Chapter 10 : Illness and Death
Fact 10: Edward might have died from a genetic condition
England lost the promising young monarch on 6 July 1553, but what had killed him? At the time, it was said that the “disease whereof his majesty died was the disease of the lungs, which had in them two great ulcers, and were putrefied, by means whereof he fell into consumption [tuberculosis], and so hath he wasted, being utterly incurable”. A Venetian ambassador would later claim during Mary’s reign that Edward was “seized with a malady, which the physicians knew to be consumption”.
Other theories have cropped up since then. Modern physicians theorise that Edward either died of “suppurating pulmonary infection”, which is almost certainly fatal without antibiotics, or dormant tuberculosis reactivated by Edward’s bought bout of measles and smallpox a few months before.
As for myself, I believe a hitherto unpostulated illness struck down the boy king:
A seldom mentioned but significant clue as to the disease that killed the young king is the fact his uncle, Arthur Tudor, and his half-brother, Henry Fitzroy, died of a nearly identical mystery ailment. It is unlikely that all three previously healthy teenaged boys were struck down by pulmonary infections or re-activated tuberculosis. Instead, the similarity of their deaths would be more readily explained by a genetic, heritable factor heretofore unconsidered …
Another curious similarity in the deaths of Edward VI, Henry Fitzroy, and Arthur Tudor is the fact that there is historical dispute on how healthy each boy was prior to the ‘feverish cold’ they contracted at the beginning of their end. They have all been described as physically frail and in poor health, but many modern historians argue that this is a Victorian error that promulgated unchecked into the twenty-first century … Arthur Tudor, Henry Fitzroy, and Edward VI seem to have been normally healthy teens who each died of a progressive and fast-acting pulmonary disorder resembling tuberculosis that does not fit into the common parameters of TB presentation.
I, of course, go into full detail and give a plethora of evidence to back my supposition about this genetic-based illness in the book. I am curious and excited to see what my readers (especially those with a medical background) think of my hypothesis.
Alas, there is no way to prove my theory short of exhuming Edward VI and testing his DNA. As I have learned, the odds of being allowed to do so -- or getting the necessary funding for the activity -- are so low I have a better chance of winning the Kentucky Derby while riding a cow.
I hope this post has inspired you to want more information about this fascinating young king. To satisfy that yen for knowledge, you can buy my book Edward VI in a Nutshell on Amazon or by shopping directly at MadeGlobal.com.