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The Madness of Henry VI …

… but precisely what form did it take? It was clearly different in effect from that of Charles VI, his grandfather. Charles was reportedly violent on occasion and sometimes believed himself to be made of glass but Henry was more withdrawn. Both doubted the paternity of their children, although the sheer number of Charles’ offspring, including two English Queens Consort, make such doubts less reasonable in his case.

The two most influential Henry VI biographies nowadays are by Ralph Griffiths and by Bertram Wolffe, who included a whole chapter on Henry’s mental health. What would a professional in that field make of the available evidence? Henry’s physical remains are of no available as his brain no longer exists. By contrast, Richard III’s long residence in Leicester’s Greyfriars led to his skin, flesh and organs decomposing, leaving his skeleton to attest clearly and precisely to his scoliosis.

Richard III grew up during Henry VI’s first reign and his time as “King in exile”. It should be much easier to diagnose Henry given the increased awareness of mental health issues today.

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3 thoughts on “The Madness of Henry VI …

  1. It’s something I’d like to look at in detail at some point. The general consensus seems to be Catatonic Schizophrenia. Bipolar Disorder shares some of the symptoms, but tends to be ruled out due to Henry’s periods of mute, unresponsive behaviour. Unfortunately, the treatments prescribed by his physicians included sleep deprivation and burning foul smelling things under his nose, and would have been of no use.

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  2. Without a complete record of Henry VI’s symptoms, it will be very difficult to accurately diagnose his condition.

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  3. George III clearly suffered from bouts of porphyria… there is an expert who thinks it hit James I & VI, so if this explains some of Henry’s symptoms, it also is a possibility.

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