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5. A poor man's medicine

Exploring some of the ways people dealt with illness in Tudor times

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10 minutes


The 1530s during the reign of King Henry VIII, somewhere near Windsor Castle...

In the first of two linked stories a young man called John is out poaching with his father on the King's estates. They know that if they are caught they will pay with their lives but they feel compelled by poverty and hunger to take the risk.

John explains that their current misfortune has been caused by his mother's illness. Thus far they have paid for the services of a doctor - who did little more than examine the mother's urine and prescribe a powder made from the dried windpipe of a cockerel. They have also been to see the 'cunning man' - Bartlett - but his remediees are clearly based on nothing more than susperstition.

John and his father have no money to pay Bartlett so he demands his fee in 'good meat'. Hence their presence on the King's land with the intention of killing a deer.

The scene ends with John and his father being discovered and attempting to escape. Their fate will become apparent in the next drama - Privy to the King.


Tudor music

Tudor music

Examples of Tudor music, including the famous tune 'Greensleeves'.