The Tudor Society

September 27 – William Hobbes, King Richard III’s physician

On this day in Tudor history, 27th September 1488, in the reign of King Henry VII, physician and surgeon William Hobbes died. He was buried in Holy Trinity Priory, Aldgate, London.

Hobbes served Richard, Duke of York, and Edward IV, and was royal physician to King Richard III. He became Master of St Mary of Bethlehem Hospital (Bedlam) in 1479.

Here are some more facts about Hobbes:

  • William Hobbes was the son of surgeon John Hobbes of Fetter Lane, London, who died in 1462.
  • Hobbes studied medicine at Oxford University, where he attained a Bachelor of Medicine in 1459.
  • He first served Richard, Duke of York, as "medicus et sirurgicus", and then, following the duke's death in 1460, moved into the employ of the duke's son, Edward IV. In 1462, Edward rewarded him with properties in London worth £14 a year.
  • In 1469, Hobbes was described as the "principal surgeon of the royal body" when he was rewarded with goods confiscated by a London merchant.

  • Hobbes became master of St Mary Bethlehem of Hospital in 1478. He was the first lay master of the hospital.
  • In 1475, he accompanied Edward IV to France as his physician.
  • In 1482, Hobbes accompanied Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to Scotland in his role as physician.
  • In 1483, following Richard III's accession, Hobbes was retained by the king and was given the post of royal physician.
  • Hobbes was a wealthy man, having been rewarded with properties and goods, and at his death, as noted by his biographer, Carole Rawcliffe, he also had a fine collection of tapestries and plate.
  • Hannes Kleineke writes that "William Hobbes unusually combined the practices of the physician and surgeon". What he means by this is that physicians at this time often entered the priesthood and that prevented them from practising surgery as clergymen were forbidden to use a lancet or a cautery. However, Hobbes never entered the priesthood.
  • Hobbes died on 27th September 1488, leaving a daughter, Agnes. He was buried at Holy Trinity Priory, Aldgate, which was dissolved in 1532. None of it survives today.

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Notes and Sources

  • Rawcliffe, C. (2004, September 23). Hobbes, William (d. 1488), physician and surgeon. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography,

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September 27 – William Hobbes, King Richard III’s physician