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There must be no such thing as karma. Either that, or it has no bearing on the present-day star quality of Henry VIII. By all accounts, the real Henry was a horrendous brute (Dickens summed him up as "one of the most detestable villains ever to draw breath"). And yet, 500 years after his accession to the throne, he's being celebrated like a rock star on a comeback tour.

Despite his nasty nature, arguably no monarch is as enduring, or as oddly endearing, as Henry.

According to David Starkey, a biographer whose new series Henry VIII: Mind of a Tyrant airs on BBC's Channel 4, the Tudor king is no less than "the axis round which English history turns." Nowhere is this more apt right now than in London, which is awash in a cultural tide of Tudor-mania.

And yet the influence of this phenomenon - which first appeared on the radar with Philippa Gregory's historical bestseller The Other Boleyn Girl (also a period-film catfight starring Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman) and the popular Jonathan Rhys-Meyers TV bodice-ripper The Tudors - is now crossing borders and genres.

Starting this month at Hampton Court palace, reputedly the fave of the king's 55 residences, there will be a year-long program of exhibitions and events called Henry VIII: Heads And Hearts (a ghoulish website sales pitch from a talking-head Henry impersonator: "I'm getting married again! Join us for the wedding celebration!").Also opening this month is Henry VIII: Man and Monarch, an exhibition of official documents, maps and books from the king's personal library, the highlight of which is a love letter that declares his "unchangeable intention" to marry Anne Boleyn.

The Tower of London's collection of the king's own armour, which displays, in incontestable detail, Henry's transformation from his Rhys Meyers-like slim-hipped youth to his later, fat Elvis days, has also been dusted off for a special exhibition, cheekily named Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill.

Across the pond, meanwhile, Vivat Rex! is a show in Manhattan's Grolier Club of Henry portraits, books and memorabilia, drawn from the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Houghton Library at Harvard and the Morgan Library and Museum (special treat: a really gross portrait of Henry at his toadiest).

And the third season of The Tudors, which draws close to a million viewers a steamy episode, launched this month on Showcase, followed by the news that it will be coming back for a fourth season.

Speaking of seasonal renewals, it is worthy of note that Tudor style, in the form of darker woods, velvet and damask, has already made a resurgence in fashionable interiors. I've already written about the strangely medieval revival of public jousting represented by both reality elimination television and American Gladiator. And a couple of fashion seasons ago, when courtly brocade, chunky coloured jewels and Henry-esque silhouettes of tunics over leggings started creeping back into our wardrobes, I was intrigued by the confluence of the Tudors series and Tudors inspiration in fashion.

Interestingly, this spring also features some Henry-era notes: puffed and slashed sleeves, capes and mantles, chain mail and metal "armour," tight "jerkin" style jackets and shoes with ankle straps and tie-up lacing.

Most fascinating this quincentennial week (the actual anniversary was Wednesday), however, was a paparazzi shot of none other than bad girl Lindsay Lohan dressed like a modern-day Henry VIII in a pair of slashed designer legging-like jeans over Ann Demeulemeester lace-up booties on the streets of Los Angeles. Typically described in the fashion mags as "rocker chic," the roots of this ready-to-rumble look, of course, are purely Tudor.

For part of what must make Henry VIII enduring as a style icon is that he is an early poster boy for baaadness: a fleshy cartoon of a monarch flinging half-eaten joints of beef from his oaken table whilst ordering the beheading of yet another unfortunate queen. If one had to put a (greasy, puffy, beringed) finger on the nature of his particular appeal, it would probably be something along the lines of Mel Brooks's happy hedonist in The History of the World Pt 1, who looks up at the camera after rubbing his mug in the breasts of a row of young maidens and sighs, "It's good to be king." You do get the feeling that as nasty as Henry was, at least he had some fun with it.

And isn't that what we all secretly desire, in these highly regulated, sensitive and aware times? That we could be as bad as we want to be - flip even the Pope the finger - and not only get away with it, but like the king of bad-tempered, hard-living rock stars, live for 500 years to tell the tale.

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