Location of King Henry VIII’s Dramatic Jousting Fall Found
In 1536 AD King Henry VIII of England was torn from his horse during a jousting match, which led to deteriorating health and his eventual death. Now, the exact location of King Henry VIII’s “last joust” has been discovered at Greenwich Palace, England.
The origins of jousting go back to classical Rome. However, lance-wielding mounted warriors serving as heavy cavalry became a primary military tactic during the Middle Ages. As a sport, jousting rose to its greatest popularity in Europe around the 1400s AD. And in this martial game or hastilude (lance game), two charging horsemen wielded long wooden lances with blunted tips at medieval tournaments. And it was at such an event that England´s King Henry VIII´s fell from his horse for the last time.
A “tiltyard” was the name of the enclosed courtyard in which jousting events took place. In 1536 AD the 44-year-old King Henry VIII fell from his horse while jousting at a previously unknown tiltyard. He was knocked unconscious for two hours. However, the actual location where this all occurred has never been identified, until now.
Portrait of King Henry VIII (1491-1547) painted in 1540: 7 years before death and 4 years after his last fall from a jousting horse. (Hans Holbein / Public domain)
King Henry VIII Had Six Wives And Changed England’s Religion
Henry VIII (28 June 1491 AD – 28 January 1547 AD) was the king of England from 1509 AD until he died in 1547 AD. Famous for having been married six times, his annulment of marriage to Catherine of Aragon enraged Pope Clement VII. As a result, King Henry VIII started the English Reformation, which distanced the Church of England from the Catholic church.
Greenwich Palace, previously known as the Palace of Placentia, was built by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, in 1443 AD. The magnificent building is now home to the Queen's House and the National Maritime Museum. By the time King Henry ascended to the throne in the mid-16th century AD the palace had become a principal English royal residence. It remained a royal home until 1660 AD, when it was destroyed by King Charles II.
Ground Radar Used To Find The Last Jousting Tiltyard
Using ground-penetrating radar at the Greenwich Palace, archaeologists found two large octagonal towers that they believed overlooked the historic jousting arena. Then, about 328 feet (100 meters) further east than was previously thought, the researchers found the exact location of the tiltyard complex.
Tiltyard where Henry VIII was thrown from his horse during his final joust in 1536 is discovered by archaeologists on the site of Greenwich Palace https://t.co/qtoTayXGeO
— NettyRoyal (@nettyroyal) November 2, 2020
- The Complicated and Disturbing Life of King Henry VIII
- Lavish banquet hall where Henry VIII entertained visiting royalty is discovered beneath playground
- Capricious Life of Anne Boleyn, The Woman Behind the Church of England
King Henry VIII’s Final Fall Led To More Anger And Tragedy
In portraits of his younger years King Henry had an athletic physique but by the time of the accident he suffered from bouts of malaria, leg ulcers and terrible migraines (from an earlier 1524 AD jousting accident).
After the king fell from his horse in 1536 AD, he packed on the pounds which accelerated the collapse of his physical health. According to a report in the Daily Mail, Henry became “the cantankerous tyrant history remembers” after his jousting accident. And it was after his 1536 AD jousting accident that he sentenced his wife Anne Boleyn to death for the loss of their unborn son.
How did the 1536 AD fall of King Henry VIII result in the killing of his wife Anne Boleyn? The king was desperate for a male heir and Anne was pregnant at the time of the jousting accident. While the king lay in a broken heap on the ground, crushed by his folded armor, Anne was informed he would probably die of his injuries. It is thought that the stress of being told her husband would die might have triggered Boleyn’s miscarriage. However, as this kind of medical understanding was unknown at the time, she was beheaded only six months later for “losing” the child.
During the last 11 years of King Henry VIII’s life, he worked through four other wives and became increasingly angry. According to the researchers, Henry´s deteriorating mental health might have been caused by brain bleeding after the jousting accident. Biography.com states that when Henry died he weighed a whopping “400 pounds (180 kgs).” Thus, if you try to imagine this mass of fat being squeezed into a series of tin cans, you have pictured the king in his jousting armor lying on the ground in a heap after his last fall from a horse.
King Henry VIII's Italian-made suit of armor created in about 1544, 8 years after his last jousting fall, when he was already quite obese and ill. (Metropolitan Museum of Art / CC0)
King Henry’s Armor Tells A Tale Of Obesity
Historians have analyzed the armor of King Henry VIII. His waistline measured 32 inches (82 centimeters) in 1512 AD. But by the time of his death in 1547 AD his waistline had swollen to 54 inches (137 centimeters). And unable to support such a huge body mass, the king suffered increasing pain from his leg ulcers and was ultimately unable to walk.
And now, the scene where all these events stem from has been discovered. And that last fall from his horse ultimately led to a fractured England that broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church.
Top image: A jousting match like the one that resulted in the last fall of King Henry VIII and his subsequent deteriorating health and eventual death. Source: Anthony / Adobe Stock
By Ashley Cowie