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Might Edward IV have suffered from Type 2 diabetes…?


No doubt many of you have read this article  before (see link above), but I had not. It’s very interesting to ponder whether Edward IV may have suffered from Type 2 Diabetes. I have to say that his portrait seems a prime example of the “fair, fat and forty” stereotype (of which I too am a prime example, except that in my case you should add another thirty years!)

OK, he’s not fat in this portrait, but he’s not lean either, unlike his brother Richard III. Nor was the portrait painted in his lifetime, but Edward was recorded as being very fat by the time he died. He had to start gaining weight some time before then.

Of course, in the days before insulin and other marvellous medical advances, if Edward had indeed become diabetic, the condition would simply follow its course. Which brings me to wonder if he might not, after all, have suffered from it. My mother, who was not fat, also suffered from Type 2, and she lost weight. A great deal of it. She stopped losing it when insulin injections commenced. So, does Type 2 Diabetes mean putting on weight? Or shedding it? I cannot answer the question, and am not medically trained, so can only be left wondering about Edward. It’s a possibility, but I have yet to be convinced.

By the way, , I’m a bit taken aback by the statement that Derbyshire is the only land-locked county. I can’t imagine that in the 15th century the likes of Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Staffordshire,  Warwickshire and Wiltshire had sandy, wave-kissed beaches. Maybe I’m wrong. (If I am, or have missed a county, I apologise!)

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4 thoughts on “Might Edward IV have suffered from Type 2 diabetes…?

  1. Edward could have been pre-diabetic and/or only recently developed diabetes at the time of his death. Feeling weak for no apparent reason could be a symptom of uncontrolled diabetes, and out-whack blood sugar could cause coma and death. I’ve wondered about this myself, and about his grandson Henry VIII, who had the famous stinking ulcer on his leg. There’s also Richard’s son Edward, who died young of (so far) unknown causes.My mother’s brother died of what we would now call type 1 diabetes at about Edward of Middleham’s age.


  2. Meant to say “out-of-whack blood sugar.” Apologies for the typo.


  3. Interesting thought, but I thought the ‘fat, fair and forty’ (plus ‘female and fertile’) referred to gallstones! At least that what I learned in my training!


  4. skiinglady on said:

    I think he was more likely pre-diabetic. Obesity very much makes you more prone to type 2 although when the illness eventually strikes there can be a very sudden loss of weight. There is much more likely to be a genetic link for this form than type 1. The constantly elevated levels of glucose in the blood however do enormous damage even in the impaired glucose tolerance range and the heart and nervous system are both affected. Healing can be impaired
    There can be great thirst and excessive urination. I believe a study was done into the symptoms Edward showed and I think it would have been obvious and one person seemed to be convinced he was poisoned. Until relatively recently diabetes type 1 was unusual in children under ten so it is not likely to have caused Edward of middlehams death.
    An interesting theory is that Henry v111 suffered from cushing syndrome but may have been borderline diabetic and that would explain his poorly healing leg wounds


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