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October 10, 1562 – The First Sign of Smallpox for Elizabeth

Elizabeth as portrayed by Margot Robbie in the 2018 movie, Mary Queen of Scots

In 1562, Elizabeth I had been Queen of England for four years, subject to constant pleas to marry and beget an heir. Over and over, she replied that there was no hurry for her to do so: she was not yet thirty and had many childbearing years ahead of her. Well, this was the day she kinda lost the right to use that argument.

This was the day she felt unwell, and took a nice, hot bath to counteract the aches. Well, that’s the way we see it today – her courtiers were horrified when they heard. The doctors of the time feared that contact with water could weaken a person, make them vulnerable to infection… no matter how vigorously they scrubbed their skin with linen (a practice believed to draw out existing toxins and create a barrier against new ones)….but Elizabeth suffered from migraines and hot baths helped relax them away.

Of course, this one did not help. She felt worse the next day, experiencing chills and fever, and went off to bed. Although everyone prayed this was just a simple cold, it did turn out to be smallpox. She got progressively worse until seven days later she was close to death and the Council needed to come to some sort of agreement on who in the world would succeed her.  

No one wanted Mary of Scotland, who arguably had the best claim. The other choices were Katherine Grey (who was married to the popular Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, and already had a son); Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley;  Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon (descended from George Plantagenet through his mother). Meanwhile, a feverish Elizabeth made them swear to name Robert Dudley as Lord Protector….

Henry Carey found a doctor who saved her life. All you alternative history buffs: one, two, three….go! 😉

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