Friday, May 09, 2008

Questions from Sandra - Elizabeth I's illnesses when Princess

When Mary I ended the Wyatt rebellion, she sent her physicians and courtiers in February to bring Elizabeth I to court, to see if there was any proof of her involvment, but I read that Elizabeth I was very ill, she has been bedridden for some time with a serious kidney disease, her face and arms were very swollen.

1.What type of illness did she have?

Her illness was to occur again during her stay at Woodstock.

2.Did she also suffer from migraines? And...
What type of treatment did they have for pain?

Thank you for any help.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth was summoned to court in the immediate aftermath of Wyatt's Rebellion in order to keep an eye on her, lest she become the gathering focus of other rebellions. Elizabeth pleaded illness and refused to travel. Mary suspected that Elizabeth was inventing an excuse and therefore sent her physician to investigate. The illness was apparently genuine, and Elizabeth did not come to court for a time.

The exact type of illness that she suffered cannot be reliably determined today, 450 years after the fact and with only a sketchy outline of symptoms available. Many illnesses of the 16th century apparently no longer exist today (e.g.: Sweating sickness), while others have very different symptoms and take very different courses (e.g., syphilis). Diagnosing illness centuries later is a popular pasttime, but is entirely unreliable. The best we can do is to note whatever symptoms were recorded at the time and, occasionally, speculate.

Did Elizabeth suffer migraines? "Migraine headache" is a very specific diagnosis involving a precise constellation of symptoms. See above re: diagnosis after several centuries. But she probably did at least suffer headaches, as she is known to have had bad teeth and probably dental abscesses in her later years, both of which can cause headaches.

There were several types of pain relief known to Tudor-era physicians and apothecaries, some of which were effective and still in use today, and others of which were ineffective and today considered barbaric. Sixteenth-century medicine was a crude pseudo-science grounded in a belief in bodily "humors" and their disturbances. Excess or lack of a given humor was believed to cause disease and pain, so treatment was often aimed at restoring humoral balance. Bleeding, to remove excess blood and heat, was the most common treatment for any and all diseases, including headache. But purely symptomatic relief was also available from an apothecary. Numerous "Herbals," or books that detail the healing properties of plants, have survived from the Tudor period. Modern herbal medicine is a direct descendant of those earlier "herbals." From the Tudor-era herbals, we know that the use of opium for pain relief was known to 16th century apothecaries. Opium derivatives and synthetic opiates are still the most common and effective pain relievers today. Other pain relieving plant derivatives were also available in the 16th century. You can do a Google search under "herbal manual" to get more specific information about them.