My children have been ill this week, and it made me think about illness in medieval times. Many households would have grown their own herbs to make potions and poultices to help with symptoms of their illnesses, but essentially the rate of fatalities through what we would now consider minor twinges was terribly high.

A major killer in the Tudor era was called the ‘sweating sickness’.  This was alledgedly brought to England by Henry Tudor and his ragtag army when he invaded in 1485 to face off wih King Richard III for the crown.

This was quite a nasty illness with people being known to die within hours of showing their first symptoms.  These symptoms included cold shivers, headache, neck pain and inevitably the hot sweats, which led to death.

William Carey, husband of Mary Boleyn died of this disease, and Anne Boleyn herself was said to have caught it, but survived.  The two young sons of Charles Brandon, Henry and Charles, also died of the sweating sickness within hours of each other in 1551.

Interestingly though, this particular disease was never again recorded after 1578 and it cannot be explained why.


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