The Accident That May Have Made Henry VIII A Tyrant

Even the most casual observers of royal history can probably agree that Henry VIII was his whole own thing. The dude murdered two of his six wives and invented an entire religion just to be able to divorce another two, not to mention that he executed tons of people and wasted a truly exorbitant amount of money. He tried to produce male heirs for a significant portion of his portly life, yet out of Henry VIII's four children, the only truly significant monarchs were Queen Mary I and Elizabeth I. (One of his sons, Edward VI, did sit on the throne for a while, but the poor kid died before he came of age.) Oh, and somehow, he managed to revel away nearly half of his insane net worth by the time he died

In many ways, Henry VIII was a messed up guy who did messed up things. But was he always like that? Did he jump out of the womb as a spring-loaded ball of supervillainy, or did something happen to make him the oddball tyrant we all know and ... know?  

Henry VIII may have jousted his way to tyranny

As The Independent reports, there might indeed be an explanation behind Henry VIII's truly historical cruelty. In fact, a History Channel documentary called Inside the Body of Henry VIII believes there's a very specific point in time when the king took a turn for the worse. On January 24, 1536, the 44-year-old king was participating in a jousting tournament at Greenwich Palace when he took a bad fall from his armored horse ... that then collapsed right on top of him. 

The incident ended Henry's jousting days for good, and it gave him some serious leg injuries that never really went away. However, it's possible that wasn't the only ailment he got that day. Henry VIII was unconscious for two hours, and he may have had a brain injury that no one could diagnose — let alone treat — with the era's medical know-how. 

Henry VIII went from athletic to absurd

It's true that the jousting accident appears to have marked a significant change in Henry VIII's behavior. The formerly genial, athletic king became "cruel, vicious, and paranoid," and he soon grew apart from Anne Boleyn, his second wife, and started his revolving door of spouses. It's also noteworthy that the people who'd so revered Henry in his younger days started talking smack about him right around this time, which is another sign of a profound change. 

So, while it's not exactly possible to analyze a long-dead king's brain to find out for sure, it certainly seems within the realm of possibility that the jousting incident might've given him a personality-changing head trauma, a la Phineas Gage. This, together with his impressive laundry list of sports injuries, could've driven him into reclusive paranoia and extreme comfort eating that bloated him to almost 400 pounds by his death at 55.