Thursday, 16 June 2011
Strange Tudor Deaths
Stephen Gunn, the Tudor Historian, has compiled a list of strange ways that people during the Tudor period died after four years of extensive research of coroners reports from the period. These include being attacked by a bear, accidents involving maypoles and the danger of going near a cesspit whilst drunk. You can read about 10 of them in this BBC article. The deaths are clearly rather unfortunate for the individuals involved, but also give us a window into the lives of "ordinary people" during this period. For example, the accounts of people drowning whilst washing in the river show that cleanliness was important to Tudor people, despite the false stereotypes we have of Queen Elizabeth rarely taking a bath. The maypoles and bears show the variety of popular entertainment available to people. Other sport related deaths were connected to accidents from football, wrestling, bell-ringing and sledgehammer throwing.
One particularly sad story is the death of Jane Shaxspere, aged 2 years old, who drowned after falling into a millpond whilst picking marigolds. She was the cousin of William Shakespeare, and it seems quite likely that this incident influenced him when writing about the death of Ophelia in Hamlet, who also drowned whilst picking flowers. Interestingly, the picture of Ophelia used to illustrate this post was painted by John Everett Millais very close to here, by the Hogsmill River near Old Malden
PS: Many thanks to AC for the telling us about this article!