Having focused on the healthy habits of our ancestors that are entirely commendable, it’s also sometimes helpful to take a look at the opposite end of the spectrum. One historical character who definitely wasn’t a good example was Henry VIII–one of the most well-known (and some would say infamous) monarchs of all time.
King Henry VIII sat on the English thrown from 1509 until his death in 1547. His colorful personal life was perhaps what he’s most remembered for, but one of his biggest historical legacies was actually the Church of England’s separation from Rome (a move that would have far reaching long term consequences).
The traditional artist’s impression of Henry VIII is one of a severely obese king. Indeed, his general health deteriorated significantly in his later years. A number of different theories exist as to the cause of this deterioration, including possible inherited disease, or even issues related to injury. It’s all speculation, and equally likely that all of these problems were the result of poor health habits, with probable untreated diabetes related to obesity. We know he held regular banquets, during which he would feast on large amounts of red meat (definitely not advisable for weight control). He was plagued with terrible leg ulceration, which is believed to have started secondary to a wound from an accident. The larger he became, and higher his blood sugars, the more difficult this would have been for healing.
But it wasn’t just his size either. Henry VIII had a notoriously volatile personality, was obsessed with producing a male heir, and had tens of thousands of people executed during his reign (including his second and fifth wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard). This propensity for anger and cruelty would have undoubtedly led to high stress levels, with all of its bad consequences.
Henry VIII died at the age of 55. Evidence suggests that at the time of his death his waist measured 54 inches and he weighed over 350 pounds.