It’s my pleasure to welcome Rebecca Cohen to my blog. She’s discussing medicine and injuries for research in historical novels. Come and read the amazing things she has to say here:
Unsurprisingly, since I’ve written two of them already in my short writing career I love a good historical. As a reader, I like to be drawn in to the little day-to-day details but not be given a history lecture, and as a writer I really enjoy the research that underpins the story. What I really like is finding out something that makes me go, “Really? Surely not!”
I have a particular interest in historical medicine, again hardly a shock given I studied microbiology and virology as an undergrad at university (yes, a whole degree about things that kill people). I was genuinely surprised about how certain illnesses and injuries were treated in the Elizabethan era. Anthony picks up an injury in Duty to the Crown – he should know better than to get involved in duels – and this gave me the excuse to see how he would be treated. Henry VIII famously survived a nasty jousting accident when he was a younger man, and just imagine how English history would have changed if he hadn’t. Many treatments for wounds evolved from battlefield medicine, if you don’t believe me look the development of plastic surgery (but that would a topic for a different post and historical period). Although a far cry from modern medicine there are things that an Elizabethan physician would do that aren’t so different from today. For example, gaping wounds were cleaned with vinegar and stitched up using cat gut or silk, although they were a long way from being disposable sutures we know today.
Sebastian reentered Anthony’s room. Dr. Langton had helped Anthony remove the rest of his clothes and Anthony now sat propped upright in the bed. The physician, in his long dark robe, was bent over stitching Anthony’s wound closed. Anthony sat with his head tipped back and his eyes scrunched shut, biting down on a piece of leather as the doctor worked on him. The wound was bathed again and redressed in more clean cloths. Dr. Langton removed the piece of leather from Anthony’s mouth, wetted another cloth, and wiped Anthony’s face to remove the perspiration. “All done, my lord. You need to rest now and move as little as possible so not to tear your stitches.”
“I will ensure that he does,” said Sebastian.
Dr. Langton turned to him and bowed. “Lady Bronwyn.”
“Will His Grace be all right?”
“As long as he rests and keeps the wound covered, then he should recover fully. I understand it was your maid that applied the first set of bandages.”
“She did an excellent job—for a woman. But she should be more than capable of changing the dressing as needed. I will also have the apothecary make up a draft to manage the pain and others to help rebalance the humors.”
“I can’t thank you enough for coming so quickly, Dr. Langton.” Sebastian glided over to the nightstand on the other side of the bed to where the physician was standing, and removed a gold coin from Anthony’s coin purse. He pressed it into Langton’s palm. “This should recompense you for your services.”
He nodded as he accepted the coin. “Thank you, my lady. You will need to pay the apothecary directly for the drafts. I will ensure that they are with you by the end of the day.”
“Wallace, the steward, will see to that.”
The physician left, leaving Sebastian and Anthony alone. “That looked unpleasant,” said Sebastian.
Anthony grimaced. “It was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life—I never want to have stitches again. Now come back and lie on the bed. You can mop my brow and pander to my every need.”
“Your only needs are bed rest and sleep,” replied Sebastian, but took the place on the bed where he had been before Dr. Langton had arrived.
“I disagree; I have many needs.”
“That may be so, but first you need rest. And that means every part of your body.”
“Now I have an even more compelling reason for hating that damn cur, Valois!”
But as well as the important things like medicine, I love the mundane stuff as well. Did you know that the first match didn’t show up until the 1680s (thanks to phosphorus being discovered in 1669), and the friction match wasn’t invented until 1827, so this was too late for my story. Also, it wasn’t until the Stuart era that people started to use forks at the dinner table.
So as you can see, I’m pretty much a history nerd. Better get back to those books if I want to dig out more for next in the series.
Duty to the Crown: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3637
Duty to the Crown:
Despite the uncomfortable clothing and the gossip at court, Sebastian Hewel is still enjoying the role of Lady Bronwyn, wife of Earl Anthony Crofton. But when Queen Elizabeth asks a favor of Anthony, Sebastian’s world fractures and his heart threatens to break. The Queen wants Anthony to seduce Marie Valois, the beautiful daughter of a French noble, to discover the whereabouts of her father, who is wanted by the King of France.
Sebastian knows Anthony can’t refuse the Queen, especially since he has something of a reputation at court. But the situation is further complicated when Marie meets Sebastian without his disguise—and starts flirting with him. Her brother, Nicholas, arrives at Crofton Hall, not happy that his sister has been linked to a man like Anthony, only to find his own head turned by Lady Bronwyn and her acerbic wit. Contending with the attentions of both siblings—and a very jealous Anthony—would be bad enough. But then Sebastian’s uncle demands Sebastian and Anthony stage Bronwyn’s death to avoid discovery….