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The Sickness of Henry IV – Historic Britain Weblog

Lepers refused admission: Vincent_de_Beauvais_Miroir_historial, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, folio 373r

After I began writing the amount in regards to the second half of Henry IV’s life, my inclination was to entitle it The Leper King, solely to find there actually was a leper king: Baldwin  IV of Jerusalem who died in 1185. And really, it actually wasn’t honest to Henry IV. Sure, he did have some form of horrible pores and skin illness, although his woes didn’t cease there. But when he actually did have leprosy, how did he handle to guide a comparatively “regular” existence—with out being shunned by his contemporaries? No, apparently one thing else was happening. It’s almost inconceivable to diagnose historic sicknesses—particularly from over 600 years in the past. However historians have provide you with some fascinating theories.

One of many causes leprosy achieved such buy on the medieval thoughts was the timing of Henry’s first assault. In line with many chroniclers, it occurred the very night time he executed Archbishop Scrope of York for his ill-fated revolt. No English king had ever executed an archbishop earlier than, and this was a horrible shock to his contemporaries. Because the story goes, that very night time, Henry awoke shrieking, “Traitors! Traitors! You may have thrown fireplace over me!” His face was burning and he had damaged out right into a horrible rash—or pustules, or worse. Everybody thought it was God’s retribution for the homicide of an archbishop. In line with Peter Niven*, “Leprosy was the illness par excellence related to God’s punishment of sinners”. Did this actually occur the night time of the execution? So many chroniclers talked about it, that it could be incautious to dismiss the declare out of hand. Henry was bedridden for per week earlier than he may proceed his marketing campaign towards the insurgent Henry Percy. However as soon as he was again within the saddle, he allegedly carried on with renewed vigor. Quickly, at the least, he recovered—the primary argument towards leprosy.

There’s all the time the chance that the medieval manifestation of leprosy differed from what we presently know as Hansen’s Illness. Nonetheless, the difficulty appears to have been determined when Henry’s tomb was opened in 1832. Though his stays rapidly disintegrated upon publicity to the air, the investigators had sufficient time to find out that “his pores and skin was intact, his options weren’t disfigured, and even the all-important nasal cartilage was undamaged” (Peter Niven, once more).

It’s the opposite signs that confuse the difficulty. Slightly greater than a 12 months after his preliminary sickness, Henry was struck with what he known as une grande accesse, and on the similar time he complained of une maladie in his leg. Unable to experience, he was obliged to journey by barge and missed the primary week of the 1406 parliament. Often known as The Lengthy Parliament, it lasted a lot of the 12 months, and it’s thought that the numerous recesses needed to do together with his frequent lack of ability to attend. Did he have a stroke? By all indications he retained readability till his loss of life. May or not it’s a blood clot in his leg? Historians simply don’t know. Though his pores and skin illness got here and went for the remainder of his life, it was the progressive weak spot in his legs and related assaults that took away his power and diminished him to an invalid.

Some historians have instructed syphilis, which may account for most of the signs. Nonetheless, the primary recorded incidence of this illness hadn’t occurred in Europe earlier than the tip of the fifteenth century. Some have instructed psoriasis—probably psoriatic psoriasis, which included joint irritation and swelling. Three years after his first assault, Henry was struck down with a sudden seizure so violent that he misplaced consciousness for fairly a number of hours; for some time folks thought he was lifeless. A couple of months later he made his will, which was normally performed from the deathbed on this interval—or previous to leaving for battle. Apparently he, too, thought he had reached the tip. By then, he may barely stroll or experience and was largely carried in a litter or improvised wheelchair. Finally, Niven concluded that Henry may properly have suffered from coronary coronary heart illness or some kind of circulatory dysfunction. He instructed that rheumatic coronary heart illness may simply clarify his “rising incapacitation, his occasional dramatic collapses, and his comparatively early loss of life.” So, together with this conjecture, the pores and skin illness was an unlucky situation that had nothing to do with the main collapses that incapacitated him.

We definitely can’t ignore the results of stress and—let’s face it—doable guilt over the usurpation and execution of an archbishop. Henry had greater than his justifiable share of rebellions to cope with, and except he was a person and not using a conscience, he should have had lots of lifeless traitors weighing on his thoughts. I attempted to depend the numbers of executed males and misplaced observe after about eighty. That’s sufficient to offer most of us agita.


*McNiven, Peter, THE PROBLEM OF HENRY IV’S HEALTH, 1405-1413, The English Historic Evaluate,  Vol. 100, no. 397 (Oct. 1985), pp. 747-772



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