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Early Personality Signs

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Even the color of her guitar hasn't changed in fifteen years!

Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work is pure and whether it is right.
Proverbs 20:11
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Some personality traits are just phases. Others come and go, and some stick with you for your whole life. This is when a character has a personality trait that is hinted at in their infancy or early childhood (let's make eleven or twelve the age limit), normally Played for Laughs.

This could take the form of wanting to have the job that they now have when they grow up, or it could be something they actually do or say. This might be pretty straightforward (e.g. a character who's now an activist is seen holding a sign as a kid) but it might also be something that many babies or small children do, but in this case, it's a sign— for instance, a pessimist who cried a lot as a baby, or an energetic person who gave up naps early.

In these cases, the parents and/or other older characters will often dismiss it as "just a phase", which is either played as a gag to begin with since we know that it's not, or a Time Skip cuts to them much older and still doing it.

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May overlap with Baby's First Words, Minor Kidroduction, Child Prodigy, Adorably Precocious Child, Spinoff Babies, Flashback to Catchphrase, Time Travel Episode (if they see what a child is like in the future or see what someone was like as a child) or Brainy Baby. Compare with Establishing Character Moment, when their early scene in a story establishes their character; that trope can overlap with this if they're first shown as a kid. Compare and contrast Childhood Brain Damage where an older character's personality is implied to be because of an injury when they were little, rather than something they naturally had since they were little. Also compare Weapon Jr. for when the gear someone uses is reflected in their younger self. Contrast Used to Be a Sweet Kid. Compare and contrast Kid Hero All Grown Up.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Food Wars! Erina Nakiri is a Teen Genius of cooking at the time of the story, known as the possessor of "God's Tongue" for the unrivaled discrimination of her taste buds. A flashback shows that when she was a baby, the first words she ever spoke were to criticize the flavor of her mother’s breast milk. Since she was born into an elite family of the culinary world, they recognized this as a sign she was destined for greatness and did everything to encourage her precocious career.
  • I Think Our Son Is Gay: A Flashback in Chapter 11 shows that the stoic teenager Yuuri was deadpan and unemotive even as a baby.

    Comic Books 
  • Played for Laughs in Runaways, where Molly cheerfully reminisces about the time she beat Alex at a board game and he threatened to throw her down a well. She notes that this is a way less funny story since Alex nearly killed them all for messing with his plans.
  • Superman's Pal: Jimmy Olsen (2019): Small moments in the comic demonstrate that Jimmy has always been an impractical dreamer, Janie has always been anti-establishment and grouchy, and Julian has always been money-obsessed to the point of unethical behavior.
    • Jimmy gives a bizarre series of responses to the standard "what do you want to be when you grow up?" and dumbfounds Julian by being more interested in accumulating butterflies than cash.
    • Janie has always been interested in doing anti-establishment plays.
    • Julian set up a "how to get rich" booth which was a front for him to bilk his customers of their money, given that all the advice they got was to do likewise to get cash out of "suckers".
  • The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye: Zeta Prime's first appearance is, chronologically, his last and portrays him as an insane Knight Templar with a god complex who Can't Take Criticism. Later on, we get quite a few flashbacks to when Zeta was much younger and hadn't lost his mind; he's a friendly, cheerful Reasonable Authority Figure, but tends to get weirdly irritated whenever people fail to refer to him in sufficiently reverent terms...
  • The Transformers: Robots in Disguise: The final issue shows Orion Pax visibly upset at the sight of a smaller bot (Scrounge) being mistreated, moments after having been forged.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, wizard Ponder Stibbons is older and has married a woman who appreciates his gentle nerdiness. She is a career Assassin. They sort of settle down (while still following their respective careers) and find time to become parents of three daughters. At age three, the oldest daughter somehow imbues an imp from a pop-up book for children with full sentient life. She follows this up, in short order, by activating a Dreidel, given by a Cenotian family friend, as a magical device, with unpredictable results. The parents wince as their eldest begins a path that leads her to Witchcraft. Meanwhile, at age not-even-three, the next daughter down becomes obsessed with weaponry and its many uses. She frequently has to be dissuaded from playing with Mummy's working tools. Daughter Two is very clearly an Assassin from the cradle. And the third daughter is fascinated with the play of light and reflections on a sword blade. She is also engrossed in Daddy's magical books, Because "the calligraphy and the illustration is so beautiful." She isn't interested in swinging a sword or doing magic. But given crayons and poster paints and lots of paper... her own artistic gift begins to emerge.
  • Lincoln's Memories, a fanfiction about The Loud House:
    • Lori frequently says her Verbal Tic, "Literally", as early as age seven.
    • Leni is shown to have been ditzy as early as when she was six. At six she thinks a "milestone" in someone's life is a real stone, and wonders if baby Lincoln doesn't know where his food is supposed to go, at seven she wonders if Lincoln's news is that he has white hair, can't add one and one, gets 'nerves' and 'nervous confused, at nine she takes "riding into the sunset" literally, at ten she thinks Christmas spirit is a ghost, is only just learning to tie a knot, and wants the Easter Bunny's autograph. She can also sew, spills her Easter eggs, and says, "totes" at age ten.
    • 3-to-7-year-old Luna is seen quoting nursery rhymes, mirroring how her teenage rocker self quotes rock songs.
    • As a preschooler, Luan would do goofy things like eat like a dog and pretend she zips up her shoes and ties her zipper, hinting at her jokey personality. She is also seen telling jokes since age five and wanting a clown wig at eight.
    • Lynn at age three tries to do a trick with her dessert, plays games in the bathtub, is the first in her class to stop taking naps, then at age seven she wants to beat a Christmas elf in a footrace, demonstrating her energetic, show-off personality she has in the show. Seven-year-old Lynn also wants an extra soccer ball for good luck.
    • At age one, Lucy never smiled except briefly when given the cowgirl name the Dark Princess. She was also very serious at age two and wanted a teddy bear with vampire teeth for Christmas. At age three-going-on-four, she picks out a vampire card and a toy bat for Lincoln's birthday. At five, she wants to get a scar from a shark bite.
    • Lola cried a lot and had "no" as her first word as a baby, hinting at her bratty personality. At age two, she gives Lincoln a card with a ballerina on it, and a collage that is mostly glitter.
    • At age two, Lana gives Lincoln a birthday card with a lizard on it (hinting at her being an Animal Lover) and also gives him a jar of dirt, hinting at her love for the gross. At three, she wants to lick a shark bite clean, at four, she likes the 'stand in line to take a pee' lyric, at one, she eats dirt and sand.
    • Lincoln gets given sci-fi related gifts on his sixths and seventh birthdays and UFO underwear when he's being potty trained. He also makes a (failed, but still) plan at age four.
    • Clyde developed his crush on Lori when they first met.
  • Played half-seriously, but in A Man of Iron, Tyrion Lannister muses to himself that Joffrey showed signs of being a nasty little shit as a baby because he would crap himself so hard the smell would get everywhere. Which pretty much sums up his kingship.

    Films — Animation 
  • Brave: Younger Merida is shown begging for a bow and being happy to receive one for her birthday. As a teen, she's an Archer Archetype.
  • In Despicable Me, Gru is seen as a kid drawing himself on the moon and planning to build, then later actually building, a rocket. As an adult, he wants to steal the moon.
  • Frozen (2013):
    • The opening scene features a young Kristoff eagerly ice-harvesting with a young reindeer, Sven, by his side. As an adult, he's become a professional ice-harvester and is closer with Sven than with any humans.
    • The next scene shows a young Elsa sleeping in a very neat pose. When her younger sister wakes her up asking to play, Elsa tells her at first to play by herself - until her sister, with a knowing look on her face, asks if she wants to build a snowman. Then Elsa answers with a mischievous grin, and the two of them sneak into a bigger room to play with Elsa's snow powers. As an adult, Elsa is generally poised and reserved, but she has a rebellious side, especially when magic is involved.
    • The first thing Anna is shown doing as a child is asking her sister to play together. When her sister pushes her off the bed, she picks herself up and suggests an activity she clearly knows Elsa is passionate about and might change her mind - and does. As an adult, she is playful, resilient, and thoughtful.
  • Frozen II:
    • When Elsa and Anna are making up a story with the snow figurines, Elsa's focus is on the magic, talking about a "fairy queen who breaks [a] spell." When Agnarr tells them the story about the Enchanted Forest, she's mostly interested in the spirits and the Enchanted Forest itself, in contrast to Anna being mostly interested in the part about him being rescued and wondering why the fighting began. As an adult, Elsa is often motivated by a desire to explore magic, and at the end of the movie, she chooses to live in the Enchanted Forest to be with the spirits and explore the magic of Ahtohallan.
    • When playing with the snow figurines, Anna's focus is on the people and relationships: "Who cares about danger when there's love?" After Agnarr tells her and Elsa the story about the Enchanted Forest, she's mostly interested in the part about him being rescued and wondering why the fighting began, in contrast to Elsa being mostly interested in the spirits and the Enchanted Forest itself. As an adult, she is people-oriented and her defining quality is her big heart, constantly braving danger for her family's sake.
  • Inside Out: Whenever Riley does something as a younger child that ties into her established personality, it creates an "island" in her mind-dimension. Hockey Island was created when she played hockey as a preschooler, Goofball Island when she danced with underwear on her head and nothing else on as a toddler, and Honesty Island when she told the truth about breaking something as a preschooler. In addition, Joy was the first of her emotions to come into existence, hinting at her cheerful personality.
  • Moana shows the titular character being attracted to the ocean as a toddler and also being the only one not scared of the legend the kids were being read but in fact loving it. Her teen self is very brave and passionate about sailing.
  • The Princess and the Frog: When Charlotte is a little girl, she appears to be in a Princess Phase... only, it was never a phase and as an adult, she still obsessively wants to marry a prince. Tiana has also wanted to own a restaurant since she was a little girl and is shown being skilled at cooking from a young age.
  • In Puss in Boots, Puss is shown as a kitten fighting off some schoolyard bullies and meowing with a war cry inflection. As a full-grown cat, he's a martial artist.
  • Sleeping Beauty: In the opening scene, Prince Phillip, then a little child, gives a skeptical look upon seeing his future bride, Princess Aurora, in her cradle. This foreshadows how he will feel about marrying for politics when he's grown.
  • Zootopia introduces Judy Hopps as a child in a play about animal equality, declaring her desire to be a police officer to the whole school and standing up to bullies who say a bunny can't be a cop. This establishes both her career as a police officer and her refusal to ever give up on her dreams in the face of prejudice.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Back to the Future, Marty's Uncle Joey is in prison in 1985. When Marty goes back to 1955, he sees Uncle Joey as a baby. Turns out the infant Joey loves being in his barred playpen and cries whenever he's taken out.
  • Subverted in Dora and the Lost City of Gold where it seems as though Dora has not outgrown her childhood habit of randomly asking, "Can you say—?", but it turns out she's helping viewers of her vlog with the pronunciation.
  • Star Wars: There are some eerie hints of what's to come for young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace, like his near-total inability to accept being permanently separated from his mother, or impulsively refusing to heed Qui-Gon's commands to stay out of danger.

    Literature 
  • In Alice, Girl from the Future, the very first short story of the series features Alice as a three-year-old. She refuses to go to sleep in time, her father says he'll phone Baba Yaga if Alice continues to be naughty, and the girl is extremely interested and begs him to do so as she would love to meet the hag. That foreshadows Alice's plucky, adventurous and rebellious character that would develop by her preteens and early teens (her age throughout most of the series).
  • In Alvie Eats Soup, Alvie's first word was "mulligatawny" and he would only go to sleep as a toddler listening to recipes. Now, he only eats soup (until the end of the book, where he decides to only eat peas).
  • Daddy's Little Girl: Even as a seven year old, Ellie is shown to be very smart, observant and good at putting two and two together; these traits serve her well as an investigative journalist in adulthood.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg has been a Lazy Bum for a long time, as shown when he was four and would sing the clean-up song with his classmates but never do any actual cleaning. A later book shows that he remembers being a lazy, grumpy introvert even when he was in utero, never wanting to leave the womb and getting grumpy whenever his parents kissed.
  • In Harry Potter, Dudley Dursley learns the word, "Shan't!" (or "Won't" in the US release) as a baby. Flash-forward nine years and he's very stubborn.
  • Several examples in A Song of Ice and Fire.
    • When Renly Baratheon played as a child, he ran around the keep and shouted, "Look at me!" Maester Cressen sadly thinks that Renly does basically the same in the war - "Look at me, I'm the king!"
    • When Lysa Tully was a child, she used to hide whenever she did anything wrong, hoping her father's anger would just pass somehow. In her thirties, Lysa Arryn does the same, refusing to leave her lands while there is a war going on in the rest of the kingdom, a war started not without her assistance.
  • Temeraire: Dragons are sapient, fully intelligent at hatching, and capable of learning while still in the egg. The Hot-Blooded fire-breather Iskierka hatches in the middle of an attack and has to be restrained from immediately trying to fly off and fight their assailants.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Drake & Josh: One episode has the titular stepbrothers realize that when they were younger, the two had gotten in a fight over a foam finger at a baseball game. Both of them believe the other started the fight. Eventually, the vendor who sold them the finger is brought in to resolve the dispute. The vendor reveals that it was actually Megan, who was a toddler at this point, who instigated the fight by throwing a cookie at Josh, who naturally assumed Drake had done it. This foreshadows Megan's later role as a troublemaker who likes to antagonize her two brothers.
  • In Everything's Gonna Be Okay, Nicholas tells a story about how Genevieve once threw a tantrum and tried to kill herself when she was little. Fast forward to the present where Genevieve is still an angry and self-destructive girl, albeit less prone to suicide.
    "I don't remember this tantrum, but I stand by it."
  • Glee: The Camp Gay teenager Kurt comes out to his father, who says he's known since Kurt was three years old:
    Burt: All you wanted for your birthday was a pair of sensible heels.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • When he was five, Dr. Bashir fixed a teddy bear of his and it proved difficult, but he didn't give up. As an adult, he's a Determined Doctor.
    • Despite never really having a childhood, when Odo was first learning to shapeshift, he grew a tentacle and "hit" a scientist who was accidentally hurting him, hinting at his no-nonsense personality.
  • In Star Trek: Voyager, Seven of Nine is revealed to have been very stubborn at age six, refusing to (literally) come out of a closet. As an adult, she's still rather stubborn.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • The Bible gives us some examples of very early personality signs:
    • Rebecca felt Jacob and Esau fighting for dominance while they were still in her womb. They did so well into adulthood.
    • St. John the Baptist, at six months gestation, leaped with joy in his mother's womb when the Mother of God (also already pregnant at the time) came to see her.
    • A common interpretation of Proverbs 20:11 holds that a child's personality may indicate what they'll be like as a grown-up.
  • Greek Mythology: Heracles' very first act of fearless heroism as an infant was to strangle a pair of snakes that had been sent into his crib, foreshadowing the feats he would accomplish as an adult.

    Video Games 
  • Honkai Impact 3rd: Kiana has always been dorky since she's in her child age, but she also has shown the motivation of protecting people, a trait apparently inherent to the Kaslana bloodline, which makes her father proud. As of the present, she's working hard to protect the people of Arc City from the Honkai hordes and any other threats.
  • Moshi Monsters: When he was a baby, Zack Binspin would rub things in his hair a lot and sing into a fake microphone. Now, he's a singer who enjoys styling his hair.

    Webcomics 
  • Renee from Ennui GO! has had an interest in bondage ever since she was a newborn, getting herself tangled in her blanket every night. Likewise, her stoicism has been present since childhood.
    Izzy: Hey Renee, how long have you been into bondage?
    Renee: I am afraid I do not understand the question.
  • Homestuck: A Flashback shows that the Sibling Yin-Yang between the Cute Monster Girl Calliope and the Psychopathic Manchild Caliborn (aka the Omnicidal Maniac Big Bad Lord English) began as soon as they were hatched; the former was affectionate towards their caregiver, while the latter tried to maul him.
  • In Misfile, baby Emily managed to track down toy cars no matter where her mother put them away. This parallels their current dynamic pretty well, actually, with her mother not understanding what she sees in being a mechanic or racing and Emily loving both (despite only recently having been introduced, and so not very good at either yet).

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur:
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • In flashbacks, Child!Azula lights a doll on fire, tries to drown turtleducks and gleefully tells brother Zuko that their father is going to kill him - all indicators of her personality in the present day.
    • Meanwhile, Zuko stops Azula from lighting her friend on fire, worries if his uncle will be ok after his cousin dies and embarrasses himself in front of the Fire Lord with poor fire-bending, establishing his softer-hearted personality and desperation to prove himself.
  • Big Mouth: "The Planned Parenthood Show" shows Judd setting Leah's pigtails on fire at age five, foreshadowing his sociopathic tendencies as a teenager. It also has an infant Nick doing stand-up to foreshadow his interests in performing comedy. However, this was part of Elliot's anachronistic, painkiller-induced flashback and thus might not be entirely canon.
  • Bob's Burgers: "Hamburger Dinner Theater" reveals that Tina had social anxiety since she was a baby, where she couldn't even say her first word (instead emitting her trademark groan) with Bob and Linda watching her.
  • Futurama:
    • In a flashback to a baby Leela being found at the orphanarium in "Leela's Homeworld," she kicks the warden in the chest, foreshadowing her Action Girl tendencies as an adult.
    • "Luck of the Fryrish" shows Fry in a cradle shortly after his birth, fascinated by the spaceship on his mobile. This establishes his future love for sci-fi and eventual career working on a spaceship (with a Match Cut to the Planet Express ship to hammer it in).
    • The same scene also establishes Fry's brother Yancy as incredibly jealous of Fry, getting jealous of Fry's name "Philip" and stealing the spaceship off his mobile. Throughout Fry's childhood, we see Yancy constantly take credit for Fry's ideas and steal his stuff. Fry believes that Yancy even stole Fry's identity as an adult after Fry went missing in 2000. However, this ultimately proves to be a subversion: Yancy mellowed out as an adult, and rather than behave pettily and jealously, he expressed his love for his little brother by naming his son "Philip J. Fry."
    • According to Hermes' "I Am" Song in "How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back," he cried as a baby when a hurricane knocked his alphabet blocks out of order, and everybody (correctly) predicted he would become an uptight, highly-organized bureaucrat.
  • Inverted in The Legend of Korra: While we first see Toph as Da Chief of Republic City's police some 30 years earlier (a far cry from the 12-year-old Boisterous Bruiser she was in Avatar: The Last Airbender), we meet her again when she's past 80, where she's now much closer to her childhood personality.
  • The Loud House: All of the Loud children have hinted at their personality as babies and young children.
    • Lori has always been interested in phones ("Not a Loud"), and has been gassy and blamed her farts on others since she was one (the comic "It's Just a Phase").
    • Leni has been experimenting with fashion since she was one ("It's Just a Phase"), and was The Klutz as a baby (The Loud House Movie).
    • Luna had a loud cry as a baby ("It's Just a Phase") and now sings loudly. Also, as seen in "Not a Loud" and The Loud House Movie, she was always interested in music in general despite not becoming a rocker until later.
    • Luan gave people a Pie in the Face since she was one ("It's Just a Phase") and has been experimenting with stand-up comedy since she was eight ("Head Poet's Anxiety"). In The Loud House Movie, she was interested in sock puppets as a baby and once used an infant Lincoln as a ventriloquist dummy as a preschooler.
    • Lynn was interested in sports even as a baby, playing soccer with her family (The Loud House Movie) and trying to lift weights ("Not a Loud"). She was also "too competitive" at age one, beating up several toddlers to get the last cookie ("It's Just a Phase") and showing Unsportsmanlike Gloating to baby Lincoln after beating him at a game of four-in-a-row (The Loud House Movie). Now, she's a super-competitive athlete.
    • Lincoln used to take off his pants a lot at age one ("It's Just a Phase"). Now, he reads comics in his undies.
    • Lucy used to stare at people in a creepy way and didn't cry much as a baby ("The Crying Dame"), once played with a skull-themed rattle as a baby (The Loud House Movie), and buried the family's dead hamster at age one ("It's Just a Phase"). Now, she's a Goth who barely expresses emotion.
    • Lana has been shown to love mud as a toddler ("It's Just a Phase" and "Deal Me Out") and when she was a baby, she cried until they got to keep their cat, dog, and canary (the vlog and "Head Poet's Anxiety"), hinting at her Animal Lover personality.
    • Lola has loved to give things makeovers since she was one ("It's Just a Phase").
    • Lisa has shown signs of being a Child Prodigy, helping Lori with her homework as a baby (The Loud House Movie) and starting doing experiments when she was one ("It's Just a Phase").
  • Martha Speaks:
    • Carolina went through a Princess Phase when she was little and acted like a stereotypical Spoiled Brat princess. Nowadays, she's still bossy.
    • When Martha's brother Sarge was a puppy, he'd often snarl at her. Now, he's an Angry Guard Dog.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Applejack is seen once as a baby asking for apple fritters, showing that she's always loved apples.
    • Thorax was born smiling and scared of his mother Chrysalis, showing that he was the first nice Changeling.
  • In the Peg + Cat episode "Peg Meets Cat", Peg is seen as a very young child of about one or two already knowing how to add one plus one, which shows that she's always been Good with Numbers for her age.
  • In Peppa Pig, George's first word was "dinosaur", showing that he's loved dinosaurs since day one.
  • Subverted in the The Powerpuff Girls (1998) episode "Get Back Jojo." Mojo Jojo travels back to 1959 to prevent Professor Utonium from being inspired to create the Powerpuff Girls. When he enters a classroom and sees a nerdy boy in a tie rambling about science as current-day Utonium does, Mojo assumes it must be Utonium. Then the nerd gets yanked aside by a bratty kid, who turns out to be the real young Utonium.
  • An episode of Rocket Monkeys shows that the brothers have always been competitive idiots ever since they were babies.
  • Rugrats:
    • Angelica loves cookies and flashbacks reveal that she learnt to walk because she saw a cookie and (if she is to be believed) her first word was "cookie".
    • Chas is seen as a boy being scared of a rug, showing that he's always been nervy. Similarly, Chuckie, who's also nervy, walked for the first time while trying to run away from an ice cream van.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Lisa is seen changing her own diapers at Maggie's age, demonstrating that she was always smart, talented, and resourceful.
    • Bart is seen lighting Homer's clothes on fire at only ten minutes old, showing that he has always been a naughty kid.
  • In The Smurfs (1981), all Smurf infants' first words are said to hint at their adult personalities to come. For instance, Brainy's was "Gobbledygook", which hints at his saying big words, Farmer's was "fertiliser", and Jokey's was "surprise" (hinting at his love to surprise people with exploding gifts). Baby's first word turns out to be "Gargamel", which Papa Smurf takes as a sign that he recognises his enemy and will therefore grow to be a great leader.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Help Wanted", it is revealed that SpongeBob's very first words were "May I take your order?" In the present, SpongeBob works at a fast food restaurant as a model employee who's obsessed with his job. The special "Truth or Square" takes this further, to the point where SpongeBob fell in love with Krabby Patties while in his mother's womb!
  • Total Drama:
    • The character biographies often provide some information on the teenage characters' childhoods. For example, Noah was reading the ingredients on his cereal as an infant, foreshadowing his high intelligence as a teenager; the super-athletic, super-angry Eva broke a world record at age five with her roundhouse kick; and the feral Nightmare Fetishist Cloudcuckoolander Izzy howled at the moon from her crib as a baby and could only be soothed back to sleep with horror movie soundtracks.
    • The biographies for World Tour and Revenge of the Island have a question asking the contestants to give their favorite childhood memory, and most characters describe something related to their adult personality. For example, the charismatic Manipulative Bastard Alejandro smooth-talked his school bus driver into letting him drive as a child, and type-A organization-obsessed Courtney made her first to-do list while she was still in diapers.

 
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Henry VIII as a Child

Henry VIII remembers his boyhood days.

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