Did Head Injuries Cause Henry VIII’s Erratic Behavior?
“Erratic” may be a charitable adjective in Henry’s case.
Six marriages, two wives beheaded, founding his own Church when the Pope refused to annul his marriage – Henry VIII’s reign was one of constant tumult as his moods swung from one extreme to the other.
Now scientists at Yale University have set forth the theory that repeated head injuries during jousting matches might have transformed an intelligent, even-tempered young man into an impulsive, forgetful king known for his rage and impulsive decisions.
It’s a diagnosis strikingly similar to current ones involving NFL players with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
After examining volumes of letters and other historical documents, the researchers concluded that the most plausible explanation for the English monarch's headaches, insomnia, memory loss, poor impulse control and short temper were that they resulted from jousting and other falls.
Among the documented cases of the monarch’s injuries: In 1524, Henry was dazed when a lance penetrated his helmet during a jousting tournament. The following year, he fell head first into a brook while trying to vault across the water. The incident rendered him unconscious. And, in 1536, he lost consciousness for two hours after a horse fell on him.
"It is intriguing to think that modern European history may have changed forever because of a blow to the head," said study senior author Dr. Arash Salardini, a behavioral neurologist and co-director of the Yale Memory Clinic.