Historical Emotional Eating?

30.5.2016 | 20:43

I know this might sound like an odd topic for a blog article, but my mind sometimes takes an unusual path….

Debra and I have recently been watching the DVDs from the Showtime drama “The Tudors,” chronicling the life of Great Britain’s Henry VIII.


It’s an exquisite production, with sumptuous costumes and a stellar cast.

But I’ve noticed a few details that might have passed others by.

Most of us know of his many marriages – he divorced two wives, had two murdered, one died in childbirth and the last survived him.


But how many of us have ever wondered why he behaved as he did?

I found several incidents quite fascinating.

For one thing, he suffered at least two falls during jousting accidents.

Hmm, a soft brain getting slammed against a hard skull encased in a metal helmet.

Anyone else thinking “massive concussion,” besides myself and Dr. Daniel Amen?

He also suffered other injuries that hampered his mobility.

And then there’s the food….

One thing I noticed was that, somewhere around the time of his second wife Anne Boleyn’s execution on trumped-up charges of incest, adultery and treason, he sat down to a magnificent feast.

He dug his hands into a humungous pie, stuffing the filling into his mouth – the gravy or sauce running down his chin and coating his hand.


There was no one else at the table, suggesting that perhaps he ate the entire large pastry by himself.

It’s pretty clear that he knew quite well that his wife was innocent of the charges against her, but he’d already set his eye on #3, and seemingly allowed Anne to go to her death with no remorse.

(Yes, this is a fictional drama, but we’ve been looking into some of the history, and it seems reasonably accurate.)

So I turned to Debra and said, “You know, I wonder if deep-down he does feel some degree of guilt, and this is the beginning of a pattern of ‘emotional eating’.”

(I’d already brought up the whole concussion idea.)

Another thought that occurred to me while observing his voracious sexual appetite – also apparently not made up for dramatic purposes; he had six wives after all, and died in his mid-50s – was that it was rather surprising that he didn’t have a sexually transmitted disease….

Well, apparently there has been no small degree of historical speculation on that subject also….

Another interesting tidbit we discovered during our search was the suggestion that he might have been starting to show signs of Type II diabetes.

King Henry VIII

Given his alleged waist circumference of 54 inches, it certainly seems to be a likely theory.

It’s been quite fascinating for Debra and me to watch this story unfold through the lens of diet, nutrition and health.

I wouldn’t have known of these sorts of concepts a few years ago, when the show was on television.  (We didn’t have a TV during part of its run anyway, and I’m pretty sure we didn’t have premium cable during the entire series.)

But looking back at history, through this exquisitely entertaining window, has been quite an education for us.

(On a completely shallow note, I will frankly admit that a cast which includes Peter O’Toole as a pope, and Jeremy Northam as the martyred St. Thomas More, would have sucked me in regardless of historical accuracy or world-class production values.)

I have to admit, I’m now really intrigued by the possibility that some of history’s most infamous characters may have suffered from some of the many conditions that plague so many people today.

Henry VIII was certainly “super-sized” in more than one sense of the term, and would probably have gone unnoticed in our increasingly obese, increasingly ill population.

Well, unless he started having citizens executed at His Majesty’s pleasure….

Hever Castle, United Kingdom - June 18, 2015: Panoramic view of Hever Castle and it's beautiful garden and once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn.


  1. Michele
    May 31, 2016 | 4:41 pm

    OMG! I must say you hooked me as soon as I saw The Tudors pic on the Youtube link lol. I LOVED that show and was obsessed with Henry the Eighth stories since I was younger. Tying emotional eating into it was brilliant. Food certainly played a huge role in his life and given his behavior while he was king, one might think he was a sociopath who wasn’t capable of expressing or feeling certain basic human emotions. However it’s certainly possible he may have been tormented with guilt or remorse for the horrible things he did and used food to comfort him. Something to think about anyways.

    • daletchworth
      June 1, 2016 | 12:35 am

      It IS one of the best freakin’ shows, Michele! Totally hooked. It was just one of those series of thoughts that led to a “light bulb” moment, followed by an unexpected blog post. It’s a theory that’s certainly consistent with some of what we know from history. Debra

  2. Brad
    May 31, 2016 | 9:02 pm

    That was a really interesting and clever perspective on this historical figure. You are like a forensic reconstructive health detective.
    Lots to think about here and also a good display on how health bleeds into other areas of people’s lives.

    • daletchworth
      June 1, 2016 | 12:39 am

      Okay, so Diane has another possible occupation — “forensic reconstructive health detective.” I, for one, love the idea. But then, I wanted to study chemistry or history in college. Pharmacy (close to chemistry) won out, but I still LOVE the history! Thought this was a great exercise in speculation. Debra

  3. Jace
    May 31, 2016 | 10:36 pm

    Very interesting stuff. Thank you for sharing.

    • daletchworth
      June 1, 2016 | 12:39 am

      And fun! 🙂

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