What was the sweating sickness in Tudor England?

The first incident of the sweating sickness, also known as the "English Sweate”, occurred in 1485...

The sick-chamber. (Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

A rather mysterious illness, the sweating sickness hit in a series of epidemics, but was not always fatal.

Symptoms included cold shivers, headaches, pain in the arms, legs, shoulders and neck, and fatigue or exhaustion. Far from being a disease that raged through the lower classes, many well known individuals of the Tudor court contracted the illness, including Anne Boleyn and her brother and father, George and Thomas, along with Cardinal Wolsey.

The sweating sickness killed numerous nobles and courtiers, including two of the Duke of Suffolk’s sons, Henry and Charles, and Mary Boleyn’s first husband, William Carey.

Lauren Mackay is the author of Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and his Six Wives through the Life and Writings of the Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys (Amberley Publishing).

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