24th January 1536. Henry VIII a Victim of Circumstance?

In 1524 Henry VIII was jousting with the Duke of Suffolk, but failing to lower his visor was hit by a lance which shattered inside the helmet causing injury to his right eye, which is said to have caused the King’s migraine.

Twelve years’ later Today in 1536 Eustace Chapuys, The Imperial Ambassador was to report: ‘On the eve of the Conversion of S Paul, the King being mounted on a great horse to run at the lists, both fell so heavily that everyone thought it a miracle he was not killed, but he sustained no injuries…’

Anne Boleyn was pregnant at the time and on the 10 February in a letter to Charles V Chapuys wrote: ‘On the day of the interment [of Catherine of Aragon’s funeral], the Concubine had an abortion, which seemed to be a male child when she was borne at 3 ½ months [and] the King showed distress’.(1)

‘The said Concubine wished to lay the blame on the Duke of Norfolk whom she hates saying he frightened her bringing the news of the fall the king had six days before’.(2)

After the accident just before his estrangement from Anne Boleyn, ‘the King once sporty and generous became cruel, vicious and paranoid, and his subjects talked of him in a different way. The turnover of his wives speeded up’.(3)

The accident took place at a tournament at Greenwich Palace, when Henry was 44 years’ old and in full armour, was thrown from his horse which fell on top of him, rendering him unconscious for two hours and speechless for 12 hours.

The Joust

Jousting in medieval times.

It ended his jousting, and aggravated his ulcerous leg condition, but more importantly caused him to become unconscious. It has been conjectured that Henry could have damaged his frontal brain lobes, which affect moods and personality, and could have turned Henry against Anne which resulted in her execution:  six months later he married Jane Seymour. (4)

Henry’s ulcerated legs the result of the garters he sported to display his fine calfs, and his obesity: his armour shows that between the ages of 20 and 50 years of age the 6ft.1” King’s waist rose from c 32 inches to 52 inches; his chest from 39 inches to 53 inches, and it has been calculated that at his death at 56 he could have been 28 stones.


Henry as a young man was admired for his manly physique, and an ambassador at the Tudor Court described him: ‘His Majesty is the most handsomest potentate I have ever set eyes on [having] an extremely fine calf…round face so very beautiful it would become a pretty woman’.

The King excelled in his youth at jousting, wrestling, real tennis, but was described by JD Mackie in The Oxford History of England, as: ‘Brutal, crafty, selfish and ungenerous’, and one wonders how much of his personality was changed by his accidents.

(1) She miscarried on 29th January 1536. Dr Ortiz letter to Empress: ‘The French King said that the King of England had fallen from his horse, and been for two hours without speaking. La Ana’ was so upset that she miscarried a son’.

(2) (LP X 282. Chapuy to Charles V. 10th February, 1536).

(3) Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator of Royal Palaces, who with Robert Hutchinson biographer of Henry VIII and Dr Charles Hood in History Channel Documentary, gave a picture of Henry’s health problems which included poor eyesight, ulcerated legs, unable to walk and paranoia. There was also a possibility he had malaria when 30.

(4) The History Channel documentary, ‘Inside the body of Henry VIII’.’24.6.2009.


Ref: theanneboleynfiles.com/henryviii

Ref  Catalogue of State Papers, Spain vol 6. pt.1, 1538-1542. No. 166.

Ref; Independent Newspaper Article May 2012. ‘Jousting Accident that turned Henry into a tyrant’.Could the injury have made Henry a paranoid tyrant? Michael McCarthy.

Ref: historyandotherthoughts.blogspot.com/Pic Image.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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