An artist stands at the edge of chaos. We create something from nothing. Whether it is music, art, dance, or words we all connect with that which is hidden within the ethers of the universe. Everything begins with a thought. From there, dreams and our imagination form a new reality.
The idea of writing about Tudor England has been my long wished for dream. The subject has been something I have studied and read about for a lifetime. I even majored in the English Renaissance and Reformation in school, many moons ago. But, life being what it is, took me down the corporate rabbit hole instead of the academic one. I was supposed to write historical dissertations and articles. Instead, I find myself anticipating the release of the Tudor era historical fiction novella, Phoenix Rising.
When I decided to put pen to paper for a Tudor historical fiction story, I had no idea what I wanted to write about concerning that era. The subject has been analyzed and romanticized for five hundred years. What could I do that would be an original slant on this iconic subject matter? After having a look around I noticed that no one seems to have the exact moment of her execution. From there, the story began to slowly develop and present itself.
What about an astrology chart? Charts have twelve houses. Phoenix Rising has twelve chapters. An astrology chart has a meaning for each house: the self, possessions, children, relationships. Why not have a book that reveals the story through a star map, as they were called in Tudor England?
Why an astrology chart? Well, why not? When I visited Hampton Court Palace years ago, one of the things that captured my imagination was the astrological clock designed by King Henry VIII. Astrology was a science at that point in time. Further research lead me to discover medicine was practiced through astrology. That is when the story line became personal because my career is in pharmaceuticals. That’s what I want to share with you. The little known recognition of the medical arts in Tudor England.
The mystery began as I researched the medicine of the era. Herbs were the best known cure for any sickness. Herbs have been used as cures since ancient times. It was part of the education of a young Tudor woman to learn how to mix potions, or ‘simples’ as they were called. One Tudor headache cure for a headache was to drink a potion of lavender, sage, marjoram, roses and rue. Another cure? To press a hangman’s rope to your head. What if you suffered from rheumatism? It was treated by wearing the skin of a donkey. King Henry VIII was driven by the need for continuity of the Tudor Dynasty. He consulted his physicians yet was known for his reliance on apothecaries and herbalists, to the extent that he kept an apothecary cabinet within his own quarters.
There was a limited amount known about the cause and/or cure for diseases at that time. Medicine and treatment during the Tudor era was nothing like medical treatment today. They had limited knowledge regarding how the human body functioned. Doctors thought the body was made up of four fluids or ‘humors’. The humors were blood, phlegm, choler (yellow bile), and melancholy (black bile). In a healthy person of the Tudor era, all four humors were considered to be balanced. However, if you had too much of one of the humors, you would suffer from an illness.
Here are a few examples of their healing arts. If you had too much blood you would be bled with leeches or by cutting a vein. Tudor doctors also thought infectious disease, like the plague or the sweating sickness, were caused by poisonous vapors, which were airborne and absorbed through the skin. An imbalance of the other humors would be treated either by adjusting the patient’s diet, by taking medicines to purge the body of the infected humors–vile humors as they were called.
Tudor physicians were expensive. Since most people could not afford a doctor, they relied on their community’s wise woman when they became sick. These women would have great expertise in the healing properties of different herbs. As a general rule, the wise women were taught with traditions handed down from their mothers and grandmothers. (Sadly, many Tudor cures were useless, such as the treatment for headache, rheumatism and gout, which was treated with goat’s grease blended with saffron.)
You get the basic tenant of medicine from these remedies and the art of medicine behind the cures. The mystery begins to reveal itself. Now, let’s take a glimpse at some of the secrets behind my story. Astrology had a part in Tudor life as well as Tudor medicine. Physicians believed that zodiac signs ruled different parts of the body.
That is where the magic of PHOENIX RISING begins. According to Dr. Elizabeth T. Hurren of Oxford Brookes University:
“Physicians were trained in all the intellectual refinements. They studied astronomy, astrology, geometry, mathematics, music and philosophy. They provided a holistic approach, treating a patient’s mental, moral and physical needs. They believed that a sickness or canker’s root cause might be in the mind, the organs or the human spirit. Fate, fortune and goodwill might cure when a physic (physician) failed. The Tudors believed strongly in a divine plan in the face of providence. That life was “God given” and could also be “God taken“. From birth, Henry’s astrological lore was minutely examined. Born under the sign of Cancer (28 June 1491), he was governed by the watery and maternal cycles of the moon.”
Henry’s grandmother and his father, Lady Margaret Beaufort and King Henry VII, were devout yet each were curiously superstitious and kept a retinue of conjurers and soothsayers in their employment. They aimed to be of one accord with the planets and signs from the heavens. The astronomical clock at Hampton Court Palace is as precise as a musical instrument and echoes the Tudor belief that “as above, so below’. If the royal humors were balanced within the body, the body would be in tune with the music of the heavenly realm.
The last hour of Anne Boleyn’s life…
Court intrigue, revenge and all the secrets of the last hour are revealed as one queen falls and another rises to take her place on destiny’s stage.
A young Anne Boleyn arrives at the court of King Henry VIII. She is to be presented at the Shrovetide pageant, le Château Vert. The young and ambitious Anne has no idea that a chance encounter before the pageant will lead to her capturing the heart of the king. What begins as a distraction becomes his obsession and leads to her destruction.
Love, hate, loyalty and betrayal come together in a single dramatic moment… the execution of a queen. The history of England will be changed for ever.
“Compelling, captivating and moving.”
– Claire Ridgway, author of The Fall of Anne Boleyn
PHOENIX RISING is the last hour of Anne Boleyn’s life, told from the descendant of the astrologer/physician of King Henry VIII. She uses the star map used by her ancestress to reveal the stories hidden in that hour. Characters include King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Sir Francis Bryan, Thomas Cromwell, Ralph Sadler, Mary Tudor, Eustace Chapyus, Elizabeth Howard Boleyn, Elizabeth I and the Swordsman of Calais. Look for upcoming insights into the secrets of Tudor England as we move closer to the launch of PHOENIX RISING via MadeGlobal Publishing on May 19, 2015. Pre-order links revealed soon!
The Star map concept for Phoenix Rising is my own design and creation; artwork by LLPix
Oxford University, Bodlein Library and Radcliffe Camera.http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/bodley. Special thanks to this site for allowing glimpses into the astrological charts compiled by the Elizabethan astrologers/physicians, John Dee and Simon Forman.
“Tudor Medicine”. HistoryLearningSite.co.uk.
“King Henry VIII’s Medical World” by Dr. Elizabeth T Hurren, Senior Lecturer History of Medicine at Oxford Brookes University.
“Medicine and Doctors in Tudor England” by Tim Lambert.