I’m Henry the Eighth. I am … smelly

When it comes to Henry VIII, there a few things that most of us know … he had six wives, two were beheaded, two were divorced, one died in childbirth, one survived him; he took England away from the Catholic Church to get his divorce from his first wife; he had ulcerated legs (as a result of the garters he wore) …

But did you know that the ulcers on his legs became so bad that they could be smelt from three rooms away?

This is one of the wonderful things the children learnt when we visited the Thackray Medical Museum last week for their Curing the King workshop. I booked a couple of visits there for us and some home ed friends, and this was the first of them.

The workshop was all about Tudor medicine, and so the children learnt about the Four Humours and medical astrology, before taking part in a scavenger hunt in the gallery of Tudor medicine. In this room of pots and vases, they learnt how to identify which held oils, balms and potions through their Latin names, as well as how the Tudors believed certain foods could cure areas of the body matched by shape. Blueberries were cures for the eyes, tomatoes were used for the heart. Can you guess what mushrooms were thought to be a treatment for?

We also learned that one treatment, used to cure joint pain, involved boiling puppies in oil and then applying the cooled oil to the affected area. Of course, Tudor medicine wouldn’t be complete without the use of leeches, which the children were able to see close up and personal.

After this, they started replicating some Tudor cures – a poultice which would have been used on Henry VIII which included vinegar and marigold petals and stank to high heaven; and a pomander of the kind used in bulk to try and combat the smell of His Majesty’s stinky ulcers. This one included petals, cloves and rosewater amongst other things and was much nicer smelling!

It was a really good couple of hours and has certainly made for some interesting conversations with the children over the last week and it’s reignited Bean’s desire to study the Tudors in more detail, which we will be doing, of course.

Our next visit is in September and we’ll be joining Florence Nightingale on the front line in the Crimea!

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One comment on “I’m Henry the Eighth. I am … smelly

  1. What a cool place to go and visit. Thanks for sharing, so interesting.

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