The Tudor Society
The Tudor Society
  • Henry VIII e-book now available

    The second book in our series of Tudor Monarchs e-books is now available for Tudor Society members to download.

    Articles from a wide variety of authors and historians take us through the fascinating life and times of Henry VIII.

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  • Queen Jane or Lady Jane Grey

    In today’s Claire Chats video I discuss whether Lady Jane Grey should actually be called Queen Jane.

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  • The Mary Rose – Behind the scenes

    As part of this month’s Mary Rose feature, with our guest speaker Philip Roberts (author of “The Mary Rose in a Nutshell), we have this wonderful video showing some behind-the-scenes footage of the ship and its treasure trove of finds.

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  • Expert Talk – The Mary Rose – Philip Roberts

    Expert Talk for July – Philip Roberts talks about the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s flagship.

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  • 7 June 1520 – The Field of the Cloth of Gold meeting begins

    This day in history, 7th June 1520, was the first day of the historic meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I of France. It took place between the English stronghold of Guînes and the French town of Ardres, on a piece of land referred to as the Field of Cloth of Gold.

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  • 21 April 1509 – The death of Henry VII and the accession of Henry VIII

    On this day in history, 21st April 1509, fifty-two-year-old King Henry VII died at Richmond Palace, passing the throne on to his seventeen-year-old son Henry, who became King Henry VIII.

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  • Expert Talk – Thomas More by Stephanie Mann

    Stephanie Mann on Thomas More

    This month’s amazing Expert Talk is by Stephanie Mann, author of “Supremacy and Survival”. Her topic, one which is clearly close to her heart, is Thomas More, a fascinating man who it turns out we really don’t know as much about as we should.

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  • April 2016 Tudor Life Magazine

    Packed with a wide range of articles about Tudor personalities like the Dudleys, Elizabeth of York, Mary I, Isabella of Spain and Henry Howard. There is part one of an insider’s guide to the Tower of London, a detailed article about Greenwich Palace and Wroxhall Abbey, an article about some bizarre Tudor foods and lots more! It’s our best magazine yet!

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  • Tudor stained glass depicting a young Henry VIII is restored

    After a huge restoration project, Tudor stained glass windows are being reinstalled at The Vyne in Hampshire, a property that Henry VIII visited several times. In one of the stained glass panels “a slim and beardless young Henry VIII kneels meekly in prayer near his beloved wife Catherine of Aragon and his sister Margaret.”

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  • God’s Kingdom Awaits: The Death of Henry VIII by Beth von Staats

    As today is the anniversary of the death of King Henry VIII in 1547, Beth von Staats, Tudor Life magazine contributor and author of Thomas Cranmer in a Nutshell, has written a very moving piece of fiction about Henry VIII’s final days from the viewpoint of Thomas Cranmer. I do hope you enjoy it.

    It is time for the Lord to act; they have frustrated Your law. ~~~ Psalm 119:126

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  • 18 January 1510 – Henry VIII dresses up

    On 18th January 1510, Henry VIII and twelve of his men disguised themselves as outlaws, or Robin Hood and his merry men, and surprised Queen Catherine and her ladies. Chronicler Edward Hall records this event:

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  • Expert Talk: Kyra Kramer on Henry VIII’s Health

    This month we are happy to have Kyra Kramer as our expert speaker. In this talk Kyra discusses the various illnesses and maladies which affected Henry VIII during his life.

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  • 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.
  • The Amicable Grant of 1525 by Sarah Bryson

    Thank you to author Sarah Bryson for this article on the Amicable Grant, a tax imposed to fund the war against France in 1525.

    England had previously been at war with France in 1523 and war against the old enemy was once again proposed in early 1525. In February of that year the French troops had suffered a devastating loss against the Imperial troops of Charles V outside of Pravia. To make matters even worse for the French, their King, Francis I, had been captured in the battle and was now a prisoner of Charles V. When the messenger brought the news of Francis I’s capture to Henry VIII the King is reported to have been likened to the Archangel Gabriel, such was his happiness and excitement at hearing the news. Henry VIII, ever the opportunist, saw another chance at military glory and quickly proposed war against France. The English King believed that the idea to go to war had been blessed by God and, unlike two years previously, he had visions of reclaiming the French throne for England.

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  • Was Sir John Perrot Henry VIII’s son?

    In today’s Claire Chats video I start a series on the people who are rumoured to have been illegitimate children of Henry VIII. I’m starting with Sir John Perrot, looking at who he was, where the rumours come from and whether there’s any evidence to back them up.

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  • The King of Carmarthen – Expert Talk from Susan Fern Part TWO

    Susan Fern finishes her two part talk about the life of Rhys ap Thomas, from the Battle of Bosworth through the Field of the Cloth of Gold to his death in Carmarthen. Rhys was a fascinating character who has been largely forgotten yet was key to many of the successes of the Tudors.

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  • The Physical Decline of Henry VIII by Sarah Bryson

    When Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509 he was just shy of his 18th birthday. He was tall, robust, handsome and athletic. Yet when the infamous King died on 28th January 1547 he weighed about 178kg and had a waist measurement of 52 inches and a chest measurement of about 53 inches. So how did this decline in Henry VIII’s physical appearance happen?

    As a young man, Henry VIII was considered to be the most handsome prince in Europe. He was tall, standing at six foot two which was taller than the average man of the time. He was broad of shoulder, with strong muscular arms and legs, and had striking red/gold hair. It is said that rather than looking like his father, he resembled his grandfather the late Edward IV. In the armoury of the Tower of London is a suit of armour that Henry wore in 1514. The king’s measurements show that he had a waist of 35 inches and a chest of 42 inches, confirming that Henry was a well-proportioned, well-built young man.

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  • Henry VIII’s 1541 Royal Progress Video

    In today’s Claire Chats I discuss the royal progress undertaken by King Henry VIII and his fifth wife, Catherine Howard.

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  • Battle of Pinkie Cleugh – 10 September 1547

    The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, also known as the Battle of Pinkie, took place near Musselburgh, in Scotland, on the banks of the River Esk, on 10th September 1547. It was a battle of the “War of the Rough Wooing”, so called because it started when Henry VIII tried to force Scotland to agree to a marriage between his son Edward and the infant Mary, Queen of Scots.

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  • Henry VIII Quiz 2

    A quiz on King Henry VIII.

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  • 23 June 1509 – Coronation procession of King Henry VIII and Queen Catherine of Aragon

    On Saturday 23rd June, Henry VIII and his wife Catherine of Aragon left the Tower of London and made their way through the streets of London to Westminster on their coronation procession.

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  • Henry VIII and the Carthusian Monks

    Between May 1535 and August 1540 eighteen monks from the Carthusian order were put to death for the same crime, for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as the Supreme Head of the Church.

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  • The Field of Cloth of Gold by Sarah Bryson

    The Field of Cloth of Gold was a spectacular meeting between King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France. The meeting lasted from the 7th June to 24th June 1520 and was one of the most impressive, lavish meetings to ever be held between the two Kings. The meeting was held between the English stronghold of Guînes and the French town of Ardres, on a piece of land which was referred to as the Field of Cloth of Gold.

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  • A Tomb fit for a King – Benedetto’s candelabra for Henry VIII

    Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was patron to the Florentine scuptor Benedetto da Rovezzano (1474-1552) and commissioned him to make a lavish Renaissance style tomb for him. The project comprised a beautiful black marble sarcophagus and four bronze angels, each measuring around a metre in height, which are now known as Wolsey’s Angels.

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  • Transcript of Claire Ridgway’s live chat

    Here is the transcript from last night’s live chat in the chatroom with Claire Ridgway. Thanks to all those who attended!

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  • June 2015 Tudor Life Magazine

    Here’s the latest magazine with all our regular items and contributors plus lots of fascinating articles about people and places from the Tudor period.

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  • Expert Talk – Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII and the Fall of Anne Boleyn

    In this month’s second expert talk, Claire Ridgway looks at the fall of Anne Boleyn in 1536 and examines the roles of Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII in those bloody events. Did Thomas Cromwell plot all by himself or was he simply his master’s servant? Was Henry VIII ultimately responsible? Why did Anne Boleyn have to die?

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  • Henry VIII

    Henry VIII was born on 28 June 1491 at Greenwich Palace. He was the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, but became heir to the throne when his brother Arthur died in 1502. He inherited the throne on the death of his father in April 1509, when he was just 17 years old, and he was crowned on 24 June 1509 in a joint coronation with his new bride Catherine of Aragon, the widow of his brother.

    His reign was seen as the start of a new era, after his father’s harsh regime, and Henry was very much a Renaissance prince at the start, with his charm, good looks, intelligence, love of sport and desire to fight bribery and corruption. However, he has gone down in history as a larger than life, hulk of a man who had six wives and who executed two of them, and who, according to one contemporary source, executed 72,000 during his reign. His reign is famous for the break with Rome which happened as a result of Henry VIII’s “Great Matter”, his quest for an annulment of his marriage to his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Catherine had been unable to provide Henry with a living son and Henry had come to view the marriage as contrary to God’s laws, since Catherine was his brother’s widow. He had also fallen in love with Anne Boleyn. The Pope refused to grant Henry an annulment, but Henry took matters into his own hands after reading that kings and princes were only answerable to God. The marriage was annulled in 1533, Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn and the Reformation Parliament of 1529-1536 passed the main pieces of legislation which led to the break with Rome and the English Reformation.

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  • Sir Henry Norris and the Fall of Anne Boleyn by Kyra Kramer

    Thank you to Tudor Life magazine contributor Kyra Kramer for this excellent article on Sir Henry Norris, Henry VIII’s Groom of the Stool, and the fall of Anne Boleyn. Over to Kyra…

    Of all the men who were falsely accused of being Anne Boleyn’s companions in adultery, to point a finger at Henry Norris makes the most sense in terms of proximity and politics but the least sense in terms of his close relationship with Henry VIII.

    If historian Greg Walker is correct in his 2002 proposal that Anne’s downfall was not due to her miscarriage of a male foetus in January of 1536 but instead to some hasty words she said in spring, then Norris was a ready-made target. One day in late April, the queen asked Henry Norris, who was the king’s groom of the stool and engaged to her cousin Madge Shelton, when he planned to wed. Norris hedged that he would wait just a bit longer, which vexed Anne. In her anger she told him he was looking for “dead men’s shoes, for if ought came to the king but good, you would look to have me”. This was a major blunder. It was treason to even think about the death of the king, let alone to talk about whom his queen might marry after his demise. Norris was appalled and Anne knew almost immediately that she had said something dangerous. She sent Norris to her chaplain, John Skyp, to swear that she was a good woman and faithful to the king.

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  • Anne Boleyn’s Fall Quiz

    How much do you know about Anne Boleyn’s fall in 1536?

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