Authors: Karen Harper
READERS OFTEN ASK WHERE I GET THE IDEAS AND PLOTS FOR
this historical mystery series. They always come from actual events. For example, the kernel of the idea for this story came from the fact that, in 1562, a wax doll—an effigy of the queen—was found in Lincoln Inn Fields in London. Elizabeth was so disturbed by this that she assembled a group of advisers, including doctors, to help her trace it and what it might mean. And since the queen nearly died from an attack of pox that year, from the doll and the disease came all the other research, plot ideas, and characters for
The Queene's Cure
I found Elizabethan era medicine fascinating but frequently shocking. I have only touched on some of the beliefs and cures known to Renaissance doctors and their patients. Although Elizabeth did not dislike doctors, she often seemed to mistrust them. (Her modus operandi in dealing with men in general.) In 1563, the year after this story ends, her government passed a law controlling pricing by physicians. And it was not until 1565 that Dr. Caius and the London Royal College of Physicians were
finally granted corpses to dissect. Thereafter, they held an annual lecture on anatomy.
However, medical progress was still not swift in England. Over two centuries later, when Edward Jenner finally found a way to immunize against smallpox through cowpox inoculation, the Royal Society of London was the premier scientific institute of that day. In 1798 the Society refused to accept Jenner's findings, despite his twenty-two years testing the theory, so he was forced to publish the information on his own.
Smallpox is sometimes called the only disease ever wiped out by man. It was officially certified as obsolete in 1980; however, because of recent fears that smallpox could be used in biological warfare (since most of the world's populace are no longer immunized against it), the World Health Organization has been debating whether or not to keep vials of it at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. As a safety measure, U.S. armed forces serving in dangerous areas of the world are immunized against the pox.
As for interesting sidebars about some of the real-life characters in
The Queen's Cure
Katherine Grey bore a second son, Thomas, in 1563. Over the years, each time Katherine became ill, the queen sent one of her physicians to her. The royal physician Dr. Symonds was with her in her final illness.
Although at this point in her reign Elizabeth could not pin treason charges on Margaret, Matthew Stewart, and their son, Lord Darnley, Darnley later figures prominently in the royal lineage of England. (
is the Scottish/English spelling for
) Lord Darnley's future son will become James VI of Scotland, James I of England.
Sir Thomas More officially became a Catholic saint in 1935. His prison cell in the Bell Tower of the Tower of London was recently opened for visitors.
Elizabeth refused to let Mary Sidney permanently exile herself after her disfiguring smallpox. The queen often brought Mary to Hampton Court so she could see her over the years. The mermaid pin Mary Sidney gave to her friend and queen still exists.
Elizabeth I's funeral effigy sustained water damage during World War II when fire hoses were used to put out an incendiary German bomb in Westminster Abbey. Only broken pieces of the wooden limbs remained of the body, but the head survived. Now refurbished, the effigy may be seen in the Undercroft
Museum at the Abbey. The effigies of Elizabeth, Mary Tudor, and their grandparents are pictured in detail in the book
The Funeral Effeigies of Westminster Abbey
, ed. Anthony Harvey and Richard Mortimer.
In selecting contemporary quotes from medical and herbal books, I chose to include some from Nicholas Culpeper's
The English Physician
, although he lived just after Elizabeth (1616–1655). His knowledge certainly came from the Tudor era.
One of Elizabeth's court physicians, William Gilbert (1544–1603), who served her later in her reign, wrote something that I believe the queen herself could have said. It is such confidence that made her a great monarch—and in my world of fiction makes her a brilliant amateur detective:
There is nothing within this mortal circuit that
God hath, as it were, kept to Himself, and not
made subject to the industrious capacity of man to
KAREN HARPER is the author of three previous Elizabeth I Mysteries:
The Twylight Tower, The Tidal Poole
The Poyson Garden
, as well as a number of contemporary suspense and historical novels. She lives in Columbus, Ohio and Naples, Florida.
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