction will find in Brigadier General Custer most of the qualities which go to make up a first-class hero," gushed the New York Tribune in 1864.   

By the war's end, Custer had been promoted yet again, to the rank of major general, and his cavalry units were crucial in blocking the movements of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's retreating forces, which helped hasten his surrender at Appomattox, on April 9th 1865. 

In recognition of his heroism, Lieutenant General Philip Sheridan gave the young military hero the table used to sign the war's peace terms, including with it a note to Custer's wife, Libbie, in praise of her husband. "Permit me to say, Madam," he wrote, "that there is scarcely an individual in our service who has contributed more to bring about this desirable result than your gallant husband."

Battle of Little Bighorn

Following the war, as the still-young country looked to settle the West, it needed to defeat the Lakota Sioux and Southern Cheyenne that dominated parts of the frontier. To that end, the 7th Cavalry was created and Custer was placed in its command. After serving a brief suspension for deserting his post in 1867, Custer returned to action the following year and participated in several small battles against Native Americans in the region over the next several years. 

But Custer's legendary bravery in battle would prove to be his undoing when, in 1876, the United States ordered an attack intended to crush the Lakota and Cheyenne. Though the plan was for three separate forces—one of which was led by Custer—to surround and overwhelm them, Custer and his men advanced more quickly than the other two units, and on June 25th Custer ordered his 210 men to attack a large Native American village.

On the other side of the attack was Sitting Bull, the revered Lakota chief who had originally wanted peace at Little Bighorn. Custer, however, was determined to fight. Against the onrush of thousands of Lakota, Arapaho and Cheyenne warriors, Custer and all of his men were surrounded, overwhelmed and killed.

Custer's Last Stand and Legacy

The Battle of Little Bighorn was a stinging embarrassment to the U.S. government, which redoubled its efforts and quickly and cruelly defeated the Lakota.

For his role in the battle, Custer earned himself his place in American history, though certainly not in the way he would have wished for. During her final years, Custer's wife wrote accounts of her husband's life that cast him in a heroic light, but no story could overcome the debacle that became known as Custer's Last Stand.


The Reverend Martin Luther


Era: Reformation

Tradition or movement: Lutheranism (Protestantism)

Notable ideas: Five solaeLaw and GospelTheology of the CrossTwo kingdoms doctrine.

Born: 10th November 1483 EislebenCounty of Mansfeld

Holy Roman Empire

Died: 18th February 1546 (aged 62) Eisleben, County of Mansfeld,

Holy Roman Empire

Education: University of Erfurt


Notable work

Spouse: Katharina von Bora

Martin Luther was a religious reformer who lived in the 16th century. Luther was born on 10th November 1483 in the German town of Eisleben. (In those days Germany was not a single country but was a federation of states called the Holy Roman Empire). His father was Hans Luther, a copper smelter. His mother was called Magretta. Hans Luther wanted his son to become a lawyer. Martin went to the University of Erfurt in 1501 and he received an MA in 1505.

The same year he was caught in a thunderstorm. Luther was shaken by the experience and he decided to become a monk, despite his father’s wishes. Martin Luther became an Augustinian monk in Erfurt. He was ordained a priest in 1507 and in 1512 he became a doctor of theology.

Meanwhile in 1510 Luther went on a trip to Rome. He was shocked by the lack of piety he found there. Luther also had a strong sense of his own sinfulness. He studied the Bible diligently and he came to disagree with some of the teachings of the Catholic Church. Luther believed that salvation is obtained by faith only. It cannot be earned by good works.

Then in October 1517, Martin Luther wrote 95 theses. He objected to the sale of indulgences (documents written by the Church releasing individuals from punishment for their sins. Indulgences could be bought by the living on behalf of the dead who were believed to be in purgatory). Copies of the 95 theses by Luther were distributed across Germany and then across Europe.

In 1519 and 1520 Martin Luther wrote several works, The Address To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, On the Freedom of a Christian, and On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. He denied there were seven sacraments as taught by the Catholic Church. Luther said there were only two, baptism and the Lord’s supper. Luther also believed in the priesthood of all believers. Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church in January 1521. But Luther was undaunted.

Then in April 1521, he was called to appear before a secular assembly called the Diet of Worms. Luther refused to change his views saying: ‘Unless I am convicted by scripture and reason – I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God’.

In May 1521 the Diet declared Luther an outlaw and a heretic and banned his writings. However, Martin Luther was protected by powerful friends and he hid in Wartburg Castle where he continued to write.

In 1522 Luther returned to Wittenberg In 1524 the German peasants rose in revolt. Luther condemned the rebellion and it was crushed in 1525. Also in 1525, Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora. The couple had 6 children. The same year, in 1525 Luther published his great work, The Bondage of the Will. Afterward, Luther continued to write. He translated the Bible into German (it was published in 1534). Luther also wrote hymns.

In his later years, Luther became strongly anti-Semitic. At first, he hoped the Jews would be converted to Christianity by his preaching. When that did not happen he turned against them. In 1543 Luther published a book called On The Jews And Their Lies. Luther said that Jews were a ‘base, whoring people, that is, no people of God’. Luther advocated burning synagogues and schools. He also said that Jewish teachers should be banned and Jewish prayer books and Talmudic writings should be confiscated.

In the latter part of his life, Martin Luther suffered from chronic illness. He died on 18th February 1546 aged 62.


Francisco Pizarro


Born: c. 16th March 1478
TrujilloCrown of Castile


Died: 26th June 1541 (aged c. 63)
LimaNew Castile


Spouse: Inés Huaylas Yupanqui


Military Service

Allegiance: Spanish Empire

Years of service: 1496–1542

Battles/wars: Spanish conquest of Peru

1st Governor of New Castile
26th July 1529 – 26th June 1541


Monarch: Charles I

Succeeded by: Cristóbal Vaca de Castro

Captain General of New Castile
26th July 1529 – 26th June 1541

In 1513, Francisco Pizarro joined Vasco Núñez de Balboa in his march to the "South Sea," during which Balboa discovered the Pacific Ocean. In 1532, Pizarro and his brothers conquered Peru. Three years later, Pizarro founded the nation's new capital, Lima. Pizarro was assassinated on June 26th, 1541, in Lima, Peru, by vengeful members of an enemy faction of conquistadors.

Early Years

Pizarro was born an illegitimate child circa 1476, in Trujillo, Spain — an area stricken by poverty. His father, Captain Gonzalo Pizarro, was a poor farmer. His mother, Francisca González, was of humble heritage. Pizarro grew up without learning how to read. Instead, he herded his father's pigs.

As a young man, Pizarro heard tales of the New World and was seized by a lust for fortune and adventure. In 1510, he accompanied Spanish explorer Alonzo de Ojeda on a voyage to Urabá, Colombia. Although the expedition was unfruitful, Pizarro proved he could be relied on in a bind.

March to the Sea

In 1513, Pizarro joined conquistador Balboa in his march to the "South Sea," across the Isthmus of Panama. During their journey, Balboa and Pizarro discovered what is now known as the Pacific Ocean, although Balboa allegedly spied it first, and was therefore credited with the ocean's first European discovery.

Ironically, Pizarro later arrested Balboa under the orders of Pedro Arias de Ávila (also known as Pedrarias), Balboa's rival and a known tyrant. Afterward, Pizarro stayed in Panama for a time, where he was awarded an estate, served as mayor of Panama City and amassed a small fortune.

Reconnaissance Voyages

In 1524, Pizarro teamed up with navigator Diego de Almagro and a priest named Fernando de Luque. The first of their reconnaissance voyages went as far as the San Juan River. The next gave Pizarro the chance to explore further south along the coast. In the meantime, Pizarro's chief navigator, Bartolomé Ruiz, forged across the equator and then returned with word of those regions south of the equator.

Conquering Peru and Death

In 1528, Pizarro went back to Spain and managed to procure a commission from Emperor Charles V. Pizarro was to conquer the southern territory and establish a new Spanish province there. In 1532, accompanied by his brothers, Pizarro overthrew the Inca leader Atahualpa and conquered Peru. Three years later, he founded the new capital city of Lima.

Over time, tensions increasingly built up between the conquistadors who had originally conquered Peru and those who arrived later to stake some claim in the new Spanish province. As a result, conquistadors were torn into two factions — one run by Pizarro, and the other by his former associate, Almagro. After taking Cuzco, Almagro engaged Pizarro and his brothers in the Battle of Las Salinas. Upon the Pizarro brothers' victory, in 1538, Hernando Pizarro captured and executed Almagro. On June 26th, 1541, in Lima, Peru, members of the defeated party avenged Almagro's death by assassinating Pizarro.


the royal huntof the sun


The Rt. Hon Lord Randolph Henry

Spencer-Churchill  MP

Born: 13th February 1849, 

Belgravia, London

Died: 24th January 1895, Westminster, London (Age 45)

Resting place: St Martin's Church, Bladon, Oxfordshire

Political Party: Conservative

Spouse: Jennie Jerome​ (m. 1874)​

Children: Sir Winston Spencer-Churchill, John Spencer-Churchill

Parent(s)John Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough
Lady Frances Anne Vane

Education: Cheam School & Eton College

Alma mater: Merton College, Oxford

Profession: Politician

Chancellor of the Exchequer
3rd August 1886 – 22nd December 1886


Leader of the House of Commons
3rd August 1886 – 14th January 1887

Leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons

3rd August 1886 – 14th January 1887

Secretary of State for India

24th June 1885 – 28th January 1886

Shaw earned a BAFTA nomination for Best Actor for his stunning performance.

A British politician who was a precociously influential figure in the Conservative Party and the father of Winston Churchill. He became leader of the House of Commons and chancellor of the Exchequer in 1886, at the age of 37, and seemed certain to be prime minister in due course, but his own miscalculation ended his political career before the year was over.


He entered the House of Commons in 1874 aged just 25. Until 1880 he exercised his talent for satirical oratory against the Conservative government of Benjamin Disraeli, earl of Beaconsfield. During William Ewart Gladstone’s Liberal ministry of 1880–85, he joined three other Conservatives—Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, John Eldon Gorst, and Arthur James Balfour—in forming what became known as the Fourth Party, which advocated a set of views announced as “Tory Democracy.”

Having served as unofficial private secretary to his father, lord lieutenant (viceroy) of Ireland from 1876 to 1880, Churchill was especially interested in the Irish problem. Though opposed to national Home Rule for Ireland, he favoured self-government on the local level and blamed shortsighted British officials for the Irish crisis of the 1880s.


The majority of the Conservative Party agreed with the Liberal government’s coercion policy toward Ireland, but Lord Randolph allowed the Irish nationalists, led by Charles Stewart Parnell, to understand that the Conservatives would oppose coercion in return for Irish votes in the general election of 1885. It was said that the Liberals underwent a forced conversion to Home Rule to counteract that promise.

Throughout this period, Churchill attempted to create a new Conservatism with a truly popular appeal and to secure power for the rank-and-file constituency representatives in the party’s central organisation. Older Conservative leaders, especially Robert Cecil, 3rd marquess of Salisbury, rejected his approach, and the party split in 1884 over Churchill’s election as chairman of the National Union of Conservative Associations.


Lord Salisbury and Churchill both made concessions, however, and the reunited party won the vote of confidence of June 1885, Salisbury becoming prime minister. Appointed secretary of state for India, Churchill, who had attacked British imperialism in Egypt and elsewhere, ordered the Third Anglo-Burmese War (November 1885), leading to the annexation of all of Burma (Myanmar).


He left office with Salisbury on February 1st, 1886, after a rupture between the Conservatives and Irish nationalists led to the Conservatives’ loss of most of the votes of the Irish bloc in the House of Commons.

When the Conservatives returned to power on July 25th, 1886, Salisbury appointed Churchill to the Exchequer and the Commons leadership. Evidently wishing to be the actual head of the government, Churchill alienated most of his colleagues; unable to effect a reconciliation, Salisbury waited for Churchill to defeat himself. He did so with his first budget, which, because it reduced the service estimates, was unacceptable to W.H. Smith, the secretary of state for war.


On December 20th, 1886, Churchill sent Salisbury his resignation contingent on the prime minister’s choice between the policies of the Exchequer and the War Office. When the prime minister backed Smith, Churchill published his resignation in The Times of London on December 23rd. He may have expected a popular outcry in his favour, but none was heard; since the budget struggle had been kept secret, the public considered his action pointless.

Although he remained in the House of Commons until his death, Churchill lost interest in politics and devoted much time to horse racing. His last years were tragic, a general syphilitic paresis deranging his mind and killing him slowly and painfully.

An attempted round-the-world journey failed to cure Lord Randolph of his debilitating illness. He started in the autumn of 1894, accompanied by his wife, but his health soon became so feeble that he was brought back hurriedly from Cairo. He reached England shortly before Christmas, and died in Westminster the next month.


The gross value of his personal estate was entered in the Probate Registry at £75,971 (equivalent to £9,000,000 in 2020). He is buried near his wife and sons at St Martin's Church, Bladon, near Woodstock, Oxfordshire.

His widow, Lady Randolph Churchill, married George Cornwallis-West in 1900, when she became known as Mrs. George Cornwallis-West. After that marriage was dissolved, she resumed by deed poll her prior married name, Lady Randolph Churchill. (Lord Randolph was her husband's courtesy title as the younger son of a duke and in English law does not qualify as a noble title in its own right.)


Lord Randolph's son, Sir Winston Churchill, died on 24th January 1965, aged 90, exactly 70 years after the death of his father, having lived twice as long.


The Sheriff of Nottingham

Name: Unknown

Office:  High Sheriff of
Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire
and the Royal Forests

Era: Medieval (1068)


The Sheriff of Nottingham is the main antagonist in the legend of Robin Hood. He is generally depicted as an unjust tyrant who mistreats the local people of Nottinghamshire, subjecting them to unaffordable taxes. Robin Hood fights against him, stealing from the rich, and the Sheriff, in order to give to the poor; it is this characteristic for which Robin Hood is best known. He is considered the archenemy of Robin Hood, as he is the most recurring enemy of the well-known outlaw.

It is not conclusively known exactly whom this character is based on, but it would have been one of (or a composite of multiple of) the people who have occupied the post of the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and the Royal Forests. If, as in many versions of the Robin Hood legend, the action of the story is placed during the absence of King Richard I of England during the Third Crusade, the character could be identified with the little-known William de Wendenal; however, the Sheriff more usually remains either anonymous or pseudonymous. 


The holder of the office of Nottingham's Sheriff, it is his task to capture outlaws such as Robin Hood, either to ensure the safety of trade routes through Sherwood Forest or to keep them from poaching the King's deer. In some stories, the Sheriff of Nottingham is portrayed as having a lecherous desire for Robin Hood's lady Maid Marian. He is widely considered to be the principal villain of the Robin Hood stories, appearing frequently alongside such enemies of Robin Hood as Sir Guy of Gisborne or John, King of England Prince John (though rarely both).  

Robert Shaw as the Sheriff seems to just be almost acceptingly weary of the whole inevitability of the Robin/Sheriff game of cat and mouse, of the battles between folk hero and upholder of the laws of the land and the whims of its rulers: in fact in the film they are shown to be men who as much as anything seem to be more just carrying out their expected roles, fates and duties, with a certain acceptance of that inevitability and there seeming to be a certain recidivism to the character and actions of Robin.

The ending which (spoiler alert) effectively involves a double suicide/murder/poisoning between Robin and Marian, is also not what would be expected from say a Hollywood take on the tales of Robin Hood. It is curiously both downbeat and also strangely affirming of the enduring love and acceptance between Robin and Marian, seeming to be a final acceptance of this being the only way out of an otherwise unending cycle of violence and conflict due to the inherent character and restlessness of Robin.

(Although Marian is not shown as at all weak willed, there is a certain dichotomy portrayed between her femininity and searching for peace and the opposite characteristics in Robin – something which is made more explicit in the film’s French title La Rose et la Flèche, which translates as The Rose and the Arrow.)


Acceptance as the years pass and an accompanying affection, even tenderness, seems to be some of the main themes of the film – between Robin and Marian, Robin and Little John and even a certain not-all-that-grudging respect and affection between Robin and the Sheriff, which includes a certain gentlemanly chivalry being shown during their final conflict.


Alongside the film’s open depiction of the ageing process and its effects, the final conflict between Robin and the Sheriff is shown in a more realist manner than is often the way in cinema, with the two men becoming relatively quickly increasingly physically tired and almost unable to fight due to their exertions and injuries.

Shaw's performance remains the most subtle and realistic portrayal of this famous fictional villain. 

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