May 19, 2024

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I Quit My Job As a Delivery Driver to Be a Henry VIII Impersonator

5 min read
I Quit My Job As a Delivery Driver to Be a Henry VIII Impersonator

This is an as-told-to essay based on a conversation with 24-year-old UK resident David Smith about his career as a Henry VIII impersonator. It has been edited for length and clarity. Business Insider has confirmed his previous and current employment. Smith declined to share his earnings.

I was eight years old when I saw a portrait of Henry VIII in all his regalia. I was mesmerized by it.

My passion grew from there: I spent my childhood reading my mom’s encyclopedias, buying Tudor books, and watching documentaries about Henry VIII and his six wives.

I studied the Tudors at elementary school and wanted to become a history teacher but my local high school didn’t teach Tudor history.

I ended up dropping out of school when I turned 17, and went to work in a factory and then as a delivery driver. During that time, my love of history still lingered in the back of my mind.

Everything changed when I found a Henry VIII outfit on Facebook Marketplace for £20 ($25) in 2021. I’d always wanted to own one, whether I’d wear it or not.

I decided to post a photo of myself wearing it on Facebook. Immediately messages flooded in telling me I bore a resemblance to the young King. A historical costumier saw the post and directed me to a reenactment group looking for a young Henry.

I debuted my impersonation with the group on a voluntary basis. During the week, I’d be in the factory, and then on the weekend, I’d self-finance my trips around the country to different palaces. The other reenactors and I would travel to heritage sites like Penshurst Place (a site once used as Henry VIII’s hunting lodge), where we would perform and walk around the grounds in character, educating people on the Tudors.

After a year, the high travel costs and exhaustion got to me, but I didn’t want to give up on being Henry. I decided to start doing it as paid work: I set up a business email address and a Facebook page and started getting in touch with palaces and historic workshops myself.

‘You have to believe that you are the king’

My current job is a long way from my career as a delivery driver, which I ended just last year.

I now work five days a week visiting schools, palaces, and other heritage sites. I adapt to what the venue wants: I do historical talks, live reenactments of historical events, and even Tudor dancing.

My job could be described as being half teacher, half method actor. Nearly every time I go into a school, a kid asks me, “If you’re Henry VIII, how are you still alive?” I usually reply, “Well, God wills it to be so,” and in some ways, I have to believe it myself.

To do the job well, you have to believe that you are the most important person — that you are the king. You have to believe that you were chosen by God. All that definitely gives you confidence that stays with you.


Henry VIII and anne boleyn impersonators

Smith with an Anne Boleyn impersonator at Hatfield House.

David Smith



Recently, I took part in a three-course banquet at the Old Palace in Hatfield House, an estate previously owned by Henry VIII and now owned by the Marquess of Salisbury. Visitors could dine with me and Anne Boleyn for around £80 ($100) per person.

The whole experience was as historically accurate as possible. My hands were washed for me, my food was cut for me, my goblet was refilled whenever I needed it, and everyone had to bow and curtsey to me.

Out of all the events I’ve attended, that was the one that made me feel most like Henry VIII. I felt how he must’ve felt being there and being served.

Becoming Henry


Tudor reenactment group

Smith with a Tudor reenactment group.

David Smith



Some people wrongly see Henry as just an obese, tyrannical despot of a King. While that’s reflective of the last years of his life, when he ordered the execution of thousands of people, that wasn’t always how he was. He was also a scholar and a well-mannered leader.

It’s incredible to see the excitement you see on kids’ faces when you go into schools, and they get to see this historic character brought to life.

While I’m not a traditional teacher, I still think of myself as one. I get all the good bits — meeting new pupils and sharing my passion for history — without the stress that teachers deal with.

After my visit, one school sent me letters to my home address: 30 letters from children expressing how much they loved my visit and shared all the facts they remembered. That was a particularly touching moment.

Life outside Henry

Unlike my old job, I have to take my role home with me.

My beard is cut in the same way Henry had his and although I’m naturally blond, I dye my hair and beard ginger to improve the resemblance.

It’s definitely taxing on my time. Every two weeks, I travel around 70 miles to practice traditional Tudor dancing with a group. And even when I come home from a long day at work, all I want to do is get straight back to learning more about the Tudors.

A lot of my earnings go back into the business. Each of my outfits is custom-made by historical costumiers to my exact measurements. Prices start at £2,000 ($2,500) — and that’s without all the extras that go with it: the rings, the chain of office, the medallions. I currently own two of these outfits.

Getting the money together takes me a while, but I pride myself on accuracy. I live and breathe it.

Most of my small circle of friends work in reenactment too, and they understand that this lifestyle is a defining part of who I am. My name is saved as Henry in most of their phones.

While my career may seem a long way off from other people’s jobs, I still have the same concerns and ambitions.

Trying to “make it” in any industry requires a level of sacrifice, be that on your time or your relationships. Perhaps the hardest thing is the fear of running out of bookings, like with any freelance job.

But all that matters to me is that I have enough to live on and keep investing in this passion. I don’t really care for buying a fancy house or fancy cars, I just want to earn enough to buy Tudor books and add to my collection of Tudor portraits.

I could never go back to a ‘normal’ job, I’ll keep doing this, even if one day it means having to take a pay cut.

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