Just a quick reminder that historian Gareth Russell will be joining us in the chatroom tomorrow to discuss Henry VIII as a military leader. This follows on from the chat we had last month when Gareth was experiencing technical problems.[Read More...]
Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, Who’s the Most Renaissance of Them All? Part III: Henry VIII of England
This is Part III of a four-part series, which seeks to look at what were considered the attributes of a Renaissance prince, and who of our four princes embodied the ideals of the Renaissance best. What were some of those themes? The idea of a Renaissance man stood for a person who strove to embrace knowledge and develop himself. This included concepts such as the arts, knowledge, physical achievements, and social ideals. More plainly and for a prince, this could include cultivating a court known for patronising artists, musicians, and the like; establishing educational institutions, a good degree of physical fortitude, and things such as chivalric love or engaging in acts of charity.[Read More...]
On 30th December 1546, Henry VIII signed his last will and testament, authorising changes he’d instructed William Paget to make on his behalf on 26th December 1546.[Read More...]
If you joined December’s live chat on Henry VIII as a military leader with Gareth Russell then you’ll know that Gareth’s wifi kept dropping out. Gareth has very kindly offered to do another live chat on 6th January at 11pm UK time – hurrah![Read More...]
Even though Gareth was battling wifi issue, we still managed to have an enlightening chat about Henry VIII as a military leader. Thank you so much to everyone who attended.[Read More...]
Historian and Tudor Life Magazine editor Gareth Russell will be joining us in the chatroom for a live chat at 11pm UK time on Friday 16th December.[Read More...]
On this day in history, 3rd December 1536, a proclamation was made to the rebels of the Pilgrimage of Grace offering them a pardon. It read:
"Proclamation of the King's pardon to the rebels of the different districts, viz. : That those of Yorkshire, with the city of York, Kingston upon Hull, Marshland, Holdenshire, Hexham, Beverley, Holderness, &c., on their submission to Charles duke of Suffolk, president of the council and lieutenant general in Lincolnshire, at Lincoln or elsewhere that he may appoint, shall have free pardons granted to them under the Great Seal without further bill or warrant or paying anything for the Great Seal. Richmond, 3 Dec., 28 Henry VIII."
The same proclamation was also made in "Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, York, city of York, bishopric of Durham, &c., and in the parts north of Lancaster, on their submission to Henry earl of Cumberland".
Henry VIII had also consented to the rebels' demand for a free Parliament to be held at York. The rebellion dispersed, but a further rebellion led by Sir Francis Bigod broke out in Yorkshire. Robert Aske tried to prevent it but Bigod went ahead. Bigod’s Rebellion failed and Bigod was arrested. Robert Aske and other men involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion – such as Lord Darcy, Thomas Percy and Robert Constable – were arrested, convicted of treason and executed.
You can read more about the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion in the following articles:
- What's in a name?: The Pilgrimage of Grace by Stephanie A. Mann, Tudor Life Magazine
- The Pilgrimage of Grace by Sarah Bryson
- The Pilgrimage of Grace Timeline
- 12 July 1537 – The execution of Robert Aske
- 20 October 1536 – The Surrender of Pontefract Castle
- 4 October 1536 – The Lincolnshire Rising
Notes and Sources
- Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, xi. 1235.
Gareth Russell discusses the successes and failures of Henry VIII as a military leader, leading to some interesting and damning conclusions.[Read More...]
Thank you to Heather R. Darsie, our regular Tudor Society contributor, for today’s article. Over to Heather…
Happy Thanksgiving to our American members! Today also marks the 474th anniversary of the Battle of Solway Moss, a border skirmish that took place on the English side of the border with Scotland on 24th November 1542. This was the last of a series of such battles that arose from a falling-out between Henry VIII of England and his nephew, James V of Scotland.[Read More...]
Sarah Bryson talks about some of the history of Windsor Castle, and shares what it was like to see Charles Brandon’s Garter Place in St Georges Chapel.[Read More...]
On 11th October 1521, Pope Leo X conferred upon King Henry VIII the title of Fidei Defensor, “Defender of the Faith”.
Letters and Papers contains a record of “Wolsey’s speech on presenting the bull for the title of Defender of the Faith”:[Read More...]
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.[Read More...]
In today’s Claire Chats video I discuss whether Lady Jane Grey should actually be called Queen Jane.[Read More...]
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.[Read More...]
Expert Talk for July – Philip Roberts talks about the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s flagship.[Read More...]
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.[Read More...]
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.[Read 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.[Read More...]
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![Read More...]
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.”[Read More...]
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[Read More...]
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:[Read More...]
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.[Read More...]
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:
- 14 December - Syphilis vs. Osteomyelitis at OnTheTudorTrail.com
- 16 December - Blood type and pregnancies at Medievalists.net
- 17 December - The Mental Aberrations of Henry VIII at ThroughTheEyesofAnneBoleyn.wordpress.com/
- 18 December - Here!
Kyra 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.
Notes and Sources
- 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.
- 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.
- Kramer, Kyra (2015) Henry VIII's Health in a Nutshell, MadeGlobal Publishing.
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.[Read More...]
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.[Read More...]
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.[Read More...]
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.[Read More...]
In today’s Claire Chats I discuss the royal progress undertaken by King Henry VIII and his fifth wife, Catherine Howard.[Read More...]
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.[Read More...]