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Fit to Rule: How Royal Illness Changed History

Learning Zone

Duration: 30 minutes

First broadcast: on BBC Two HDLatest broadcast: on BBC Two England

Dr Lucy Worsley presents a compilation of six short films specially made for schools, exploring the impact the mental and physical health of our kings and queens has had on our history. She looks at all the evidence, including their private letters, their doctor's reports and even their clothes, to understand the problems they faced.

Beginning with Henry VIII, Lucy discovers how closely the king's health was monitored by his doctors. She finds out why it was so important for Henry to have a male heir and how the whole country felt the effects of his search for a wife who would bear him one.

Turning to Henry's children, Lucy looks at the problems his son Edward VI faced when he became king at just nine years old. She reads the young king's private diary, which shows how quickly he matured and began to exercise power in his own right.

Lucy also reveals the challenges faced by Henry's daughter Mary I. Lucy tells the tragic story of Mary's phantom pregnancy, explores what the true cause of her medical problems may have been, and reveals the lasting consequences of her failure to produce a child.

Lucy then tells the story of Charles I's childhood. As a boy he lacked confidence and had trouble walking. She finds out how these physical and emotional weaknesses affected the future king's personality, making him insecure and reluctant to compromise with anyone who questioned his absolute authority.

Next Lucy investigates the 'madness' of George III. It has long been thought that this was due to porphyria, a rare blood disorder, but clinical neurologist Dr Garrard's research suggests that the king may actually have been suffering from manic depression instead.

Finally Lucy explores how childbirth has always been the monarchy's greatest biological challenge. Queen Anne had 17 pregnancies in all, but of her surviving children the eldest lived to just 11 and a century later Princess Charlotte, the only legitimate grandchild of George III, died giving birth to her first child. Show less

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