Posted in Places to visit, Tudor Medicine

St. Thomas’ Hospitals dark past…

 

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St Thomas’ hospital today

Saint Thomas’s hospital in London was founded in around 1106 and was named after Thomas Becket  who was made a saint in 1173. Becket was an extremely popular saint, who people believed had miraculous healing powers so he was a good choice to name a hospital after. Thomas was born in London in 1118 and became an ordained priest in 1162 and he later became an archbishop. Becket  began to excommunicate his opponents in the church and this angered the king, Henry II.

It began when three Archbishops crowned the heir apparent. It was common in medieval times to crown the King’s heir in the lifetime of his father to prevent disputes about the succession after the king’s death. This was in breach of Thomas’s privilege to fulfil this role and so he excommunicated the priests who took his place at the ceremony.

Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 by four of the king’s knights who misinterpted the King’s angry words, ‘Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ thinking that it was a direct order to kill Thomas of Canterbury.

 

 

The site of St. Thomas’s death (Note the four swords above where Becket was kneeling in prayer)  and the marker of his shrine in Canterbury Cathedral

The early medieval hospital was named after Saint Thomas  and was run and staffed by Augustinian monks and nuns. The hospital performed three important functions. Hospitality was given to poor travellers and pilgrims, a home was provided for the destitute and aged, and the sick were nursed. Catholics believe that when they treat those who are despised by society they are in reality showing God their love for him. This is based on the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 35-40:

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Posted in Tudor Medicine

The mysterious Tudor epidemic that killed thousands…

In August 1485, Henry Tudor had just won his crown from Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth field. By October of the same year several thousand of his subjects would be dead of a mysterious new epidemic. It was called, ‘The English sweating sickness.’

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Posted in Tudor Medicine

An ‘irrelevant,’ medieval cure: kills MRSA!!

An ancient remedy found inside an old leather bound manuscript, called ‘Bald’s Leechbook,’ in the British library has been found to kill the MRSA super bug. The recipe which was designed to cure eye infections, called wens or sty’s, could hold the key to killing other antibiotic-resistant super-bugs. Dr. Erin Connelly at Nottingham University estimates that:

‘700,000 people around the world die annually from drug-resistant infections. If the situation does not change, it is estimated that such in will kill 10 million people per year by 2050.’

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Posted in Tudor Medicine

Henry VIII’s near to death experience…

During a bout of jousting on 24th January 1536, Henry VIII fell from his horse, Smashing to the ground with the fully armour plated horse landing on top of him. Henry lay unconscious and ‘Without speech,’ for two hours.

The impact that the consequent injuries had on his personality, his life and his government are often debated. Henry was a powerful man who was in constant and insufferable pain. His accident, clearly made him very aware of his own mortality and led to unprecedented changes in his life.

If the King had of died on that January day he would have left his kingdom in chaos. Not only because of his lack of a male heir but because Princess Elizabeth was a baby, his first daughter, Lady Mary, had been made illegitimate and his present Queen was the most unpopular woman in the country.

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Posted in Tudor Medicine

Tudor cure for Smallpox Demons…

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.

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Posted in Places to visit, Tudor Medicine

Tudor medicine… Frog’s spawn anyone?

Tudor physicians believed that fish could cause leprosy, Fresh fruit was considered unhealthy and the stars could put our bodies ‘humours’ completely out out of balance.

The bills of mortality show that Tudor people thought they could die from things such as: wind, worms, gripping of the guts, the teeth, a cough and even of surprise. There were many other Tudor ailments that we don’t even think of as being fatal or even ailments at all. Tudor beliefs about health and medicine can be very strange to modern eyes.

Readers could be forgiven for feeling that the surviving notes of doctor Hall, who practiced in Elizabethan England are more like spells from J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter books than anything like the serious medical documents they were intended to be:

To stop bleeding from the nose a small cloth was dipped into frog spawn and left to dry. This little ‘tent’ was then inserted into the nostril. (Frog spawn was meant to cool burns and inflammation.) Then clay was applied to the forehead, temples and neck. Continue reading “Tudor medicine… Frog’s spawn anyone?”