The Diet of King Henry VIII

The Diet of King Henry VIII

Life at the Royal Court during Henry VIII’s reign was very hectic and regimental. There were up to one thousand people who attended the monarch. All parts of court life were strictly controlled during this Tudor period. This included everything from who was allowed to enter the king’s bed chamber to who could keep dogs and when they could play cards.

These rules were published in a series of ordinances and regulations. In 1562, King Henry VIII drew up these rules which became known as the ‘Ordinances of Eltham’. Contained within these rules was what was to be eaten each day by the king and his queen, and the different levels of courtiers in his court.

What King Henry and the Tudors Ate

Henry VIII would eat thirteen dishes a day and a pork dish was said to have been eaten every day. The king’s diet consisted mainly of meat dishes which included pork, lamb, chicken, beef, game, rabbit and a different variety of birds such as peacocks and swans.

During the Tudor times a bird pie would have been made, of which small live birds would have flown out of once it was cut open. This was done just for amusement and a real pie was always brought in to replace the bird pie after this extravaganza.

The Tudors did not drink fresh water as it was not safe to drink. King Henry and other Tudors got round this by drinking a lot of ale, the total being some seventy pints a week. They would have also drunk a great amount of red wine sweetened with sugar.

The staple food of the Tudor diet both for the wealthy and the poor was bread. This was not good for the king’s constipation problems. Henry would have consumed around a huge five thousand calories a day, which was more than twice the recommended calories for a man of today.

The Tudors did not eat many vegetables as they believed that raw vegetables were totally indigestible. Henry also did not like his vegetables and considered them to be food for peasants. However, he did like his strawberries.

The king’s intake of salt was huge. He would have consumed around twenty grams a day. Today, this would be three times the recommended amount. King Henry’s diet mainly consisted of oily red meats. He ate hardly any vegetables and consumed a lot of sweet dishes. He would have undoubtedly drunk a large amount of alcohol to wash all this down. King Henry’s diet lacked the necessary Vitamin C, despite his love for strawberries.

How Much King Henry’s Food Would Cost Now

Today’s equivalent of Henry’s food would now contain dark guinea-fowl, venison, pies and duck, as well as a lot of ale and red wine. Today, if we went shopping at the supermarket for King Henry’s weekly shopping it would add up to over five hundred pounds a week for one person.

King Henry VIII’s Poor Health and Diabetes

During the Tudor times the king’s doctors were unable to look inside his body as they had no scans or x-rays. If they were able to see inside the body of Henry VIII, they would have found excessive layers of fat around his vital organs.

His heart would have had to work much faster, due to his high blood pressure and circulation problems. Because Henry was so big, his heart would have become quite enlarged. It would have had to work harder to pump blood to his other organs. His liver was very fatty, which was due to his poor diet and heavy consumption of alcohol.

In his later stage of life, King Henry was in very poor health. He was clinically obese and suffered from high blood pressure. He also showed the classic symptoms of late onset of type 2 diabetes. These symptoms included being obese, having chronic leg ulcers, poor eyesight, bad circulation and high blood pressure.

As the Tudor diet contained lots of meat, sugar and not many vegetables, it has been stated that King Henry may have bought his poor health on himself. Today, a person diagnosed with diabetes would have to cut back on sugar because their body was not using glucose very well. However, cutting back on sugar during the Tudor times would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible for the king.

According to medical doctor Catherine Hood, a lot of King Henry VIII’s problems were more than likely to have been caused by diabetes, which would probably have strongly contributed to his death.

Categories: Diet, Weight Loss