On the head, Henry: boots found in King's wardrobe

Henry VIII was known for his girth as much as his cruelty to his wives, but he may have also been an athlete of sorts.

An academic claimed yesterday that the Tudor monarch had a pair of football boots.

Dr Maria Hayward, a textiles expert at Southampton University, who has studied a list of 17,000 pieces of clothing and other possessions owned by the King, said that he may have owned one of the first pairs of purpose-built football boots.

The shoes, costing four shillings, were made by his personal shoemaker, Cornelius Johnson, in 1525 and were found by Dr Hayward in an inventory of the king's clothes made when he died in 1547.

The entry in the inventory is a request for "one pair sotular [a latinised Saxon word for shoe] for football". Dr Hayward, from the Textile Conservation Centre at Winchester School of Art, said the boots were more expensive than those the King used for jousting, indicating that they were made of European leather.

Football in the 16th century was a violent game where there were few rules and plenty of casualties. The sport was banned in 1548 on the ground that it incited riots.

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