Henry VIII: Fit, Fat, Fiction by Kyra Kramer

Henry VIII, after Holbein

Henry VIII, after Holbein

I'm delighted to welcome Tudor Life magazine contributor and freelance academic Kyra Kramer to the Tudor Society today as part of the booktour for her latest book, Henry VIII's Health in a Nutshell. I hope you enjoy her article.

MadeGlobal Publishing is giving away a paperback copy of Henry VIII's Health in a Nutshell to one lucky commenter here at the Tudor Society. Simply leave a comment on this post saying what you'd like to know for sure about Henry VIII's health. Leave your comment by midnight on 24th December. A winning comment will be picked at random and the lucky winner contacted via email after Christmas.

Henry VIII was fat. Well, he was only fat during the last dozen or so years of his life, but most people have forgotten his 40 years of god-like athleticism because all the most iconic images of him show the "fat Henry" of popular imagination.

Henry has become associated with fat. It is a rare documentary or book that does not bring up the fact that Henry eventually had a 54 inch waist. It's reputed that three men could fit in his doublet. People were so confused that the Henry depicted in The Tudors and Wolf Hall was thin that newspapers ran articles explaining that the king was only obese in his later years. Moreover, Henry's ill health is implied to be a manifestation of his weight, and therefore his sloth and gluttony, the end result of his failure to control himself. Henry's fat thus fits the cultural narrative of the kind of impulsive, self-serving man who would behead his wives and leave his church. Fat Henry is analogous with Tyrant Henry.

With Henry's reputation for fat has come increased speculation that he had type II diabetes. Not only is he theorized to have had type II diabetes, this disease is becoming increasingly mentioned as the underpinning causal factor in Henry's ill health, from his ulcerous legs to his reproductive difficulties. Where syphilis once reigned supreme in the court of Henry-had-this, type II diabetes has arisen to usurp the position of illness most often ascribed to Henry VIII. Perhaps more people think Anne Boleyn had six fingers, but Henry the type II diabetic is definitely becoming a Tudor "known".

In my latest book, Henry VIII's Health in a Nutshell, the king's weight is important in my examination of the theory that he had type II diabetes. Frankly, I think it is likely that Henry did develop this disease at the end of his life... but not in the way people believe and not as a factor in the majority of his ailments. The popularity of type II diabetes as a scapegoat for nearly all Henry's maladies is due more to the fact that the link between adipose tissue and this illness is wildly overestimated by the general public than it is to any valid data. As I explain in the book:

This is probably a shock to most people, since the correlation is implied in almost every media report about type II diabetes or the ‘obesity’ epidemic, but in reality almost half of all type II diabetes sufferers are of normal weight and the large majority of obese people will never develop the disease. Type II diabetes occurs when the body can no longer process insulin correctly, and is a metabolic disease that can strike regardless of the patient's weight. Genetics and poverty, rather than weight or diet, seems to be the biggest factor in type II diabetes... being poor also doubles (or triples) your risk of type II diabetes, even when ALL other factors - including weight - are taken into account. Nevertheless, obesity and type II diabetes are so often studied together that general misinformation linking them remains strong even in the medical community. What can be correlated to both obesity and diabetes is a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting at work and then coming home and sitting some more (usually in front of the TV) "were both associated with significantly increased risk of diabetes in multivariate analyses adjusting for dietary and nondietary covariates"1. Basically, sitting down too much is a bigger risk to your health than almost anything else, including what you eat and what you weigh ... The king did not attain truly gargantuan proportions until after he was bedridden and unable to ride any longer... Henry's sedentary existence would have subsequently encouraged the development of type II diabetes, which would have caused attendant venous ulcers and depression which would have in turn made it harder for Henry to move or get exercise.2 Henry would thus have become trapped in a perpetual circle of worsened health until, wherein his ailments fed and sustained one another in a kind of ‘perfect storm’ that only ended with his death in January of 1547.3

In sum, Henry probably gained weight and developed type II diabetes because he had become ill for some other cause or causes, rather than becoming ill and developing type II diabetes because of his obesity. As long as Henry was still active then his health would not have been adversely affected by his weight, even after he crossed the "severely obese" threshold of 35 BMI.

There is scant evidence that Henry had type II diabetes before the last few years of his life. The arguments for Henry's type II diabetes diagnosis prior to the 1540s are his leg ulcers and his reproductive record. However, the leg ulcers were much more symptomatic of osteomyelitis in both duration and placement than they are of complications of type II diabetes. It wasn't until the king was sedentary that the kind of sore typical to type II diabetes -- venous ulcers on the lower leg -- appeared. Henry's reproductive record does not correspond to type II diabetes either:

Miscarriage due to diabetes is typically linked to the mother having diabetes, not the father. Although superstructure defects in the sperm of male diabetics can increase the chances of a miscarriage in their partners, these miscarriages would occur early in the first trimester because the embryo would be nonviable. The more common side effect of diabetes is erectile dysfunction and low sperm count, which could explain the lack of pregnancies in his marriages to his fifth and sixth wives, but could not account for the frequent pregnancies and subsequent late-term miscarriages experienced by his first two queens.4

Not only did Henry's body not axiomatically give him type II diabetes, it might have been a health advantage. Type II diabetes demonstrates what researchers call the "obesity paradox", in that rather than hurting the patient, excess adipose increases survival rates. As counterintuitive as it seems to the modern reader, overweight people with type II diabetes live longer than normal or underweight people diagnosed with the same illness. Henry's large body mass may have aided his longevity until he crossed the threshold of 30 BMI, or even higher according to some studies.

*I'm aware my facts about weight and health are going to cause some people to blow a gasket. The idea that overweight people live longer than "normal" or "thin" people is causing some people – even those in the "evidence based" medical community - to become very upset. In fact, they get so upset they are even hostile to the research regardless of its statistical validity. This is caused by the cognitive dissonance of a paradigm violation. The paradigm we've grown up with is that fat=bad=shortened lifespan, whereas thin=good=lengthened lifespan. Doctors have grown up in that paradigm too, and it has been presented as an immutable "truth" for decades. People do NOT like having their paradigms shifted. They resist. Evidence that contradicts the "truth" is both suspect and rage-inducing. I've read entire papers discussing the oddity that fat people who don't diet live longer than yo-yo dieters, yet that paper ends with the discursive advice that fat people should go on a diet to get their weight under control or their health will suffer. This means that the internet is chockablock with articles trumpeting that the fact that overweight people live longer is a "lie". Nonetheless, the math bears witness; in metadata studies of obesity there is statistically significant proof that overweight people live longer and exercise is more important for health than being the "correct" weight.

Do make sure you visit Kyra's other stops on her book tour to enjoy her excellent articles and to take part in the giveaways. Here's the schedule:

Kyra KramerKyra Cornelius Kramer is a freelance academic with BS degrees in both biology and anthropology from the University of Kentucky, as well as a MA in medical anthropology from Southern Methodist University. She is the author of Blood Will Tell: A Medical Explanation of the Tyranny of Henry VIII, The Jezebel Effect: Why the Slut Shaming of Famous Queens Still Matters, and Henry VIII's Health in a Nutshell. Her essays on the agency of the Female Gothic heroine and women's bodies as feminist texts in the works of Jennifer Crusie have been published in peer-reviewed journals. She has also co-authored two works; one with Dr. Laura Vivanco on the way in which the bodies of romance heroes and heroines act as the sites of reinforcement of, and resistance to, enculturated sexualities and gender ideologies, and another with Dr. Catrina Banks Whitley on Henry VIII.

Ms. Kramer lives in Bloomington, IN with her cute geeky husband, three amazing young daughters, and assorted small yappy dogs garnered from re-homing and rescues. When not working she reads voraciously, plays video games with her family, does cross-stitch, and invents excuses to procrastinate about doing routine house cleaning.

You can read her blog at kyrackramer.com, or follow Kyra Cornelius Kramer on her Facebook page or Twitter.

Notes and Sources

  1. Hu FB, Li TY, Colditz GA, Willett WC, and Manson JE. 2003. “Television Watching and Other Sedentary Behaviors in Relation to Risk of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Women.” JAMA 289 (14): 1785–91. doi:10.1001/jama.289.14.1785.
  2. Hu, Frank B. 2003. “Sedentary Lifestyle and Risk of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.” Lipids 38 (2): 103–8.; Katon, Wayne J., Carolyn Rutter, Greg Simon, Elizabeth H. B. Lin, Evette Ludman, Paul Ciechanowski, Leslie Kinder, Bessie Young, and Michael Von Korff. 2005. “The Association of Comorbid Depression With Mortality in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes.” Diabetes Care 28 (11): 2668–72. doi:10.2337/diacare.28.11.2668.
  3. Kramer, Kyra (2015) Henry VIII's Health in a Nutshell, MadeGlobal Publishing.
  4. Ibid.

There are 54 comments Go To Comment

  1. melanie taylor /

    Great article. At last someone who is giving a reasoned argument as to Henry’s size etc. Holbein created the visuals of the ‘fat’ king, thereby adding to the myth & David Starkey had called this portrait ‘the first portrait of a fat man’!

    My mother had type II diabetes, brought on by chronic alcoholism, so do we know Henry’s daily intake of alcohol and would the alcohol element have added to hia various ailments – including his irascibility? My mother became a Jekyll & Hyde monster much like H8! I am just grateful she didn’t have the power to send me to the Tower otherwise my head might have parted company from my shoulders!

  2. Suzanne /

    Thank you once again for a well researched an insightful article. The portrait that everyone remembers, of an obese man with his arms akimbo on his hips, denies the fact that for most of his life, Henry was extremely fit and referred to as the most beautiful prince in Europe. What a shame that his life would be forever changed by an accident resulting in an immobile king who became more ill thus not able to get the exercise he was used to.
    We tend to forget Henry VIII was an athletic champion – who excelled at tennis, equestrian activities and wrestling for instance. A very active man, suddenly unable to do what he loved.
    I have not read before about the Type II diabetes connection, but it does make sense. Thank you for correcting our misconceptions and educating us on this very interesting subject.

  3. Nikki /

    I am a doctor (emergency department) and am too glad that you have written a sensible analysis. I have believe from the evidence I have read that the ulcers were most likely due to osteomyelitis in terms of when they occurred, how long they lasted and the degree of pain that has been described. This diagnosis would more likely lead to his inability to continue to be active.
    The personality change I think was probably a brain injury following the fall in 1836, after which he was more than likely unconscious for a significant time according to reports. Definitely indications for an urgent CT scan nowadays!
    He may also have suffered from depression following him being unable to partake in his favourite activities?
    The fertility is more difficult to explain (maybe the lack of pregnancies with his later wives could purely be due to difficulties with his size).
    Rather than try to explain all his problems with one diagnosis, it is indeed possible that he had multiple problems.

  4. Maya /

    This is a great article! I had previously read theories that Henry VIII had diabetes, and what I wonder is how the second jousting accident may have played a role. It’s been written that that accident re-opened a previous injury/sore on his leg, which then became infected and caused cycles of pain. I wonder if this played a role, when his sore was acting up he couldn’t joust, ride horses, play tennis, wrestle, etc. as he used to and the subsequent periods of inactivity helped to cause him to develop diabetes.

  5. Barbara Trainin Blank /

    Great article, indeed! My question is: Is there any evidence that Henry suffer from some form of erectile dysfunction, as, I believe, George Boleyn implied?

    Thank you.

  6. Dawn /

    Certainly, Henry as a young man was thought to be fit, handsome and attractive. So, something obviously did happen to change that in his later years. I’m interested in genetic links. Henry VII always appeared very gaunt in his portraits. Did Henry or Elizabeth have any conditions which Henry might have inherited? Also, might venereal disease have made him fat and bloated (as mentioned in Shakespeare’s work)? Later portraits show Henry as not simply fat but bloated with it.

  7. Nikki /

    Another alternative could be heart failure so that he had oedema of his legs (also predisposing to ulcers) and this could have made him look bloated too. In the Holbein painting he almost looks like he is on steroids! However any condition of his adrenal glands causing this appearance, would have killed him quite quickly back then.

  8. Leslie /

    Excellent article! Looking back at health issues – beyond bleeding & leeches – is an interesting lens through which to view the Tudor Court & the life & times of people living real lives in that era. Maybe hind sight really can be 20/20!

  9. John Boulter /

    If you look at his life style he was a first class sportsman of his time, look at his suits in the Tower. Beer was drunk in place of water then as the water was undrinkable in most places

    As for being poor in bed it has been said that Cartherine Howard used to be able to get him to rise to the occasion still.

    Enjoyed it thank you

  10. selkie /

    Very interesting article. I have read many sources that assert that heavier people live longer than those that are underweight (and the gradual lowering of the “ideal weight”, mainly put forth from insurance companies, especially since.the 1950’s). Unfortunately, this fact is mostly ignored or criticised because the effect it would have on the multi-billion diet industry in this country where money talks louder than facts.

    Does the book touch on mental health as well?

  11. Julie Rogers /

    This looks an incredible, informative and interesting read. I have always wondered about his wives pregnancies and miscarriages. Also what part his diet played on his failing health. They ate so many animals then which are not eaten now.

  12. Diana Rubino /

    Great article, Kyra. I always wondered if Henry ever carried an STD, but never heard any evidence that he did or that he transmitted any STDs to any of his wives. Have you come across anything in your research?
    Also, re: the claim that overweight people live longer: I’ve never heard this before, and have heard the claim that there are no fat 90-year-olds.
    Thanks, Diana

  13. Mary E. McMahan /

    We have long needed a well researched, well presented explanation of Henry’s physical health issues. Thank you, great article.

  14. Nikki /

    Regarding the weight issue. Being underweight in old age has been shown to be a disadvantage. Being overweight as a child is also not good. So where the overlap is, possibly not yet confirmed. The rate of weight loss OR gain also seems to have an influence.

  15. Sandra Jean Kennedy /

    I cannot wait to pick up this book…I have always wondered about the type II diabetes and if that was any indicator of his mental health. I really loved this article and I hope that others will enjoy it very much

  16. Elizabeth Smith /

    I know that only George III’s medical history is more scrutinised than Henry’s, but perhaps it’s time we had a serious and in depth look at Edward IV.
    In many ways Edward is a dress rehearsal for Henry’s physical decline, but with the exception of the execution of Clarence ( and I accept the case for King Richard in the light of the canon law surrounding marriage in force at the time) Edward experienced no parallel psychological decline. He remained basically a decent human being.
    Medicine and history are fascinating subjects, when you think about it. You see the Mendelian pattern of porphyria in the descendants of Elizabeth of Bohemia, including both the Hanovers and the Hohenzollerns, while Charles I escaped the taint – the Kaiser’s sister Charlotte and her daughter are I think the best recorded C20th cases. It disappears in the English Royal family after Queen Victoria, though recently I found a comment by Wellington in old age that it was a mercy Princess Charlotte did not survive to take the throne.
    Sorry to ramble, but the point is, maybe we should look closer at Edward IV.

  17. Brittany Zayas /

    Love this article. Really interested in the book. As a long-time Tudor nerd, the idea of Henry as a big fat guy when he was once considered the hottest Prince of Christendom bothers me so much. Though HBO’s the Tudors kept him thin for far too long !
    My question is: how do you think Henry’s physical health situation affected his mental health?

  18. Anna Kreeft /

    Excellent article, my question is could the Ulcer be from osteomyelitis ?

    1. Nikki /

      Very much so (see my comment above). the one that starts “I am a doctor” – I believe this is the best explanation.

  19. Buck /

    What I should like to know for sure would be the state of Henry’s mental health, most specifically after his injury in the jousting accident. To know one way or the other would explain a great deal about his reaction to many events subsequent to that incident. Was he as clear of mind as he was when young and fit or did it negatively impact how he saw or understood or interpreted what was transpiring around him?

  20. Elizabeth Smith /

    I have heard it argued that it is better for a elderly person today to be overweight than of a “healthy” weight or slim, if only because they have a better chance of surviving a hospital stay in decent shape. They head towards malnutrition the minute they are admitted to hospital.
    My experience is that an old person in hospital needs a relative standing by to ensure an adequate standard of care and that includes nutrition and hygiene.
    Granted the care Henry would have received would not have been deficient by the standards of the day, but powdered pearls on that leg ulcer……

  21. Maureen /

    I am interested in the ramifications of the 1536 jousting accident and how that lead to the remainder of his life of ulcers, ill health, ferocious temper and sheer crankiness.

  22. Barbara Boothe Loyd /

    Henry’s jousting accident and unconsciousness for several hours indicates a severe concussion. Were there any detailed writings about the accident by his physicians? His personality changed so dramatically following the event that there must be a connection although it must have been misunderstood during his lifetime. His decision to rid himself of Anne Boleyn shortly after the accident leads me to believe his mind was not normal, perhaps for the rest of his life. I hope a portrait of Henry in his handsome youth will turn up one day. The diabetes II probability makes sense when we view the Holbein portrait of Henry.

  23. Lenaya /

    Very well written. Lots of great information and interesting to read. Was there the possibility that the diabetes was passed on to his daughters and son?

  24. frank frankovich /

    Henrt #8 is the most fascinating figure in english history. Can’t get enough on him.

  25. Carol Clements /

    Has anyone ever offered an explanation to Henry’s jousting accident? I believe he was out for the count for some time. Could this have affected his moods.
    He became ruthless after the accident. Such a contrast to his youth.
    The new book certainly sounds interesting. I know nothing about diabetes so perhaps I would learn something new.

  26. Bob /

    All we know is that Henry was athletic in his youth and obese in later life. He had an ulcer on his leg that never healed as well as numerous other injuries from athletics. The sketch I have seen of the inside his tomb demonstrates a irreverence to his status and contains the remains of a foreign king with all the coffins strewn about. I say open the tomb – learn all that is possible of everyone within then give them a dignified burial including Charles I .

  27. Ceri Creffield /

    Henry’s health is one of the most fascinating and yet ultimately elusive aspects of his life. I’m interested in Henry’s own interest in medicine. He was deeply interested in herbal remedies and I believe kept a personal collection of recipes for medicines. How far would this have been likely have helped his well-being or to have harmed him?

  28. Karen in Breezy Point /

    Very interesting article–it certainly make a lot of sense!

  29. Margaret Gallagher /

    Thank you for the informative article! I have read various articles that theorize Henry may have had a genetic blood issue which could have prevented his wives, Katherine and Anne, to carry some of their pregnancies to full term, and or have stillbirths. Have you heard of this theory, and if so, what are your thoughts on this?

  30. BANDITQUEEN /

    A great article, but I have always been bemused as to why people only associated Henry with being middle-aged and overweight his whole life and reign. We are so transfixed by Henry’s own image, which he used to perfectly promote his ideal portrayal as strong, larger than life, overbearing, not to be trifled with, a mighty monarch in more ways than one, that it is ingrained on our minds. This was what Henry intended. However, as you say it is an image that causes people to forget that Henry was a slender but physically fine young athletic man of seventeen when he came to the throne in 1509. He remained in reasonable shape until his mid forties, one too many hard fall in the joust taking its toll. No surprise there, athletes have a limited active career, Henry was still jousting long after others had toned this activity down.

    I can recall in class our history teacher, who knew far less than I did about Henry Viii, but who was not too bad, handing a picture of a very young Henry Viii, saying nothing and asking if we recognized the person in the portrait. I smiled and as she knew I had recognized him, even though it was a very young Henry, looking innocent and skinny, she hushed me to say nothing. Not one person said it was Henry Viii. Everyone was shocked but I found it ridiculous that people could not accept that Henry was once a young man. Of course he did not look the same all his life, everyone changes, I think people find it hard to see the changes over time in the life of Henry because the myth is more important. People don’t study for themselves, they are too lazy to read extensively and study history, it is easier to look at a popular image and believe it.

    I don’t accept that Henry’s weight problems had anything to do with his earlier fertility, in fact there is no evidence of infertility with either Katherine or Anne Boleyn. Henry was not overly over weight at this time and neither woman had any problem conceiving, the problem was bearing a healthy child. He had other children, even though he did not acknowledge all of them. It is pure speculation about the causes of his wives lack of healthy children, if Henry had a rare blood disorder or a blood problem that made him act odd, nobody knows for sure. Henry Viii was overweight excessively by the time of Katherine Howard, this would have contributed to his lack of sexual potency,ability and stamina. However, erectile dysfunction is not uncommon from time to time in most men over 40. We don’t know for certain what, if any, genetic complications ran in Henry or his wives families or if cancer was present during the time of their pregnancies. It’s perfectly likely that Henry in his last years had all manner of complex illnesses, but we don’t know for certain. We do know he had problems with his legs, painful ulcers, thrombosis, swelling, he was in a lot of pain, he put on more weight as he became less mobile, he had difficulty in walking; he also suffered from headaches, severe migraines, regular fevers, mood swings and probably joint pain. He must have had high blood pressure, clotting in his arteries, trouble breathing, may have had type 2diabetes, but we can only speculate. As a younger man, Henry had fevers from malaria, but the fact that he recovered quickly shows he was robust. Tudor flue could kill, did kill frequently, so Henry did well until that jousting accident and then he got the lot as his body was more open to attack.

    The one thing that I don’t believe there is any evidence of is syphilis. This is another myth, just as the always fat Henry was a myth.

  31. Elizabeth Pegg /

    Interesting both your article and the responses . How knowledgable you all are ,I love the mysteries the behind historical figures . We only have so much hard evidence and the rest is intelligent deduction . Helped with our advanced medical knowledge .
    I think a few favoured late portraits have meant most folk think of him as this obsese King ,yet his antics at the Field of the Cloth of gold showed him off as a young athletic man . Much admired around the courts of Europe for his interlect and athletic prowess. Like most pieces of history the nasty,bad bits capture the public imagination and they stick with that image . Look at poor Richard III ,he was an accomplished soldier and was actually a good King. Albeit for a short time but we only ever think of him with a deformed back and murderer of his nephews . So Henry is generally thought of as a fat,bad tempered monarch . I often wonder how future generations will recall our Queen Elizabeth II . I can’t think of anything negative about her .

  32. Jill /

    Really enjoy all this evidence and speculation about Bluff Hal’s health. I’d like to know more about his teeth. I’ve read it was not only his discovery of cured, salty ham that contributed to his bulk and bloat, but also his intense love of sweets.

    I imagine he was not only cavity ridden, but probably suffered various dental maladies that can affect one’s overall health.

    Apparently his daughter Elizabeth inherited his love of sweets and, while managing to maintain a girlish figure, was rather insecure about her blackened rotten teeth, until her ladies-in-waiting used ashes to blacken their own teeth In an interrsting court fashion statement.

  33. Nancy Smith /

    Great article. I’d like to know more about how Henry’s 1536 fall led to his health problems.

  34. j carlos amengual /

    interesting to know what such a huge man suffered in health

  35. Melissa J /

    This is a good educational article. I never even thought Henry could have been a Type II diabetic; however, it does make sense with the supporting evidence you provide. When I was 18 I was in England and saw Henry’s suit-of-armor sitting upon his horse and was astounded at the man’s size. He was huge and powerful. Being fat never crossed my mind, and I thought signs of ill health and weight gain were due to syphilis and his inability to ride especially after having been injured during the joust he partook in while married to Anne Boleyn. This new research is important and rather than bring disdain by others in the medical, professional or academic fields, it should open new avenues of thought. The worse thing a researcher does is remain in a box. One must look outside of it in order to verify one’s hypothesis.The idea of being fat or thin equaling a longer or short life span is ridiculous. I had a friend who was a health nut, who cooked clean and took massive amounts of vitamins and she died middle age. I contracted Non-Hodgkins B-cell Lymphoma (now gone) when I turned 50, and I was very athletic and nutritionally conscious. It’s a fallacy; we know eating right and exercising is a benefit to living well, but it’s not a promise for longevity. Thank you for this article; I look forward to reading more of your research.

  36. Susan MacNutt /

    Interesting article. Did Henry VIII, in fact suffer from syphilis?

  37. Amy Blaylock /

    I would love to learn more. I have always wondered if diabetes was the issue for the miscarriages. Thank you for sharing this information.

  38. Chrissy Smpthers /

    Whether he really suffered from McLoad’s disease or not. It would explain so much!

  39. Heather Larsen /

    Wow. I love when new ground is covered in over covered subjects. Of course, I don’t think I could ever get enough Tudor history. Thank you for a fascinating article. I hope the book will be available in an ebook version. I may break down and buy a book if this is the case.

  40. Bob /

    So much history with so much mystery. If Henry’s medical problems are ever resolved then questions about his mindset and reasons for his actions will be the topics of discussion. I’m not sure if the medical conditions brought up here would leave any forensic evidence to be found after all these centuries or not. At any rate – I wonder what the feelings were of the people in general when Henry passed.

  41. Rachel Addicoat /

    I would love to know the extent of Henry’s physical ailments impacting on his mental health.

  42. Jennifer Gray /

    Very interesting article. I would like to know more about the causes of infertility, miscarriages, stillbirths and early infant mortality with Henry’s earlier wives. Earlier royal couples had fewer complications.

  43. Harriet Engle /

    I’m still curious about how a possible Traumatic Brain Injury during that awful joust might have altered Henry’s personality. With the coinciding miscarriage of a possible male fetus by Anne Boleyn, it could have worsened Henry’s fears of dying without a viable heir and fueled his obsessions.

  44. Romola Brennan /

    A 54 inch waist doesn’t seem so big, by today’s standards anyway. He was tall and could probably have held his weight with dignity. So, portly rather than obese.

  45. Denise /

    It seems to me that Henry’s obesity and also his diabetes came on and centered around his major jousting accident in 1536 when his horse fell on top of him. He was no longer able to exercise and that is about when the sedentary lifestyle set in, along with inability to burn off the calories he ate, which he ate more of because he was sedentary. The whole thing, looking at it, did seem to go in a circle.

    What I am wondering is if the leg ulcers came on because of the jousting accident when his body was crushed, along with his legs and circulation? Then the diabetes complicated the the leg ulcers as well as their healing?

  46. Christine Hartweg /

    I would very much like to read Kyra’s book! I actually never thought of Henry VIII so much as obese as a very broad built man.

  47. Megan /

    Very interesting article! I find Henry’s health and how it may have impacted his reign both curious and intriguing. In your article, you touched on depression being a result of an inactive lifestyle, and possibly the development of type II diabetes. I would like to know more about Henry’s mental health and how that may have changed over his lifetime. I’ve read that his jousting accident may have lead to head injuries that impacted his mental health, resulting in changes in his demeanor and personality- making him into a “tyrant” king. What are your thoughts on the the significance of the jousting accident on Henry’s mental health.

  48. Stewart Dixon /

    Thank you for a great article. Can’t wait to read your book. I’m wondering what analysis has or can be done on Henry’s remains? Can modern analytical techniques confirm or shed any light on the theories presented? All the best.

  49. Aynne /

    This is a great article! I look forward to learning more. I voraciously read all I could about some of these issues in a medical library years ago. Now, with the internet everyone is working together and sharing information like this. Harry, the man vs. Henry the VIII is a paradox. Having such a privileged diet, diabetes would be likely, but not one I, as a lay person considered. I was mostly intrigued by the fall, the sudden change in personality, the unpredictable pendulum of the man he became almost immediately… Anne going to her death… his remorse as early as June… SO grateful we have people like you who are reassessing the medicine and health of another era with new lenses!

  50. Norma Chavez /

    Excellent article. I have done much reading on Henry VIII, and would be interested in knowing more of his health. I don’t agree with some of the theories, but the one in this article I find has much merit. Having suffered an injury that made moving difficult definitely involved gaining weight, then being caught in that vicious cycle.

  51. Rhonda Wathen /

    This is very interesting and I feel prompted to do some further research on slight heaviness and longevity. I had a great-grandmother who was very portly in the hips and bottom and lived until about 90. She was a farmer. I am also interested in learning more about the health of Henry the VIII and his family members. Did his parents or grandparents suffer from similar problems? Did other women in his family also have miscarriages and stillbirths? Did his mistresses have pregnancy and birthing difficulties? We know his oldest daughter Mary could not get pregnant, had health issues and died in her 40’s. Could these pregnancies problems in the Tutor family be nature’s way of sparing possible future babies from a life of illnesses? The problems of HenryVIII and his children/potential children are quite a mystery!

  52. Claire Ridgway / Post Author

    Congratulations to Denise for winning the giveaway!

  53. Pingback: Behind the Scenes with Henry the VIII’s Wives: “Fatal Throne” | School Library Journal /

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Henry VIII: Fit, Fat, Fiction by Kyra Kramer