King Henry VIII is arguably the most famous monarch in British history. He was a larger than life character known for having six wives, eating huge amounts of food and executing a lot of people. A significant number of British historians consider him the worst monarch in British history because of his cruelty, spendthrift nature and a generally dictator-like approach. For example, he made himself the head of the Church of England and eliminated the Pope’s authority thus changing the course of history.
There are a number of things about Henry VIII that are taken as fact. For example, a lot of people perceive him as a morbidly obese tyrant with an unquenchable lust for women, ale, and meat. While a lot of this is true, it turns out that Henry is a complex character and a serious injury suffered late in life could have been to blame for much of his erratic behavior. In this article, I will look at 5 things you probably didn’t know about Henry VIII.
1 – He Only Became Obese Later in Life
Henry is often portrayed as a roly-poly tyrant given his huge size and penchant for executing wives. He was approximately 6ft 2 inches tall (possibly even taller) which made him a relative giant for the time. Indeed, Henry reportedly towered above almost every member of his court. Given his notorious temper and power, he must have been an extremely intimidating individual.
However, Henry wasn’t always an obese tyrant. When he became king in 1509, he was 17 years of age and in excellent shape. He inherited the good looks of Edward IV, his grandfather and was an athletic king at the beginning. Henry was once described as an Adonis, and the muscular monarch regularly competed in jousts where he supposedly excelled. Armor dated from his younger days suggests that Henry had a 32-inch waist, 39-inch chest and weighed between 180 and 200 pounds; a healthy weight for his height.
In fact, Henry only started to balloon in weight in his mid-forties, and that was due to a leg injury suffered in a joust in 1536. The serious wound did not heal properly and turned ulcerous. As a result, the king became increasingly incapacitated and turned to food and drink for comfort. Many historians believe the king had diabetes later in life and his daily calorie intake must have been truly astonishing. The sedentary Henry would eat up to 13 dishes a day with almost every meal consisting of large amounts of meat. He reportedly drank up to 10 pints of ale a day, and his daily caloric intake was at least 5,000 calories.
On top of his gargantuan mass, Henry probably suffered from an array of physical maladies including severe constipation, repeated infections, sores all over the body and possibly Cushing’s syndrome. The King reportedly became mad towards the end of his reign and matters were not helped by the incompetence of his physicians. To be fair to them, they were only following standard practice at the time; but refusing to heal the sore on his leg in the belief the ‘illness must pass out of the body’ clearly destroyed Henry’s health. Whenever the wound began to heal, physicians would cut it open again with the abscess filled with gold pellets to keep the sore running.
The last set of armor belonging to Henry showed a waist measurement of 58 to 60 inches which meant he probably weighed at least 320 pounds by the time of his death. Some historians believe he was approximately 390 pounds at his heaviest.