Today in 1535 Charles Brandon and his wife, his ward Katherine Willoughby, had a son called Henry. Charles Brandon was famous for having married Henry VIII’s sister Mary without permission after she had extracted an agreement from her brother that she would marry the ancient French king in exchange for being able to marry anyone she wanted after he died. She married Charles, and they went on to have children after surviving the wrath of Henry. After she died, he married his ward, Katherine Willoughby. Their sons Henry and Charles would die in a bout of the sweating sickness in 1551, within just half an hour of each other. The sweat was one of the most mysterious illnesses in England. It was supposedly an import of Henry Tudor and his mercenary soldiers, and it came and went in waves throughout the early and mid 16th century.
It was mysterious, and it took effect unbelievably quickly. A person could feel perfectly fine at breakfast, and be dead by dinner. First they would feel shivery, and then have a horrible headache, followed by fever and sweating. Unlike the bubonic plague there were no bumps on them. Just this horrible sweat.
Fear of the sweat would be a recurring theme for Henry VIII and his court, who were constantly moving around in the summer months to avoid the disease. Sadly, Charles and Henry, who was born today, were unable to beat it in 1551. Henry was born today in 1535.
That’s your Tudor Minute for today. Remember you can dive deeper into life in 16th century England through the Renaissance English History Podcast at englandcast.com.
Seamus O’Calleigh on Tudor Medicine at the Tudor Summit