I am like a night-raven in the house
Psalm 101:7 – for those in affliction.
A prayer for a lonely woman. Her story is a bit involved, so bear with me.
First, a list of relatives of Henry VIII infected with smallpox*:
Margaret, Queen of Scots – sister.
Mary, Queen of Scots – great niece.
Anne of Cleves – wife (infected before marriage).
Edward VI – son.
Elizabeth I – daughter.
Just one fatality: Edward, who died from complications after recovering from this awful disease.**
Smallpox was fatal in up to 30% of cases, but most deaths were among little children, so the survival rate of the infected adults of the Tudor dynasty is not remarkable. Of course there may be others to add to that list, but the point is that smallpox struck even the most privileged.
To the last name on the list, Elizabeth: she was infected in 1562, during the Anjou marriage controversy, and was given the red treatment, which seems to have involved wrapping her body in a red blanket. That treatment is depicted in the BBC’s excellent Elizabeth R (1971), starring Glenda Jackson, but I can’t give an original source for the incident, nor for the claim that the queen tried to disguise the pockmarks with heavy makeup.
But this prayer is not for Elizabeth. Our lonely woman is Mary Dudley (1532-1586), a lady-in-waiting who attended on the queen during her illness. Mary was a sister of the Earl of Leicester, and was given the nickname “Old Moll” by Elizabeth. She married Sir Henry Sidney, who was a stalwart in the royal governments of Ireland and Wales.
An impressive woman … Continue reading