It is common knowledge that King Henry VIII of England was quite the character, and possibly even the most famous king in English history. Not only was he known for living a life of excess during his reign from 1509 to 1547, he was perhaps best known for beheading two of his wives and declaring himself the supreme head of the new Church of England in order to divorce his first wife (Catherine of Aragon).
But believe it or not there are several other more shocking facts about King Henry VIII:
With a towering height of 6’2″, when Henry VIII first became king he was known to be quite athletic and weighed approximately 200 pounds. However, as the years went on he ended up ballooning to about 320 pounds and had a waist measurement of 54 inches. As a matter of fact, Henry VIII was so overweight he needed a mechanical device to help him get in and out of bed, as well as on and off his horse during his later years.
During his reign Henry VIII diagnosed himself with so many illnesses and disorders it was hard to keep track of them all. From migraines to insomnia and gout (not to mention an intense fear of The Plague), Henry VIII’s life was spent dealing with and/or avoiding various different diseases and ailments. There are many theories that Henry VIII also suffered from Type 2 Diabetes and syphilis as well.However, in 1536 Henry VIII had to deal with a more serious, realistic health issue, as he was unhorsed during a jousting tournament and sustained a leg injury. Because his thigh became extremely ulcerated after the accident, many believe it was this injury which led to his early death, while others believe it was because of renal and liver failure due to his obesity.
Henry VIII was known to self-medicate during his life, and he even wrote his own prescription book which detailed how to treat ulcers and reduce inflammation. At the British Museum you can see Henry VIII’s prescription book, for which he describes his own treatment of ulcers reading: “An Oyntment devised by the kinges Majesty made at Westminster. And devised at Grenwich to take away inflammations and to cease payne and heale ulcers called gray plaster.”
As he lay on his deathbed, Henry VIII became extremely delusional and was “afflicted with visionary horrors” as his eyes kept rolling to the back of his head. Rumour has it that just before he died, he started muttering the words “Monks! Monks! Monks!”
Henry VIII drove England into debt with his overspending and lavish lifestyle, and most of this is because of his intense desire to hoard various objects and desirables.
It is reported that by the time of his death he owned approximately 50 palaces, 6,500 handguns, 70 ships, 78 recorders, 78 flutes, five sets of bagpipes and a virginal (a early type of harpsichord). It is also believed that Henry VIII’s inventory was at about 20,000 items by the time of his death. If you want to hear more about Henry VIII and his six(!) wifes you can check out the list of available free London Tours.