A tale of Wine, Kings, and King’s Disease “Gout”
Wine history books were transformed when King Charles V lost the battle of Metz, a loss often blamed on wine itself. But how was this alcoholic drink involved?
King Charles V ruled a global empire from Europe to Africa, Asia, and parts of America and had an immense affection for wine, known to drink out of one specific four-handled wine mug. Due to excessive consumption of wine, he suffered from intense arthritis pain, which was later diagnosed as gout. King’s illness was another name for gout in the past.
During clashes with France, King Charles V had severe ailments, and when France took control of Metz in 1552, he was trapped by the pain he suffered from gout and couldn’t capture the city from France, resulting in the opposing country’s massive victory. Charles felt guilty, blamed his disease for defeat, and instantly abdicated and retired. The connection between his wine consumption and drinking renders wine a key political player in this French victory.
Why was gout king’s disease, and why did it specifically target elites?
Gout is a disease that has been around since ancient human history. Ancient Egyptians first recorded it; Hippocrates described it as a disease of riches as it was associated with a luxurious lifestyle. Excessive consumption of wine has been known to lead to gout. According to ancient Greek doctors, only rich people could have gout as they were the only members of society able to afford such quantities of wine, making the disease an ailment of the elite classes.
It thus became a representation of strength and prosperity. People wanted to have the disease as a statement of social and political status. Copeman’s monograph on the history of gout mentioned a comment from the London Times in 1900, which stated that the common cold was well named. Still, gout raised the social status of a patient instantly.
Gout and King Henry VIII
King Henry VIII, who was married to the aunt of King Charles V, Catherine of Aragon, is famous for his lavish lifestyle. In that period of history, people would drink wine to quench thirst because the water was not considered clean, and they believed that wine was healthy. Beyond that, King Henry VIII was a major wine lover. His palace at Hampton Court was the center of entertainment and hospitality, where they served the finest wines.
From 1509 until 1547, King Henry VIII of England was in power. His efforts to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon declared null and void are well-known. Obsessed with having a male heir, he had six wives and was known to have beheaded them. His lavish lifestyle, including the excessive consumption of wine and other health concerns, caused him to develop gout. Despite having many diseases, he continued his notorious eating and wine consumption which worsened his health, and he died in 1547 at the age of 55.