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Henry and Syphilis - the verdict
August 4, 2009
11:25 pm
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Rochie
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For a definitive answer (or as close as anyone can ever get to definitive) as to whether Henry did suffer from syphilis, this link is worth a look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..99nwRs08bU

Warning – a few shots of nasty skin eruptions included.

August 5, 2009
5:23 pm
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missisGG
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oh nice pictures!

I don't think he had syphilis really, weren't stillbirth and miscarriages high in those days anyway? Everyone always says Henry didn't father many children but if you take account of all his supposed bastard ones too, he didn't do too bad! Having children in those days was a difficult task with all the factors against you. For a start Anne and Catherine started later than was usual for childbearing didn't they? And I dread to think of how their diets affected fertility and pregnancy. Also the standards of hygiene and the fact they didn't even breastfeed their own children which helps with their immune system. It's a miracle anyone managed to reproduce successfully atall! Plus I think once Henry became overweight he was shooting blanks

August 5, 2009
7:16 pm
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Claire
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Thanks for the link, Sarah, i won't watch it now as I'm just about to eat!

I did read about how historians didn't believe that Henry had had syphilis because mercury, the standard treatment back then wasn't on his list of medicines. I will watch this video with interest later!

Debunking the myths about Anne Boleyn

August 5, 2009
9:35 pm
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Rochie
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missisGG said:

oh nice pictures!

I don't think he had syphilis really, weren't stillbirth and miscarriages high in those days anyway? Everyone always says Henry didn't father many children but if you take account of all his supposed bastard ones too, he didn't do too bad! Having children in those days was a difficult task with all the factors against you. For a start Anne and Catherine started later than was usual for childbearing didn't they? And I dread to think of how their diets affected fertility and pregnancy. Also the standards of hygiene and the fact they didn't even breastfeed their own children which helps with their immune system. It's a miracle anyone managed to reproduce successfully atall! Plus I think once Henry became overweight he was shooting blanks


Great points here missisGG. Yes, miscarriages were common, alas – due no doubt to those factors you listed.

I think the clip more or less nails it once and for all, don't you. He didn't have it.

There is research to suggest that the DNA in sperm from men who suffer from diabetes is often more damaged than normal. Henry might well have been a diabetic – adding to both impotence and 'shooting blanks.'

January 30, 2011
2:04 pm
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Nikki08
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I want to bet 1 million dollars that he had syphilis or some other sexually transmitted disease….

and my belief is mutually exclusive of the fertility of his wives and his ability to produce a legitimate child with a 'y' chromosome.

#1. He slept with a lot of women

#2. Women weren't as virtuous at court as I once thought they were, so THEY slept around

#3. He and other peerage travelled a lot, inside and outside of the country, so he(or they) could have picked up something anywhere

#4. If I knew a man who had relations with as many women as he did as indiscriminately as he did, I would swear that he had a disease now, here in the yr 2011, and we have easy access to condoms….why won't people believe that Henry would have a disease too?

All of that power, wealth and merrymaking that they did back then…? You gotta be kidding me if someone would think that he didn't have one…..

 

I don't think it has anything to do with his ability to have male kids, because he had 2 that we know of, and many more kids that we don't know of…

January 31, 2011
12:20 am
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Kim
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He may well have had an STD of some kind, but I don't think that it was syphilis. 

I would hazard a guess  at him being a diabetic. Obviously the ulcerated leg didn't help matters at all (does anyone know whether or not it became septic? Wouldn't surprise me at all considering the standards of hygiene during those times!) either. Probably some sort of mental trauma to do with his fall in 1536. And I would be willing to put money of the combination of those three leading to his eventual death.

January 31, 2011
12:59 pm
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Bella44
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I don't think Henry had syphilis either; apparently his doctors notes show that he was never treated with the favoured remedies for syphilis of the time such as mercury for skin lesions.  Which makes me think his leg ulcer was something different entirely.  I do know Kim, that there were a few times when he was older that the ulcer closed up causing Henry horrendous pain and that one time it was so bad he turned purple in the face.  When it flared up the wound had to be drained regularly.  The invention of antibiotics is an incredible thing!

Of course that doesn't mean he didn't have some other STD; gonorrhea, for example, has been known about since ancient times.  Of course without an exhumation we'll never know definitively, though how much information you get could from 500 year old bones I don't know.  Even if they carried out such testing it wouldn't surprise me if they weren't able to prove conclusively one way or the other that Henry indeed suffered from syphilis or some other STD.

What I keep coming back to is Henry's fall from his horse in 1536.  He was knocked unconscious for two hours and it was feared for his life.  It's completely possible he suffered concussion and perhaps even a slight shift in personality.  It's also possible it re-opened an old wound that he may have got in a previous fall in around 1524 which then never healed properly and became ulcerous.

I've also read that he may have had something called osteomylitis which I think (I can't be sure, I don't know enough about it!) may interfere in the healing of wounds. 

January 31, 2011
2:50 pm
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Nikki08
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Would they document his treatment? Meaning, wouldn't they consder that a “sensitive” subject that shouldn't be mentioned? Kind of like not mentioning that he was going to die until the VERY last moment….?

January 31, 2011
4:32 pm
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Bella44
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Apparently there's a book held by the British Library containing prescriptions for Henrys own use; some of them are even said to have been thought of by Henry himself.  There's a very good book 'The Last Days of Henry VIII' by Robert Hutchinson which goes into detail about Henrys health and decline as well as the power struggle at court in the last few years of his reign.  The author comes to the conclusion that Henry probably didn't have syphilis and that his leg ulcers were due to wounds originally got in the 1520s from jousting accidents and exacerbated by the 1536 fall where they probably developed into varicose ulcers.  He also makes the suggestion that in one of Henrys first jousting accidents his tibia bone was damaged and subsequently got infected.  Henrys ulcers were mainly on the thigh, not usually a site of skin lesions caused by syphilis.

You're right though Nikki, I would imagine Henry's doctors and physicians would have to be VERY careful about how they worded things – Lord Montague was executed two months after Henrys 1536 fall for predicting the king's death! 

January 31, 2011
9:28 pm
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MegC
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Henry did appear to have a shift in personality after the fall from his horse.  It's entirely possible that he suffered some brain damage that affected his personality.  I was watching a documentary once about people who had suffered unusual brain injuries, and there was a man who had been in a minor car accident, bumped his head on the steering wheel, and received a minor cut.  But a few days later, he found that he lacked all emotion.  He no longer cared for his wife or son…he knew he was supposed to care for them because he knew that he once had, but it was like they were strangers that he could summon no feelings for.  He received a CAT scan or something and they found that the car accident had damaged his frontal lobe when he hit his head on the steering wheel because the texture of the interior of the skull in that area is rather bumpy and rough apparently.  Who's to say Henry didn't receive a similar injury during his jousting incident?  The brain is a funny thing.  

I'm sure he had some kind of STD, but I don't think that it was syphilis.  

"We mustn't let our passions destroy our dreams…"

February 1, 2011
4:41 am
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Impish_Impulse
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Syphilis was known and treated at the time with mercury (BTW, Francis I was riddled with it and had three sons survive at least until their teens), but there is no record of mercury being used on Henry, as there are records of mercury being used on Francis. Also, Mary Boleyn was alleged to be Francis I's lover also, but she apparently showed no signs of syphilis herself, nor did her children.

Osteomyelitis is a bone infection that can be caused by an injury to the bone not healing correctly (say, a splinter of a poorly set bone sticking out and causing constant irritation to the soft tissues around it). This is definitely a possibility with Henry and his leg ulcer.

It's also quite possible that he had adult-onset diabetes, which also inhibits healing, and would have made his leg ulcer(s) worse.

He also had recurrent bouts of malarial fever.

He may have had a head injury from his 1536 jousting accident that may have caused brain injury and personality changes. Add no antibiotics and inadequate pain management and you get a tyrant.

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June 26, 2011
3:23 am
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E
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I used to believe the rumours about him having syphilis, but after reading a bit more on Henry, I've come to the conclusion that he was free of the disease. I do believe that he had diabetes and the thought that he had some kind of brain damage after his fall in 1536 is an excellent one and makes a great deal of sense.

"A fresh young damsel, who could trip and go"

June 30, 2011
6:17 pm
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Impish_Impulse
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I had a coworker who had been in a car accident with his wife and they both suffered head injuries. Although both fully recovered, he said they had both undergone personality changes as a result. And their personalities were now totally incompatible and the marriage didn't survive. He said it wasn't the fault of either of them, just one more bit of damage inflicted on them by the accident. He also said it had taken several years of reflection and therapy to let go of the guilt and anger over his marriage failing, though.

                        survivor ribbon                             

               "Don't knock at death's door. 

          Ring the bell and run. He hates that."    

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