COMMON MYTHS ABOUT TUDOR ENGLAND
By Tim Lambert
There are many myths about the Tudors! Here are a few of them.
We do not know exactly what average life expectancy at birth was in Tudor Times but historians think it was about 35 years in the 16th Century. (So 50% of the people born reached that age). However that does not mean that people dropped dead when they reached 35! Average life expectancy at birth was around 35 but a great many of the people born died in childhood. We don't know exactly what percentage died but if we say about 25% of people died before they were 5 years old we are probably not wide of the mark. Perhaps as many as 40% died before they reached adulthood. However if you could survive childhood and your teenage years you had a good chance of living to your 50s or your early 60s and even in the 16th century there were some people who lived to 70 or 80.
A History of Life Expectancy in England
A history of Washing
This is unlikely to be true. In the 16th century the standard treatment for syphilis was mercury. Lists of money spent on medicines for Henry VIII exist but mercury is not listed. Therefore it is unlikely he had syphilis.
A brief biography of Henry VIII
This is almost certainly a myth. She may have had a small extra fingernail growing at the side of one of her fingers. If the story is true that may be the basis of the rumor.
However nobody who lived at the same time as Anne or shortly afterwards said anything about six fingers. It was not till almost 50 years later that the story that Anne Boleyn had six fingers appeared.
Moreover it is very unlikely that any Tudor king would marry a woman with such an obvious physical deformity.
In reality sirloin is a corruption of the French sur (above or on top of) loin.
The Mary Rose was a warship built in Portsmouth in 1509-1511. She did not sink till 1545, by which time she was quite an old warship.
The Mary Rose
This is not true. You could kill or seriously injure somebody if you hit him or her with a wooden mallet. There is no evidence that a barber-surgeon hit people over the head with a mallet. Detailed instructions for barber-surgeons survive but there is no mention of such a procedure.
A history of medicine
The Spanish learnt to smoke tobacco from indigenous people. It is believed that English sailors adopted the habit about 1564 (Walter Raleigh was born in 1552). At any rate smoking tobacco in clay pipes was already quite common in England by the time Walter Raleigh was an adult.
In the 16th century such behavior was unacceptable. In the 16th century dogs were not allowed at feasts and when you ate meat you placed the bones in a special dish.