His father Colin was a stockbroker and his mother Marianne was a house mum for years taking care of five boys. Henry's father isn't a native Channel Islander but his mother is.
“My upbringing was typically English: a traditional, big, male family. I went to boarding school,” Henry recalls. “All my brothers enjoyed acting in school, but we were never aimed in any direction. Our parents gave us a lot of freedom to do what we wanted. They helped us, they guided us, and they answered questions when we asked them, but they left a lot of our decisions up to us.”
Early years on Jersey
Henry's birthplace, the island of Jersey in the British Channel Islands off the French coast of Normandy is a very small island, nine miles by five. It's population is somewhere around 90.000. However Jersey is really interesting and beautiful and has an enormous history for its size.
“Jersey is a peaceful place but it has got a decent nightlife. Everything gets better in the summer because of tourists,” Henry says.
On Jersey he was educated at St. Michael's Preparatory School in Saint Saviour, where he began acting in school plays.
When Henry was 13 he was very eager to get off the island and go to boarding school.
“Jersey is a beautiful place, absolutely stunning, and a wonderful place to visit. But growing up there, it's very small. You see the same people an awful lot. By the time I was thirteen, I was quite ready to get off the island. That's why I was very keen to go to boarding school. But as soon as I went to boarding school, I was horrendously homesick and was keen to get away…” he recalls.
Boarding school in Stowe
So in 1996 Henry went at Stowe, Buckinghamshire, the archetypal English Boarding school with a Latin motto taken straight from the Middle Ages: Persto et Praesto (“I stand firm and I stand first”). The boarding school shaped much of his personality and steeled him for “the rejection and disappointment” of the acting world.
“Boarding school was as rough as it can be but it was a wonderful, fantastic education, which really prepped me for my acting career. You've got to have a lot of self-discipline and not get down on yourself. School gave me that preparation of being away from home and having no immediate support base.”
At Stowe Henry took part in school stage productions of Shakespeare. “The education was great but I didn't fit in very well. I wasn't popular. I came late in the first quarter. When I arrived, the boys had already formed their cliques. Also I was rather the short fat one who everyone told to bugger off. I had received a good education, but I wasn't prepared for life in society. It's partly why I turned to acting because it demands that you play a character, and you become that character, no one can tell you to bugger off,” he remembers.
In school Henry had an interest in ancient history and Egyptology in particular. “There was a historical fiction writer named Christian Jacq who wrote a series of books, sort of Egyptology-based, and I really enjoyed them,” he explanes.
Henry was planning to study Egyptology in University, and then join to the forces as his two eldest brothers: “I thought, 'If I'm going to study something, why not make it something I really enjoy?' The idea was to get a degree in ancient history or Egyptology and have the armed forces sponsor me through university. And join the armed forces afterward.”
As the second youngest of five brothers, Henry is naturally drawn to hand-to-hand combat and a love of sports. In boarding school he played rugby, field hockey, and cricket. “I'm from a family of six men, so I'm bound to be physical,” Henry says. His best childhood memory is to play fights with the whole family.
Was it difficult being the sensitive type in the company of four rambunctious brothers? “I had a good balance,” Henry says. “I wasn't leaping around in leotards or being moody and poetic. I was playing rugby and hockey, and I had signed up for school military.”
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In contrast to most of his young compatriots who have also achieved success in Hollywood, Henry Cavill didn't attend any of the prestigious drama schools for which London is famed, instead he found himself with the transition from an ordinary school desk to the film set.