When it comes to my books everyone who knows me, knows I am very critical. Everything has to be well researched and well structured. I want my history books to be detailed because as they say, the devil is in the details and details are very important. Even when you know the period really well, it is important to include them. So I was very happy when I finished reading this book by this author and learned so much that I didn’t know about Henry’s medical history and his possible ailments, which I do believe after the evidence this author showed and doing some digging of my own and comparing notes with other biographies of him and his six wives, that he did suffer them. I do think that he was Positive Kell Blood Type and that accounted for many of his first two wives’ miscarriages as well as his personality changes because that brought about McLeod Syndrome and of course the fall from his horse when he was jousting in 1536, affected him even more and turned him from the renaissance prince that everyone -including foreign ambassadors- praised into the tyrant we all know from his later in life iconic paintings of his standing proudly, judging the watcher with his menacing eyes.
When we look at history, we rarely take genetics into account because we really do not want to think too hard, or we simply do not think it was a big deal but it was. In the past decades we have learned more about ourselves through genetics. Perhaps we are pre-disposed to certain things due to them, more so than we think. If so, then does that make us responsible for our behavior? It is one of the many questions that the author tries to answer in her book. While Henry most certainly did suffer from these ailments, this doesn’t excuse him from most of his actions. Henry grew up in an environment where Kings were seen as sacred, half-divine, his actions meant that he could do no wrong. Even before the symptoms of McLeod began to show up, he was already exhibiting traits of narcissism and superiority and these came largely in part because of the way he was raised and because of the talents he possessed.
“As a young man Henry was a handsome, genial and rational ruler. The youthful King was described, in the private letters of more than one foreign ambassador or other court contemporary, as having incredible physical beauty … Henry was also uncommonly tall for his time, well over six feet, with the chiseled physique of a champion athlete. The fact he was an excellent dancer and a model of chivalry further added to his attractiveness. He was a master horseman, excelled at jousting … and early in his reign Henry enjoyed theological debates and would listen to opinions which differed from his own with remarkable calm.”
Indeed he was all these things and more and add to that, the fact that this was the time when Kings were also seen as semi-divine.
Even when he lost his looks, people still kept praising him as the most virtuous of princes to keep his favor. And there was no reason for Henry to think that this praise was ill-begotten or fake. He really “seemed to think that God agreed with him on every topic since he seemed to feel Heaven was always on his side” and everyone who defied him in the smallest of things was not only defying his authority but God’s as well.
It is no wonder then, why Henry turned from the prince everyone was rooting for, to the man every grew to fear and was obliged to pay homage or otherwise they would risk losing everything as others had done before them for less.
Blood Will Tell is a must have for every Tudor and history buff who wants to know more about Henry VIII, and find out the possible reasons behind his sudden change in personality.