18/11/2012 12:15 GMT | Updated 18/01/2013 05:12 GMT

How King Henry VIII Influenced 21st Century Dating

Everyone knows him by name and by horrible song; King Henry VIII is one of the most iconic figures in all of history. As a history teacher, he is one I enjoy teaching about every year. Whether it's the fact that he married his dead older brother's wife, Catherine, or that he wanted a divorce so badly he started his own church, Henry's a trailblazer in many ways.

Additionally, here's a summary of his six wives: divorced, executed, divorced, executed, widowed. Plus, I haven't even mentioned the fact that his daughters are two of the most famous (and infamous) women in history. We all know what an extraordinary woman Elizabeth was and, be honest, who hasn't said 'Bloody Mary' in the mirror at some point?

If only there was reality TV in the day of the Tudors, I believe that they would have crushed the Kardashians in ratings. These aren't even the real reasons why Henry is one of the most unique people in history. I tell my students: Henry changed dating forever (especially 21st century dating) and in a way that no one has ever mentioned or even realised...until now.

A few weeks ago, I was out with my girlfriend and her friend when she asked me to invite a friend to keep her friend company, which is simple enough. I took out my iPhone and called my best friend. He answered, and I told him to come join us for drinks and "meet my girlfriend's pretty friend." He replied "Sounds good. Just text me a pic of her first." I refused and he didn't want to take a chance. Now, I can't blame him for wanting to see her first; so, I started to think about the origin of the act of texting a picture of a possible date. It finally hit me; it started with King Henry VIII.

After King Henry's fourth wife died, Henry was on the prowl for wife number five. This time, however, the King's ministers encouraged him to take a wife who could help secure England since, after breaking from the Catholic Church, Henry (and England) had become vulnerable and isolated in Europe. Two of the potential prospects were Anne and Amelia, sisters and the daughters of the Duke of Cleves. The only problem was Henry had no idea what they looked like, and he wasn't leaving England to meet them in person. So, he did what any guy would do in the present: he had them "text" him a picture first.

Obviously, there weren't iPhones yet (to Henry's dismay), so he did the next best thing: he had the royal painter, Hans Holbein, travel to Germany and paint their portraits. Henry gave Hans strict instructions to be as accurate as possible. Hans traveled to Germany, painted the sisters and brought back the portraits so the King could make his decision. This is the first recorded example in history of a man having his friend "text" a picture of a girl before meeting her. In the end, King Henry chose Anne over Amelia, but he was horrified when he met his German bride-to-be for the first time. She wasn't nearly as attractive as Hans painted. Six months later, Henry was single once again after he divorced Anne.