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assemblage of men, and, that this influence was probably more
powerful in the year 1529, than at any other time during the
sixteenth century. The formation of fog in the heat of summer
is at all times an extraordinary phenomenon, 3 which decidedly
indicates a disproportion in the mutual action of the components
and powers of the lower strata of the atmosphere. This was
not dependent merely on the local peculiarities of Naples, for
during the summer of 1528, grey fogs were observed through-
out Italy, which rendered the unwholesome quality of the air
visible to the eye. 4 This was increased by the prevalence of
southerly winds, which are always, in Italy, prejudicial to health,
as also by the thousand privations of a camp, so that a disease
which was already prevalent all over Italy — we allude to the
petechial fever — might well break out on the damp soil of Poggio
reale. In the history of national diseases, we find a moral proof
of the predominance of epidemic influence, which plainly and
intelligibly manifests itself under the greatest variety of circum-
stances. This is a belief, that the water and even the air is
poisoned. 5 Nor is this proof wanting in the deplorable history of
the French army before Naples, for it was generally believed,
that some Spaniards of Moorish descent, to whom w T as attributed
an especial degree of skill in the management of poison, and
some Jews from Germany, who, for the sake of gain, had follow-
ed the lansquenets to truckle for their booty, had stolen out of the

1 Guicciardini, p. 1315.

2 See above, p. 186.

3 It was also observed, as is well known, in tbe summer of 1831, before tbe breaking
out of tbe cholera.

4 Gratiol, p. 129, 130. '•> See above, p. 189.


city under cover of the night, in order to poison the water in the
neighbourhood of the camp. 1 It was also surmised, that an
Italian apothecary had administered to the French knights poi-
son in their medicine. 2 We will not anticipate on this occasion
the researches of naturalists, whose experiments on air and water,
during important epidemics, have not yet led to any results ; it
is, however, not improbable that pond and spring water, under
such circumstances as are here described to have occurred, might
become impregnated with a noxious quality, not inherent in it,
which would very naturally give rise to the belief that a poison
had been thrown into it. On the whole, this accusation may
certainly be judged acccording to the same views which have
been stated in our treatise on the Black Death.

From all these circumstances, the notion is highly probable
that it was the petechial fever which raged in the French camp ;
and if we may attach any importance to the incidental accounts
of historians, it may perhaps be to the purpose to state that Pru-
dencio de Sandoval, who has written from authentic materials, calls
the disease " las bubas." 3 This name, it is true, presupposes a
rather strange confusion of petechial fever with lues ; and, indeed,
the diseases among the French troops from 1495 to 1528, have
been oddly jumbled together by Sandoval. It shows, however,
that there still existed a recollection of the prevalent eruptions
which occurred in the pestilence of 1528 ; and, therefore, this
whole account might perhaps be the more justly applied to
petechial fever, as this same historian states, that the French
called the disease after the village of Poggio reale "les Poches," 4
by which name the well-known bubo plague would hardly have
been designated. If, however, we choose to suppose that at one
and the same time different diseases prevailed in the French
army, this notion is not only supported by the express testimony
of a contemporary, 5 but also by many observations ancient and
modern, that have been made in cases where the circumstances

1 Jovitis, loc. cit. p. 115. 2 Mezeray, p. 963.

3 The Spanish name for the lues venerea, which it obtained in consequence of the
prevailing eruptions. It corresponds with the French " la verole," and with the Ger-
man " franziJsische Pocken." We must not, therefore, think that it means " buboes."
Sandoval, Part II. pp. 12. 14. Compare Astruc, T. I. p. 4.

4 In the Madrid edition of the same work, 1675. fol. L. XVII. p. 232. b.

5 " Auster namque ventus per eos dies perflare et mortiferum missions nebulae va-
porem ex palustri ortum uligine, per castra dissipare et circumferre Lta cceperat, ut aliis
ex causis conceptce febres in contagiosum morbum vertcrentur." Jovius, L. XXVI. p.

6 InTorgau, where, in 1813 and 1814, 30,000 Frenchmen found their graves, there


have been similar to those which then prevailed. It is ever to be
regretted that there was no intelligent Machaon to be found in
the camp before Naples ; such a one would undoubtedly have
left us some pithy observations on the combination and affinity
of petechial fever and bubo plague.

Sect. 2. — Trousse-Galant in France. — 1528, and the

following years.

Deeply as the irreparable loss of such an army was felt by the
French, yet were they destined to suffer still greater misfortunes
at home. The dark power which threatened all Europe regarded
neither distance nor limits. It seized on the French nation in
their own country, whilst their military youth were destroyed
before Naples. The cold spring and wet summer of 1528 destroy-
ed the growing corn, 1 and a famine was thus produced through-
out France, even more grievous, on account of its duration, than
the period of scarcity in the time of Louis the Xlth, 2 for the
failure of the harvest continued for five years in succession,
during which all order of the seasons seemed to have ceased. A
damp summer heat prevailed in autumn and winter, a frost of a
single day only occasionally intervening. The summer, on the
other hand, was cloudy, damp, and ungenial. The length of the
days alone distinguished one month from another. It appears
plainly from detached accounts how much the usual course of
vegetation was disturbed. Scarcely had the fruit trees shed their
leaves in the autumn when they began to bud again, and to bear
fruitless blossoms. No returns rewarded the toil of the husband-
man, and the longed-for harvest again and again deceived the
hopes of the people. Thus, even during the first of these calami-
tous years, the distress became general, and the increasing indi-
gence was no longer to be checked by human aid. Bands of
beggars wandered over the country in lamentable procession.
The bonds of civil order became more and more relaxed, and
people soon had to fear not only robbery and plunder on the
part of these unfortunate beings, but the contagion of a pestilence,
the offspring of their distress, which followed in their train.

This disease was a new production of the French soil, and
when it spread generally throughout the country, was the more

prevailed two diseases, typhus and diarrhoea, altogether distinct from one another. See

1 Schirelin, p. 143. 2 Seepage 174.


sensibly felt, as it especially carried off young and robust men ;
on which account it was designated by the very significant name
of Trousse-Galant. 1 It consisted of a highly inflammatory fever,
which destroyed its victims in a very short time, even within the
space of a few hours ; or if they escaped with their lives, de-
prived them, of their hair and nails, and from a long-continued
disinclination for all animal food, left behind it, as sequelae, a
protracted debility and diseases which endangered the recovery
of the sick, whose constitutions were already so much shaken.
Hence it appears that this fever was combined with a great decom-
position of the fluids, and a very morbid condition of the functions
of the bowels, not to mention the effects produced by continued
hunger, which contemporaries paint in the most dreadful colours.

The stock of provisions was already so far consumed in the
first year that people made bread of acorns, and sought with
avidity all kinds of harmless roots, merely to appease hunger.
These miserable sufferers wandered about, houseless and more
like corpses than living beings, and finally, failing even to excite
commiseration, perished on dunghills or in out-houses. The
larger towns shut their gates against them, and the various char-
itable institutions proved, of necessity, insufficient to afford relief
in this frightful extremity ! It was the lot of very few to obtain
the tender care and attendance of the Sisters of Charity. In
most of those affected their livid swollen countenances, and the
dropsical swelling of their limbs, betrayed the sickly condition in
which they dragged on their languishing existence. Every one
fled from these pestiferous spectres, for they were saturated with
the poison of this deadly disease, and the remark was no doubt
made a thousand times over, that this poison might be conveyed
to persons in health without affecting the carrier, since want and
ill health occasionally afford a miserable protection against dis-
ease of this kind. 2

The necessary data for furnishing a complete account of the
Trousse-galant of 1528 do not exist, for physicians passed over
this epidemic with the same coolness and indifference which un-
fortunately they may be justly accused of having shown with
respect to other important phenomena. But it returned once
again in 1545-46, appearing in Savoy and over a great part of
France ; and we possess from Pare, 3 and from Sander, a Flemish

1 Trousser, in an obsolete sense, signifies to cause speedy death.

2 Mezeray, T. II. p. 965, where the best notices of it are to be found.

3 His account applies to the town of Puy in the Auvergne, where he seems himself
to have seen the disease. Livr. XXII. c. 5. p. 823.


physician, 1 though still a defective, yet a more satisfactory, de-
scription of its symptoms on this occasion. Its course was, as
before, very rapid, so that it destroyed the patient in two or three
days ; again it attacked the strong rather than the weak, as if in
justification of its old name, and those who recovered remained
for a long time distinguishable by the loss of their hair and their
wretched appearance. Patients felt at the commencement an
insufferable weight in the body, with extremely violent headache,
which soon deprived them of all consciousness, and passed into a
profound stupor, even the sphincter muscles losing their power.
In other cases a continued state of sleeplessness was followed by
feverish delirium, so violent that it was necessary to have recourse
to means of restraint. Such ojuposite states are usual in all ty-
phous fevers. Sander expressly mentions that in most of those
affected, eruptions made their appearance. He does not, however,
state their nature or describe the course and crisis of the disease,
otherwise than that it terminated about the fourth or the eleventh
day. Even the eruptions that did appear, which were probably
petechia), and perhaps also (rother friesel) red miliary vesicles,
came at an indefinite period ; either at the commencement, when
they afforded an unfavourable prognosis, or later, when they be-
tokened a favourable crisis. Thread-worms, in great numbers,
were evacuated alive under great torment, and generally increas-
ed the sufferings of the patient. The disease was scarcely less
contagious than plague, and with respect to its treatment, bleed-
ing, copious and even ad deliquium, was decidedly successful,
which, coupled with the attacks on the head just described, 2 leads
to the conclusion that there existed a fulness of blood and an in-
flammatory state of circulation, together, perhaps, with inflam-
mation of the brain. We must not omit to observe that, during
the pestilence of 1546, the bubo plague made its 'appearance here
and there, especially in the Netherlands; 3 and in the following
year, broke out and spread to. a greater extent in France, 4 whence
it seems to follow, with respect to the malady of which we are now
treating, that its nature resembled the petechial fever, since that
disease usually precedes the occurrence of pestilences. 5

1 Forest. L. YI. obs. 7. p. 156. Sander writes from numerous observations which
he made in and about Cambray.

2 Sauvages, T. I. p. 487, hence calls the Trousse-galant " Ccpbalitis verminosa,"
although neither inflammation of the brain nor worms existed in all cases, and takes
his description from Sander, as again Ozanam has taken it from Sauvages, T. III. p. 27.

3 Forest, p. 157. Schol. * Pare, loc. cit.

5 So small-pox and measles, it is well known, are the forerunners of plague.


The assertion of historians, that in 1528, and the following
years, France lost a fourth part of her inhabitants by famine and
pestilence, seems, according to our representation, not to be by
any means exaggerated. The consequences, as regarded the future
destinies of that country, were likewise very important. For
Francis the 1st saw that no new sacrifices could be borne by his
people, who were already so sorely afflicted ; and therefore aban-
doned his schemes of greatness and foreign power, consenting, on
the 5th of August, 1529, to the disadvantageous treaty of

Sect. 3. — Sweating Sickness in England, 1528.

"Whoever, following the above facts, will represent to himself
the state of Europe in 1528, will readily believe that a poisonous
atmosphere enveloped this quarter of the globe, and continually
brought destruction and death over its nations. Ruin broke in
upon them in a thousand forms, destroying their bodies and be-
nio-htino; their minds, and if to this we add the discord and the
deadly party hatred which at that time prevailed in the world, it
seems as if every circumstance that could affect mankind was im-
plicated in this gigantic conflict, which threatened in its fatal
result to annihilate all traces of the times that were past.

A heavier affliction than has yet been described was in store for
England : for in the latter end of May, the Sweating Fever broke
out there in the midst of the most populous part of the capital,
spreading rapidly over the whole kingdom ; and fourteen months
later, brought a scene of horror upon all the nations of northern
Europe, scarcely equalled during any other epidemic. It appeared
at once with the same intensity as it had shown eleven years be-
fore, was ushered in by no previous indications, and between health
and death there lay but a brief term of five or six hours. Public
business was postponed : the courts were closed, and four weeks
after the pestilence broke out, the festival of St. John ' was stopped,
to the great sorrow of the people, who certainly would not have
dispensed with its celebration had they recovered from the con-
sternation arising from the great mortality. The king's court was
again deserted, and to the various passions and mental emotions
which had been clashing there since the year 1517, as, for instance,
those arising from the theological zeal which had been excited
by Henry VHIth's defence of the faith, was added once more the

1 Fabian, p. G09.


old alarm and distress, which seemed to be justified by the death
of some favoured courtiers ; particularly of two chamberlains, 1 and
of Sir Francis Poynes, who had just returned from an embassy to
Spain. The king left London immediately, and endeavoured to
avoid the epidemic by continually travelling-, until at last he grew
tired of so unsettled a life, and determined to await his destiny at
Tytynhangar. Here, with his first wife and a few confidants, he
resided quietly, apart from the world, surrounded by fires for the
purification of the air, and guarded b} r the precautions of his
physician, who had the satisfaction to find that the pestilence kept
aloof from this lonely residence. 2

How many lives were lost in this, which some historians have
called the great mortality, can be estimated only by the facts which
have been stated, and which betoken an uncommonly violent de-
gree of agitation in men's minds. Accurate data are altogether
wanting, yet it is quite evident that the whole English nation,
from the monarch to the meanest peasant, was impressed with a
feeling of alarm at the uncertainty of life, to which neither the
rude state of society, nor a constant familiarity with the effects
of laws written in blood, 3 had blunted their sensibility. Such a
state does not exist without very numerous cases of mortality
which bring the danger home to every individual, so that it is to
be presumed that the churchyards were everywhere abundantly
filled. Nor did this destructive epidemic come alone. Provisions
were scarce and dear, and whilst hundreds of thousands lay
stretched upon the bed of death, many perished with hunger/ and
the same scenes would have been experienced as in France, had
not the corn trade afforded some relief. 5

As soon as the occurrences of this unfortunate year could be
more closely surveyed, a conviction was at once felt, that it was one
and the same general cause of disease which called forth the poison-
ous pestilence in the French camp before Nap>les, the putrid fever
among the youth in France, and the sweating sichiess in England,
and that the varying nature of these diseases depended only on the
conditions of the soil and the qualities of the atmosphere in the

1 Sir William Compfon and William Carcw, besides man)' other distinguished per-
sons who are not named.

2 Grafton, p. 412, the principal passage. Compare Holinslicd, p. 735. Baker, p.
203. Hall, p. 750. Herbert of Chcrbury, p. 215.

a During Henry the Eighth's reign (1500 to 1547) 72,000 malefactors were, accord-
ing t" Harrison, executed for theft and robbery, making nearly 2000 for each year.
Hume, T. IV. p. 275.

< Stow, p. 885. 5 Fabian, loc cit.


countries which were visited. 1 If, in opposition to these notions, a
narrow view of human life in the aggregate should raise a doubt,
this would be strikingly refuted by the wonderful coincidence, in
point of time, of all these phenomena, occurring in such various
parts of Europe ; for while the French army, after an exposure
of four weeks to the miseries and poisonous vapours of its camp
before Naples, perceived the first forebodings of its destruction,
the great famine with the Trousse-galant in its train was in full
advance on the other side the Alps, and almost on the same day
the Sweating Sickness broke out upon the Thames.

Sect. 4. — Natural Occurrences. — Prognostics.

The chronicles of all the nations of Europe are full of remark-
able notices respecting the commotions of nature in these parti-
cular 3 7 ears, which were so utterly hostile to the animal and
vegetable kingdoms. In England the period of distress was al-
ready approaching ; towards the end of the year 1527. Through-
out the whole winter (November and December, 1527, and January,
1528) , heavy rains deluged the country, the rivers overflowed their
banks, and the winter seed was thus rotted. The weather then
remained dry until April ; but scarcely was the summer seed
sown, when the rain again set in, and continued day and night for
full eight weeks, so that the last hope of a harvest was now de-
stroyed, 2 and the soaked earth, in the thick mists that arose from
its surface, hatched the well-known demon of the Sweating Dis-
ease. It was now of no avail that the torrents of rain ceased, for the
softened soil gave the pestilence constant nourishment, and the
damp warmth which, alternating with unseasonable cold, remained
prevalent during the following years all over Europe, rendered
men's bodies more and more susceptible to severe diseases.

The historians of that time were too much occupied with the
intricate affairs of the court and of the church to devote anv at-
tention to nature, and on this account they have left us no satis-
factory information of the state of the weather and the course of
the seasons of those years in England, yet there is no reason to
suppose that they were essentially different from those of the rest
of Europe. This may be proved by the following collection of
important natural occurrences, when taken in conjunction with
the circumstances already stated respecting France and Italy.

1 " it seeming to be but the same contagion of the aire, varied according (<> the

clime." Herbert of Cherbury; loc. cit. - stow, loe. cit.


In Upper Italy such considerable floods occurred in all the
river districts, in the year 1527, that the astrologers announced a
new Deluge. There was a repetition of them to an equal extent,
and with equal damage, in the following year, so that it may have
been concluded, not without some ground, that there was an ac-
cumulation of snow on the highest mountain ranges of Europe.
On the third of July, 1529, there followed a violent earthquake in
Upper Italy, and immediatel} r afterwards a blood-rain, as it was
called, in Cremona. 1

In October, 1530, the Tiber rose so much above its banks that
in Rome and its neighbourhood about 12,000 people were drowned.
A month later, in the Netherlands, the sea broke through the
dykes, and Holland, Zealand, and Brabant suffered very consider-
ably from the overflow of the waters, which again took place two
} r ears afterwards. 2

In 1528 there appeared in the March of Brandenburg, during
the prevalence of a south-east wind and a great drought 3 (the rains
did not commence in Germany before 1529), swarms of locusts? as
if this prognostic too of great epidemics was not to be wanting.
Of fiery meteors, which also frequently appeared in the following
years, and in the aggregate plainly indicated an unusual condition
of the atmosphere, much notice, after the manner of the times, is
occasionally taken. 5 Particular attention was excited by a long
fiery train which was seen on the 7th of January, 1529, at seven
o'clock in the morning, throughout Mecklenburg and Pomerania. 6
Another fiery sign (chasma) was seen in the March on the 9th of
January, at ten o'clock at night, 7 as likewise similar atmospherical
phenomena in other localities.

Comets appeared in the course of this year in unusual number. 8
The first on the 11th of August, 1527, before daybreak; it was
seen throughout Europe, and it has often been confounded by more
recent writers with an atmospherical phenomenon resembling a
comet which appeared on the 11th of October. 9 The second was
seen in July and August, 1529, in Germany, France, and Italy.

1 Campo, pp. 1.50, 1-31. 2 Grafton, p. 431. Wagenaar, Vol. II. p. 516.

3 Ilaftitz, p. 130. 4 Annales Berolino-.Marchici (no numbers (<> the pages).

5 Magnus Hundt, fol. 4. b., and many others.

fi Bonn, p. 143. A girl in Liibeck died of fright at this meteor.

7 Ilaftitz, p. 131. Anrjelus, p. 317.

3 It must not be thought that the author, because he has brought forward these no-
tices, has any pre-formed opinions whatever respecting the import of these heavenly
bodies. The historian cannot pass over contemporaneous occurrences, whatever may be
the conclusion which the limited extent of our knowledge enables us to draw from them.

9 rt'ngre, T. I. p. 485. Spangcnberg, M. Chr. fol. 410. a.


Four other comets are also said to have made their appearance this
year at the same time ; but it is probable that these were only
fiery meteors of an unknown kind. 1 The third was in 1531, and
was visible in Europe from the 1st of August till the 3rd of Sep-
tember. This was the great comet of Halley, which returned in
the year 1835. 2 The fourth was in 1532, visible from the 2nd of
October to the 8th of November ; it appeared again in 1661. 3
Lastly, the fifth, in 1533, seen from the middle of June till
August. 4

Contemporaries agree remarkably in their accounts of the in-
sufferable state of the weather in the eventful year 1529. The
winter was particularly mild, and the vegetation was far too early,
so that all the world was rejoicing at the mildness and beauty of
the spring. The people wore violets, at Erfurt, on St. Matthew's
day (the 24th of February), little expecting that this friendly
omen was to precede so severe a calamity. 5 Throughout the
spring and summer wet weather continued to prevail. Constant
torrents of rain overflowed the fields, the rivers passed their
banks ; all hopes of the cultivation were entirely frustrated, 6 and
misery and famine spread in all directions. A heavy rain of four

Online LibraryJ. F. C. (Justus Friedrich Carl) HeckerThe epidemics of the middle ages → online text (page 25 of 41)