More on the Henry VIII jousting incident

The Independent ran an interesting article about the jousting fall in 1536 that will be in an upcoming documentary:

The jousting accident that turned Henry VIII into a tyrant

Medical study uncovers turning point in king’s life. Michael McCarthy reports

Henry VIII became the tyrannical monster remembered by history because of a personality change following a serious jousting accident, according to a new historical documentary.

After the accident – just before he became estranged from the second of his six wives, Anne Boleyn – the king, once sporty and generous, became cruel, vicious and paranoid, his subjects began talking about him in a new way, and the turnover of his wives speeded up.

The accident occurred at a tournament at Greenwich Palace on 24 January 1536 when 44-year-old Henry, in full armour, was thrown from his horse, itself armoured, which then fell on top of him. He was unconscious for two hours and was thought at first to have been fatally injured.

But, although he recovered, the incident, which ended his jousting career, aggravated serious leg problems which plagued him for the rest of his life, and may well have caused an undetected brain injury which profoundly affected his personality, according to the History Channel documentary Inside the Body of Henry VIII. The programme focuses on the king’s medical problems which grew worse in his later years, especially his ulcerated legs and his obesity: measurements of his armour show that, between his 20s and his 50s, the 6ft 1in monarch’s waist grew from 32in to 52in, his chest expanded from 39in to 53in, and, by the time of his death in 1547 at the age of 56, he is likely to have weighed 28 stone.

Robert Hutchinson, a biographer of Henry; Catherine Hood, a doctor; and the historian Lucy Worsley, who is chief curator of Britain’s Historic Royal Palaces, offer a picture of a sovereign eventually overwhelmed by health problems by the time of his death. His doctors recorded that he had badly ulcerated legs, was unable to walk, his eyesight was fading, and he was plagued by paranoia and melancholy.

Full article

The program will be on the History Channel in the UK, but I don’t know about the US channel yet. I’m sure it will show up eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later).


More on the Henry VIII jousting incident — 12 Comments

  1. Henry VIII did suffer two jousting accident one in 1524 and the other in 1536.
    I think theese two falls did result in brain damage and I think that the second fall he had was worse than his first but both bad enough leaving him with severe problems mentally and physically.His eating large portions of food may have been to do with how he was feeling emotionally or could have been where he had an obsession with eating like he had an obsession with cleaning.Also an obsession with women and sex.I am wondering and working out is whether his problems where just as a result of theese falls or whether he had any other substantial problems as a child and as a teenager.It could have been as a consequence of theese falls that it resulted in him having added extra problems on top.Theese falls may have damaged him further.
    Also the stress of consequent miscarriages and stillbirths that were happening first with Catherine of Aragon then with Anne Boleyn must have had a substantial effect.That was probably when the king was at a point in life were he thought God will not permit me heirs male.As he once said.Which was what he so desparerately wanted but god would only grant him female heirs or if it was a boy he would not live past his teenage years.As it was considered at the time that a woman couldn’t rule as well as a man could.I think further devastation came when he lost his legitimate son and if he lived till his legitimate son had died this would have caused him more worry.Henry VII was the only monarch to produce a healthy long living son something which Henry VIII couldn’t acheive.I think that this did play on his mind.Losing his mother after she died in childbirth must have took its toll because he had such a strong bond with her.It was she who brought him up and taught him how to write.He was just in a household surrounded by women with no male to talk or relate to.That was not until his father kept him in his clutches and under close guard after his mothers passing.His brother was brought up seperately in another household and also died in his teens like his own sons died in their teens.It was like history was repeating itself again.I think that he must have compared the loss of Henry Fitzroy with the loss of his brother and also the loss of Jane seymour after she died of childbirth with the loss of his mother.Equalling in the same consequences.

  2. I just saw Inside the Body of Henry VIII and have a few comments.

    I think it was interesting and good effort, but it was very superficial.

    They seemed unaware of a some of the facts of the era, such as that ale/small beer had an extremely low alcohol content. Also, though many dishes would normally be served at a meal, not everybody ate all of them. There knowledge of the bread of the time was also lacking. Though Henry and the court would have had the finest bread available, it was not the equivalent of white bread today. It was closer to whole wheat.

    The investigation of each proposed disease or condition that he could have suffered from was extremely brief and very unsatisifying. Also they completely overlooked other very likely diseases such as hypothyroidism. (I am severely hypothyroid and see several things in Henry’s later medical record that would be very much in accord with that.)

    On the whole, I think this was an interesting idea, but it deserves a much more in-depth investigation.

  3. Oh, dear. My lack of typing skills shows up again. Honestly I do know the difference between “there” and “their”. I apologize for that mistake. One of these days I’m going to make myself write my comments out on Word and run them through a spelling and grammar checker before I post them here (or anywhere else.) And I am seriously considering taking a typing course. Again, my apologies for my ridiculous mistakes.

  4. I saw the documentary last night and have to admit that I found the theory of Henry’s jousting accident in 1536, causing him a considerable personality disorder, very interesting. It had never occurred to me before that a physical ailment may have been at the root of the King’s tyrannical behaviour.

  5. The subject of concussion and frontal cortex injuries is getting a lot of

    study in 2012 and seems very valid … my example is an electric bicycle

    crash as I was descending a very steep hill and interferred with by a dog ..

    three days in trauma ward ..ok, but something different that can’t be

    identified .. (not violence) … retired after 6 months at age 61 … questions

    and comments are welcome ….billy

  6. For those who might have an interest in a modern day version of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, there is a play in preparation that will be available online. The play is called, “In the Real World” and it is a mystery, as much “To whom was it done?” as “Who done it?” Just to make matters more intriguing, Houdini puts in an appearance. I’ll post the full details when the show is finished. Please stay tuned.

    Roy Schreiber

  7. I find it exasperating that the article above never mentions the name of the documentary it discusses. Is it from a school newspaper? I parsed from the comments that it may be “Inside the Body of Henry VIII.” Is this right? And is it a one-off show, or is it a series?

  8. I think it was “Inside the Body of Henry VIII”, but as you mention, the linked article from The Independent (and the article I wrote about the day before from The Telegraph) never do mention the title. I hadn’t noticed that before! Since this was six years ago, I can’t remember for sure which documentary it was.

  9. On Las Vegas, NV PBS on or about 5-6-17….the Video presentation of Inside the Body of Henry VIII was shown.

    Have 2 cases in my own family wherein head trauma affected my brothers, and as well a friend hurt in an accident. They all developed short tempers, erratic behavior.
    It is my understanding that too often our prison inmates have histories of head trauma and/or defective limbic portions of the brain.

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