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All the Kings’ Fools: Disability and the Tudors

November 17, 2021 @ 7:30 pm


For centuries, disabled people and their history have been hidden in plain sight.

Before the advent of modern medicine, any impairment, disease or frailty was often a matter of life and death. The treatment of disabled people reveals a great deal about periods throughout history and contemporary wider societies – join us in asking:

What was done to support historical disabled populations?

Very little on the infirm and mentally ill was written down during the Renaissance period and the Tudor period is no exception, presenting a complex, unparalleled story. The sixteenth century was far from exemplary in the treatment of its infirm, but a multifaceted and ambiguous story emerges, where society’s ‘natural fools’ were elevated as much as they were belittled.

From the nobility to the lowest of society (including William Somer, Henry VIII’s fool at court), Phillipa Vincent-Connolly casts a light on the lives of disabled people in Tudor England and guides us through the social, religious, cultural, and ruling classes’ response to disability as it was then perceived.

In this talk, discover lesser known histories of a group that, for the most part, tends to be overlooked.