Henry VIII - mad or bad?


THE Queen is to be asked for permission to exhume the body of Henry VIII in a bid to prove that a rare ­disease caused his ferocious temper and may* have driven him to have two of his six wives executed.

American researchers Catrina ­Whitley and Kyra Kramer believe that Henry had “Kell-positive” blood, and ­suffered from the related genetic ­disease McLeod’s syndrome.

Dr Whitley, a bioarchaeologist, said: “This could* vindicate Henry in history. Knowing he was mentally ill offers a different explanation for why Henry, who was greatly loved as a young prince, became a ­tyrant in ­later life.”

Henry, who died in 1547 at the age of 55, is buried under the floor of St George’s Chapel, in Windsor ­Castle. Permission to unearth his remains and take hair and bone samples for DNA tests must have royal approval.

Dr Whitley added: “McLeod’s ­syndrome causes muscle weakness and even schizophrenic behaviour. It usually reveals itself at around the age of 40 with an episode of mental illness, which gets gradually worse for the rest of the sufferer’s life. Henry was 41 when he married Anne Boleyn.

“The turning point for Henry was around his 40th birthday. I believe the charges he made against Anne were the ­result of psychosis.”

Mrs Kramer, an ­anthropologist, said: “His ministers knew he was as mad as a hatter but he was still behaving like an intelligent man. It must* have been terrifying. ­Imagine a man like that having the power of life and death over you.”

A spokesman for the Queen declined to comment.

Source: Sunday Express

King Henry VIII (1491 - 1547)

Henry was born on 28 June 1491 in Greenwich. After the death of his elder brother Arthur in 1502, Henry VIII became heir to the English throne. Seven years later his father Henry VII died and he was crowned king of England. Shortly afterwards he married Catherine of Aragon, Arthur's widow. Henry increasingly relied on Thomas Wolsey to rule for him and Wolsey became lord chancellor in 1515.

One of Henry's favourite pursuits, alongside hunting and dancing, was to wage war. Wolsey organised the first French campaign and proved to be an outstanding minister. The Scots were defeated at Flodden in 1513. But war with France ultimately proved expensive and unsuccessful and Wolsey's ascendancy was cut short by Henry's need for a male heir. He was determined to replace Catherine - whose only surviving child was a daughter, Mary, but the pope refused to grant the divorce. In 1533, Henry went ahead anyway and married Anne Boleyn, with whom he had a daughter, Elizabeth. The pope excommunicated him, and parliamentary legislation confirmed Henry's decision to break with Rome. With the help of Wolsey's replacement, Thomas Cromwell, Henry established himself as head of the Church of England and ordered the dissolution of the monasteries. Other reforms - including the uniting of England and Wales and the creation of the Council of the North and the Household and Exchequer - were also instigated during the 1530s. Henry grew tired of Anne Boleyn, who had failed to produce a male heir, and she was executed for adultery and treason in 1536. Jane Seymour became queen and in 1537 produced a male heir, Edward, but died after childbirth.

Henry's personal religious beliefs remained Catholic, despite the growing number of people at court and in the nation who had adopted Protestantism. In an attempt to establish a Protestant alliance with German princes, Cromwell arranged a marriage between the king and Anne of Cleves. Henry divorced her a few months later and turned on Cromwell, who was executed. The final years of his reign witnessed his physical decline and an increasing desperation to appear all-powerful. In 1540, he married Catharine Howard but she was executed for adultery and treason within two years. A final marriage to Catherine Parr was more harmonious. There were fruitless and expensive wars against Scotland and France. Henry died on 28 January 1547 and was succeeded by his son.

Check out the BBC History page for more historic figures and events.

What other British historical figures or events do you know about?


In the first article you see two uses of "may"
  • *May we dig up Henry VIII?
  • His ferocious temper *may have driven him to have two wives executed.
In the first example it is used to ask for permission while in the second it is used to describe a past possibility.

So may, like other modal verbs, has different uses. Let's consider "must"
  • You must pay more attention in class.
  • It *must have been terrifying.
In the first example it is used to express an obligation while in the second it is used to describe a past probability.

Both of the second examples demonstrate Modal Verbs of Deduction. What are they?

They are used to express probability. Consider the picture of the girl below.

Where is she from? I don't know but we can guess judging from her appearance.
  • She must be Irish. She's got red hair and a pale complexion.
  • She can't be Spanish. She doesn't look Spanish at all.
In both cases we are almost sure, but not 100%, because there is a chance that we are wrong. In the first case I am sure she is Irish and in the second case I am sure she isn't Spanish.

Now consider the car below.

Who is the owner? I don't know but we can guess.
  • He must have a good job if he can afford a car like that.
  • He can't leave the car on the street all night. It would get stolen.
Again, in both cases we are pretty sure about what we are saying.

So to describe things that are probable we use must and we use can't for improbabilites. If you like, must is the opposite of can't.

We do not use can or mustn't as verbs of deductions.

She can be Irish. WRONG
He mustn't leave the car on the street. WRONG (means "not allowed")

We do not use can to talk about specific possibilities.

Can is used for:
  • ability eg She can speak French.
  • permission eg Can I go to the bathroom?
  • general possibilites eg It can get really cold in the winter here.

Mustn't is used for:
  • personal obligations eg I was late for the last class. I mustn't be late for this one.
  • rules, laws eg You mustn't smoke here. If you do, you are breaking the law.

To talk about past probabilites we use: must have + past participle / can't have + past participle

What else can we say about Henry VIII? We can imagine:
  • His servants must have feared him.
  • He must have been mad.
  • He can't have loved his wives.

There are other Modal Verbs of Deduction: might, could and may.

From the text on Henry VIII we see this example:
  • This could vindicate Henry in history.

With could, might and may when we aren't sure about what we are saying:
  • The weather forecast says it might rain tomorrow. (Maybe, it'll rain)
  • You could be right but I don't want to risk it. (Perhaps you are right)
  • I may have to cancel our meeting next week. I'll let you know. (Perhaps I'll have to cancel)
The three modals are interchangeable in positive sentences.

Teacher: Where is Maria today?

Student 1: She may have a meeting.
Student 2 : She could be stuck in traffic.
Student 3: She might be ill.

Why is the little girl crying?
  • She might have broken her toy.
  • She may have hurt herself.
  •  Her mother could have given her a row.

The negative meanings of could and might are different:

You might not have met my grandmother (It is possible that you have not met her)

You could not have met my grandmother. She died before you were born. (It is not possible that you met her)

We can use Modal Verbs of Deduction with continuous forms too:

Is David still at the party? He must be having fun.
She looked angry. She must have been arguing with her boyfriend again.
They can't be coming by train today; the train drivers are on strike.

Now try the following interactive exercises:


Montse said…
Hi, Graham. I’ve always been keen on The Tudors history and specially on Henry VIII. I don’t know why all women wanted to be his wife if the most of them were beheaded. Did you see the series “The Tudors”? Despite of a few historical mistakes it seemed to me really great. There is a film about his daughter Elisabeth performed by Helen Mirren who is stunning in the role of the Queen.
Graham said…

I’ve always been keen on THE HISTORY OF The Tudors and ESPECIALLY on Henry VIII. I don’t know why all women wanted to be his wife if MOST OF THEM were beheaded. Did you see the series “The Tudors”? DESPITE A few historical mistakes, I THOUGHT IT WAS REALLY GREAT. There is a film about his daughter Elizabeth PLAYED by Helen Mirren who is *OUTSTANDING in the role of the Queen.

I enjoyed the series "The Tudors". It was like a soap opera.

I remember seeing Cate Blanchett in the role of Elizabeth. Apparently there is a sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

*"stunning" is more for beauty; "outstanding" means something is excellent.
Anonymous said…
Hi Graham
I`ve read two articles and review the grammar references about modal verbs

PD. The page of beautiful.people... whitout comments...

Graham said…
Hi Hilde,

I hope you found them useful.

What does PD stand for? In English we use PS. It stands for Post Script.


You should try to complete the vocabulary list of the beautiful people article.