Fit to rule : how royal illness changed medical history. Part 1.Tudors to Stuarts: From Gods to Men.

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About this work


The first in a trilogy of programmes presented by the historian Lucy Worsley which studies the medical problems of monarchs with the premise that by looking at their belongings and letters we can tell their intimate secrets - and these are what defined their actions. Worsley's first artefact is a pisspot excavated from Henry VIII's privy garden at Hampton Court. She considers the many ways that the king may have tried to boost his sperm count when it was clear that his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was unlikely to bear him further children after she reached the age of 40. Several wives later, he had his desired son - Edward. Edward was the first monarch to write an intimate diary; he wrote about the injustices of being a child monarch and complained about his guardian and uncle (Somerset). He died at 15 after contracting a fever (probably tuberculosis). His elder sister Mary became queen and 3 months after she was married, she became pregnant. As was the custom she retired from public view. However, despite all appearances, she never had a baby. A text about childbirth at the time by Eucharius Rösslin (The Birth of Mankind) was available in English but there were no diagnostic tests for pregnancy and Mary would not have been examined so no one knows whether this was a phantom pregnancy She died 3 years later, probably of cancer. Elizabeth I is side-stepped. Next Worsley looks at the Stuart dynasty; King James and his heir. From contemporary accounts it was clear that James preferred the company of young men which changed the nature of court-life; his favourite was Buckingham. James' heir, Henry was a robust youth but he contracted typhoid and died. The next in line, Charles I had a problem walking as a child and he had orthopaedic boots made for him (attributed to rickets). By accounts he was very introverted as a person, growing up in the shadow of his preferred elder brother; he had a stammer. Political unrest and the civil war put a temporary end to the British monarchy.


UK : BBC 2, 2013.

Physical description

1 DVD (60 min.) : sound, color, PAL.


Copyright note

Silver River Productions 2013.


Broadcast 8th April 2013.

Creator/production credits

Produced and directed by Nick Gillam-Smith. Silver River for BBC.



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