24 January 1536 – A Serious Jousting Accident for Henry VIII

Joust Medieval Illustrationer Parley's Annual for 1880 istock purchaseOn 24th January 1536, at Greenwich Palace, the forty-four year-old King Henry VIII suffered a serious acccident while jousting.

We have three main contemporary reports of the accident: one from Eustace Chapuys, Emperor Charles V’s ambassador in England, another from Dr Pedro Ortiz, Charles V’s ambassador in Rome, and a further one from chronicler and Windsor Herald Charles Wriothesley. Here are the three reports:

Eustace Chapuys reported to Nicolas Perrenot de Granvelle, one of Charles V’s trusted advisors, on 29th January 1536:

“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. Thinks he might ask of fortune for what greater misfortune he is reserved, like the other tyrant who escaped from the fall of the house, in which all the rest were smothered, and soon after died.”1

Dr Ortiz reported to the Empress on 6th March:

“Has received a letter from the ambassador in France, dated 15 Feb., stating that he hears from England that the King intends to marry the Princess to an English knight. 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.”2

Wriothesley wrote in his chronicle:

“…it was said she [Anne] tooke a fright, for the King ranne that tyme at the ring and had a fall from his horse, but he had no hurt; and she tooke such a fright with all that it caused her to fall in travaile, and so was delivered afore her full tyme, which was a great discompfort to all this realme.”3

The accident was obviously a serious one, but it is hard to tell just how serious. While Chapuys and Wriothesley, who were both in England at the time, write of Henry VIII sustaining “no injury” or “no hurt”, Ortiz’s rather third-hand information (Francis I said to the ambassador who wrote to Ortiz…) is that the King was unconscious or unable to speak for two hours after the accident, suggesting a rather serious head injury. Whatever happened, it was a nasty fall and Henry VIII never jousted again.

You can read more about the accident and its possible impact in my article Henry VIII’s Jousting Accident – 24th January 1536

Henry VIII’s 1536 jousting accident is one of the events on my countdown to Anne Boleyn’s fall on The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown website – see www.thefallofanneboleyn.com for the list of dates and events.

Notes and Sources

  1. LP x.200, Chapuys to Granvelle
  2. LP x.427, Dr Ortiz to the Empress
  3. A chronicle of England during the reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559, Charles Wriothesley, p33

Illustration of a medieval joust from “Peter Parley’s Annual for 1880”.

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