It is thought that only about 10% of all Tudors lived to be beyond their 40th birthdays and one of the reasons was the poor standard of Tudor medicine and medical knowledge.
Smallpox was a highly contagious, potentially disfiguring and deadly disease. There was 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 because 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 to the queen by being wrapped in a red blanket and placed by a fire.
When Edward IV died unexpectedly of a short illness aged forty in April 1471 he left two sons. Richard Duke of York, aged 9 and Edward, Prince of Wales aged 12. After young Edward V was proclaimed King, his uncle Richard of Gloucester went to York Minster to declare his loyalty to his nephew.
This was a very cruel way to die and it was used to convince a prisoner who refused to give a plea of innocent or guilty to change their mind. If no plea was given then a trial could not take place. Pressing took place inside prisons like Newgate or the fleet. The accused was laid on a table and had another table put on top of them. Then lead, rocks and weights were put on until they either decided to plea or were crushed to death.
The prison guards or ‘Keepers’ fed the victim with ‘Three morsels of barley bread without drink for the first day and as much filthy water as they like if they survived to the next day.’
The execution of Anne Boleyn has been portrayed in so many books and films that it is easy to forget that she was once a real breathing human being and not just a character in a play. Unlike us, Anne did not know the end of her script until the cold morning of 19th May 1536 and for her it must have been a terrifying and shocking end.
The London Stone was originally situated on the south side of medieval Candlewick Street (Now Cannon Street) opposite the west end of St Swithins church. This was very close to the homes of Henry VII’s financial agents Edmund Dudley and his next door neighbour Richard Epson. Both were falsely executed as traitors in 1510 and were Henry VIII’s first scapegoats for his father’s unpopular policies.
For centuries Speakers corner in Hyde park has been the place where Londoners have stood on boxes and practised their right of free speech. Today some speakers talk complete nonsense to make the crowd laugh, others tell smutty jokes and some shout their political or religious views to the London crowd who boo or applaud.
I remember walking through this area as a child and being fascinated by its strange atmosphere and the strong feelings of the speakers and listeners.
It was on this site close to Marble Arch where the infamous Tyburn hanging tree once stood and it was at the foot of these gallows that the tradition of free speech began.
It was at Tyburn that condemned prisoners gave their last speech on the gallows before their death making the area an ideal place for public debate and discussion. From this hanging tree culture speakers corner evolved into what it is today and the right of free speech was born.
In 1518 a woman from Strasbourg stepped into the street and began to dance wildly. Her name was Frau Troffea and she had no music to dance to and her face showed no signs of pleasure. Her involuntary jig lasted all day long and after hours of exhaustion she collapsed in a sweaty heap.
Within hours she was up again and resuming her silent dance. She danced all through that day until she collapsed and slept briefly.
By the third day Frau Troffea had bloody and bruised feet but her dancing continued. Now a concerned group of neighbours surrounded her as sweat dripped down her back and her shoes filled with blood. Some of them knelt in prayer and others attempted to stop her dance with no success. Continue reading “Dance Until Death… The dancing plague of 1518…”→
Black people have lived in Britain since the Roman occupation over 1000 years ago. The first black people in England were not victims and they contributed far more to English history than they are usually given credit for. The shameful and barbaric English slave trade did not begin until after Queen Elizabeth the first’s death and the black men and women living in England before then were totally free.
This cannot be said for other kingdoms in Europe and by 1502 the Spanish were transporting black slaves from Africa to South America for profit. Some of these slave ships were intercepted and raided by English Privateers (Pirates) and the slaves were brought to England and freed. According to historian David Olusoga on BBC Bitesize, Africans brought to England were accepted and lead very normal lives. Some were employed by merchants, seamstresses, beer brewers, silk and needle makers. They lived as far out of London as Suffolk working in the cloth trade which was the most important English trade at that time. The records show that Black Christians were baptised, married and buried in English churches.
According to Historian Miranda Kaufmann’s website, ‘It really was true that Africans in England were free. Diogo, an African who had been taken to England by an English pirate in 1614, later reported to the Portuguese Inquisition that when he laid foot on English soil, “he immediately became free, because in that reign nobody is a slave.”