Queen Elizabeth I and Dr Burcot

In 1562 the young monarch was cured of a dangerous attack of smallpox.

In the spring of 1562, Queen Elizabeth I, then a young woman of 29, was staying at Hampton Court. One day, feeling unwell, she took a bath and went out for exercise in an attempt to shake off her indisposition. She caught a chill, and was soon down with a raging fever. For some time the symptoms would not declare themselves, but at last the tell-tale red spots began to appear. It was smallpox, the dreaded, disfiguring, and often fatal disease that had in recent years particularly afflicted ladies of rank. As the crisis approached, she sank into a delirium, her life was despaired of, and Sir William Ceal called a meeting of the Privy Council to consider who should be her successor. The crisis passed, however: Elizabeth recovered and England was saved from the dangers of a disputed succession.

But who saved Elizabeth? So far as I am aware, nobody knows who attended her at the time of this almost mortal illness. We do know, however, that on May 27th, in return for a lease of land in Cornwall, she ordered the Earl of Bedford – his wife was soon to be carried off by smallpox – to pay a hundred marks to ‘Burchard Cronische,’ physician. Could he be the man?

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