Friday, January 28, 2011
The Death of King Henry VIII
King Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547. Henry VIII was buried in St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, next to his third wife Jane Seymour, the mother of his son and heir Edward VI. He was 56 years of age when he died, not a bad age to reach during the Tudor period. So did he die of old age, was there a specific illness or was the cause of death syphilis? To ascertain the cause of the death of Henry VIII it is perhaps a good idea to look at any health issues or illnesses that he had suffered during his life.
The most famous doctors who attended Henry VIII were George Owen, M.D, Doctor Augustine and Doctor Butts. During his lifetime King Henry VIII suffered from the following health issues and illnesses:
In 1513 at the age of 22 he suffered from a bout of smallpox
In 1524 at the age of 33 he suffered the first of recurring attacks of malaria
In 1535 at the age of 44 King Henry VIII badly injured his leg in a jousting accident.
Although the leg first appeared to have healed it reopened a few years later and became ulcerated. He was unable to take exercise and his weight heavily increased
His height was six foot four inches
His early armour showed a waist measurement of waist of about 34 to 36 inches indicating a weight of about 180 to 200 pounds
His last set of armour showed a waist measurement of waist of about 58 to 60 inches indicating a weight of about 300 to 320 pounds
Eventually, both of his legs and feet became affected with ulcers
His increase in weight could also have been due to diabetes
He then suffered from insomnia, sore throats and migraine headaches
He suffered with some mental decline in later life exhibiting some paranoia, feelings of depression and loneliness and a terrible temper
He suffered from a series of strokes prior to his death possibly indicating circulatory problems and high blood pressure
His toes became gangrenous as ulcerations worsened and advanced
Will Death And Succession
On 26 December 1546 Henry summoned a small group of confidants. They included Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, Prince Edward's uncle; John Dudley, Viscount Lisle; Sir William Paget, Henry's Principal Secretary; and Sir Anthony Denny, chief gentleman of his Privy Chamber. The King told Denny to produce his will and after hearing it read, ordered Paget to make certain changes.
Among them was the exclusion of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, one of Henry's ablest servants, from the list of executors of his will. Those present allegedly asked Henry to restore Gardiner, but he steadfastly refused, saying that Gardiner was of such a troublesome nature that his fellow executors would be unable to control him if he were included.
On 30 December, the fair copy of Henry's amended will was signed with the dry stamp of the King's signature, which he was presumably now too weak to write himself, sealed with the signet and witnessed. Henry handed it to Seymour.
Henry was seriously ill early in January 1547. He received foreign ambassadors for the last time on 16 January. His condition deteriorated soon afterwards. In the evening of 27 January Sir Anthony Denny warned him to prepare for death. After a short sleep, Henry sent for Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. By the time Cranmer arrived from Croydon, Henry was speechless. The Archbishop told Henry to give him a token of his trust in God, and Henry gripped Cranmer's hand hard. He died before two o'clock in the morning of 28 January 1547.
The Lord Chancellor announced the news in Parliament three days later. Henry's funeral procession set out from London on 14 February and arrived at Windsor the following day. The funeral mass, celebrated by Stephen Gardiner, and the King's burial alongside Jane Seymour in St. George's Chapel took place on 16 February. The nine year old King Edward's record of his father's death in his journal and the conventional letters of condolence he wrote to his two sisters tell us nothing of his personal feelings.
The succession of Henry's devoutly Catholic daughter Mary on Edward's early death in 1553 and her restoration of papal supremacy underlined the vulnerability of the Edwardian and Henrician religious changes. After Henry's second daughter Elizabeth came to the throne in November 1558 and broke with Rome once more in 1559, it was clear that the famous successes of her long reign certainly owed much to her father's achievements in government, but set England on a very different course from the one he had followed. (Doran, Starkey, P. 257-259).
SOURCE: Man & Monarch Henry VIII, Catalogue edited by Susan Doran, Exhibition guest curated by David Starkey, British Library.
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