P Stride, K Lopes Floro
Journal Issue: 
Volume 43: Issue 4: 2013



The mental decline of King Henry VIII from being a jovial, charismatic and
athletic young man into an increasingly paranoid, brutal tyrant in later life, ever more
concerned at his lack of one or more male heirs, has attracted many medical
diagnostic theories. Previous hypotheses have included diabetes, syphilis and
hypothyroidism, among others. However, these inadequately explain Henry’s failure
to produce a male heir, despite multiple pairings. The latest postulated diagnoses for
Henry are the coexistence of both Kell blood group antigenicity (possibly inherited
from Jacquetta Woodville, Henry’s maternal great grandmother) causing related
impaired fertility, and McLeod syndrome, causing psychotic changes. As the mutated
McLeod protein of the syndrome significantly reduces the expression, effectively
inactivating the Kell antigen, we critically review this theory, examining in detail the
pathophysiology of these conditions and assessing the genealogy of Henry VIII and
its effect in subsequent generations.