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In her latest book, Mortal Monarchs: 1000 Years of Royal Deaths Suzie Edge writes about the deaths of several of England’s monarchs who died in grotesque, weird, or elaborate ways. A former medical doctor now turned history, Suzie takes an indepth look at the sciene behind the deaths of Kings and Queens of England across a thousand years of history. Today, Suzie joins us on the show today to share with us the stories of the deaths of some of the most famous monarchs whose lives and deaths touched on the life of William Shakespeare including Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, and James I of England. 

This week’s episode contains frank medical discussions of gore and violence, including disease and specifics about human demise. While our discussion is both entertaining and academic in nature, the content may be inappropriate for younger listeners. If you are listening in a classroom or where there are child ears present, we recommend you listen to the episode first before sharing it.   

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Dr Suzie Edge trained as a molecular biologist before moving to clinical medicine, to spend more time talking to people, rather than just bugs in test tubes. She went on to work as a junior doctor in a variety of medical specialties including infectious diseases, haematology, and trauma and orthopaedic surgery. Whilst working as a doctor she completed an MLitt in Modern History to feed her fascination for the history of the human body and the history of medicine. 

Always on the lookout for gory historical details, Suzie loves telling stories of how we have treated our human bodies in life and in death. 

Suzie has a black belt and is an instructor in the martial art of Sooyang Do. She lives in a wee cottage in the Highlands of Scotland with her husband, their two teenage daughters and their dog, Scout. 


I’ll be asking Suzie Edge about:

  • When Elizabeth was dying, she was severely emaciated and Suzie writes that Elizabeth’s reliance on lead based makeup to hide her scars from childhood smallpox as well as the lack of good oral hygiene would contribute to horrible infections for Elizabeth that ravaged the ailing queen in her final days. Suzie, will you explain how the lead specifically in the ceruse that Elizabeth used could have contributed to the situation surrounding her death?  
  • Suzie writes that the reports of Elizabeth seeing ghosts might indicate the Queen suffered from cancer. Suzie, what was is about the reports of Elizabeth’s behavior at Richmond Palace that lead you to believe she may have had cancer?  
  • The next monarch from Shakespeare’s lifetime is Mary Queen of Scots, who died when Shakespeare was 22 years old. Suzie, I did not expect Mary Queen of Scots to be listed in your book because her death, I assumed, was straight forward—she was executed. But then I read in your book that her execution was botched? What happened to Mary Queen of Scots at her death? 
  • …and more!

Insider Extras Will Expand Here for Patrons. Here’s what’s inside:

  • Hilliard portrait of Elizabeth I
  • Portrait of Mary Queen of Scots with her son, James VI/I
  • More information on the science behind the beetle’s use medically
  • Portrait of Mary Queen of Scots
  • Portrait of James I
  • Picture of the Blistering Beetle we talk about today
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