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Life in Tudor times

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How did people in Tudor times actually live? What was their daily routine? What happened at key events such as marriages, deaths and childbirth? Our rich historical past gives us many clues about how the Tudors lived, their customs and rituals and what everyday life was really like in the Tudor court.

Watching plays became very popular, helped by the rise of playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe as well as the building of the Globe Theatre in London. The rich also enjoyed fencing, jousting and hunting as well as hawking, with all these activities remaining popular at the Tudor royal court.

Child mortality was low in comparison with earlier and later periods, but death in childhood was still common, particularly amongst babies. The lives of childbearing women were also full of risk, as modern methods of medicine and midwifery were lacking, leaving many women vulnerable to infection, haemorrhage and death. After childbirth a woman underwent a ritual of ‘churching’, a ceremony carried out some forty days after childbirth to show she had recovered and so could be re-admitted to daily life and back into sexual relations with her husband.

Although home to only a small part of the population, Tudor towns were overcrowded and unhygienic. Most towns were unpaved and had extremely poor public sanitation, with no sewers or drains, and litter being dumped in the street. Rats thrived in these conditions, and in larger towns and cities, such as London, common diseases arising from lack of sanitation included smallpox, measles, malaria, typhus, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and chickenpox. Outbreaks of the Black Death pandemic occurred throughout this period, and the disease spread quickly due to the increase of rats infected by fleas. Life in Tudor times was hard, and the gap between the rich and the poor very marked. Whilst the Tudor court was a place of art, music and learning, in everyday life outside of this privilege the dangers to health and well-being were many.

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