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 the King's health

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whitehound
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PostSubject: the King's health   Sun Aug 17, 2014 9:13 am

There's to be a programme tonight about Richard's health, in which a young man with a matching scoliosis demonstrates how little impact the scoliosis would have had on Richard's skills as a fighter. In addition to this online piece I read an article in the press today in which - rather touchingly - the young man, Dominic Smee, said that he had always felt himself to be somewhat less than a man because of his spinal abnormality, but having learned that he shared it with this great warrior king has caused him to see himself in a whole new light and feel much more confident.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-28825653

The article also says that Richard was drinking a bottle of wine a day and eating a very rich diet from the point at which he became king.

I suppose that proponents of reallyeevil!Richard will take this as proof that he became king for venal reasons - but really, he was one of the richest and most powerful men in the kingdom, and could have been eating rich food and drinking wine every day of his adult life if he'd wanted to. That he didn't do so until he became king argues something more complex than self-indulgence.

Several possibilities occur to me.

1) Nobody drank the water in cities, everybody drank watered alcohol to kill the germs. Maybe Richard started drinking a lot of wine at the point at which he moved to London because he'd come from an environment in which the water was drinkable into one where it wasn't, and maybe he just didn't like beer.

2) He'd inherited his brother's glittering court (and cook!) and was maybe using banquets etc. to schmooze the guilds. It does lend some weight to Croyland's sour comment about the extravagance of his court, although it was no more so than Edward's.

3) He was very stressed and unhappy, and Buckingham had encouraged him to hit the bottle. I have long thought that Buckingham was a drunk, both because of his erratic and reckless behaviour and because of the thin, wobbly look of his writing on the Three Signatures document. There's also a story told by a historian iirc called Baker (Butler?), writing about 120 years after Richard's death, that Buckingham was late to Richard's coronation and that Richard sent him a note saying something to the general effect of "Are you going to get your arse round here or do I have to come round personally and make you?" Baker attributed Buckingham's non-appearance to jealousy but *I* attribute it, if true, to a hangover.

I see they must have done isotope testing on Richard's bones to see where he was at various times, since they say he was in or around the Welsh Marches after age 7. I hope thay've made a note of where he was in his early teens, which is the one we actually need to know about, because it may tell us whose squire or student he was.


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whitehound
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PostSubject: Re: the King's health   Sun Aug 17, 2014 3:19 pm

Well, their conclusion was that Richard would have had a full range of movement and normal strength but probably tired quite fast, owing to the restricted expansion of the ribcage. They confirmed what Tamara said about the armour - and the high-backed saddle - being a great help because they support the back.

He had osteoarthritic changes in two vertebrae where the thoracic and lumbar spine meet, so he would have been in a lot of pain, and the roundworm infection would have given him chronic diarrhoea. They think his diet was self-indulgent, but I suggest that since both meat and red wine cause constipation his change in diet may have been an attempt to counter the roundworm.
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phaecilia

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PostSubject: the King's health   Wed Aug 20, 2014 11:16 am

Whitehound wrote:  There's to be a programme tonight about Richard's health, in which a young man with a matching scoliosis demonstrates how little impact the scoliosis would have had on Richard's skills as a fighter.

I couldn't see this show, but your comment reminds me of an irony that has saddened me for some time.

A record describing two "lytill cote armurs" and a long bladed sword "for to lerne the kyng to play in his tendre age" has survived for Henry VI.  Henry VI was knighted at age 4--in the same ceremony that Richard, duke of York, was knighted.  He received the armor and sword at age 7.  (Source:  The Reign of King Henry VI, by R.A. Griffiths).

I've never found an answer to the question:  "How often did Henry VI wear the armor or play with the sword before his guardians realized, or admitted to themselves, that he would never be the military leader his father had been?" It seems to me they must have known by the time he outgrew them and needed larger ones.  By the end of his unfortunate 40 year reign, he'd proved tragically unsuited to his job.

Richard III's military career offers a signigficant contrast.  At age 12, he fulfilled a commission to recruit soldiers in support of Edward IV.  By age 19, he'd fought with distinction at Barnet and Tewksbury and earned the office of Constable of England.  As duke of Gloucester, he proved himself a capable and just leader.  Yet his reign was cut short after only 26 months.  

It's hard to avoid wishing Richard's reign had lasted 40 years, instead of Henry VI's.

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whitehound
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PostSubject: Re: the King's health   Wed Aug 20, 2014 11:40 am

Eeee-yess, except that with that arthritis already setting into his back at 32, and the chronic roundworm infection he had no way to get rid of, he would have had a fairly miserable 40 years. He would almost certainly have been crippled before he was 50, which would have been horrible for him. But yes, if he'd been healthy then a long reign by Richard would probably have been a golden age of social reform and technical innovation. The same goes for his near-contemporary James IV of Scotland - a brilliant scholar and soldier king, cut down prematurely in battle.

The team doing the investigation wanted to be cynical and prove they were no respectors of monarchy so they attributed his diet as king to self-indulgence, but that's most unlikely. He was familiar with court life and could have afforded to live like that at any time, if he'd wanted to, so it's more likely he jsut inherited a tradition of entertaining the guilds, or found that a high meat diet helped with the roundworm. And *of course* his consumption of wine sky-rocketed when he became king - because when he became king he moved from an area where you could drink the water to one where you couldn't.

They did at least stress that it probably wasn't *him* who had the poor hygeine leading to roundworm infestation, but his cook, or the butcher who supplied his cook. Which makes me wonder whether Anne and young Ned also had it, and whether it contributed to their deaths.
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PostSubject: Re: the King's health   Wed Aug 20, 2014 2:15 pm

The round worm could also have been caught while on campaign. He was often in the saddle as a Marcher Lord dealing with crime and punishment along the Scottish borders. I imagine there wouldn't have been much opportunity to wash hands and use disinfected toilet facilities. There were no rest stops on the highways back then and you did put yourself into the hands of the local innkeeper, if there was one.
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PostSubject: Re: the King's health   Wed Aug 20, 2014 4:21 pm

And traipsing over marshy ground which may have been shat on by passing peat-cutters, for all he knew.
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PostSubject: Re: the King's health   Mon Sep 01, 2014 5:58 am

I thought with roundworms, the host was unlikely to know that he or she had them. I also read, at the time the news about Richard suffering from the same thing was released, that there was no discomfort associated with then.

I also read that currently around 25% of the world's population suffer from them.
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PostSubject: Re: the King's health   Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:19 am

I finally got to see this program and was a little fed up with their findings. It appeared to me that the academics and scientists were trying to stick to the government meme of blaming everything on obesity and alcohol. They mentioned a couple of times that Richard like his brother Edward was prone to gluttony. There is no proof in the experiments they did that he was over eating. The only thing those experiments proved were that his diet had changed from probably a heavy grain based diet with a bit of fish or game thrown in (they never said what a "normal" diet was) to one involving meats. Then used the coronation banquet as an example of how much food he was eating. Come on! Yes, the banquets had a lot of food but you were expected to take small samples of each dish not finish the table. Oh, and horrors! He was drinking a bottle of wine a day. No doubt on the advice of everyone living in London. You didn't dare drink the water. So their prognosis at the end was that Richard lost the battle as he had been overeating and drinking (!!)
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