Nothing Ever Changes – Queen Elizabeth I Had To Intervene to Protect Against Professional Monopoly Over-Protection By Physicians

I am reading a wonderful book called The Gardens of the British Working Class.  It is one of those books that seems to be about what some would call a “little thing,” but is really about all of life.  The author, Margaret Willes tells a wonderful story (starting at page 38) as to which we would all recognize the issues and circumstances, both for medicine and law:

Towards the end of Henry VIII’s reign, in 1543, an act was passed allowing those experienced in he nature of herbs, roots and waters to practice and use them as a gesture of Christian charity.  This caused much consternation in some quarters. .  .  .  The College of Physicians summoned a series of women before their court for administering medicines and giving advice.  But in one instance, when a poor woman Margaret Kennix, was accused of supplying her friends and neighbors with herbal remedies, the Queen intervened in person.  In a letter sent to the College secretary via Secretary Walsingham, the Queen declared:

“It is her Majesty’s pleasure that the poor woman should be permitted by you quietly to practice and minister to the curing of diseases and wounds, by means of certain simples, in the application whereof it seems God hath given her an especial knowledge.  I shall therefore desire you to take order amongst yourselves for the readmitting of her into the quiet exercise of of her small talent, lest by the renewing of her complaint to her Majesty through your hard dealing towards her, you procure further inconvenience thereby to yourselves.”

How perfect.  I particularly love the subtlety of the implicit threat that the College of Physicians should not take actions by which “you procure further inconvenience thereby to yourselves.”  Something tells me that they had no need of class action remedies in those days.

The incident also makes me wonder if, in her day to day administration of the realm, Queen Elizabeth may have been more of a feminist than we realize.  My popular culture impression is that “she had to act as a man to be a queen.”  It would be a great PhD thesis to look through those day to day records, with this incident in mind, to see if the truth may not be much more complicated and interesting.  And, I wonder what Walsingham and others thought about her attitude.


About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
This entry was posted in Anti-Trust, Bar Associations, De-Regulation, History, Medical System Comparision, Non-Lawyer Practice, Systematic Change. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Nothing Ever Changes – Queen Elizabeth I Had To Intervene to Protect Against Professional Monopoly Over-Protection By Physicians

  1. Delightful !!
    The language is also quite lovely. Instead of saying ” if you do this I will do that ” ( a common tit-for-tat negotiation threat in todays parlance ) QE I makes the responsibility for outcome lie with those being given the warning/threat. ie your would be doing ” it” to yourself. “It” equates to the unspecified negative outcomes for the perpetrators of the bullying . No reference to what the monarch had in mind or what she might do . So eloquent and so very clear !!

    Not exactly the “mutual interest negotiation model” we talk about these days.

    Peter Fielding

  2. Mary Ryan says:

    She was an AMAZING woman! Now, if we could get the physicians and lawyers to read her words!

  3. Claudia Johnson says:

    Interesting post! This summer I had the chance to read a little bit about the history of pharmacy and medicine so I am sharing some of what I learned in my casual study.
    The history of pharmacy (apothecary) and medicine are fascinating. Pharmacy and medicine had been declared separate fields in Europe in the early 1200s. There was a long divide between the “humorists” in Europe (the group that believed illness was caused by body humors and imbalances in the body) and then doctors from Persia and the Middle East–who were more more scientifically based (and where they knew more about botany). In the 16th to 17th Century, in Europe they started to read and pay more attention to the techniques that came from Iran and the Middle East (who were more advanced in botany), who used different tools and had different theories of illness and health. European doctors were having interesting debates in 1543 b/c the same year Vesalious had published a book that led to more work with the human body/dissections and things that some considered sins or crimes. I don’t know how much this affected England–but those were definite times of change.You might have found a historical parallel with the changes we are grappling with in law and the need to provide access to justice, moving to create a more user centric system, that is more based on data and with empirical metrics and to incorporate technology to enable attorneys to practice at the top of their license and work toward reaching 100% access for all.

    There is a great movie on Netflix that tells the story of a student in the 11th Century that helps set the context for what has happening in 1543. It is called the Physician, and it stars Ben Kinsley. It is long but anyone curious about how medicine evolved in Europe and contributions from other continents/cultures should watch it.

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