On Sunday 13th February, there was a report on The Daily Express and Sunday Express website entitled “Queen Asked: May We Dig Up Henry VIII?”. The article opened with the following:-

“THE Queen is to be asked for permission to exhume the body of Henry VIII in a bid to prove that a rare ­disease caused his ferocious temper and may have driven him to have two of his six wives executed.

American researchers Catrina ­Whitley and Kyra Kramer believe that Henry had “Kell-positive” blood, and ­suffered from the related genetic ­disease McLeod’s syndrome.

Dr Whitley, a bioarchaeologist, said: “This could vindicate Henry in history. Knowing he was mentally ill offers a different explanation for why Henry, who was greatly loved as a young prince, became a ­tyrant in ­later life.”

Was Henry VIII Kell Positive?

Now, this request for permission to exhume Henry VIII’s body is based on a new theory published in an article in “The Historical Journal” entitled “A New Explanation for the Reproductive Woes and Midlife Decline of Henry VIII” by Catrina Banks Whitley and Kyra Kramer. As the Daily Express says in the excerpt you can read above, Whitley and Kramer believe that Henry VIII was positive for the Kell blood group and that this was responsible for the miscarriages and infant deaths of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, and also caused him to suffer with the related genetic disorder, McLeod Syndrome, which they think could have caused “physical and mental impairment”. I have read Whitley and Kramer’s full article and here are the key points they make:-

  • That Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn had “numerous miscarriages”.
  • That there was “a shift in the king’s policies and in his personality is noticeable as he entered middle age, supporting David Starkey’s observation that there were ‘two Henry’s … one old, the other young. And they are very, very different’.”
  • That Henry VIII “was positive for the Kell blood group, with the complication of McLeod syndrome, an X-linked medical condition of some (but certainly not all) Kell positive patients.”
  • That “a Kell positive father frequently causes negative reproductive outcomes for his reproductive partner after the first Kell negative pregnancy”.
  • That McLeod Syndrome, which has a “mean onset” of 30-40 years “is symptomized by cardiomyopathy, muscular myopathy, psychiatric abnormality, and motor nueropathy”, that “Henry VIII experienced most, if not all, of these symptoms” and that it explains “his psychological deterioration”.
  • That “considering the king’s partners had a total of at least eleven, and possibly thirteen or more pregnancies, fertility was clearly not Henry’s problem. Rather, foetal and neonate mortality were the crux of his reproductive troubles since only four of the eleven known pregnancies survived into infancy.”
  • That “just as in the Rh blood system, genetic incompatibility between the phenotype of the father and mother can cause significant difficulties when trying to produce offspring” but that” it is the rare Kell positive father that creates reproductive problems” and that the mother “develops antibodies in response to the foreign positive phenotype.”
  • That when a Kell negative mother becomes pregnant by a Kell positive man, each pregnancy has a 50/50 chance of being Kell positive, and that the first pregnancy is usually carried to term and results in a healthy baby. However, subsequent pregnancies are at risk.
  • That the Kell positive gene can be traced back to Jacquetta of Luxembourg, mother of Elizabeth Woodville and Henry VIII’s great-grandmother.
  • That McLeod Syndrome begins to manifest between the ages of 30 and 40 and that as well as muscle weakness and nerve deterioration, symptoms include paranoia, depression, personality alterations “and even schizophrenia-like behaviors”, and that the symptoms become progressively worse.
  • That Henry VIII’s paranoia and the way “he started to eliminate all those regarded as a threat to the throne” can be explained by McLeod Syndrome.
  • That “Henry’s succombing to McLeod Syndrome is also apparent in the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn” and that his paranoia is shown clearly in his treatment of Cromwell, the Pole family and religious reformers.

Now, while this is all very interesting, I can’t say that I believe this theory at all, it just hasn’t convinced me. I’m not a medical expert, but when I Googled McLeod Syndrome, I found that symptoms included “limb chorea [irregular contractions], facial tics, other oral movements (lip and tongue biting), seizures, a late-onset dementia and behavioral changes”. Well, I’m not aware of Henry VIII having seizures or tics. The article I found also suggested that it usually manifests around the age of 50 and is slowly progressive. Henry VIII was in his 40s in the 1530s when it is said that his behaviour became more tyrannical.

As far as Henry being Kell positive is concerned, I did find that when a Kell negative woman is pregnant by a Kell positive father maternal antibodies can be transferred across the placenta and can cause severe anaemia and serious complications, but I’m not sure that there is enough evidence to conclude that Henry VIII was Kell positive and I guess that this is why the Queen is being asked for permission to exhume his body.

Does it Explain his ‘Reproductive Woes’?

The whole theory depends on what we believe about the obstetric history of Henry VIII’s wives and mistresses. According to Sir John Dewhurst, there is only evidence for Catherine of Aragon having six pregnancies and although this is quite a large number her first child was stillborn whereas her second child lived for 52 days and her fifth pregnancy resulted in Princess Mary. In my opinion that really doesn’t tie in with Henry VIII being Kell positive. Dewhurst goes on to say that there is only evidence to support Anne having two pregnancies (Eric Ives says three), the first resulting in a healthy baby girl, Elizabeth, and the second a miscarriage. I’m just not sure that we can say that Henry VIII had “reproductive woes” when we also consider that he had a healthy son by Bessie Blount, a possible two children by Mary Boleyn and a healthy son by Jane Seymour. We don’t have enough data to conclude that Henry was Kell positive and I don’t think that Catherine’s obstetric history was at all unusual in a time of poor hygiene and a lack of knowledge concerning ante-natal care. Even today, we all know women who have suffered miscarriages or still-births for no apparent reason, these tragedies are a sad fact of life.

Henry VIII’s Tyranny

As far as McLeod Syndrome is concerned, I’m more inclined to believe that Henry’s paranoia, mood swings and tyranny were due to a combination of factors:-

  • Pain – Living with constant pain, as Henry was, is bound to make you grumpy, impatient and irrational. I know a simple headache can cause me to lash out at my husband!
  • Frustration – Henry’s leg ulcers made it impossible for him to enjoy activities like tennis and jousting, and that must have been so frustrating for the sport-loving king. He also must have been embarrassed by the smell from his leg and the way that he had to depend on others.
  • Challenges to his authority – Monarchs had to deal with challenges to their authority quickly and brutally, that was the way of the world and the way to keep your throne. Others had to be deterred from rebelling or challenging him.
  • Head injuries – Henry VIII had two jousting accidents, both of which involved him hitting his head, and he suffered headaches as a result of these accidents. The second accident resulted in the King being unconscious for two hours so Henry may well have suffered an injury to his brain in this accident. When I wrote about Henry’s jousting accident recently, many people commented on how they had known friends and relatives to undergo complete personality changes after suffering a head injury so this may well be a factor in Henry’s worsening behaviour and mood swings.
  • Henry’s personality – Historian J.J.Scarisbrick makes the point that “Henry was not notably more cruel afterwards [after his 1536 accident] than he had been before” and I think that Henry always had cruelty in his character. We may look on his reign and think that his behaviour got worse but is it simply because he was dealing with more threats and problems?

It is so hard to know, isn’t it? We all have our own theories about Henry VIII’s psyche and behaviour. So, should we exhume his body and take hair and bone samples to find out if Henry did suffer from a genetic disorder?


That is just my opinion but I believe it for the following reasons:-

  • I don’t want to see a mess being made of St George’s Chapel, a place of worship.
  • It sets a dangerous precedent and we’ll have ancient tombs being unearthed all over the place.
  • It strikes me as disrespectful in that we would be doing it simply to satisfy our own morbid curiosity, it does not benefit us in any way.

If renovation work was being carried out on the Chapel then I might feel differently, but it’s not.

What do you think?

Should he be exhumed and was he Kell positive?

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142 thoughts on “Should Henry VIII be Exhumed and Would it Provide the Answer to his Tyranny?”
    1. ya, its just learning of part of the history and can hurt nobody. For some it could be a moral or religious question. I dont bother with that, in this case its just personal opinion, but the science (and history is surely a science) can help us to get to the places, we dont even know yet that such exist.

      1. I agree. I would love to know the truth. They dug up the mona lisa. I think it will bring more tourists into the country as well. Look at the fuss over Richard 111.

    2. I think yes, he would have done it in the name of medical research. He was a forward thinking male, except on the topic of domestic violence. I don’t think it is disrespectful, I believe Henry himself would be so thrilled to she us still fascinated with him.

      1. I agree. People are always taught the 2nd half or “bad” part of Henry VIII’s life but it should be remembered, that in the first half of his life, he was an extraordinary person both phyically, as demonstrated by his athletic prowess, and mentally as demonstrated by his wit, creativity, and understanding of science., He was the king, who was admired and respected by all and loved by many, who put England on the path to it’s pinnacle.
        Henry VIII was facinated by science and would have been the first to volunteer his DNA for study, if the technology for DNA analysis existed in his time! So, knowing that; I say exhume him. …If nothing else, it’ll be good publicity illustrating the dangers of a carbohydrate rich diet that resulted in obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, edema, and possible deep vein thrombosis!

        1. Idk what you’ve been reading man, but ESPECIALLY in his youth, Henry was crazy irresponsible. He spent like 13 million pounds on special ditch cannons, at at the time, his country wasn’t even at war, that’s just one example. His fascination with science was just a way to connect with Thomas more, and it wasn’t even science as a whole, he just really loved the stars. If he really loved science that much the fool probably wouldn’t have taken infusions, and he might have listened to dr linacre more. Let me tell you this, he was not loved by all, even before his crazy times. Do I have to remind you what happened with Robert Aske? He lost the respect of his catholic subjects after that fiasco, and not to mention the rest of the religious turmoil he put his people through. He was not a great king, nor a respected king, he was a vile, cruel man, and an irresponsible king.

      2. I am fascinated by all Forensics, DNA, Ancient facial reconstruction.
        I have asked the question many times, I truly believe it would be valuable
        to find out what causes of Death Really were. Also, very interesting to see
        what people looked like .?

        I believe, we would find that causes of death as told at the time, we’re wrong.

      3. Yes I think Henry would say dig me up and solve why Catherine lost five out six babies..and why he was in pa I’ll n..I’m sorry I do blame Anne..the ppl loved Catherine .if it wasn’t for Anne Mary would been so bitter

    3. No. IMO, There is no excuse for his tyranny. It’s
      sad IMO that some seem to want to excuse it with
      theories of brain damage, syphilis, etc. He was
      an evil man. There is no excuse period.

  1. The points towards Henry having this condition seemed convincing to me at first, but I’m not sure. There are endless reasons why Henry may have acted as he did in his life, and since so many doctors and such keep on putting forward new ‘evidence’ that he had one of them, they can’t all be right. I don’t think we’ll ever know why he was such a tyrant in later life, but if this condition is so rare, I don’t think it’s likely Henry had it.

  2. The case you make for not exhuming Henry is a very good one, and I agree with it. I wonder why we always have to fish around for explanations for tyranny and cruelty, as if we cannot accept evil as existing without some ‘rational’ scientific cause to explain it. Henry became a cruel and evil tyrant because, sadly, like it or not, cruelty and evil exist in the world and always will – and Henry allowed it to consume him.

  3. I actually read the article in The Historical Journal. I posted somethings about on the Anne Boleyn Forum.
    The ultimate problem with the author’s theory is it is just a theory. There is no concrete evidence to prove their point. The author’s are viewing history through a particular lens. They are using conjecture to support their theories, and it can be a dangerous road to head down.
    As for exhuming Henry’s body, I say let the dead rest in peace. Now, if this was a modern day murder, and it was necessary to exhume a body, then I am fine with that. But disturbing a 464 year old body is problematic. I doubt the Queen would ever agree and, there could be problems associated with exhumation in St. George’s Chapel. If we start down the road to exhuming one historical figure, then where does it end?
    However, this is just my opinion.

  4. With hardly any true proof …I think its best to leave him resting in peace. There is no need to disturb everything around him; plus what if it came out negative. All that excavation would be for nothing. I believe it was his head injury anyways. Interesting theory though! Thank you for sharing this Claire!

  5. I think that if we dig him up now nd get bone nd hair samples we can use it towards other theories in the future, and if they have any renovations they can work on them then!

    1. That’s a really good point, maybe they should allow Henry to be exhumed, as he is very famous, maybe as a one off.

  6. I say dig him up , take the samples and give him and Jane a real grave in the chapel because I think it is a shame he does not have a big gravemonument as one of the greatest kings of England (but that is just my opinion)

    1. I agree 110%. King Henry VIII deserves the honourable and grant tomb he wanted and the public should have something grander to observe and pay him our respects.

  7. Dig him up. If we do that we could also theoretically see any healed cranial injuries and doctors could comment on that. He could also be tested for any other genetic diseases. I also would love for the bones of the “Princes in the Tower” to be exhumed and genetically analyzed. These people are already dead, we can’t hurt them. Is there no access to the crypt in St. George’s? I have been there and I know the slabs are in the middle of the floor, but is there any other way under so the inside of the chapel would not have to be disturbed so much?

  8. I always thought diabetes and/or VD. The stasis ulcers on his leg could ne caused by diabetes and would be really hard to heal. His weight also could be due to diabetes. VD could cause mental problems. Or he was just a mean guy.

  9. I agree with you that it’s a dangerous precedent to set digging up graves to prove or disprove medical theories based on no more than supposition.

    There are several medical theories currently about what caused Henry’s change in later life and his wives’ unsuccessful pregnancies. The truth is, neither of these was unusual and neither requires medical explanation beyond the obvious. Ante-natal and infant death rates were high in the sixteenth century. Henry and his wives were unlucky, but no more so than many people at the time. People often show marked changes in temperament in later life. Like you say, Henry was in considerable pain at times; felt he was beset by bad luck and perhaps bitter about the loss of his youthful good looks and athletic ability. It’s enough to make anyone bad tempered- Henry’s only difference is that he was bad tempered and very powerful.

  10. While you do make a very good point , it think that exhuming him would be alright , i mean think about how this guy was, not only did he murder two of his wives, some figures put him at 70,000 executions during his rule. at the end of it i really have a skewed sense of respesct for him.

  11. While I wouldn’t rule it out, I’m skeptical that tyranny could be so easily explained. Many a Roman emperor and Egyptian pharaoh come to mind — and for that matter, many a modern dictator. Surely all didn’t suffer from this condition! But it’s an interesting debate.

    1. I don t think they are trying to simply trying to find why Henry became so obnoxious as he aged… Many older persons do, my goodness, I have been in nursing homes and seen some very hard to take seniors (yelling, cursing, gosh forbid we give them a Kingdom to rule)… along with the very nice ones. My Mother worked in a nursing home and she said it seems to her if you are a nice person to begin with you are a nice person to the end and vice versa. She dealt with all manner of elderly folk so she was very aware of this. Reading on Henrys childhood it sounds as if he were a very indulged and tempermental little boy who always had to have his own way. Grow that into a man and voila, Henry. However, I don t believe it would be a bad thing to test Henry because obviously we are all interested in his history as this site suggests and this testing may give us an answer as to why his wives conceived and lost so many children which is usually a focal point for any story surrounding theTtudor King; & maybe we have it all wrong. I would love to know this and at the same time they could test for any other manner of problem and it is really very Interesting & unobtrusive when they exhume a body. Very little on the body is touched, very little need be taken to test and it is always done responsibly and with respect.

  12. Short answer is No. Leave him where he is.

    I say this for all the reasons you’ve suggested.

    Longer answer:
    I can just about see a case for exhuming the bones of the two children who are thought to be the Princes in the Tower – to see if there is any evidence which can help us in finding out when they died and thereby narrowing the list of suspects down further.
    They died in suspicious circumstances – the available evidence indicates murder, and perhaps that should be investigated. But, the question is, does it change history? Not really, though it may vindicate suspects who should not be accused.

    In Henry VIII’s case, even if this theory was proved to be correct, what does that do? Dr Whitley says it would “vindicate” Henry and prove he was mentally ill. The inference is that all that he did was not his fault. So all that he did that was GOOD for the country would be negated and when he murdered (which is what he did!) two wives, numerous nobles simply because they were born too close to the throne (Countess of Shrewsbury) and many rank and file people, would be almost accepted. “Oh dear, poor Henry was mentally ill, it wasn’t his fault!”. He was pretty decisive when he wanted to be!

    As you say Claire, Henry’s character changed after 1536 when he was knocked unconcious. Head injuries can do wierd things as I know to my cost. In my case my sight was detiorated in one eye – thankfully temporarily. It took me around 6 – 8 months to recover properly and even now, 2 years later (on the 1st March) I can get nasty headaches just where I whacked my head. In Henry’s case, what other more minor injuries may have occurred when he was at war or just practicing his sports? Damage to the brain can be accumulative. I’ve been warned that I have to be VERY careful about whacking my head again. Next time I may not be so lucky.

    Exhuming Henry on such a tenuous theory does not change history. It does not help those he murdered. It does not change the face of our society now. Leave the dead in peace.

    1. I agree. I’d much rather see DNA testing done on the bones of those believed to be the Princes in the Tower to find out whether it really is them or if it’s Edward V and another boy.

    2. i think you see it too much in some kind of psychological way. I dont know if other people who would approve the exhumation would say it like me…..i look at it purely as an experiment, which can bring some kind of information. it doesnt have to be the proof of the disease they claim to be found (and lets be honest, their reasons are theoretical only), but something else or some link to whatever else can be found. Always interesting. And if it wasnt for human curiosity, what would be left of the science, even the history? Being satisfied with what i already know? No, i want to know always more. In Prague a team from Denmark and some our scientist did exhume body of Tycho Brahe, famous astronomer buried here….his death is still a mystery, he might get killed. Now are working on the samples and within 6 months there will be results.

  13. My answer is ….. NO My opinion is leave Henry VIII alone he shouldn’t be dug up and experimented on. The last thing you want is an unhappy spirit of him roaming around, he has been untouched this long why disturb him now…..

    1. We are not disturbing Henry, Henrys soul has long ago taken flight. I was at my Moms funeral and I could not bear to look at the coffin, it just gave me a panicky creepy feeling. Halfway through the Mass, I heard her voice distinctly, all of a sudden say to me, Tess, I am not in there, there is just a shell inside there, it isnt me and I am fine. I am not in there Tess, the body is a shell. Well, okay, I thought I was a little nuts, but I knew I had distinctly her voice say this to me while I was praying on my knees (and avoiding looking to the left) and it startled the heck out of me but at the same time, I felt a huge peace descend on me and I finally after days took a deep breath and relaxed and I knew my Mom wasnt in the casket and it was simply a shell of a body. This is exactly how it is with Henry and he would have no say in it and be fine with it, I am sure, as someone else said that Henry would be exuberant to know that we to this day find him a fascinating historical figure, good or bad.

      1. That’s weird one afternoon I heard my mum speak my name in the kitchen and she’d been dead about six years, the house was very quiet and I distinctly heard her voice, I think they visit us from time to time, I know what you mean about coffins to, I hate looking at them, but I find it incredibly sad not exactly creepy, I couldn’t look at my mums or dad’s coffins properly at their funerals, just a quick glance there’s something so final about them, you know then that death isn’t avoidable.

  14. The Queen won’t give permission. She won’t allow the remains of ‘the little princes’ to be examined again, so I doubt she’d allow Henry VIII to be ‘dug up’. I say leave him alone. And as for his lack of a grand tomb – he stripped the alters etc, so I’m sure it’s in keeping for him:>

    1. This….seriously I don`t think QEII will allow this.

      And I really don`t think it would serve any scientific purpose either.

  15. I’m on the fence about this one. Part of me wants to know why he seemed to change so drastically (one of the theories I’ve heard it bandied around is that he had Syphilis) although like you said, perhaps he was always that way. At least we would have an answer. Another part has tremendous respect for resting places (not to mention the Chapel) and doesn’t want them disturbed at all. Is it really so important to our lives that we MUST know the answer to this?

    As a selfish aside: The whole ‘Why did Henry seem to change so much?’ question is one that has kept me up some nights into the morning trying to mull it over. I’ve pretty much came to the same conclusion as you.

  16. Well, this is quite an interesting conundrum!–part of me is curious but my better self thinks we should let Henry be–I certainly would not wish to be exhumed unless there was a really good reason–like it could help someone or something. I agree with Claire that this theory, while interesting, doesn’t fit the facts of Henry’s life. He has too many successful births for it to work. And, I do believe the cruelty was part of his character all along–it grew as his own powers grew. Remember, Thomas More saw it early on–he made those comments about “if my head could get him a castle in France, off it would go” and also about the “lion learning his strength, no one could control him.” More was insightful and recognized Henry’s taste for power, even while he was still fairly young.
    What I wouldn’t give to spend a day with the young Henry and the old Henry to see the changes for myself!

  17. Thanks so much for this, Claire! I’ve really been thinking about it since I first read the story, and I have come to similar conclusions. The linchpin, I think, is the fact that Mary I was born a healthy baby and was the result of Katherine’s 5th pregnancy. This is an important fact that I don’t feel has been adequately addressed by the authors of the study and I would be curious to know how they would respond to that question.

  18. I can’t imagine the Queen would ever agree to Henry or any other royal being exhumed because she is a christian and I’m sure being dug up is not part of the relgion. However I don’t believe in any religion so to me once you’re dead, you’re dead and it doesn’t really matter what happens to your body. If he still had close family I would definitely be against it, but seeing as he doesn’t I think it would be very interesting. Should something like McLeod Syndrome be found, it would also be a much stronger case to prove that Anne Boleyn was innocent and it was Henry’s illness that caused him to accuse her. It would also show that it was not his wives fault that they had pregnancy problems. The remains of these people are ancient and won’t be around for very much longer so if we do want to prove certain facts, we had better get a move on! Wouldn’t it be interesting to match the DNA of Elizabeth 1 to prove she was the deaughter of Henry (not Smeaton, as Mary 1 claimed) and then we could find out for sure if the remains in the plot where Anne Boleyn is said to rest is actually her too. I’m just imagining ‘Time Team’ going nuts for this!

  19. All the theories about what made Henry the way he was are interesting, but to me, all of them miss the most important point. All seem to based on the fallacious idea that there was a “norm” in both political and reproductive behaviour, which, if he had been perfectly healthy, Henry VIII would naturally have conformed to. In terms of his political and personal cruelty, most of these theories are based on the pivot date of 1536 and that this was the year he turned from a basically normal leader into a more ruthless and unhinged one. This leaves aside the fact that his treatment of his father’s advisers, his first wife, eldest daughter, the Carthusian order, the duke of Buckingham, Cardinal Wolsey and some of his former confidantes had all been practically sociopathic in the years prior to 1536. The reason that he became noticeably “crueller” after 1536 is not because his personality changed; his circumstances did. The changes of religion he had forced through before 1536 provoked rebellion, which he suppressed savagely and his fifth wife almost certainly took a lover during the course of her marriage and is hypocritical repugnance regarding female sexuality was on display long before 1541. There is nothing to suggest that anything happened mentally or genetically in and around 1536 which to me seems convincing. In regards his reproductive bad luck, fertility in the early modern period was a notoriously hit-and-miss affair. Henry VII and Elizabeth of York had as many pregnancies between them as Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon did; only three of them survived into what could properly be termed adulthood. There was quite simply a lot more that could go wrong with a pregnancy or infant in Henry VIII’s era. Alright, I’m prepared to accept that he MIGHT have suffered from low fertility, but there’s something to suggest that his paternal grandmother, the Countess of Richmond, had done so too and there were many kings who struggled to produce a son and heir, because of the dangers of childbirth and infantile death, including Henry’s brother-in-law, King Louis XII of France. His future son-in-law, Philip II, also struggled to father a living boy after the death of his eldest, Don Carlos, and looking back in English history, Henry I and Adeliza of Louvain, for some reason, failed to produce any children during their 14 year marriage, but Henry had fathered four children with his first wife and nearly twenty-four bastards with various mistresses; Adeliza had seven children with her second husband, the earl of Arundel. I think it was all down to luck and I agree that exhuming him now to try and do tests, which would almost certainly prove inconclusive, seems a bit excessive.

  20. Leave Henry in peace. He does not need “vindication” and the potential for damage to a historic church just does not seem worth it.

    A number of years back, Zachary Taylor, a US president who died in office under mysterious circumstances was exhumed, because a researcher was convinced he had been poisoned with arsenic. The official story was, he ate chilled cherries at some function or other, became ill, and died. Taylor’s remains were exhumed, and no evidence of arsenic was found. Even if there had been, what was the impact on a man that long dead? None – he would have been reclassified as an assassinated president, changing a thing or two in history books, but that was about it.

    If Henry was sick with some illness, genetic condition or injury, well, it might explain his actions/behavior, but it would not change his impact on history, nor would it cause any impact on Henry himself. Let him rest in peace.

    1. miladyblue — I was just about to comment on the Zachary Taylor exhumation because the President and his wife are buried at my hometown’s Veteran’s Cemetery, so I remember the circus surrounding it…and believe me, it was a circus. I even recall the huge worldwide press conference when the then Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of Kentucky announced the results.

      So if we got THAT response and hype from the possible assassination of a “lesser” President of the United States, can you imagine the 24/7 coverage of the exhumation of Henry VIII, with news channels bargaining for actual spots during the autopsy itself!

      As a crime scene technician, I feel torn because I know how the advances in DNA analysis have pushed the forensic sciences forward in ways we only imagined possible on Star Trek. But there is this other part of me that wonders if it would solve anything in the end. No matter the results, you would still likely have historians and geneticists and biologists arguing over what we might learn. I’ve seen murder cases where you had the foremost blood spatter experts in the world brought in to testify — and they could still all disagree on what they found, depending on whether they were on the side of the prosecutor or the side of the defense! It is quite possible they were honest in their opinion — but the interpretation had some flaw. So who is to say we might not run into the same problem with a Henry VIII exhumation.

      I’m like many on here: if the Queen wouldn’t authorize the exhumation of “The Little Princes” then I doubt Great Harry will be exhumed. Perhaps it’s not scientific, but I feel these sorts of things should only be done when there is a great deal of evidence to show that some justice will be brought about by having the exam. If Henry was shown as being mentally ill, it still does not excuse – for me at any rate — the cruelties he showed almost from day one when he had his father’s loyal (but unpopular) servants executed. Perhaps he did grow worse as time went on, but when one is an absolute leader, how does one put a leash on them anyway? I am very certain the head injuries didn’t help — I’ve seen how those can change a person, so the 2 hours of unconsciousness, combined with whatever else made up the man that was Henry VIII prior to that, regrettably left us with a mess of a man and I’m not sure an exhumation would answer all our questions.

      So as fascinating as it would be, I have to say no, don’t do it.

      1. That sort of circus is morbid, and disrespectful of the dead. You and I are in TOTAL agreement here, that Henry should just be left to rest in peace. Henry will still have been Henry, and his impact on British, heck, even WORLD history will not change in the slightest after nearly 500 years.

  21. Digging up Henry may or may not answer the question of a genetic problem. At this point in time it’s a moot point.

    To me, this is just another way to explain and/or excuse tyrannical behavior. Henry started off his reign by executing two of his late father’s tax collectors. That doesn’t strike me as a kind and benevolent ruler! He did this to gain approval from his subjects, and, to erase his father’s reign and the control Henry VII had on his son. I suppose for the time period it made sense, but really? He was already showing his true colors. The two poor tax collectors were doing their job. They may have been over zealous and greedy, but to execute them?

    Henry lived up to that old saying “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

    Excusing him at this point in time is ludicrous and frankly carries into our society where people try to excuse their bad/poor behavior by blaming everyone and everything but themselves.

    1. I have to respectfully disagree. Henry was no different than any other King before or after himself. The times were barbaric. What we are shocked by and consider inhumane and unjust today was thought of as quite fair and just in his day. Henry did once have a benevolent side but he was also a King and he exercised his royal authority. Just as today not many of us would want to gather and cheer on the public drawing and quartering of a traitor, in those days it was entertainment for the masses as well as a message about the consequences of the royal wrath. People were different in those days. Even children were brought to witness public executions and most people didn’t bat an eyelash at watching a man’s innards being torn from his body and burned before him. Henry needed no approval from his subjects whatsoever. He only meant to send a message and to flaunt his superiority and the power of his crown. While I am not excusing Henry’s behavior, I also know that it was a King being a King and the times were what they were. It was unlikely that Henry’s subjects would have seen the executions and punishment as unjust. Especially with poor Anne, whom the public positively reviled. She was probably the most hated woman in England at the time. I’m sure that they were not happy to see Queen Catherine treated the way she was but I’m sure not too many saw it as unusual for any monarch to behave. I’m aware many disagreed with him but I doubt they saw it as being as cruel as we see it today.

  22. In the interest of science, why not? It might answer the many questions we have about Henry. I’ve long been curious as everyone is as to the explanation behind the maladies Henry suffered and how he could have turned from a generous and friendly person to the tyrant he became.

  23. I personally don’t think the Queen will allow Henry’s body to be exhumed, as she said no to the Princes in the tower when experts wanted to DNA test their bones them. This could possibly be because they are children. With regards to the Mcleods Syndrome, I really don’t think he suffered with that. Experts say he had Diabetes, and I also believe the jousting accident caused him medical problems. Also with regards to his tyrannical ways he was no different to many other Monarchs, these were brutal times something many people seem to forget.
    I don’t know if I agree with exhuming his body, but if they do we will probably have many answers to our questions.

    1. That was a good documentary. It was playing on comcast on demand under the Naked Science category. Very interesting.

  24. I would hope that the Queen would grant permission to the exhumation of Henry VIII, with the stipulation that it be done carefully and reverently for future generations. With technology as advanced the way it now and will continue to be, it will help clear up any misconceptions that are out there as to why Henry became the tyrant he turned out to be, and may help his reputation down the ages if it turns out that he indeed have a medical problem that made him the way he was.

  25. Dig him up! There was no sense in exhuming anyone before because we didn’t have the technology. Now we do! This is so exciitng and will answer so many questions if it is allowed to proceed.

    After all, it is not as Queen Elizabeth is letting them dig up her granny!

  26. It seems to me that the writers have adduced any real evidence for this disease and I agree that St George’s should be left alone.

  27. Sarahp has a good point, these remains won’t be around much longer. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad to answer some of the questions about so many of these historic people. I don’t like the thought of disturbing the dead much either, but if it would put to rest these burning questions I say why not?

  28. I think that it would be a good idea to exhume his body as it would shed new light on things and finally put an end to what he died from amongst certain other things but wether the Queen will permit it or not is another matter. I hope that she does give her consent. I know at the same time it would like you have said it would be a disturbance and not a very nice thing to do but at the same time it would benefit us a great deal I think.

    The first and last time that this had been done was during the reign of Queen Victoria at a time when DNA testing was non-exsistent but now we that technology has advanced aswell as everything else in a lot of things in numerous ways then why not? I say let it go ahead and so done with it. As it would be such a benefit for us mere history enthusiasts, researchers and historians not to mention certain people from the medical profession last but not least.

    It is I find an interesting theory that these two researchers from America have given, it could all the well be possible but at the same time we have take this as yet but another theory on their parts aswell as ours but very interesting never the less. I personally thought myself that it may have have been part and parcel to the head injuries that he sustained via falling of his horses during his jousting tournaments and as a result sustained some sort of brain damage that may be credible for his actions topped with the fact that all his life consisted of was mainly bad luck and this just and would have made him only worse and even more bad tempered. I would not be surprised if he actually died from a brain heamorraghe or died as a result of the paining in his leg where germs may have somehow got aswell as set into the wound and gave him blood poisoning as a result and another theory of mine was that he may have had syphillis but at the same time mercury would have been presribed for this and there is nothing to say anywhere that it was as would have been the norm at the time. I know that King Francis I of France died of Syphillis and it was known as mercury had been prescribed but in Henry’s case it may not be so afterall but then again who really knows all we can do is but speculate. I had read that Henry suffered with diabeties and not only did he but so did his elder sister Margaret. Another thing that may of killed him could of been his weight, it could have put presure on his heart and gave him a heart attack. It could be a list of many a things.

  29. Only if there is enough DNA to prove or disprove that Henry VIII had Kell’s or Crushing syndrome or whatever. His own father, who probably died of TB, was as ruthless, if not more, in getting rid of practically everyone who had a better blood claim to the throne. Edward IV also put on much weight in his later years and as he could exercise less, grew more fond of food as did his grandson Henry VIII. The longer one lived, especially if one was wealthy and had many servants to do for one as most people had to do themselves, would predispose one to weight gain and the 1536 jousting fall possibly did have a negative effect on Henry’s health.

    It is noteable to add that unlike her father, Elizabeth I ate rather sparingly, was not fond of physicians as a rule, and exercised, walked and danced far beyond the age her father had been able to. Did she choose to live as unlike her father in order to live to a ripe old age(and even then there was evidence of senile dementia or possibly Alzheimer’s in her final years), or did she inheirit enough of her mother’s genetic makeup and personality to save her from the weight gain and other health problems suffered by her father and maternal great grandfather as they aged?

  30. I agree with you and Gareth. To ignore the political and social changes of the time and blame Henry’s behavior just does not make sense. I think that in the quest for a medical diagnosis, these doctors have not studied the Tudor era or even other rulers. Many of them were just as cruel as Henry when it came to putting down rebellions. What was considered acceptable behavior in a ruler has greatly changed over time. You can not compare Henry’s era to our own. I also have a problem with possibly damaging a beautiful piece of architecture for such a theory. The money needs to be used to preserve the past. England has so many wonderful treasures that need repair. This is just a waste of resources.

  31. It’s academic because the Queen will never permit the exhumation. Far more interesting to exhume the bodies in the Tower and create facial reconstructions and/or analyse the bones that are supposedly Edward V and Richard of York. I don’t see that Kells is relevant or applicable re Jacquetta or Elizabeth Woodville who were prolific re fertility as were generally, the Hse of York. Perhaps HV8 reproductive misfortunes and those of his queens can be explained away by bad luck, inadequate childcare/hygiene and sporadic impotence and weight gain. His lack of performance was well known – and mentioned by Anne and George amongst others.

  32. I am sure the queen will never allow this, she never did allow such things before. I am also of the opinion that Henry’s bad luck with is offspring was not the result of Kell’s, and neither was his later character change. The man had chronic malaria since his late twenties, which also causes paranoia and depression. Add that to the constant pain in his later life and the position of power he was in and you have an explanation for his behaviour. I think most everyone would start behaving tyrannical, with no one to tell you no.

    That his wives had many miscarriages was just bad luck imo, Anne Boleyn might have been Rhesus negative, which would explain the miscarriages after the first healthy baby. Catherine of Aragon could have had a streptococcal uterus infection, which the babies caught during birth and died (which is still a big problem today, but can be treated). Her first pregnancy ended with a hugely swollen belly from some infection after all.

    But most of all, these people only drank wine, that can’t have helped carrying a baby to term.

    And the later lack of pregnant wives is easily explained by Henry’s depleting potence, which would be normal for older, fat men.

  33. I just do not believe in disturbing the resting places of people unless it is unavoidable. I say let Henry rest in peace..

  34. NOt only do I think tissue and hair samples should be allowed to taken from H-8, but also from every royal and noble graves around the world. These are the best documented family trees we have and a tremendous amount of knowledge could be gained by doing DNA tests. We could learn so much about how genetics progress through generations; maybe even see a pattern in evolution that has been hidden, and we could also take photographs of the skulls and reproduce the faces using modern forensic techniques – as they do for unidentified remains today. We could finally “see” what all these people looked like! For me, that alone would be worth it. It is conceivable that the knowledge gained by testing the DNA in these families could spring board us to cures for diseases of today. I have a friend whose daughter has never ate a cheeseburger or a bowl of ice cream because of a genetic liver disease. Her food is a specially prepared formula and she is in and out of the hosptial as toxic levels in her liver makes her sick. A simple cold could kill her. She is waiting for a liver transplant but is low on the list because whenever a liver that matches becomes available, there has been someone else closer to death than she and they get it. Maybe testing these families DNA would give a researcher an idea for a cure. My own daughter received a liver transplant for a genetic liver disease in 2007; she almost died leaving 4 year old twins behind. What if this testing could show a researcher how to clone organs free of genetic problems with just a few cells from a persons own body? That would eliminate rejection issues. There is a vast amount of questions that could be answered from testing DNA from family members spanning centuries. And there is a secondary reason to disturb the remains. Many rest in crypts and under floors hundreds of years old. By exhuming the remains, the structures could be evaluated for any damage that may have happened over the centuries and something cold be done about it now rather than wait for a crisis. Is there any inspections to the crypts done on a regular basis? How horrible if a hair line crack is in one now and is just a catastrophy waiting to happen because we are respecting the remains of the dead and not going into the vaults and crypts to inspect them regularly. My last reason for doing it is that the more time that goes by, the less chance of obtaining viable DNA that can be tested. So I asy – go for it and expand it to include H-8;s ancestors, children, cousins, and all the royal families and noble families through out the world. Who knows, maybe a cure for all cancers would be developed from the testing of Catherine of Aragon’s DNA? Stranger things have happened.

  35. I think with all the technology we have there should be a way around exhuming the body. It’s not necessary to do now.

  36. I just don’t thing we should tamper with his body like that, its wrong on so many levels. Yes don’t get me wrong I would love to know, but at the same time I’d feel like I was tampering with history. Not to mention I don’t think the Queen or the people of England would be to happy with others messing with their history like that.

  37. I can’t see why the Queen wouldn’t allow the exhumation. We’re all curious. I would think that even the Queen herself is somewhat curious. She knows that historians have long been trying to find the answers for years and that the world wants to know. I truly hope she allows the exhumation. I, like everyone else, really want to know what they’ll find. I always knew he was diabetic. How could he not be by the time of his death he was so morbidly obese. Something had to happen to change him into the man he was by his death. Not to be morbid, but I can’t wait to find out what was all behind it. Imagine Anne’s confusion and dismay at Henry’s mood swings and roller coaster relationship they had. She, nor Henry’s physicians could have possibly understood what was going on with him at the time. The fear she must have felt toward the end. Poor Anne. :'(

  38. I don’t think that exhuming Henry is a good idea. It might satisfy curiosity and prove a theory right, but it won’t change history. I think personally that Henry was very much a product of his time, and if you look at others who were close contemporaries of his we also see a lot of the same behaviour. The example of Vlad Dracula springs to mind, I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to get on his wrong side! There’s also an example from Scottish history (a few centuries before Henry I think) where one of the kings had a baby publicly killed just because she was part of a family that had a rival claim to the throne. I think Henry was a highly complex person and I don’t think we can isolate any one reason for his behaviour. His jousting accident probably was a factor, and from what I have read there were some kind of mental health issues from the de Valois ancestry which could have been passed down. Let Henry rest in peace.

  39. Perhaps it was in another forum or post on this website, but the question was once posed about exhuming the bodies at St. Peter ad Vincula for proper identification and burial. More were opposed to this idea rather than not, and I felt that having the dead rest under the right marker was more of a reason to have bodies exhumed than to identify whether or not someone had a genetic disorder.

    I don’t know how much information we would be able to gain from the DNA of those who went before us, but I don’t like the idea of digging up the body of someone who has been resting in peace so that we can satisfy our own morbid curiosities. Let the things that Henry did and why he did them be part of his mystique and legend. To be able pit his bevavior on a chemical imbalance or McLeod’s disease (to me) just seems too easy. He was a complicated and multifasceted man living in circumstances that we will never understand…he was simply Henry VIII, not history’s poster boy for a genetic disorder.

  40. Actually there is a separate entrance to Henry’s burial vault, in St George’s Chapel so the floor would not have to be damaged. I was under the impression that when the vault was last opened by in the eighteenth century, Henry’s coffin was falling apart anyway so there would be very little (if any) soft tissue left.

    Henry should be left to lie in peace (and don’t forget, the vault is also the burial place of Charles I and Jane Seymour) and I agree that Lipscombe’s book gives us a superb insight into what made Henry change.

  41. I think this is a great endeavor and should be done as it will answer many questions about King Henry VIII and his family that have been asked over the centuries. Actually I am very excited and hope the Queen approves of this investigation. Would it not be fun if all of us could submit a question we most would like answered about this Tudor king!! Anyway I will be watching the process of this and look forward to the outcome.

  42. Claire….could you keep all of us up on the on going details of this maybe happening and when they would be doing this….It would be fabulous if maybe they were in the midst of it while Linda and I were in London this May……Please let us know as soon as you know what the Queen decided upon…..thank you in advance…. I would also like to thank, TudorRose for her kind remarks upon my opinion regarding Lady Jane Grey….It is nice to know that others in this forum do in fact read what all have to say…Thank You, TudorRose from David…….Have a great day!

  43. I thought that this was a really interesting theory but going by the little I’ve read about it since, I don’t think it stacks up.

    The idea of exhuming Henry VIII is incredibly tempting, particularly when you see how much information they are able to gleam from long-dead Egyptian mummies and medieval skeletons by subjecting them to a full forensic examination. The idea of being able to discover the exact state of Henry’s health is very exciting.
    However, I don’t think the Queen will allow it and I think she’s right not to. Apart from the mess and disruption in what is a historical and holy place, it would set a dangerous precedent for the exhumation of controversial fiigures from the past.

  44. Opps…..I thanked the wrong person, all thanks should go to Catherine Howard…I enjoyed her kind remark concerning my remark regarding Lady Jane Grey…..Sorry TudorRose….my mistake….cheers to all…!!

  45. Shoshana, I think you are placing too much trust in the accuracy of DNA testing. I friend of mine has a daughter who has a very rare immune disorder but no relative on either side of the family could be found with any condition like hers. I think DNA can be helpful for diagnosing some conditions but this science if far from perfect. I remember only too well all the questions about the use of DNA in the O.J. Simpson trial. You can easily find two experts who will reach the opposite conclusions. The way the sample is even handled can be a major problem. There is no guarantee that the sample is good enough for testing. The fact that you would be looking at samples that could easily be contaminated makes this whole procedure very doubtful of producing anything except a lot of debates among so called experts. I saw an interesting show on Napoleon and if he was poisoned with arsenic by analyzing hair samples. No conclusive evidence appeared and everyone still had their own opinion as to the cause of his death.

    1. You make valid points; however, DNA testing has greating improved since the OJ fiasco and there are safe guards that can be put in place to insure the sample is not contaminated. No one can guarantee the sample from any source, contempoary or ancient, will be good enough to extract information; but as procedures and techiniques are always improving and our knowledge increasing, there is a more than excellent chance that in the future whatever we can not do today, will easily be done tomorrow.
      As for your friend, I would question the labs where the samples were processed; unfortunately, not all lab results can be trusted for a variety of reasons. One of the things that was exposed in the OJ trail was the need to safe guard the “line of evidence”.My daughter inherited a genetic liver disease from a i
      Lisannejane, this is such a complex issue, we would do ourselves and othes a dissservice if we submitted them. As much as I would like to go on; I must sign off. I am recovering from the surgery of five herniated disks and at the moment, regretting I ever did. So I am off to lalaland via some pain pills. I look forward to reading more observations from you. I hope all this make sense! My pain meds are very strong!

      1. My pain meds obviously kicked in at the last!
        I wanted to say that my daughter had a genetic liver disease that eventually required a liver transplant. When searching for a donor, we noticed that one la would consistetnly mark samples as compatible – much more than the other lab. (Her transplant team insisted on double testing and I am glad they did.) In checking out procedures we found this particular lab was manned mostly by “Iinterns” who were being taught on the job without any formal eduaitonl Needless to say, my daughter survived ok and is not enjoying raising her twins but if we had gone with one of the samples approved, she easily could have died.

        1. Hi Shoshana,This truely is a small world,as I am to recovering from lower lumbar surgery1 threw 5 for almost going on 2 years and on top of that 2 abbesses righton the lower spine.I truely feel your pain and also on pain meds omg ,they knock me right out.I just had Facet joint injections in the 3rd lower lumbar,that was grueling.But this is a good point you make ,it would do know good to even try DNA on anyone the bodies are to decomposed there is no blood to have any more and the bones, are but dust.I say leave well enough alone and just let them rest in peace.Hope you get better soon AB friend. Kind Regards Baroness Von Reis.

  46. When I was an English teacher (which I hated being) I was obsessed by what is called “the 3rd conditional” i.e. If I had done this, this would/would not have happened. But that does not change anything – things happened and no one could reverse them.

    For those against the exhumation and say let him rest in peace – I say “Let him roast in Hell” For those “pro” all I can say hat in my opinion it is not going to change the course of history in any case. I hate the bastard as everyone knows.

    But all the same an inteesting one Claire

    Jenny B

  47. Fascinating ideas however i am sure that Henry suffered froma pituatory adenoma – a tumour on the brain – this adenoma robs the bearer of his masculinity – his libido almosts disappears – although not the desire – it also gives the bearers wide and fluctuating character traits – one day can be murderous and meancing and the nest the nicest person you would wish to meet – this quixotic nature was Henry to a tee. Equally his loss of masculinity would have made him very bad tempered and irritable – all the desire and nothing he could do about it. I empathise with Henry a great deal – I suffered from the same syndrome for ten years – it was only stopped when they removed it. Now – all is well (providing I take the pils !!) I can imagine that digging up the old repreobate would help much – except to prove I am right …………..
    John Field

  48. I personally think that the answers to health problems lies in the way we live right now. I heard from another friend that breast cancer has been linked to drinking water from plastic containers left in the car too long. I think we need to see how all the processed food and the chemicals used to make the shelf life of food last longer may have adverse affects on people;s health. I think we need to look at how we live today and not 500 years ago for the answers to many health problems. So called advances may have led to more problems. I guess my first instinct as someone who studied art is to do no harm. I would long to see money spent on making sure the buildings, paintings, and sculptures of the past were preserved as best as possible rather than examining DNA from the past.

  49. Since this article was first published, I have had several in depth and interesting conversations about dna with friends who have a personal interest in it. One friend has a daughter born with a genetic liver disease and the child has survived for 16 years on a special formula that changes weekly per blood test results. She eats little “real” food as her liver can not break down certain enzymes and proteins; instead of expelling them, they remain and reach life threatening levels; a cold could take her life. Often she is in the hospital because her levels are toxic. She will be getting a liver transplant as soon as one is available. My friend and I discussed the research that would result from getting DNA samples from Henry VIII and other royals so that a family connection in DNA could be traced through generations. The information would be invaluable for those researching how to “grow” organs from a patients own cells. Even now there is research in how to “clean” DNA – that is, remove those genes which cause the problem and from the cleansed cells grow a healthy organ that would then be transplanted into the patient. By growing a new organ from a patients own cells, cleansed of whatever problem, the patient would be spared rejection drug therapy and there is a remarkably high chance that the patient would then be able to live as if they had been born with that healthy organ. If there is a chance of this happening; I see no reason not to take advantage of researching royal families DNA. It could be extracted with respect and under the most private of circumstances – as it has been done at the Cario museum from mummies. There is also the possibility of taken photographs of the remains and from that reconstructing the faces so that finally we could know what they looked like and compare the forensic potraits to the ones we have and identify them correctly once and for all. We would also learn a great deal about funerary practices through the ages, about fabrics if any have survived, and the real causes of death – is the body in Edward VI’s coffin his or one substituted to hide ill treatment in his last days? So many historical quesitons could be answered. I understand those who do not wish to distrub the sanctuary of a holy place or the remains of the decerased; but I also think it could be done with reverence and respect and the knowledge gained would be so very great. If one child could be saved eventually from something learned from a royal’s DNA, then it would be worth it. After all, the body is but a shell and the soul has moved on. As for respecting the church and crypts – they have to do repairs and manage to do so respectfully. It could be done and I have an even stronger belief now that it should be after speaking to my friend who said, “If it meant there was one chance in one trillion that something could be learned that would mean my child will survive to an old age and be able to eat normal food – I’d dig up every grave in the world.” Can’t say I blame her for feeling that way since the child has never eaten ice cream or a burger; never tasted a steak or chicken, and drink a formula to survive that smells like rancid feet.

    1. shoshana i think what you say is so right and correct .medical science has come a long way in five hundred years and if there was even a small chance to find out what happened to cause all these miscarriages of henrys queens well then they should exhume at least one would know for instance was henry the cause for the stillbirths ,miscarriages ect also did henry have syphillis or something else . and further more i would not stop with henry i would exhume them all and finally find out what went on back then .

  50. I don’t approve of his exhumation, even though I am curious. It’s not relevant in any way, his body should rest in peace.

  51. Loved this article…..it caused many nights of deep thought haha.

    But when it came down to it i believe that if people have theories then they should have the chance to prove them right or wrong.

    i am torn between doing it and not doing it. i believe that once dead you should rest in peace and not be disturbed. but on the other hand in Alison Weir’s The six wives of henry viii, Katherine had come from a very fertile family. The same with Henry his mother and father produces several children so it does seem interesting why henry had so many failed pregnancies.

    thats my input haha. love the site by the way =)

  52. I don’t see why they could not atleast get a sample.After all noone seems to have a problem with testing DNA of the great phoroahs who had a signifantly higher influence on the history of man kind.Be certain that if there were marked tombs in Jerusalem of the descendants of Jesus they would be testing they already are but they can’t be certain that they are his descenants!!There areso many questions up in the air was Henry mentally ill?(which he most likely was to a certain degree)But I’d much rather have Anne Boleyns body exumed!!!I’ve read that in Victorian times they reburied her and I’e read they identified her from the arrow chest that her body was placed in after execution (why noone had a coffin is mean enough)also that her head was tucked between her arms???I don’t know if that is true but I’d like to know what she really looked like and know for certain that she is buried properly with the respect she deserved.

    1. Hi Juliana,
      They found what they thought was Anne’s body when they were doing some work on the chapel in 1876 but they ‘identified’ her using records of where she was buried within the chapel, there were no elm chest fragments and there was just a pile of bones. You can read more about it in https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/anne-boleyns-remains-the-exhumation-of-anne-boleyn/6426/ and https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/anne-boleyn%E2%80%99s-body-found/6444/

  53. A part of me would like to see him exhumed and testing done to see what his problems were – a part of me would like his body to just be left in peace. Everything happens for a reason and as horrible as it was for Anne, Katherine and the rest of Henry’s victims, they were placed together at the time for a reason and meant to play out those lives.

  54. *shrugs* I don’t require investigation of Henry VIII’s remains to determine if he suffered mental illness. His actions already confirm it.

  55. I see alot of ‘oh we need to work out why King Henry VIII did such things, there must be a medical condition for it…’…

    Why do some people seem to want to make exucses for what this poor excuse of a man did to the women in his care?

    This man murdered several of his wives and simply disposed of others via annulments/divorce because he could..

    There is no medical excuse for his behaviour, he was just a self righteous mongrel who is no different to today’s domestic abusers..

  56. I cannot agree with your opinion that a genetic examination of Henry’s remains would not benefit us in any way. It would give us a great deal of insight into the ailments he suffered from and that in itself may help us to understand why he behaved as he did.

    There is also the theory that he had syphilis. Did he or didn’t he? Another important question that needs to be considered since it can cause mental disorders.

  57. I read that it was determined Henry suffered from Syphilis, hence, the many miscarriages. Also, didn’t Mary I exhume his body and cremate it, spreading his ashes? Or is this just myth?

    1. There is no evidence that Henry had syphilis. The standard cure of the time was mercury and this does not appear on any of Henry’s records or expenses and he certainly would have sought treatment. There is a myth that Mary I had her father’s body dug up and that she burned it, but it is just a myth. Henry VIII’s unmarked tomb was rediscovered in 1649 when Charles I’s body was added to the tomb and his coffin had been damaged so his skeleton was visible, I believe, see http://www.stgeorges-windsor.org/assets/files/LearningResources/BackgroundNotesHenryVIII.pdf

  58. As someone who has a Bachelor’s in nursing with an emphasis on research and as the survivor of a closed head trauma, Henry is the only person being looked at. Wouldn’t other members of the dynasty have shown symptoms if this is genetic? My personality was changed after the injury I received which required resuscitation to keep me alive. I agree that graves and tombs should not be destroyed on the assumption that Henry MAY have had a genetic problem. I think he was an over-indulged man who wanted what he wanted now, with no concern for others.

  59. I really don’t think they would find much,he was not well preserved like the Kings and Queens of Egypt,even they had problems with DNA and so forth. Let sleeping Kings rest in peace and the Queens to.

  60. Well, I admit it..I’m very curious! not just about Henry, but all these characters from the past.

    If there was a way to exhume them and examine them that was miminally damaging to the chapel, and minimally invasive to the remains, I wish they would. Just think how many questions could be answered! Yes, okay..curiosity probably is a selfish reason, but what if we had a more accurate view of diseases and disorders, especially ones that still exist today? And..would it hurt to be able to teach History in a more accurate way?

    Maybe they could prove once and for all:

    If Anne had six fingers (I know we don’t believe she did)
    If through genetic testing they can see about this ‘inbreeding’ theory.
    What killed Henry, along with what may have made him batty.
    A better guess at all their ages at time of death.
    What exactly may have killed Catherine of Aragon, Jane Seymour, And Edward.
    A more accurate idea of what each of them might have looked like insofar as they could tell.
    What, if anything they were buried with that might have historical signifigance or shed light on old mysteries.

    If, through mitochondrial DNA…Elizabeth was indeed Anne’s daughter. Yeah, I know we know she is, but he expressed doubts when he was being such a jerk.

    I just think so many things might come to light if the Queen were to allow it.

    I’ve seen programs where they succeeded in DNA testing King Tut and answering old questions/debate about his lineage, and where they have performed MRI on mummies thousands of years old and were able to find so very much out about them.

    1. Oops, I meant if Elizabeth was Henry’s daughter, not Anne’s! We all know which womb she came from, haha. Silly typo.

  61. I say dig him up and do the testing. It would be very interesting to see if he did indeed have a genetic illness. I’m not normally in favor of disturbing the dead but this is a man who brought so much suffering to so many people. He sent a 17 year old girl to the executioner for crying out loud. He deserves no respect.

    1. True. He was a nasty piece of work – today he would called a psyco, a serai killer and probably be a genocidal maniac sitting in a cell in The Hague

  62. Considering the King himself didn’t intend to spend eternity in that vault( it was suppose to be temporary) & his coffin is said to be damaged, I think it should be done. DNA testing, X-ray, & what ever may be accomplished without being too intrusive & then reinterred… Better than before. Much to be learned.

  63. i say again bring him up and find out once and for all and it would at least give some peace to his long dead queens who through no fault of their own had to put up with losing so many babies and then get blamed for it ,henry should not be given any respect dead or alive he showed none whatsoever for his wives or his children he was a domineering bullying madman and if was around today would be locked up and the key thrown away

  64. Of course it should be done for historical purposes. One thing I’m trying to find out, what European tribes or races are supposed to be the ethno-type? Is it English, German, French…or? Or anyone of European ancestry?

  65. Yes, Henry probably did suffer from some sort of mental illness, or, at least, psychological and emotional damage from a father who clearly thought little of him- mainly, it would seem, because that son was so different from him, and his quiet studious firstborn. This damage was greatly exacerbated by what he perceived as disloyalty and treachery in his own house. Recall Katherine siding with her father – twice – over Henry in his war against France. Anne PROMISING him sons, and producing none, then (in Henry’s find) commiting adultery. He finally gets a legitimate son, and the boy’s mother dies. He does what any other king would do – makes a marriage for diplomatic purposes, as opposed to love – and finds the woman repulsive. He falls in love again, and that wife cheats on him. Henry was a man lacking in emotional intelligence, and he was a damaged, broken, disillusioned man, but he wasn’t a sociopath, and he wasn’t evil.

  66. I say leave him where he is! If he was such a nasty man, I don’t think
    Anyone fancies bumping into his “evil” ghost!

    Besides, he WAS a king! He is not your every day soldier found on a field by archaeologists! Surely, for all that he did (or didn’t do) he still deserves to be thought of as if he was still around. Show respect, and allow him to rest eternally. I’m not particularly a “royalist” but I would imagine most people would be appalled if someone said in four hundred years they will dig our queen up.

  67. Exhume him. Did they do this? I haven’t found anything discussing it. They should. I don’t see a reason not to. He’s not there anymore. His body is dead, and he’s not in there anymore. It’s not going to “stir up the dead” or anything like that.

  68. I think it would be fascinating to exchume him, and even to more explore the tombs of his wives..if it could be done without too much destruction of course.

    For one, it would offer better insight into all of those failed pregnancies, and also possibly end any doubt as to the paternity of Elizabeth and so on.

    I don’t personally believe genetic illness had anything to do with him beheading two of his wives, though.

    Look at the nightmare and chaos he went through to end his marriage with Catherine of Aragon. Look how long that took.

    When he saw Anne wasn’t going to give him a son, and/or had grown unhappy with her and set his eye on Jane Seymour, he simply found a much quicker way to become a bachelor again.

    It’s cruel, indeed..and we wonder how he could put his own wife to death under any circumstance, I just don’t think it was due to a genetic thing. Maybe partially a mental illness? More likely in my humble opinion though, is that it came as a result of the circumstances he found himself in.

    Anne was not well liked by many because they had loved Catherine. They regarded her as little more than a concubine of Henry’s and may not have even accepted her as Queen. Therefore, her death would not bring the massive outcry that would have come had he tried to do that to his first Queen. Imagine the wrath he’d pull onto his head had he harmed Catherine of Aragon! Probably, a war would have ignited since she was daughter to the King of Spain.

    People were easily led, so it probably wasn’t hard to convince the public that Anne was a witch, or that she’d committed adultery (since they already disliked her and wanted to think badly of her)

    And anyway, it didn’t matter. Only the court needed to find her guilty, and you cannot argue that a man is still legally married to a dead woman, so that made Henry free to do as he liked without any further debate over it.

    Catherine Howard is more interesting and complex, I think..in terms of her beheading, anyway.

    Firstly, I wonder how in the world Henry could have married her without knowing of her alleged past. All of those advisors, and everyone else around him, and no one would have known? I think maybe she was placed there only to be his Mistress, and that he fell in love with her, and ignored what everyone, including him..probably knew. She was young, so he may have felt that she would behave herself when she was given everything she could possibly want.

    Her beheading seems even more personal. She betrayed Henry, who had been so crazy about her. She wounded his pride, threw his age in the mirror for him, and made him the fool.

    He could easily have spared her..sent her to a nunnery or even tossed her out of England, but..no. He was too angry and personally wounded for that. He needed to save face and redeem his pride, so unfortunately..to him it meant she had to die.

    I don’t believe for one second that Henry ever thought Anne Boleyn was guilty of any of those charges, or that he was ignoran of Catherine Howard’s past.

    These just made handy excuses to be rid of them. Same with his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. His ‘conscience’ had nothing to do with it!

    He was married to her for decades. She was getting older, couldn’t have more children, and he was not only bored with her..she no longer served a purpose for his reign.

    So he dug up a line from leviticus and ran with it. Not that it exactly worked.

    Long story shot..his only real illness was being a King, and a selfish, ruthless man.
    Given the time in history he lived, and the environment he grew up in..not sure this makes him ‘ill’ at all.

    Probably more..typical.

  69. I’m a medical research specialist by training and possessed of a damnable curiosity by nature. I believe that the need for historical accuracy always trumps the temporary bruising of social niceties, values, and mores.

    Also, as my name might hint, it’s just possible that I have a dog in this fight.

    Having participated in cases where exhumations were necessary to help prove or dismiss questions of everything from legal guilt to inheritable genetic diseases, I offer and ascribe to this snippet of philosophy, heard long ago, from a veteran county coroner:
    “Dig ‘im up, check ‘im out, and put ‘im back.”

  70. It would be a good idea to dig up Henry, to examine the bone, for medical reasons, and to, maybe, answer historical questions

  71. Coming from a scientific background I’d love to see him exhumed because we could learn so much about him. I’m sure though the Queen would refuse even though she’s not a direct descendant.

  72. With the recent revelation via DNA testing that the recently discovered Richard III has a living relative, I think some sort of DNA extraction with minimum disturbance/intrusion would be of historical value. However, my personal opinion is that the ‘establishment’ don’t want to open up lineage issues that may bring into question the validity of claims to certain titles. It could open up a historical can of worms – which I am all in favour of, but those interested in keeping the status quo via sketchy myth & folklore may well not want any DNA boats rocked. The English establishment like things set in stone and are not favourable to change. That’s how they’ve held onto their power for centuries…well, that and a lot of bloody enforcement tactics.

    As for finding out what he suffered from, well, I think that should take second place to finally proving whether there are (or not) any living relatives carrying his DNA.

  73. I’ve read all of these comments and heard a number of interesting theories, some patently ridiculous ones and a lot of hooey about what people think Her Majesty the Queen ought to do in their little opinions.

    What not one person has mentioned is that she is the head of the Church of England and as such is obliged to follow the tenets of the faith. Christians have long held that the mortal remains of the deceased are to be held in honor in anticipation of the resurrection on the Last Day and not treated merely like research material to satisfy someone’s curiosity. The keepers of cemeteries and gravesites are stewards of these remains. these are not personal beliefs of mine, but I do know that Her Majesty is a religious believer, so she probably has used this in her decision process. She is also the titular owner of Windsor Castle, where Henry is interred. It is the one of her residences that she considers home. Henry is her 13X great uncle. He is her cousin at least 47 different ways according to my own genealogy compilation, probably many more.

    There is simply no way that someone who honors history, family and tradition as much as Her Majesty does will agree to allow her home’s chapel to be torn up and her forebears’ remains to be manhandled without a very compelling reason. Idle curiosity is not a compelling reason.

  74. I’d bet that if one could ask Henry himself what he thought, given the opportunity to once again influence the pages of history 500 years after he kicked the royal bucket–whether it was for better or worse–a megalomaniac like himself would not say no. In fact if he knew about the royal treatment received by that villainous Lancaster, King Richard from the scientific community in recent years, he would probably insist that he and his family received nothing less.

    Dig em all up, they would want it that way. 🙂

  75. Very good point! When I posted my comment, I was thinking in terms of the medical/psychopathological influences on the behavior of historically influential people. To my dis-credit, I neglected the aspect of personality and the concerns these individuals had for their popular images and legacies. While some might resent a postmortem intrusion (Shakespeare, famously) others would probably welcome a chance to set their records straight, or even just grab a few headlines.

    1. LOL! I’m going with Thomas & Daniel on this one! Henry would sign the papers OKing everything to be in the spot light over 500 years aftet his death!

  76. The life and times of famous individuals is subject to the bias of the authors who pen their story. It is speculation from the mind of the biographers and in some cases the records are corrupted or amended to enhance or degrade the stature of their subject. If history is due any justice and not subject to the morays of society then hard science is the answer. By taking just a few samples of this or that for a specific examination will not eliminate speculation. If a tomb is to be opened then a full autopsy should be performed to discover all the evidence available within the current technology. If there is any doubt that technology cannot provide a comprehensive study then I would suggest the tomb be inspected and sealed against any further contamination until technology can provide the answers.

    1. The human behavior is so complicated that it cannot described by “hard science”. Whatever its results, they must always be interpreted.

      Morally, curiosity is no valid motive for disturbing the graves.

      One must accept that men will never know all about the men in history. After all, men does not know all about their own family nor even themselves.

  77. I think he should be Exhumed and the tests run this is my favorite king. Also to check on the state of his corpse if anything is left and re interred and buried in a more honorable way than just a slab saying he is there maybe bury him with his wife next to him maybe similar to the way his father and mothers tomb is at west minster

  78. henry would not of agreed to him being exhumed as he wanted to an left in peace with Jane.but he did not get his wish because in 1649 not 1648 as the tomb marker says.they opened up henry’s tomb and installed the body of Charles first.and also an indent child, the tomb has been opened twice since then once in 1813 and again in 1888 .so his wishes have already been desecrated.if henry new this has happened in believe he would now say might as well do the test taking in mind the killing of cromwell and Moore which henry regretted .so open up his already damaged coffin from painting of 1888

  79. Interesting. I was unaware of the two 19th century exhumations. Does anyone know the reasons for those openings and where the records may be found?

  80. I would think the idea of exhumation would be a matter of personal choice. I know that in some cases the heart was removed and sent to convents or churches for burial. The heart was believed to be responsible for everything related to that person. Moving the remains of a traitor was the ultimate decision of the ruler of the country. A commoner made little difference as to the disposition of the remains. From what I have read exhuming remains really didn’t become taboo until the middle of the 19th century when there was an interest to repatriate the remains of famous individuals to their homeland as with John Paul Jones and they are not 100% sure they have the right guy.

    I would guess in the case of Henry that anything that will keep him foremost in the lineage of rulers is a winning situation.

  81. I thought all they found of Henry back in the 1800’s when they opened his tomb to look at Charles I, was just a skeleton with a bit of a beard left? I know they can extract alot of DNA information nowadays from minute samples of remains, but would there really be anything left of the man to justify exhuming him? Jane Seymour’s body supposedly has never been disturbed, so I’m curious as to what state of preservation its in.

  82. Like many curiosity makes one inclined to disturb the remains of Henry and Jane but as commented earlier, if this is agreed to will it be the beginning of an era of disturbing the remains of kings and queens for little more reason than curiosity. As curious as I am I say leave them in peace.

  83. I got this website from my pal who shared with me about this web site and at the moment this time I am visiting this web page and reading very informative content here.

  84. Give him and queen Jane a desert resting place he did some very bad things but also a lot of good much of which still stands today

  85. Yes, examination with current forensics would determine a great deal that has been lost or unknown in history.
    The ancient places and buildings in England have been destroyed and rebuilt too many times to simply say no because they’re historical places.

  86. Good grief, an attempt to “rehabilitate” Henry VIII? To depict him as a “victim” of a medical condition that “made” him do bad things? He did more than have two wives killed, he also ordered the executions of More, Fisher, and countless others; wrenched an entire nation away from it’s religious and spiritual heritage; closed, destroyed and looted monasteries and convents, etc., all geared to HIS benefit. More people died during his reign, at his command, than during the reign of his daughter, “bloody” Mary. Blame all of this on an ulcer? Sometimes a jerk – is just a jerk.

    1. Different times Gunnar, in Henry’s time, it was a hard, brutal time, and sometimes monarchs had to be more brutal and hard they others, too keep his crown and his throne. Henry VIII time was a hard, tough, brutal time period and only the strongest survived, and Henry did what he had to do to keep his people on his side and keep his country safe, no matter what he had too do, he did it, that included putting people he felt a threat too death, and those who betrayed him, also betrayed the country, and that meant death for them, that was law of the times and it was carried out very swiftly.

  87. I do not think Henry was tyrannical at all. We seem to insist on trying to apply modern values to people living in different time periods. Holding on to power in Henry’s time was a brutal task. A weak and touchy feeling king simply could not have survives in that time. Most of what Henry did was justified based on the standards of the time. Catherine Howard committed treason, Sir Thomas More chose to die and would have been spared if he had not disobeyed Henry. Keep in mind during that time the King drew his power from God thus to disobey the King was the same as disobeying God.

  88. Although it would create a mess of the churches and bariual sites, I think it would be an amazing thing to have King Henry the 8th, and Anne Boleyn, and Queen Elizabeth the 1st exhumed and their DNA tested to 1. Put aside all rumors that Queen Elizabeth 1 was a man, to see if their were any genetic problems with them. Also I would love to know if he 2 bodies found during repairs in the Tower of London were that of the 2 princess. It is so fascinating and I love history.

  89. I wholeheartedly wish he could be exhumed and thoroughly sampled to helpelucidate further aspects of his mental and physical state that mayhave affected political decisions. I personally cherish truth and knowledge above everything else and I would suggest a temporary exhumation of manyother sovereigns that spark my historical interest. Among them Mary I of England who was so disgracefully laid below her “golden sister”. If the English people respect and honour their monarchs, they should ask for an examination of many royal cadavers. Thus it could be easier to rehabilitate and possibly interconnect diseases spread in a hereditary manner.Think only if we knew why Queen Anne had so many miscarriages and if this is connected to her ancestor Catharine of Aragon, also suffering miscarriages, or why Mary I imagined two pregnancies.

  90. Yes, exhume him. It will do far more than just satisfy so-called morbid curiosity, it will help to better understand what Henry VIII went through, and help to gain a better understanding of how his declining health affected his decision-making process. It would also benefit the advancement of medicine.

    While they are at it, they should exhume his son, Henry VI. Did his son actually die of some illness, or was he poisoned by those close to him?

  91. I personally think Henry VIII have gotten a raw deal in history, and his reputation destroyed. He put two wives to the axe, both for supposed adultery, one die from giving birth, which was not Henry’s fault, he divorced one, alluded one, and one out lived him, so in reality he only killed two wives, and yes that is rough, but back in those times, if there was a hint that the queen has committed adultery and betrayed the king, then she has also betrayed the country, and if a trial finds her guilty, she is put too death, and Henry is not the only monarch in this times to put a queen to death for betraying him, but he seems to be the only one being called names. Yes, he put many people to death, but in those times, you did whatever was necessary, to put down riots, revolts and threats too your families reign, so that your hereditary line was secure, that that was what matter too these monarchs and the people of their countries, because they would loose faith in their king is he showed weakness, and they would have turned against him, so he did what he was forced too do by the laws of the times and people of his country. Different times, different cultures and different mindset.

  92. I Know I arrived here LONG after all is said and done but I would love to see DNA test done on H-8! I know there is no soft tissue left or blood but they have had success from teeth at least before. Surely something could be found from it. I think there just was a bunch of issues all boiled down together In the end.

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