The Blog

Henry Fitzroy’s Early Death


Henry Fitzroy, the king’s only living son at the time, died on July 22, 1536 from what has been commonly reported to have been tuberculosis. There’s some doubt about that diagnosis, though. There had been no sign that Fitzroy had been ill in the spring, which doesn’t fit the long, drawn-out death suffered by those with tuberculosis. It is more likely to have been a relatively quick decline, meaning a much more rapid ailment.

Claire Ridgway, over at the Anne Boleyn Files, did an excellent sum up of Fitzroy’s life, including records of his appearance: “John Joachim, Seigneur de Vaux and the French Ambassador, wrote of Richmond as ” a most handsome, urbane and learned young gentleman, very dear to the King on account of his figure, discretion and good manners… he is certainly a wonderful lad for his age” and in 1531, the Venetian Ambassador said: “so much does he resemble his father.”

When he received news of his son’s passing, the King ordered the Duke of Norfolk to bury the teenager in secret; the succession was in grave doubt and (although illegitimate) Fitzroy had been a possible heir. The King may have wished to keep Fitzroy’s death a secret until Henry had impregnated his new queen, Jane Seymour. Maybe he was worried people would panic if there wasn’t at least one male heir. Whatever the King’s motives, Norfolk tired to follow Henry’s directions.

Fitzroy’s body was covered in straw and transported on a wagon, followed by only two mourners. He was then interred surreptitiously at Thetford Priory. When the King heard the details about the small funeral he flew into a rage. In one of the lightening fast shifts of mood that can occur for sufferers of McLeod syndrome, Henry forgot the fact he had ordered a furtive burial and was furious that his son had not been given a more lavish service.

He threatened to imprison Norfolk in the Tower, much to the dumbfounded Duke’s fear and consternation. Norfolk first wrote his will, because Henry’s anger was not conducive to longevity, and then he wrote to Cromwell to insist that he was not a traitor. Fortunately for Norfolk, the King’s vexation waned, and the Duke was spared.

Norfolk was also Fitzroy’s father-in-law. The young widow, Mary Howard, never remarried. This wasn’t from sentiment. The power politics at court never lined up another suitable mate at a suitable time.

Henry Fitzroy was only 17 years old at the time of his death. His as-yet-unborn brother Edward would die when he was 15 years old.  His uncle, Prince Arthur Tudor, died when only 16 years old. People have speculated that there was a genetic condition that caused these deaths, but no one had figured out what it is.

Any ideas?


My daughter Bubbles has three “fiancées”; AKA the boys who like her and have asked her to marry them because just being boyfriend/girlfriend is passé obviously. This last week one of those affianced fellows, whom we shall call Sheldon, and his mommy were both with all of us at my parent’s house.

Sheldon has Asperger’s syndrome, albeit a little more “severely” than Bubbles has it.  Needless to say, they understand each other and get along really well … most of the time. However, are the car ride back from my parents house – normally a 4.75 hour trip which turned into a 10 hour trip because of parking-lot traffic jams – there was a tiff.

They were sitting together in the farthest back seat of my minivan and all was going well until Bubbles lost Sheldon’s place in the book he was reading. She picked up the book and the book mark was no more. Not a big deal, right? Wrong. For an Aspy ANY disruption in The Plan causes angst and rage.

Sheldon, already at the end of his rope, reacted like an overwrought Aspy. He yelled at Bubbles and thwacked her in the arm (not hard) with the book. His mother promptly began to scold him on the inappropriateness of this action as a way to deal with stress. Bubbles, understandably indignant that she had been thwacked and yelled at, hollered “I want a divorce!” and laid her head down in her arms to sob Cinderella-style.


Her declaration of divorce intentions broke Sheldon’s heart and he burst into tears. I mean “burst” literally. Tears the size of dimes spurted from his eyes and splashed on his chest he was crying so hard.

calvin crying

It took us a while to calm things down, but after suitable apologies were tendered there was reconciliation between the pint-sized love birds. Nevertheless, the drama was VERY dramatic while it lasted.

Life with an Aspy child is seldom dull. Or copacetic. Or restful.

It’s worth it, though.

Bye-Bye “Bishop of Rome”

On this day in history during 1536 the Parliament of England “passed An Act Extinguishing the Authority of the Bishop of Rome. This Act was wordily insulting to the pope, but contained within it the power to punish anybody defending his authority in Britain. It was a step that for Henry’s reign at least ended all possibility of reconciliation with Rome.”

Now Henry VIII was not only saying he was head of the Church of England, he was saying anyone wanting to still embrace papal authority and Catholicism would be in deep poo. Quite a change of opinion in the monarch who was the erstwhile defender of the faith in 1521, no? Henry had changed quite a bit in the intervening fifteen years. For one thing he had recently beheaded his wife Anne Boleyn, the woman he was fighting the Papacy about in the first place.

As far back as 1528 Henry’s chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey tried desperately to warn the Pope that if he did not grant Henry his divorce, then the King would reject Rome’s authority. The Pope apparently thought that the Cardinal was bluffing because Wolsey just worried about his place in Henry’s court. The Defender of the Faith wouldn’t really turn apostate! The idea was ridiculous! In hindsight, the Pope should have listened to Wolsey’s advice. Wolsey’s greater knowledge of Henry’s nature had forewarned him that the King was not a man who would submit himself to any authority that was not directing him to do exactly what he had wanted to do in the first place. Sure enough, when push came to shove – Henry VIII shoved.

Excited for Daddy :)

My Dad had Type II diabetes and high blood pressure. I didn’t like it. He didn’t like it. He also disliked the way his high blood pressure meds made him feel. (They made him feel “like crap”.)

Having heard/read many good things about Plexus vis-a-vis Type II diabetes and high blood pressure I got my Dad to start taking it. Dad stopped talking his high blood pressure meds (he’s a doctor, so it was with medical supervision).

Two months later, his blood sugar is under control and his blood pressure was 121/74 yesterday FOR THE WIN.

This makes me all the kinds of happy!!!

Seriously, I love Plexus. I wish they would change the name to Plexus Health or something less annoying than Plexus Slim, but I love the product.

Day 2 of the Nine Days Queen

Lady Jane Grey Dudley ruled England from July 10 – July 19, 1553. One of the best biographies of her life and reign that I have ever read, Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery, was by the incomparable Eric Ives and I strongly, strongly recommend it.

Queen Jane was named as the heir to the throne by her cousin, Edward VI, in his will. Edward had been crowned king as a child, and was the lawful ruler of England. His will was the only will that mattered. The wills of past kings, including Henry VIII, were defunct after Edward became the monarch.

Therefore, Queen Jane was the lawful and right queen of England.

Nevertheless, the pro-Catholic faction sprang into action to put Mary Tudor on the throne based on the will of Edward’s father, Henry VIII. Jane was a hard-core protestant, and I don’t blame the Catholics from being worried that they would be subject to persecution for their faith. However, I do blame them for the fact that they wanted power in order to persecute protestants for THEIR faith.

With an army to back her, Mary Tudor usurped the throne of the rightful queen. Both Jane and her husband Guildford Dudley were imprisoned for the crime of being named heir in a legitimate, legally binding will. If Queen Mary I had stuck to that, it would have been wrong but not awful. Power plays happen. It was life in the 16th century. I can even see why she executed John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, since she blamed him for her brother’s decision to declare her illegitimate. 

Mary kept Jane and Guilford apart in the Tower. I suspect she was afraid Jane would get pregnant with a rival heir to Mary’s heirs, the children Mary was sure that she would have. Okay, fair enough. However, Mary would need to go further to secure her throne.

Mary’s protestant subjects were unhappy with her coup. They were driven to revolt by the information that Mary would wed Prince Phillip of Spain. Even her Catholic supporters disliked the fact she would be marrying a foreign noble and perhaps subject England to foreigner’s rule.

That’s when, to me, Mary earned her sobriquet of “Bloody”. She not only executed 100 of the the actual rebels (pardoning 400 others, which was very good PR and a decent thing to do), she decided to execute Jane and Guilford Dudley because they might be the focal point of other plotters in the future. They didn’t have anything to do with the rebellion, mind you. It’s just that they were alternatives to Mary and she felt more secure with them dead. There was also one other motive”: Phillip of Spain said he wouldn’t come to England to tie the knot with Mary until she had disposed of her rivals.

On February 12, 1554 the Lady Jane Grey, rightful queen of England, and her husband Guilford were murdered under the orders of the usurper Mary I.

Jane was at most 17 years old. Her husband was  approximately 19 years old.

Bloody Mary would reign for less than six years before she died in November of 1558.  She had almost three hundred protestants burned at the stake during her rule.

The Great Flanders Mare

On this day in history Henry VIII annulled his marriage to Anna of Cleves, a woman who is often remembered for the horrible nickname he gave her – The Great Flanders Mare. Henry’s side of the story was that she wasn’t pretty enough, but the reality is she just busted his ego up something fierce. As I said in the book:

“Although his bride-to-be was considered by all who met her, with few exceptions, to be an attractive woman, Anna was ill equipped to enthrall the King. Her upbringing had been very strict, and as a result she did not have any abilities that would keep Henry entertained.  Henry adored music, singing, dancing, hunting, and playing card games. Anna was proficient in none of these things. She was unfamiliar with the rules of courtly love so she did not know the proper behavior expected of a lady by her noble lover …

Anna was standing at her window, watching the bull-baiting on New Year’s Day with ostensible enjoyment, when something happened that altered the whole course of her life. A group of six men, ‘disguised’ in matching cloaks and hoods made of multi-colored patches, burst into the room, much to the consternation of Anna and her ladies. One of the men grabbed Anna and kissed her, claiming that he and his fellows had come on behalf of the King, and gave her a token of the King’s affection. Anna was “abashed, not knowing who it was, thanked him, and so he communed with her; but she regarded him but little but always looked out of the window on the bull-baiting” (Warnicke, 2000:130-131).  Unfortunately for Anna, this odd-acting messenger in whom she clearly had no interest was her prospective bridegroom, Henry VIII.

Henry had tried to make a romantic gesture and it had gone badly awry … What if in an unguarded moment she had revealed, through some quick expression on her face, that she was appalled by the idea of marrying the hulking and foul-smelling man announcing himself as the King? … once Henry had met Anna of Cleves he decided she was a “Great Flanders Mare” and he wanted nothing more to do with her.”

In sum, Henry thought he was still young and handsome and when he met Anna her reaction showed him the truth; without a crown he wasn’t hot any more. So what is the best way to call sour grapes? To tell the world she is ugly and you don’t want her.  Moreover, since women’s value has often been correlated with their physical appeal, to tell her she was unattractive was to tell her she was worthless.

I’d like to say that kind of behavior has stopped, but nope. Recently a 14 year old girl named Carleigh O’Connell discovered that some “witty” person had made a very ugly comment in graffiti about her body, specifically about the size of her butt. So she responded in a manner that I personally would describe as epic: “She snapped a photo while posing proudly with the graffiti.”

take THAT body-shamers

Good for her. I wish Anna of Cleves could have done the same. As it is, here is Holbein’s portrait of her, which is as close to a photo as they could get:

Anna of Cleves

You go girl.

Did Henry Drive Anne Boleyn Crazy?

I was recently reading some fascinating new information about the brain. Recently, a group of  “University of California, Berkeley, researchers have shown that chronic stress generates long-term changes in the brain that may explain why people suffering chronic stress are prone to mental problems such as anxiety and mood disorders later in life … conditions such as schizophrenia, autism, depression, suicide, ADHD and PTSD”.

My first thoughts when I read it were, egocentrically, about myself.  I am overweight and have some of the “cluster” issues (like PTSD and anxiety) that come as a side dish with the entrée of Asperger’s. Both weight and the “cluster” issues  are strongly effected by cortisol, a hormone released when you feel stress. Having Asperger’s is REALLY stressful. Could Asperger’s syndrome be giving me belly fat and anxiety on top of a general air of dorkiness?

Then I thought (because I have Asperger’s our train of thought is a UFO) that things must have been REALLY stressful if you were Anne Boleyn. Think about it. From the moment Henry VIII decided she would honored with his intentions, Anne was either in hiding, dealing with a no-way-out decision to marry her stalker, responsible for charming her stalker while also appeasing relatives (The Duke of Norfolk leaps to mind) and court members who were wretched and ill-mannered to her, hearing herself called a “goggle-eyed whore” by the populace who loved Katherina of Aragon, and being the target of hatred from Katherina’s faction at court. Oh, and she was constantly on display and every word out of her mouth was subject to a conspiracy of misrepresentation and misinterpretation.

That seems hella stressful to me.

I know she remained ever-slim, but some people remain slim even when eating 5,000 calories a day so that doesn’t mean there was no cortisol pumping into her system. What if the stress hormones were bathing her brain in a chemical stew of fight-or-flight most of the time for years?

How would that effect her personality?

I don’t find any reports of her being “high-strung” or “temperamental” or “willful” or anything like that before she was targeted by Henry. It is only after she took a Soviet vote and discovered she had “won” the right to be his next lady love that she is recorded as being anything other than charming. Both Queen Claude of France and Margaret of Austria thought Anne was the bee’s knees. She had the lads at court hanging on her every word, but there is no evidence she wasn’t also popular with her fellow ladies-in-waiting. Henry Percy, the future Earl of Northumberland, fell head over heels for her. The poet Thomas Wyatt immortalized her in verse. Where was her “foul temper” then?

Anne only started throwing fits and falling in them while she was trapped as a shadow queen waiting for the finalization of Henry’s divorce. She only became “shrewish” when she had been pushed to the limits, if not of human endurance, than at least to the limits of acceptable feminine docility. She even tried, from all appearances, to end things with him. Henry is recorded having  pleaded with her not to talk of leaving him and in January of 1531 she had such a big fight with the King that Henry VIII went begging to her relatives to help him gain a reconciliation.

She must have been juggling torches in a room full of TNT the entire time she was with Henry.

No wonder when she was told the date of her execution, “she was more joyful than before”.

Facts About Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby

As you all have doubtless heard, the SCOTUS recently found in favor of Hobby Lobby in Sebelius v/s Hobby Lobby. In a nutshell, Hobby Lobby can now offer health insurances that does not cover women’s contraceptives.

Some people think this is about abortion.  Hobby Lobby founder and CEO David Green wrote in an open letter in 2013 smugly declaring that, “Being Christians, we don’t pay for drugs that might cause abortions, which means that we don’t cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill … We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs.”

Regardless of his personal beliefs, that is not a factual statement.

Emergency contraception, the morning-after-pill or the week-after poll are NOT things that cause abortions. They MAY sometimes prevent the implantation of the fertilized egg into the uterine wall, but so can birth control pills.  If the fertilized egg does not implant, the woman has not conceived because “according to both the scientific community and long-standing federal policy, a woman is considered pregnant only when a fertilized egg has implanted in the wall of her uterus”.  Considering that 2/3 of human embryos fail to develop, nature itself causes abortions by David Green’s standards.

Additionally, if David Green feels preventing implantation is abortion (which it is not; abortion is the expulsion of an embryo or fetus), then that means that women who have used the birth control pill would be every bit as “guilty” of “taking drugs that might cause abortions” as a woman who has taken Plan B. More than 27% of all fertile women in the US are currently using the pill, and 80% have used the pill in an attempt to prevent pregnancy. Considering that more than 3/4 of the American population identify as Christians, I suspect there are many Christian women who have taken birth control pills.

That is not the only lack of factual information I have found regarding public perceptions of this case. Here is a quick fact sheet of the most common misconceptions:

Hobby Lobby facts

The real issue here is that “A provision in the Affordable Care Act requires corporations to offer insurance plans that meet minimum coverage standards if those corporations take advantage of tax benefits for compensating employees in health insurance, rather than wages. But the owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Store, a Pennsylvania wood manufacturer, challenged this provision, arguing that it violated their religious freedom.”

Hobby Lobby could have chosen to deny all employees health insurance and allowed them to get private insurance via Obamacare, or Hobby Lobby could have said no to the tax break and continued covering whatever it wished. However, Hobby Lobby wanted the tax break for offering health insurance while NOT following the rules of the tax break.

It is that simple.

I have to wonder — If this had been an Islamic-owned company demanding the same thing, would some Americans be as supportive as they are for Hobby lobby?

However, as a Christian it is the hypocrisy of Hobby Lobby’s founders that bothers me the most. 

  • David Green, the CEO of Hobby Lobby, has only three children; did his wife ever take birth control pills or other methods, such as the IUD, that may have prevented implantation? He has not disclosed this information about his own private life, while seeking to control the private lives of others.
  • Moreover, David Green is worth $5.1 BILLION. In Matthew 19:24 Jesus warned that “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” In Matthew 19:21 Jesus instructed a rich man that “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Clearly David Green, like most people of any religion, is more stringent about following some aspects of his faith than others.
  • Christianity and preventing abortions are, in spite of rhetoric to the contrary, separate things. Jesus says nothing about abortions in the New Testament, even though they were commonly practiced by Romans and Hebrews during his lifetime. Furthermore, in Exodus 21:22-24 the Bible indicates that a miscarried fetus is not considered to be equivalent to a person, since causing a miscarriage does not engenders a fine rather than the death penalty. Abortion is a theologically complex topic. Christians are found in both the Pro Choice and Anti Choice camps for that reason.
  • Hobby Lobby gets the products it sells from China, because imported goods are less expensive. China not only supports abortions, it forces women to have one upon occasion. Wouldn’t that conflict with David Green’s stance that to “end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs.”
  • Hobby Lobby appears to lose its sincerely held beliefs when there is money to be made. As reported in Forbes, “Mother Jones has uncovered numerous investments on the part of Hobby Lobby’s retirement fund in a wide variety of companies producing abortion and contraception related products.”

The hypocrisy is manifest.

While Jesus did not mention abortion he repeatedly castigated hypocrisy. Entire chapters of the New Testament, such as Matthew 23, are devoted to decrying hypocrisy. That’s something that David Green should consider carefully.

Disturbing Inequality

America is having some issues, a lot of which stem from the rampant inequality that is causing socioeconomic havoc. Inequality, the gap between the haves and the have-not-as-much and the have-nots, is measured by the “the Gini coefficient, a formula that measures the distribution of income across a population. The closer a Gini number is to 1, the greater the level of inequality; the closer to zero, the closer to perfect equality.”  

In short, the Gini is like golf scores – the lower the better. Sadly, it has steadily trended upward since 1970, with a rapid shift upward after 1981 and another sharp burst in 1993/1994. Behold the data:

gini coefficiant over time

This chart is not good news. The more a society has to deal with inequality among its members, the worse things get for people. Seriously. You can buy books by Nobel Prize winning economists that explain it. If nothing else, the higher that graph goes, the smaller our middle-class shrinks; a smaller middle class is a bad, bad thing.

So what’s causing this mess?

Well, a big part of the problem is that Big Corporations are making the non-rich pay their taxes and then taking that tax money in the form of “subsidies”, AKA “corporate welfare”.

“According to Richard Wolff, professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, U.S. corporations, particularly the large ones, “have avoided taxes as effectively as they have controlled government expenditures to benefit them.” Wolff points out that during the Depression and WWII, federal income tax receipts from individuals and corporations were fairly equal, but by 1980, individual income taxes were four times higher than corporate taxes. “Since WWII, corporations have shifted much of the federal tax burden for themselves to the public-and especially onto the middle class,” Wolff says.

The most comprehensive recent study of corporate taxes by professors at Duke, MIT and the University of California concluded “we find a significant percent of firms  that appear to be successfully avoiding large portions of the corporate income over a sustained period of time.”  For example, The New York Times reported that GE’s total tax was 14.3% over the last 5 years, while in 2009 receiving a $140 billion bailout guarantee of its debt from the federal government.”

The tax burden has also shifted from the Mega-Rich to the middle class and working poor. Under Eisenhower, the top tax rate (the thing that would effect billionaires today) was a whopping 91%. He took that money and poured into infrastructure and schools and the public good and America thrived. Yes, we had some serious problems – such as the lack of women’s emancipation and the Jim Crow laws — but as a whole the American middle class was HUGE. Nowadays the Mega-Rich pay less than a third of that and our infrastructure and schools are falling down around our ears.

Let’s look at the richest people in America as an example, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune – the Walton Family. They own as much wealth as the bottom 42% of Americans while their workers are paid so little that they need government assistance programs to survive. Whether or not you shop at Wal-Mart, if you pay taxes you are helping them pay their workers salaries. If the Waltons, who are jointly worth $115.7 BILLION, had to pay 91% of their wealth in taxes, like Eisenhower would have made them do, they would still have more than $10 Billion in wealth. I think they could squeak by.

America is also struggling because “real” wages have decreased. A $10 bill in 1960 is equivalent now to $80.37 in spending power. In 1960, the average yearly wage was $4,743 a year. That means the average Joe made $38,120.36 in salary a year in todays dollars. Today the average salary for a US worker is $26,695. That means the US worker made more than $10,000 more a year in 1960 than they do today. How about the “high end” jobs? They are even worse off. In 1960, the average doctor made $39,000 a year, or $313,449.32 in today’s money. Nowadays, the average doctor makes $191,520 a year. They make about 2/3 of what they made in 1960. So who has been getting all the dough? In 1960 the average CEO made 40 times what a worker made, which would be roughly $189,720, or over $1.5 million dollars a year. Nice, right? Today some of them make more than 331 times a workers salary, and they make an average of $10.5 Million.

Combined with the massive loss of manufacturing jobs and the loss of union jobs (which effect the average wage), unless something drastic changes,you are hearing the bells toll for the American middle class, and thus for the USA.

Happy Birthday Henry!

Henry VIII was born 523 years ago today.

Very few people in the Western world haven’t at least heard of Henry VIII. Odds are good that at some time they have seen the famous portrait of the bloated, middle-aged King, with his arms akimbo, wearing insanely fluffy clothes that are covered with more jewels than Elton John’s best suit and sporting a codpiece like the prow of a battleship. Henry seems to stare out of the picture at you with cold, piggy eyes, like he is considering whether or not to bed you or behead you or both:


His infamy grew with the popularity of the TV series, The Tudors. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, it was like an earlier version of Game of Thrones, at least in terms of royalty, murder, deceit, and attractive people gallivanting around in the buff. The Tudors was about 50% historically semi-accurate, but the other 50% was given over to the extended dance mix of the rumors surrounding Henry VIII for the last 500 years.

For his birthday, I am trying to give him the gift of veracity via blog tour. I am over on The Anne Boleyn Files defending him from accusations that he had no sexual restraint and a venereal disease, over on The Creation of Anne Boleyn reminding everyone the King spent most of his life as a hottie rather than an uggo, and over on Tudor History explaining that he didn’t form the Church of England just because he wanted to divorce his first queen.

Here, of course, I shall dispute his tyranny via medical explanation.

In fairness the idea he was a despot does have some basis in reality. He was a totally psychotic nightmare the last dozen years of his reign. However, no one outside of hardcore historians really seems to remember how hard he worked to be a fair and caring monarch when he first came to the throne. For more than 25 years Henry VIII ruled England as a genial and fun-loving King. He was a decent and even tempered man for ⅔ of his reign, but all that most people remember is the major asshat he was during the last ⅓ of it.

Henry VIII became King in 1509, just before he turned 18. For the next few decades he ruled as justly and kindly as he could. Even when he wanted to annul his marriage to Katherina, he still treated her with absolute courtesy and respect, and seemed sincerely sorry she was so hurt by his desire to marry another woman. The King’s only apparent and significant personal flaws were a huge ego and a propensity to show off, both of which should be expected in a talented young man who had been taught to believe that he was, literally, second only to God. During his era it was commonly believed that the King was anointed by God, and therefore any person who acted against Henry also acted against God. Henry was a devout Catholic who sincerely believed it was his duty to manifest God’s will for his people. I don’t know about you, but if someone told me every day of my life that I was chosen by God to rule everyone around me, I would probably be full of myself too. So perhaps a little hubris on Henry’s part is understandable.

Although people now think of him as a bully who took care of backtalk by giving anyone fool enough to open their yap the chop, when Henry was a young man he enjoyed theological discussions, and would listen to opinions which differed from his own with “remarkable courtesy and unruffled temper”, the very opposite of imprisonment and execution. Even when the contentions surrounding Henry’s annulment from Katherina were heating up in 1529, the famous humanist Erasmus wrote that the King was “gentle in debate”.

He eventually became known for being a monster who blamed everyone but himself for his mistakes, but this was also a development of his later reign. The youthful King was not prone to blaming others for his mistakes, as demonstrated by a jousting accident in 1524 when he was inadvertently handed his lance and set on course before his visor was lowered. This error could have easily killed him, so it wasn’t exactly “no big deal”. When his opponent’s lance struck the King it splintered and rocketed the potentially lethal shards into Henry’s face. It was damn near a miracle that Henry’s eyes didn’t get big shards of wood buried in them. The pain must have been horrific. Nonetheless, the King graciously forgave those responsible and insisted that it was all his fault for not checking his own visor.

Henry also has a bad rap for slaughtering anyone who displeased him, no matter how trivial the reason, but that isn’t the whole truth. Before 1535 it was like pulling teeth to get Henry to sign off on an execution, particularly if  it was someone he knew well, no matter how much evidence was piled up. The 3rd Duke of Buckingham was clearly angling for Henry’s crown, and it still to a lot of persuasion from Henry’s right hand man, Cardinal Wolsey, before the King would agree to give his cousin to the headsman. When Cardinal Wolsey was in turn caught plotting to slow down and/or stop Henry’s annulment from Katherina (Wolsey knew Anne Boleyn hated his guts and he didn’t want her to be Queen), Henry hemmed and hawed and forgave Wolsey so much that the Cardinal actually died of natural causes before the King could make up his mind whether or not to put Wolsey’s noggin on a spike.

The lion’s share of Henry’s bloodshed was supposedly because of his attempted annulment from Katherina; those who didn’t support the voiding the marriage weren’t going to need their hats ever again.

Not quite.

For years Henry put up with the most blatant disrespect and challenges to his authority regarding his nullity suit without calling for an axe. In 1532 William Peto preached an Easter sermon where he flat out told the King, who was in the congregation, that he would wind up like the Old Testament ruler Ahab.  He warned the King to his face that if he didn’t mend his ways, then after his death dogs would lick up his blood just like dogs had licked up Ahab’s blood. Peto also strongly implied that Anne Boleyn was Jezebel reborn. Considering that Jezebel’s name was (and still is in some circles) synonymous with “skank who wears too much mascara”, not to mention that Jezebel was the Queen reputed to have slaughtered prophets and replaced them with idol worshipers, this was a serious theological pimp-slap to Anne. To top it off another friar, named Elston (or Elstow in some records), stepped up to the plate and backed Peto. Henry was severely irked, but he didn’t have anybody’s head cut off.

Instead, Peto and Elstow were called up in front of the King’s council, where Henry and his chief ministers laid into them. The friars stood their ground and thumbed their noses at their King. When the Earl of Essex told them they should be stuffed into a sack and dropped into the Thames to drown, Peto told Essex that they could get to heaven from water just as well as they could by land. Water was probably especially chancy for Peto and Elstow, since their huge brass testicles would have scuppered any attempt to swim. Yet in spite of the sneering insolence that they showed for the King and his courtiers, the friars were not executed. Instead, Peto and Elstow were freed and sent into exile. They sped off to Antwerp, where Peto continued to give Henry the big fat finger by publishing a book defending the legitimacy of Katherina’s marriage to the King.

Another tact that Henry didn’t take to facilitate the annulment he wanted so badly was to simply have Katherine clandestinely murdered. Some people argue that the Queen was too popular with the English populace for Henry to risk killing her, but that wouldn’t have stopped him if he was really the beast people think of him as and if he had been really determined to get rid of her. After all, popular support did not save any of the innocent people Henry would start executing in 1535. As it was, he was accused (in whispers) of poisoning Katherina anyway, so why not have been hanged for a sheep rather than a lamb?

So what made Henry change so much, and so suddenly? 

I support the theory that he had disease called McLeod syndrome that radically altered his mental condition. That’s probably obvious, since I wrote a whole book about it, but nonetheless it bears repeating. 

If you’ve never heard of McLeod syndrome before, you are not alone. It isn’t well known, except to a few doctors who are specialists in this kind of blood-antigen linked illness. Usually of the symptoms of McLeod syndrome begin to show up around the fortieth birthday, and grow progressively worse over time. The physical and psychological symptoms of McLeod syndrome would explain why Henry became weaker and mentally unstable after he turned forty in 1531, finally losing his grip and becoming a monster in 1535, and why he kept going downhill faster and faster until his death in 1547. The mental symptoms of this illness include, but are not limited to, erosion of memory and executive functions, paranoia, depression, socially inappropriate conduct, irrational personality alterations, and even schizophrenia-like behaviors.  In severe cases, schizophrenia-like symptoms of personality changes may be the clue that tells the doctor that the patient probably has McLeod syndrome. In short, if Henry had McLeod syndrome it would explain why a dashing young king, one who wanted to be the flower of English chivalry, became a decrepit bastard who had so many of his wives, friends and family members executed.

It wasn’t until 1535, when he was almost 44 years old, that Henry started killing people willy-nilly and seemed to lose his marbles. He became paranoid and petulant, blaming everyone around him for the dumb stuff he did. 1535 is when he executed Thomas More, and to deal with the backlash he blamed the whole thing on Anne Boleyn. He also blamed Anne for the persecution of his daughter Mary, even though Anne was already dead when Henry was hounding Mary. He was not-so-subtly threatening to kill his own child if she didn’t betray her mother and “admit” she was the illegitimate product of incest. He killed Thomas Cromwell out of spite simply because he didn’t like Anna of Cleves (who was NOT ugly; Henry made that up), and then threw a fit that Cromwell wasn’t around any more to do what Henry wanted. His policy decisions were also complete crap, too.

The outright stupidity of the older Henry’s political moves are a telltale sign something, even if it wasn’t McLeod syndrome, had effected Henry’s brain. They guy had been smart. Neil deGrasse Tyson smart. Smart enough to impress the most famous minds of his day, such as Erasmus and Thomas More. Like Erasmus and More, the King was a humanist, which meant he was devoted to the study of the literature and moral philosophy of ancient Greek and Roman scholars, as well as being trained in grammar and rhetoric. . He used his academic skills to write a book defending the Catholic Church from Reformation criticisms, titled A Defense of the Seven Sacraments, after which a grateful Vatican awarded him with (ironically, considering what lay in store) the title “Defender of the Faith”. He wasn’t just being given an easy A, either — he was an actual brainbox. Henry studied mathematics, engineering, and astronomy with some of the most learned men in England. He spoke several different languages, and was as fluent in Latin and French as he was in his native tongue. To top it off, he was also an amazing musician who played multiple instruments and composed his own music.

By the time Henry was in his 50s he was no longer the kind and intelligent man he was in his youth; he was now as crazy as a bedbug but still the most powerful man in England. His paranoia kept getting more extreme and shortly before he died he had almost all of his maternal relatives executed, just in case they might try any shenanigans after Henry had passed away. No courtier, not even his oldest and dearest friends, were safe from the King’s wild mood swings. Lord Montague, Henry’s cousin who had grown up with him from childhood, said that Henry would “be out of his wits one day  … for when he came into his chamber he would look angrily, and after fall to fighting”. Not long after, Henry had Montague executed.

If the King had McLeod syndrome then he was as much a victim as the people his condition compelled him to execute. Even if the theory about him having Kell/McLeod syndrome, is wrong it is a crying shame that Henry is not remembered for the lives he spared when he was thirty-nine, but rather for the lives he took after he was forty-four. Whatever Henry became, the young idealist who took the throne in the spring of 1509, who was so warmly praised as a “lover of justice and goodness”, deserves to be remembered just as much as the bloodthirsty nutcase he was when he died after reigning for almost forty years.

Happy Birthday, Henry.