What diseases did Henry VIII suffer from?

A serious accident changed the psyche and lifestyle of the English monarch, who ascended the throne in 1509 and to whom numerous exhibitions are dedicated that year.

Charles Dickens, who left the most classic Christmas story in English literature with "Christmas Carol", thought little of him: he was "an unbearable villain, a disgrace to human nature and a stain of blood and fat on the history of England". The man so scolded had been dead for more than three centuries when the writer was condemned. A tyrant was Henry VIII, who ascended the throne of England in 1509, exactly half a millennium ago and reigned until his death in 1547, undoubtedly. But the world might look very different without him. By breaking with Rome and the Catholic Church, his country took a separate path. Under his daughter Elizabeth I, it became the most important opponent of the Catholic world power Spain. Elisabeth laid the foundation for England's maritime rule and its overseas empire, which in turn is a prerequisite for the dominance of the English language today and the supremacy of the USA.

The man whom the German artist Hans Holbein the Younger portrayed in his famous oil painting in 1537 exudes strength and brutality. Heinrich also needed both of these qualities in order to overcome his own illnesses. Because the king was repeatedly plagued by health crises. The king, who came to the throne at the age of 18, could celebrate tournaments, drink and eat for days, so that he appeared to superstitious contemporaries like the incarnate. In a tournament he wore out ten exhausted horses. His immune system must have worked perfectly, because in 1514 he contracted smallpox. Seven years later he contracted malaria, which was then endemic to parts of England. The characteristic bouts of fever haunted him all his life.

However, skin ulcers on the legs were a real nuisance. This suffering was of a traumatic origin. At a tournament in the Palace of Greenwich on January 24, 1536, Henry VIII was thrown from his horse in full armor, and the mount also rolled over the monarch. He was unconscious for two hours, fearing for the king's life. But heavier than the concussion weighed the open wound on the thigh, which never healed properly. Worse still: the likely chronic infection spread to the surrounding area, skin ulcerations on the legs became the monarch's constant companions. Now, in the anniversary year that England is celebrating with numerous exhibitions about Henry VIII, a team of historians has described that accident as the turning point in his life. “We believe,” explains Lucy Wormsley, chief curator of Britain's Historic Royal Palaces, “that this tournament accident of 1536 is the reason for the change in personality from promising, generous young prince to cruel, paranoid, evil tyrant.” The accident had consequences not only for Henry, but also in his environment - very immediate and historically decisive: Anne Boleyn, his second wife, suffered a miscarriage at the news of the king's overthrow - the child was a boy, the heir to the throne Heinrich himself so much longed for. If Anne had given birth to the child alive - who knows what Europe's history would have been without an Elizabethan Age?

Not only the psyche, but also Heinrich's lifestyle changed due to the post-traumatic complications. The ulcerations on his legs put an end to his lifestyle, which was previously paved with physical exertion. Instead of playing tennis, dancing and riding, Henry, who had previously ridden ten horses a day to the point of exhaustion, now indulged in excessive joys of the table, often with 13 dishes a day washed down with up to ten pints of beer. Until a death (probably from congestive heart failure) on January 28, 1547, however, he was spiritually highly vital.
Roland D. Barley
Henry VIII: strength and brutality

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