I love Henry VIII stories, both fact and fiction. He was such a large character – and I don’t mean just physically. But an explanation for his mood swings from Tracy Borman seems a little too simplistic to me. She claims in her article ‘Leg pain, not brain damage, to blame for Henry VIII’s anger problems’ claims Tudor historian that Henry turned into a tyrant simply because he was in a lot of pain with his leg. While I do concede that he would have been in horrendous pain, I think that this is far too simple a viewpoint.
As a historian, we are meant to look at evidence to draw conclusions. While Ms Borman has certainly looked at evidence, including disputing (and rightly so) some historical documents, she has failed to take into account scientific evidence from reliable sources.
I can see the issues she may have with the theory put forward by the Yale Memory Clinic: given that they have not really aligned their theory with historical evidence, or rather, they have been selective in doing so. There are, however, many other theories that she has discounted, such as those suggested by Dr Arash Salardini immediately following her article. Dr Salardini has proposed that there are several different medical possibilities for Henry’s change from a charming prince to a tyrannical king, including Cushings Syndrome, metabolic syndrome and, of course, the brain injury suggested by the Yale research team. Kyra Kramer, in Blood Will Tell outlines not only these options but also suggests that McLeod’s Syndrome is a very real possibility.
There can be no doubt that the pain that Henry VIII experienced daily would have been a contributing factor to his outbursts and vile temper. But to say that it was the only reason for his outrageous behaviour is, I believe, drawing a low bow.