24 January 1536 – A Jousting Accident at Greenwich

joustingOn 24th January 1536, King Henry VIII suffered a serious accident while jousting at Greenwich Palace.

Sources differ as to exactly how serious the King’s injuries were, but Henry VIII was forced to give up the sport he loved.

You can read all about his accident in my article A Serious Jousting Accident for Henry VIII

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5 thoughts on “24 January 1536 – A Jousting Accident at Greenwich”
  1. Henry obviously had no visible injury, which is what I read into remarks that he took no hurt, but he was unconsious for a period of time and even today it would be of concern if anyone had any sort of head injury or lost consciousness for even a few moments. I think Henry must have been knocked out for a long period as he gave concern to all around him; the Duke of Norfolk took enough shock that he felt he had to tell his neice, the Queen himself rather than have anyone else inform her that her husband had fallen from his horse. May-be he should have waited to find out if and when the king came out of his coma, but he did not know how long he would be out for or if he would wake up; he can only have been acting on the knowledge that he had. Anne had to be told that the King had been unhorsed and there was concern about him at some time; her father probably should have been the one to break the news, but there is not enough evidence that Norfolk did anything that was intended to shock or upset Anne.

    +Anne was pregnant and had to be careful as she had already lost children unborn, anyone bringing news of the Kings fall had to be careful about how they gave her the news or when they gave her any news; did they hold off telling her? It must have been a delicate situation. How do you tell a pregnant woman that her husband has had a serious, possibly life threatening accident? And how more careful do you have to be if that woman is the Queen, responsible for providing the kingdom with a living male heir, and the man involved her husband the King? Norfolk must have been worried about how his news would affect his neice. I cannot believe he would callously have informed Anne that Henry may have been killed by the fall in order to cause her to lose her child.

    The doctors only realised that Henry had more substantial injuries later on when they removed his armour and his leg opened up an earlier ulcer and a new injury was clear. They did not know that his head injury would have the more serious consequences and that Henry possibly had brain damage. It was that he did not take serious hurt which is meant by the sources; or obvious physical injures and he recovered quickly. He seems to have gotten over the accident well in itself; but the old injury did open later on and had the long term health consequences that blighted Henry in the last 10 years of his life.

    1. I don’t think we’ll ever know, unless we exhume his body and examine it, whether Henry VIII did suffer a serious head injury at this joust. Chapuys plays it all down in his report of the accident and he was at court at the time:
      “On the eve of the Conversion of St. Paul, the King being mounted on a great horse to run at the lists, both fell so heavily that every one thought it a miracle he was not killed, but he sustained no injury.”

      It seems odd that Chapuys would not mention a head injury or the King being unconcious for two hours. It is only the report from Dr Ortiz, who was in Rome at the time but who says he heard it from the French king, that we have mention of the King being knocked unconcious:

      “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 of a son.”

      Interestingly, Charles Wriothesley, who was Windsor Herald and who was the brother of Thomas Wriothesley, backs up Chapuys in saying that the King was not hurt:

      “for the King ranne that tyme at the ring and had a fall from his horse, but he had no hurt.”

      Perhaps Henry’s head injury was covered up so as not to cause a panic, but it is interesting that the only source for him being knocked unconcious is from someone who wasn’t there and who was repeating what another source, who also wasn’t there, had told him. I do think that historians should stop saying that Henry was knocked unconcious as a fact and say that one source reported that.

      1. Hi Claire, just re-read the sources in the other articles again and it is important that only one source mentions that Henry was knocked out and it is based on this that much is made of brain damage and head injury. Maybe we assume he was hurt because of the impact on the front of the head when two galloping horses crash and the reference to a heavy fall. It could be compared to a head on collision of two cars travelling at fourty miles an hour. The head of the King was rattled around and it is assumed that the brain was also. Although only one source mentions that he was knocked out there are a few saying his fall was heavy, so historians assume that Henry was unconscious. The link is also made as Anne’s miscarriage was blamed on the shock from his fall, so again historians have assumed that the accident was serious enough to cause initial panic. But yes you are right, they should be clearer and state which source mentions that he was unconscious and others don’t. I think he was unconscious, that the temporal lobes took a rattling at least as his moods increased but it is also possible that he was already turning cruel as a result of seven years going through a bitter divorce. Perhaps the accident simply pushed him over the edge and further disappointment with Anne, the disillusionment following her trial and execution of life, made him more and more unable to trust, bitter and paranoid.

        1. I had a head on crash at about 50 mph with a lorry. I also had an airbag. I went through the abysmal temper and change of mood after the car crash, because of Concussive Brain Injury when my brain hit the inside of my skull. Henry of course probably had damage front and back – the front from the original impact and the back with the impact with the ground after gping off backwards. I had the massive infection (as Henry had) and lost my left leg about the knee 3 years later because of it. I then got diabetes through the infection and trauma and my temper was terrible again until it was bought under control. I also became almost blind until the diabetes was brought under control.

          So putting me in Henry’s place I feel I can empathise completely with him as I have had all his conditions but I had the modern medical treatments of antibiotics, diabetes medicine and pain killers which he didn’t and of course I don’t have the power to put people to death – something I wish I could have done many times! – Ask my wife.

          The pain must have been terrible from the infection and I too have a waist size of 54 inches but I am still as active as I can be in the wheelchair. I believe Henry must have been immobile because of the infection which probably ate into his femur and “broke” his leg apart, which happened to me, hardly something that he would wish to walk around on and he probably died from diabetes and its complications combined with the infection.

  2. Steve Cattell’s comments re side effects from brain trauma were of great interest. Henry suffered physically from the accident. He must have suffered extreme disappointment over the miscarriage of a son from Anne Boleyn as well. All his high hopes of a male heir were dashed and his relationship with his long-courted Anne soured. Complications from his fall’s injuries exacerbated his circumstances. He lost contentment and lashed out at so many. Heads rolled because, in his case, “if the king is not happy, he held others’ fates in his whims.

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