It is thought that only about 10% of all Tudors lived to be beyond their 40th birthday – and one of the reasons, among many, was the poor standard of Tudor medicine and medical knowledge.
Smallpox was a highly contagious, potentially disfiguring and often deadly disease which had no cure and no effective treatment.
Henry VIII contracted smallpox, as did his forth wife Anne of Cleaves but his daughter Elizabeth I was the family member to become seriously ill with the disease. In 1562 her doctors thought that she would die. Fear gripped her people as Elizabeth was unmarried and had no heirs. The queen was lucky and she survived with only a few pockmark scars. The ‘cure’ was thought to be caused by ‘the red treatment’ which was administered by the queen being wrapped in a red blanket and placed by a fire.