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HENRY VIII. was in his nineteenth year when he ascended the throne. He had an athletic form, and was uncommonly strong and active. His complexion was fresh and ruddy, and he had an alacrity and animation of manner that appeared to advantage after the gloom and reserve of the late king. His
understanding was shrewd and clear; he had received what was then thought a good education, and had more learning than most princes of his time. The pretensions of the two rival families of York and Lancaster were united in his person, and he was the first king since Richard II. who had ascended the throne with an undisputed title to it. He enjoyed great popularity, his father had left him an enormous treasure, and the country was free both from foreign and from domestic wars. In short, no king of England had ever begun to reign under more prosperous circumstances. But though free from all external foes, he had one implacable enemy that pursued him from the earliest to the latest hour of his life, and that enemy was his own violent temper.
For the first two years of his reign all went on well. He appointed a council of men of approved wisdom. He brought Dudley and Empson to punishment for their exactions in his father's reign, and he made advantageous treaties with France and Scotland. At the same time he was unboundedly extravagant in his amusements, and soon squandered much of his father's hoarded wealth in tournaments and other expensive amusements, to the great grief of his careful counsellor Fox, bishop of Winchester, who, finding his remonstrances unavailing, introduced at court the afterwards highly celebrated cardinal Wolsey, a man of inferior birth, but very shrewd and dex