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What is gout and why did King Henry VIII have gout?

Gout is a complex form of arthritis that is common and can affect anyone. When one’s body has excess uric acid, sharp crystals can form in the big toe or other joints, causing episodes of swelling. It may cause sudden, intense bouts of pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness in the joints. A gout attack can come on suddenly, often waking one up in the middle of the night with a burning sensation in the big toe. The affected joint is hot, swollen, and so tender that even the weight of the sheet is unbearable. Beer, wine, red meat, lamb, pork, sweetbreads, lobster, mussels, anchovies, sardines, cereals, ice cream, and high-fructose products (soda and some juices, candy, and fast food) are prominent causes of gout in daily life as well.

Historically, gout was initially thought to be a male disease but was later found to affect women as well. The Egyptians first identified gouty arthritis in 2640 BC as Podgra (severe hyperuricemia first occurring in the metatarsophalangeal joint).

Hippocrates later recognized it as an ‘unwalkable disease’ in the 5th century BC and Seneca discovered its existence during the reign of Nero (AD 54-68).

Relationship Between Gout and Wine

Gout is attributed to overindulgence in food and wine, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the “disease of kings” or the disease of the rich since foods like wine, red meat, and other rich foods contribute to elevated uric acid levels.

Gout occurs when uric acid builds up in the blood if elevated uric acid levels are not treated; Uric acid crystals then accumulate in the joints, causing inflammation and severe pain. In the past, the condition was common among royalty who became overly preoccupied with eating and drinking. They were often awakened after a night of debauchery by the podagral, a painful bout of gout in the big toe. This turned the disease of gout into the “disease of kings.”

Doctors wrote about gout as far back as the Ancient Greeks, stating that only wealthy men could suffer from it.

How the Lifestyle of People of England Disposed Them to Gout

Historically, many people did not have access to clean drinking water. So rather than drinking water people drank alcohol throughout the day. The alcohol actually killed any germs or bacteria in the water, making it safe to drink.

Claret and Bordeaux were among the most famous drinks during the Henry VIII era, mainly named “Gascon wine.” It arrived young and in casks, and Claret, confusingly, was what the Tudors called rosé.

Depending on their class and financial status, the alcoholic beverages enjoyed by the people of England during the Tudor dynasty were ale, lager, stout, wine, cider, and Perry. Although some vineyards in Southern England produced wine, rich people used to import wine from other European countries to drink.

The rich drank from wine glasses imported from Italy, which were incredibly expensive, while the poor drank from wooden cups and goblets.

How King Henry VIII Influenced Gout

King Henry VIII was famous for his gluttony. His weight was estimated at 320 pounds.

On January 28, 1547, at age 55, Henry’s obesity and gout hastened his death in the palace of Whitehall.

King Henry’s diet consisted mainly of oily, red meat. He ate lots of sweets and drank plenty of alcohol and seldom ate vegetables. Beer and wine were the two leading drinks until the 16th century. When kings like Henry VIII contracted gout, it became a fashionable condition. Just as the French imitated royalty at Versailles, the English nobility tried to have gout as a status symbol.

In the 16th century, men claimed that gout prevented other diseases and even called it an aphrodisiac.

King Henry VIII’s Turmoils 

It is believed that an accident at a tournament was what made Henry a tyrannical monarch with an unpredictable temper. The accident happened on January 24, 1536, at Greenwich during his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Henry suffered a severe concussion, and a varicose ulcer broke out on his left leg, a legacy of an earlier traumatic jousting injury in 1527 which quickly healed under the surgeon’s care.

Henry was not so lucky this time, and ulcers developed on both legs causing excruciating pain. These ulcers never really healed, and as a result, Henry had severe and constant infections. The infections continued. Endless pain was undoubtedly a factor in Henry’s transformation into a moody, unpredictable, and short-tempered monarch.

Did You Know: King Henry VIII is said to have celebrated beheadings with a side of beef that triggered his gout attacks.

Also read: Wine Cultures of Ancient Greece

Other Aspects of King Henry VIII’s Life

Henry VIII was also famous for his role in the Reformation when his decision to annul his marriage to Anne Boleyn led to the founding of the Church of England.

However, Henry VIII is better remembered for his six wives. The marriage’s aim was to have a son to inherit the throne. Henry reigned for 38 years and was a hypochondriac. He was also well known for his executions. He killed Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, two of his wives. He accused Ana of adultery, and she was sentenced and beheaded on May 19, 1536; however, the fact that she had not birthed a male heir was Henry’s primary motive for her execution. On the other hand, Catherine was accused of having affairs and adultery before their marriage, leading to treason charges. She was executed on February 13, 1542.

There you go. A bit of a moody, challenged, and gout riddled King who changed the course of Christianity and went down as an archetype of a dangerous king.



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Henry VIII- The King and His Court Champagne- Wine of Kings and the King of Wines

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