Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Could a Jousting Accident Have Been the Reason That Henry VIII Became Such A Tyrant?

In a joust that may have changed history, on January 24, 1536, 44 year old King Henry VIII was unhorsed by his opponent during a jousting tournament at Greenwich Palace. It is believed that his armored horse actually fell on the downed monarch as well. But whatever the details of the accident may be, all accounts of the event agree that the king was knocked unconscious for two hours.

This was actually his second notable jousting accident. In 1524, he failed to lower his visor before entering the list and was struck by his opponent's lance just above his right eye. After this incident, he began to suffer from constant migraines.

This second jousting accident in 1536 may have had even more serious repercussions. Not only did it exacerbate existing leg injuries, it may have also caused permanent brain damage. Even by today's medical standards, being knocked unconscious for more than five minutes is serious cause for concern. According to records, Henry VIII was unconscious for two hours and was unable to speak for a while even after he regained consciousness. Historian Dr. Lucy Worsley, chief curator of Britain's Historic Royal Palaces, believes that damage to the frontal lobe of his brain as a result of this trauma "provides the explanation for his personality change from sporty, promising, generous young prince, to cruel, paranoid and vicious tyrant."

Jousting is a dangerous sport. Even modern jousters, whether performers, re-enactors or competitive jousters, know that they are risking injury and possible death every time they participate in this historic activity. So, why do they do it? You'd have to ask a jouster.

As the wife of a jouster, I do worry about him every time he takes the field. I know that he has practiced to the best of his ability; that his armor is as safe as it can be made; that his horse is well trained and will not create any more danger than is usual in any equestrian activity. I know that everyone involved is aware of the danger and will do their best to compete cleanly and honourably. No one wants to get hurt, and I like to believe that -- no matter the trash talk -- no one really wants to hurt anyone else.

But I still know that jousting is a dangerous sport. That's part of the excitement -- the risk of injury. However, injuries themselves are not exciting, at least not for those involved. So although I enjoy watching jousting tournaments and watching my husband compete, there is always a part of me that is a little scared, not just for my husband, but for all of my friends and even those I don't know very well who risk themselves in order to demonstrate their skills in this extremely difficult sport.

Federico Serna gets hit by the lance during Lysts on the Lake 2011(Photo AzulOx)

So to all the jousters out there, have fun, compete to the best of your abilities, and "don't be a dick". But also remember... you are carrying the hearts of your loved ones with you onto the list field, try not to damage them.

Informative Links


Books that mention the jousting accident

1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII by Suzannah Lipscomb
The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII by Retha M. Warnicke


1 comment:

  1. Like I have always said, "Ride fast and hit hard, but don't be a dick about it."