1. I’d imagine another leading cause of death for women in any pre-modern era was death by cooking fires. A spark would catch their skirts on fire or they would turn carelessly and catch a piece of clothing on fire. The resulting burn would often lead to infection and death. This was true on the colonial American frontier – I’m a volunteer docent at a historical site in western PA.

  2. Charlene

    I have to disagree very strongly with one of your points. You write under the modern assumption that Tudor medical diagnoses can be associated with specific diseases, but that’s not at all true. It isn’t remotely true. They diagnosed clusters of symptoms, and they certainly got most diagnoses wrong.

    Tudor physicians didn’t call TB “consumption”; they called any disease that caused wasting “consumption”. They didn’t call infectious diarrhea “dysentery”; they called any disease that involved severe diarrhea “dysentery”. It wasn’t until two hundred years after Henry VIII died that doctors had the knowledge to separate what we call dysentery from colon cancer, peritonitis, food poisoning, celiac disease, and all the other conditions that cause diarrhea. It’s likewise certain that many of the Tudor deaths ruled as having been from “consumption” were actually caused by cancer, leukaemia, congestive heart disease, aneurysm, esophageal varices, and even anorexia. These were common diseases but as unknown to the Tudors as heart attack or bone cancer – and every one of them could have similar symptoms to TB in a world without stethoscopes and X-rays.

  3. CB

    Couple of errors: women were hanged, not burned, for witchcraft in England. It was on the Continent that the penalty for witchcraft was burning, and even then victims tended to be strangled beforehand.

  4. Thank you for this post… You solved a mystery for me… A few weeks back I was reading a list of the many strange things the Tudors died from. One of them mentioned was ‘the teeth’ and I thought to myself how on earth can anyone die of teeth? Vampires? Very well written too… Well done…

    • Helen Hodge

      You must be very young, indeed. People died in the early 20th century, from poor dentition, leading to septicemia, as mentioned, there were no antibiotics until the mid 1900’s. Thus there were millions of young-middle aged people who were without teeth. Pulling was the only option, even around 1900. Imagine the pain.

      • andrei

        still was EXTREMELLY rare for people to die because of teeth. Tooth inefction was the 6th cause of death by INFECTION.

  5. Karen Holmes

    Very interesting. Enjoyed reading about the dreadful ways to die in Tudor England. Made me realise how lucky we are today.

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