How Did Henry VIII Avoid Death From The 'Sweating Sickness'?

It's not as though Henry VIII, King of England, was gifted with perfect health anyway. By all reports a fairly robust, even athletic, man in his younger days, by the time he died in 1547, age 55, he was probably not what a lot of children wanted to grow up to be. Grossly obese, with a waist measuring 54 inches (and that might have been charitable), at best guess from this historical distance he was suffering from high blood pressure, gout, and diabetes, and perhaps more. It's a wonder he lived as long as he did, given the state of medicine at the time. It's true that some folk remedies used things like moldy bread (think penicillin, eventually), as related by the Microbiology Society, to counter infection, there wasn't a great body of science to explain or cure disease. Especially not the "sweating sickness," an epidemic that swept London during Henry's reign, carrying away tens of thousands of people before running its course. We still aren't positive what the illness actually was.

He sent his second-best physician to Anne Boleyn

As explained by the BBC's History Extra, some called it the "English sweats," since that's where it originated before spreading to the rest of the continent of Europe. It first cropped up in 1485, coincidentally the year the Tudors first came to power. In 1528 the French ambassador to England characterized it as "the easiest in the world to die of." It would start with a slight headache and chest pain; then the sweating would start. "There is no need of a physician," the ambassador concluded. Each time it occurred, the epidemic killed thousands upon thousands, until it finally died off, apparently for good, in 1551. It acted swiftly; there was no cure. It struck nobles and lower classes indiscriminately; relatives of Henry's second wife, Anne Boleyn, died from it.

The only recourse was to stay as far away from it as possible. During the 1528 outbreak, that's exactly what Henry did. Already a hypochondriac, with almost daily medical exams, Henry broke up court and took a powder (perhaps even literally). He moved from residence to residence, "safe houses" free (so far) from disease, even abandoning Anne, then his mistress. Unromantic, yes, but the strategy worked. The disease missed Henry. For his part, Henry sent his "second-best physician" to her when she self-isolated at her family home in Kent. Though Anne came down with it, she survived. She was lucky. Among the poorer classes packed together in London, the death rate was as high as 50 percent.