- File Size: 1543 KB
- Print Length: 340 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Ash Wood Press (January 9, 2014)
- Publication Date: January 9, 2014
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00902U3RO
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #380,418 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Blood Will Tell: A Medical Explanation of the Tyranny of Henry VIII Kindle Edition
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Omission: When listing Henry VIII's and Katarina of Aragon's descent from Edward III the author comments that Katarina's descent was better than Henry's as it was from John of Gaunt's legal marriage while Henry's was from the Beaufort (illegitimate) side, and while she also mentions that his mother, Elizabeth of York was also descended from the Beauforts and Lionel of Antwerp, she ignores that Lionel was an elder brother of John of Gaunt - why the Yorkist claim was superior to the Lancastrian one - and she totally omits that Henry's mother was also descended from a third son, Edmund, First Duke of York.
So, Katarina's right to the throne was nowhere near so strong as her husband's, even not mentioning her older brother and several older sisters who would have been ahead of her in any such claim.
That quibble aside, I do not pretend to understand how the syndrome the author posits works, but apparently is one with a mother-son, father-daughter inherited trait as she asserts that Henry had it from his mother.
Leaving aside that Henry was one of four of Elizabeth of York's children to make it to a marriageable, we also have the question of where she got it. Both of Elizabeth's parents came from huge families and between them had a large number of children.
Together they had 7 or 8 who survived and Elizabeth Woodville had two sons from a previous marriage and Edward had several illegitimate children.
It seems far more likely that whatever medical issues Henry VIII had, if inherited, came from his father's side.
His father, Henry VII, was an only child. After his father's death his mother had two more husbands but no more children. He was a withered lone raisin on an almost extinct family vine while the Yorks were replete with members.
The are far too many questionable aspects to this argument to make the idea of exhuming Henry VIII's body for genetic testing reasonable.
Kramer presents an interesting theory, that Henry VIII might have been kell positive and suffered from McLeod's syndrome, and supports the idea with several well known events from Henry's first two marriages to support her conclusions. The presentation, however, is not flawless.
Particularly in the king's latter years, Kramer frequently drops all pretense of suggestion and slips, referring to her suppositions as outright fact. Throughout the book she also fails to adequately address and/or discount other explanations for Henry's behavior, relying on vague blanket statements that all of Henry's other conditions could have coexisted with her diagnosis.
Most concerning, however, is the frequency at which Kramer entirely ignores Henry and focuses on the behavior and character of his wives. Perhaps I missed it, but I thought, as the title suggests, the focus of this piece was Henry's health and how it related to his policies. While the book does touch on these subjects, it also boasts a comprehensive play by play of court life over the course of his reign. To be perfectly honest I often felt Kramer lost her way and forgetting her thesis, became mired in entirely irrelevant chapters of Tudor history (i.e. the motivations behind Katherine Howard's affair with Thomas Culpeper and the regard in which the English people viewed Anne of Cleves).
My criticisms are not meant to discredit Kramer, her theory is plausible and certainly gives one reason to pause. No, I simply feel her argument might have been stronger had she approached it differently and that on the whole, the content of her work wanders from time to time.
Some very key omissions in my opinion were: failure to fully explain the Kell Antigen Syndrome and McLeod Syndrome both of which were so pivotal to the hypothesis. I had to look up both Kell Anitgen and McLeod syndrome on Wikipedia to fully understand the disease symptoms, features and diagnosis criteria. The only reason I can assume this was left out was because some of the authors assertions about the disease were fudged to make Henry seem like a more likely candidate than he was.
This book would have been much more persuasive and powerful if the author had taken the time to write a proper argument for each hypothesis for each supposition she meant to prove. Something like "If Kell Antigens were the source of Henry's fertility issues,in modern times we would expect a pattern of misscarriages and blah blah blah like so," followed by "Catherine of Aragon fits this model in the following ways, as does Anne Boleyn because...." Instead of this model, the author describes the situation and then explains that the symptoms match what we now know of the medical disease. Because neither the nature of the disease nor the hypothesis is stated clearly in advance it often appears as though the author is cherry picking events to support the hypothesis even when the author is not. It puts the arguments in weak light.
The book also has a bad tendency to wander off topic to fight a couple of other reconstructionist history battles -- making a significant effort to exonerate Anne Boleyn over several chapters, explaining that Anne of Cleves was not ugly, etc, etc, etc. While this is all very interesting, it has nothing to do with the proposed hypothesis of the book and seems to stick out of a story line that is mostly focused on medical issues likely present during Henry's reign as king. However, had these pieces been taken out this would have been an awfully short book, so maybe that's the reason these side-quests are included. As it were, I wish that this book had been more organized around the idea of "Reconsidering the History and Reality of King Henry VII" and that these other topics had been given more consideration, but in their own chapters, where they could have proper focus.
All and All, I liked the book and I very much believed that the author was onto something. Her assessment of Anne of Cleves, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard is actually beyond excellent and her hypothesis of Kell syndrome is rather convincing. McLeod syndrome not so much. I wish more thought had been put into presenting in a strong fashion and focusing each chapter better.