Thursday, July 24, 2008

Question from Kelly - Cause of death for Mary "Rose" and Robert Dudley

How did Mary Tudor Duchess of Suffolk and Robin Dudley die?

11 comments:

Ashley said...

The only thing I could find was that both fell ill and died after a time, possibly of cancer. Mary's health had been in decline for some time, part of the reason she stayed in the country, I suspect (not to mention her dislike of Anne Boleyn). And Dudley's health went downhill quickly after the threat of Spanish invasion in 1588.

Elizabeth M. said...

Mary Tudor had been in delicate health for quite a while before her death. She died in June, 1533, not long before the coronation of Anne Boleyn as Queen. She witnessed the marriage of her daughter Frances to Henry Grey, and then fell ill upon returning to her home in the country. Even though her health had been delicate, it seemed that her husband, Charles, was caught somewhat unawares by the sudden demise of his wife. There is a fanciful tale that Mary died from the stress of her brother's marriage to the pregnant Anne Boleyn, whom she actively disliked.
Robert Dudley, as noted, died very shortly after his role as leader of the English land forces against the Spanish Armada, even though he had been in declining health for some time. He died in September, 1588. There is some speculation he may have suffered from from intestinal or stomach cancer, and that may have been the cause of his death. He was only 55-56 years old at the time of his death, and a portrait of him from the 1580s shows a white-haired man aged beyond his years, so there may be something to the theory of a lingering illness.

PhD Historian said...

Mary Tudor Brandon died at the age of 37, young by modern standards. She apparently suffered repeated and extended bouts of ill health in her last decade, but this was not uncommon for women of the 16th century. The rigors of childbearing, poor nutrition, and medical practices that were often more harmful than helpful contributed to very short average lifespans for women in this period. The precise nature of her illness is not known, and cannot be reliably determined almost 500 years after the fact, but tuberculosis and cancerous processes are both likely suspects, in my opinion.

Robert Dudley died in 1588 at the age of 55. His death was sudden and unexpected, and was the result of some kind of fever-producing infectious process. Some historians speculate that he suffered an illness similar to malaria that he had contracted while serving in the Netherlands.

Anonymous said...

I've read that with Dudley, it was thought to be a type of stomach cancer. He was ill for a long while before actually dying.

The same goes for Mary Rose, altho I think she was thought to be consumptive...tuberculosis.

Tracey

kb said...

Simon Adams, an historian who researches Robert Dudley earl of Leicester, believes that Dudley died of a malaria infection and that his health had been compromised during his time in the Netherlands.

Foose said...

The Duchess of Suffolk may have suffered from an inherited condition that ran in her mother's family. She died at 37, the same age as her mother; her aunt Anne died at 36, her aunt Cicely at 39, and her aunt Bridget, a nun, at 37. Katherine, the Countess of Devon, lived to be 48 and there was a sister Mary who died as a child; but the Plantagenet sisters may have shared a genetic predisposition to die in their late 30s, aggravated by the factors phd historian has mentioned.

PhD Historian said...

You again make an intriguing point, Foose. There has long been speculation that the female descendants of Henry VII either carried the gene for or suffered from porphyria, a collection of disorders involving the malproduction of the heme component of hemoglobin in the red blood cells. Though porphyria in its modern form affects men far more often than it does women, it can produce debilitating gastrointestinal symptoms and hormonal imbalances in women, consistent with the types of symptoms suffered by Mary Tudor Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk. And the acute forms of porphyria are often fatal if untreated. It also typically manifests for the first time when the patient is in her 30s or 40s. Jane Grey, granddaughter of Mary Tudor Brandon, is reputed to have suffered porphyria (based on a single complaint of abdominal pain and hair loss in July 1553) despite her young age. So too is Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots and granddaughter of Mary Tudor Brandon's sister Margaret, and Arbella Stuart, Margaret's great-grandaughter. If the conditions these women suffered were indeed porphyria (very difficult to confirm at a remove of five centuries), it is entirely likely that it was introduced into the royal gene pool by Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV and mother of Henry VII's wife, Elizabeth Plantagenet.

Incidentally, George III of "madness" fame is also reputed to have suffered from a form of porphyria. And he too was a direct genetic descendant of Henry VII and Elizabeth Woodville (via Margaret Tudor Stuart > James V of Scotland > Mary Stuart > James VI & I > Elizabeth Stuart > Elisabeth of Bohemia > Sophia of Hanover > George I > George II > Prince Frederick of Wales > George III.)

Anonymous said...

I've read on somewhere that she had suffered in 1518 from the sweating sickness and never really recovered from it, the site also mentions that some historians believe that cancer may have been a fact in her death.It also adds that that she was also stressed about her brother and Anne Boleyn because she was very close to Catherine of Aragon who she knew since she was a child.

Anonymous said...

"it is entirely likely that it was introduced into the royal gene pool by Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV and mother of Henry VII's wife, Elizabeth Plantagenet."

PhD Historian, can you in anyway account for this claim?

Mariel said...

I am inclined to accept the Porphyria judgments, because I have been familiar daily with people who have porphyria (on-line in support groups) for about 16 years. However, I had not heard of some of the ancillary people to the more familiar cases of Mary Queen of Scots, James I, and George III.
I too believe the Tudor genes were infected with it, and a good bet in this regard is that it came through Catherine of Valois, who married first Henry V and then Owen Tudor. Porphyria has many symptoms, with some things being more prominent in one sufferer than another; for instance, the "madness" of George III is not duplicated in all "porphs", although a tendency to neurological ailments is rife, causing emotional upset and depression, but not usually madness. I have read material showing that Mary Queen of Scotts had MANY of the porph symptoms, not limited to a few. Catherine of Valois' father was more "Mad" for a longer period than George III, from what I have read.

Mariel said...

Here I am making another comment--following mine of last year. I have become more aware that porphyria may have come into the royal family through the Plantagenets. But I get mixed up, don't we all, with all the cross breeding these people did. I believe Valois to Tudor certainly is a route it came in, but Plantagenet was another way.
In other words lots of these people probably had porphyria, some having it more severely and obviously than others, some having it relatively mildly. I have it myself, and I have always suspected relationship to the Stuarts, and this month I found at least one genetic link.
When one is not an important person, it is hard to find such links, but I stumbled on it in a book called "Normans in Scotland" and then confirmed it through the "Corkerhill" site onlin which mentions my relatives and their marriages to Stuart-related people.
Porphyria is sneaky. It is basically a neuro-endocrine disease and any nerves in the body may be affected, including those of the abdominal region, so that the person has pain there even when damage is not found, but damage eventually does happen when nerves are continually stressed. The nerves are poisoned by the blood products produced in a porphyria attack, which can be triggered by many physical items but in addition may be caused by the stress mentioned by others on this blog.