Famous People's Cause of Death Henry VIII

About the famous English King Henry VIII, biography, history and cause of death.



Born: June 28, 1491

Died: Jan. 28, 1547

Cause of Death: Chronic sinusitis, periostitis of the leg, and syphilis

Physician's Notes: Despite his having had one of the best-kept medical records in history, there still is controversy as to the real cause of Henry's death. An extremely cultured and accomplished young prince, he became a great and glorious ruler but degenerated into a cruel and unstable despot. At the age of 22 he contracted smallpox, though he escaped being pockmarked. At 33 he had his first attack of malaria, which plagued him for the rest of his life. At 35, after a serious jousting accident, he began to develop chronic migraine headaches and the extraordinarily painful leg ulcers which eventually crippled him. In his late 30s, Henry underwent a major personality change. From a benevolent and wise ruler, he slowly turned into an irrational and fearsome ogre whose enemies could expect little mercy. On Jan. 17, 1536, when he was 44, Henry suffered his worst jousting accident (while showing off to the ladies) and lay unconscious for two hours. His fits of blind anger became aggravated by acute insomnia, painful sore throats, and recurrent, agonizing headaches. One diplomat reported that Henry "was some time without speaking, black in the face," and that he (the diplomat) was "in great danger." Henry became prematurely gray and abnormally obese; in one four-year period his waist measurement increased by an astounding 17 in., until "three of the biggest men that could be found could get inside his doublet." At 45 he developed a strange growth on the side of his nose. At 49 he probably became sterile or impotent. During the last year of his life, before his death at age 55, he could hardly walk and was transported everywhere by sedan chair. He became increasingly absentminded, frequently issuing opposite rulings on succeeding days. He spent his last eight days in bed, too weak even to lift a glass to his lips. Finally, amid the horrendous stench of his bursting ulcers, Henry died--fulfilling a prophecy made 10 years earlier by Lord Montague that Henry's "leg will kill him, and then we will have jolly stirring." It had also been prophesied that "the dogs would lick his bones as they did Ahab's." While his body was being transported to Windsor for burial, the coffin burst open during the night. In the morning, sentries found dogs licking Henry's remains. Did Henry die from syphilis? All his symptoms indicate it, as do the fates of his children. Edward VI died after his nails fell off and his body was smothered in an awful rash; Mary I's husband complained of the horrid stench that emanated from her nose; and Elizabeth I was probably barren. The numerous stillbirths suffered by Henry's wives and the significant fact that he had no grandchildren point to syphilis.

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