Gout was as common among aristocracy as the plague was among the poor. Through the years, kings and nobles alike fell prone to this crippling disease and it mentioned numerous times in texts of the ages. But what exactly is gout and does it still exist?
Gout was known as a rich man's disease for the simple reason that it came about from eating plenty of rich food. That is why Henry VIII suffered from it for years. I will quote WebMD here, "Your chances of getting gout are higher if you are overweight, drink too much alcohol, or eat too much meat and fish that are high in chemicals called purines." Too much alcohol and meat? That doesn't sound like eighteenth century aristocracy at all! But all sarcasm aside, alcohol and meats were the main staples of western diets throughout the centuries.
All those purines in the food would cause extra uric acid in the blood, which is fine in small quantities but really bad, in large because it crystallizes in the joints. Ouch! In most cases this begins at the big toe (as Gillray displayed in his artistic interpretation of gout) and can move up the leg. As you can imagine walking is very painful; gout is put into the same category as arthritis.
Nowadays when a doctor diagnosed gout, you can get a shot and take some painkillers. Back in the Georgian era the common diagnosis was to take a trip to Bath for some of the "healing waters" which did little except maybe relax you. Unless there was some corticosteroids in that tap room water you drank, you were out of luck!