The historic Royal Hospital of St Bartholomew in London, more commonly known as Barts, was founded in the 12th century by a monk who wanted to provide free medical care for those in need. One of the reasons it continues to be a center of medicine today is thanks in some part to King Henry VIII.
The hospital functioned in conjunction with the nearby Priory of St Bartholomew, which was closed in the 1530s when King Henry was on his quest to dissolve all priories and monasteries in the city. The hospital, too, was in imminent danger of being shut down, when petitions were sent to the king pleading for it to be left alone. The people and authorities argued that it was crucial to help “the myserable people lyeng in the streete, offendyng every clene person passyng by the way with theyre fylthye and nastye savors.”
It took some time, but the monarch finally succumbed and in 1546 granted the hospital to the city of London, and it continued to serve the poor and needy. To thank him for this generous gesture, the hospital authorities decided to install a statue of the king on their northern gatehouse when they were rebuilding it… more than 150 years later.
The statue of the king, dazzling in his trademark clothes, was completed in 1702, and still exists. It is the only public statue of King Henry VIII in London. Standing right above the hospital’s main entrance, the much-married monarch is easy to miss if you are not looking.
Update as of March 2023: The statue is now available for viewing.
Know Before You Go
Find the West Smith Smithfield entrance. The statue is above the wrought iron gates to the left of a red phone box.