The Tudor Society

2 April – Edward VI catches smallpox and measles

On this day in Tudor history, 2nd April 1552, King Edward VI recorded in his diary "I fell sick of the measles and the smallpox".

What do we know about his illness and subsequent recovery? What was smallpox like and how was it treated? Did this bout of illness have any bearing on his future health?

Find out, in today's "on this day" video.

Book recommendations: "Edward VI" by Chris Skidmore; "Pustules, Pestilence and Pain: Tudor Treatments and Ailments of Henry VIII" by Seamus O'Caellaigh.

Also on this day in history:

  • 1502 - Arthur, Prince of Wales, son and heir of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, died at Ludlow Castle in the Welsh Marches. He was just fifteen years old, and had only been married to the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon for four and a half months.
  • Anne Boleyn’s almoner, John Skip, preached a rather controversial sermon in front of the King. Skip spoke on the Old Testament story of King Ahasuerus “who was moved by a wicked minister to destroy the Jews” but Queen Esther stepped in with different advice and saved the Jews. In Skip’s sermon, Henry VIII was Ahasuerus, Anne Boleyn was Queen Esther and Thomas Cromwell, who had just introduced the “Act of Suppression of the Lesser Monasteries” into Parliament, was Haman, the “wicked minister”. The sermon was an attack on what had been debated in Parliament and it was a statement on Anne’s stance and her beliefs.
  • 1559 – The Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis, ending the Italian Wars, was signed between Henry II of France and Elizabeth I of England.
  • 1568 – Death of Sir Ambrose Cave, member of Parliament, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Knight of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, at the Savoy. He was buried at Stanford after a funeral at the Savoy Chapel.
  • 1571 – Death of Richard Onslow, lawyer, Solicitor-General and Speaker of the House of Commons. He caught a fever in Shrewsbury, while visiting his uncle there.

Only 1 comment so far Go To Comment

  1. R

    The smallpox and measles together, wow, poor kid. One and both was fatal or very serious and he could have died.
    Edward was not a weakling as he shook off these two dreadful diseases and he was recovered very well. However, he developed a pulmonary disease or pneumonia and tuberculosis and died after long exposure of a few months the following year. I also find the condition described by Kyra Kramer interesting because three prominent male members of the Tudor Royal family, all male died between 15 and 17 and there are signs that the sons of Edward iv had genetic diseases as well and other family members died in their mid teens. Before the onset they appeared healthy, but their health declined suddenly and it would be interesting to examine some of the bones which are available, although I am not advocating digging all of these young people up. We don’t have all of the bones anyway as it is highly improbable that the bones in Westminster Abbey are related to anyone Tudor, Plantagenet or otherwise and the Queen won’t allow it anyway. The bones of Arthur, Edward vi and Henry Fitzroy are known but the latter is buried in the Framlington Chapel of the Duke of Norfolk and after what happened to little Anne Mowbray ‘s remains, I can’t see His Grace giving access to his ancestors either. Edward vi is also in Westminster, so that’s probably out too and although Prince Arthur was identified by Worcester Cathedral, after him being already moved once and examined, I can’t see that as a potential candidate for a medical examination in all reality. It’s most frustrating that there are a number of realistic medical theories that could solve the Tudors Dynastic crisis, but we will probably never be able to prove them.

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2 April – Edward VI catches smallpox and measles