Henry VIII: How Cromwell tricked King with Protestant agenda
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Best known for his six marriages, the brutal king initiating English Reformation and beheading anyone who went against him during his 38-year reign. Experts continue to debate Henry’s final cause of death, but most agree obesity hastened it after he suffered a leg wound from a jousting accident in 1536. As Henry, then 44, lunged forward, he fell from his horse and found himself trampled beneath the animal in a moment that “changed the course of history,” leaving the Tudor King unconscious for two hours.
Experts have long known that Henry’s life-altering fall took place at his favourite residence, Greenwich Palace, but the royal court was demolished during the reign of Charles II, and the precise location of the jousting yard, or tiltyard, was believed to be lost to time.
But a team led by architectural expert Simon Withers located traces of the palace when they used ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to conduct scans of the area.
Mr Withers said: “When people ask me how I spent lockdown, I say, ‘Well, we found a palace.’”
His team found traces of two octagonal towers – likely the remnants of tall viewing stand that spectators used to watch the jousting tournaments.
This discovery suggested that the jousting field was roughly 330 feet east of where it was previously believed to be located.
Mr Withers added: “The images recorded on the radargrams were tantalisingly ambiguous and it has taken some time to reconcile these with what had long been considered to be the location of the tiltyard.
“This is part of a much larger scanning project and is incredibly exciting.”
The team’s discovery is not the only recent Tudor find related to the royal residence.
In 2017, researchers unearthed two subterranean rooms, including a stretch of floor covered in lead-glazed tiles, that were likely part of Greenwich Palace’s servants’ quarters.
Before Henry’s accident, Spanish and Venetian ambassadors had described the king as athletic, handsome and charming.
In the years after the fall, however, his mental and physical condition steadily worsened.
Mr Withers told Live Science in November that the 1536 accident “does seem to be this central event that changed the [king’s] behaviour”.
The accident had reopened and aggravated an injury he had sustained years earlier, to the extent that his doctors found it difficult to treat.
Later in life, Henry became obese, with a waist measurement of 54 inches, and had to be moved about with the help of mechanical devices.
He was said to be covered with painful, pus-filled boils and possibly suffered from gout.
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Arash Salardini, a behavioural neurologist, said in 2016: “It is intriguing to think that modern European history may have changed forever because of a blow to the head.”
The chronic wound festered for the remainder of his life and became ulcerated, preventing him from maintaining the level of physical activity he had previously enjoyed.
The jousting accident is also believed to have caused Henry’s mood swings, which may have had a dramatic effect on his personality and temperament.
Less than four months after his fall, Henry had his second wife, Anne Boleyn, executed on contrived charges of adultery, incest, witchcraft and conspiring to kill him.
He went on to marry another four times in rapid succession, becoming increasingly “cruel, petty and tyrannical”.
The once-beloved king died in 1547 at the age of 55.
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