For the last few years we’ve been beset by a pandemic. COVID-19 is the new blight on the block, and has set about knocking us down like ninepins in spite of antibiotics and even immunisation. But modern medicine has done a lot to standing up to the silent menace. In times gone by folks weren’t so fortunate, and it didn’t make any difference whether you were prince or pauper—the Black Death/plague got you! And at the beginning of the 20th century there was Spanish flu, which mowed the human population down like a new mower on a lawn.
Plagues of the past “….have changed the course of history, claiming the lives of monarchs and heirs and shifting the royal line of succession….” as you will see in this article.
Richard III’s queen, Anne Neville, was the victim of tuberculosis (it’s thought) which would still be rife now if it weren’t for antibiotics and immunisation. It was a cruel blow to Richard, who lost his wife, his son and his own life in quick succession. Fate can be unbelievably cruel.
We lost the last male Tudor monarch in 1542 when Edward VI succumbed to tuberculosis, his immune system having been severely impaired by measles and smallpox when he was only 14. We still have good cause to fear measles and smallpox, but the majority of us recover because of antibiotics, immunisation and modern hygiene.
Elizabeth I fell prey to smallpox, but recovered. In the late 19th century Prince Albert Victor, heir to the throne of Britain, contracted Russian flu, which turned to pneumonia, and that was the end of him.
But way back in the 14th century, Richard II’s beloved queen, Anne of Bohemia, was a victim of the plague, and died suddenly. Richard was completely devastated, because from all accounts he and Anne had loved each other deeply. It was a blow from which, in my opinion, he didn’t really recover. He needed her, and suddenly she’d been taken away. There were no antibiotics then, and medieval medicine was often more fatal than the disease!
So there have always been pandemics….and no doubt COVID won’t be the last to grace us with its unwelcome presence.