DEAD: ON THIS DATE
Henry VIII (aged 55)
-16th-century King of England
Henry VIII (28 June 1491 – 28 January 1547) was King of England from 1509 until his death. Henry was the second Tudor monarch, succeeding his father, Henry VII.
Henry is best known for his six marriages, in particular his efforts to have his first marriage, to Catherine of Aragon, annulled. His disagreement with the Pope on the question of such an annulment led Henry to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority. He appointed himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England and dissolved convents and monasteries, for which he was excommunicated. Henry is also known as “the father of the Royal Navy”; he invested heavily in the Navy, increasing its size greatly from a few to more than 50 ships.
DEATH: Late in life, Henry became obese, with a waist measurement of 54 inches (140 cm), and had to be moved about with the help of mechanical inventions. He was covered with painful, pus-filled boils and possibly suffered from gout. His obesity and other medical problems can be traced to the jousting accident in 1536 in which he suffered a leg wound. The accident re-opened and aggravated a previous injury he had sustained years earlier, to the extent that his doctors found it difficult to treat. The chronic wound festered for the remainder of his life and became ulcerated, thus preventing him from maintaining the level of physical activity he had previously enjoyed. The jousting accident is also believed to have caused Henry’s mood swings, which may have had a dramatic effect on his personality and temperament.
The theory that Henry suffered from syphilis has been dismissed by most historians. Historian Susan Maclean Kybett ascribes his demise to scurvy, which is caused by a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. Alternatively, his wives’ pattern of pregnancies and his mental deterioration have led some to suggest that the king may have been Kell positive and suffered from McLeod syndrome. According to another study, Henry VIII’s history and body morphology may have been the result of traumatic brain injury after his 1536 jousting accident, which in turn led to a neuroendocrine cause of his obesity. This analysis identifies growth hormone deficiency (GHD) as the source for his increased adiposity but also significant behavioural changes noted in his later years, including his multiple marriages.
Henry’s obesity hastened his death at the age of 55, which occurred on 28 January 1547 in the Palace of Whitehall, on what would have been his father’s 90th birthday. He allegedly uttered his last words: “Monks! Monks! Monks!” perhaps in reference to the monks he caused to be evicted during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Henry VIII was interred in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, next to Jane Seymour. Over a hundred years later, King Charles I (1625–1649) was buried in the same vault.