The very brutal death of King Charles II of England

by Staff writer

No doubt, King Charles II of England deserves a mention among the list of those who suffered the most brutal deaths in human history.

Modern doctors agree that the cause of his death was probably an unavoidable kidney failure, but what makes his death brutal was the flock of well-meaning doctors who tried at all cost to save his life using the know-how (ill founded beliefs and superstitions) of the 17th century.

Next time you feel yourself coming down with a cold, thank your lucky stars for 21st-century medicine.

On the morning of February 2, 1685, King Charles II of England was preparing to shave when he suddenly cried out in pain, fell to the floor, and started having fits.

Six royal physicians rushed in and administered emergency “aid.”

What exactly did they do?

First, they let (drained) 16 ounces of blood from him.

Then they applied heated cups to his skin, which formed large round blisters, in order to “stimulate his system.”

Again, they let 8 more ounces of blood.

They induced vomiting to purify his stomach, gave him an enema to purify his bowels, and made him swallow a purgative to clean out his intestines.

Then they force-fed him syrup of blackthorn and rock salt.

They shaved all his hair and put blistering plasters on his scalp.

The king finally regained consciousness.

The treatment seemed to be working, so they kept on at it.

They gave him another enema, applied hellebore root to his nostrils, and added more blistering plasters to his skin.

Then they powdered cowslip flowers to his stomach.

Special plasters made from pigeon droppings were attached to his feet. After about 12 hours of care, they put the ailing king to bed.


Charles awoke the next day and seemed much improved. The attending physicians congratulated themselves and continued the treatment.

The let 10 more ounces of blood from him.

They gave him a potion of black cherry, peony, lavender, crushed pearls, and sugar. Charles slept for the rest of the day and through the night.

The next day, he awoke, had another fit, and was bled again.

They gave him senna pods in spring water, and white wine with nutmeg.

They force-fed him a drink made from “40 drops of extract of the human skull” of a man who had met a violent death.

They made him eat the gallstone of an East Indian goat.

Then they proudly announced that King Charles was definitely on the road to recovery.

But the next day, the king was near death.

He was blistered again, re-bled, re-purged, and given another enema.

He was given Jesuit’s powder – a controversial malaria remedy- laced with opium and wine.

The doctors were now mystified by the king’s weakening condition.

The next day, showing no sign of improvement yet, the king was bled almost bloodless.

They scoured the palace ground and created a last-ditch antidote containing “extracts of all the herbs and animals of the kingdom.”

Afterwards, the king died.

Because the king had no fewer than fourteen royal physicians, all under great pressure to save his life, he endured excruciating agonies in the name of medicine before he finally expired (presumably of a brain hemorrhage).

Postmortem: It was rumored art the time that King Charles II had been poisoned, but no proof was ever found. Modern doctors offer three theories as to the cause of death:

1. He was poisoned – but not by an enemy – by himself.

He often played with chemicals in an un-ventilated palace laboratory, where he contracted acute mercury poisoning.

2. He suffered from kidney failure.

3. He had a brain hemorrhage.

Would the king have survived without treatment?

Probably not.

But at least his death wouldn’t have been so excruciating.

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