Which fatal condition stopped Edward the Black Prince in his prime?

Inflammatory bowel disease may have changed the course of English history, ending the life of a key member of the Plantagenet dynasty, an army doctor suggests today.

A wide range of chronic and short term illnesses have been proposed as the killer of Edward the Black Prince, heir apparent to the English throne in the mid 1300s.

The latest theories are advanced as part of the *BMJ*’s annual series of quirky reports ahead of Christmas.

Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince, thought to be "the greatest English soldier ever to have lived", may have succumbed to chronic dysentery, malaria and/or inflammatory bowel disease, according to the latest analysis.

His early death in 1376 led to a tumultuous time in English history, with the crown passing to his ten year old son whose problems triggered events such as the Wars of the Roses and the rise of the Tudors.

Now, the medical mystery has been explored by Dr James Anderson of the 21 Engineer Regiment, Claro Barracks, Ripon, Yorkshire, UK.

In *BMJ Military Health* today, Dr Anderson reports that the Black Prince participated in almost continuous military service since the age of 16 without injury but suffered from a chronic illness for almost nine years, before his death at age 45.

Chronic dysentery is the commonly believed cause of his death, but this is unlikely, says Dr Anderson, as the symptoms would have made continued travel and warfare almost impossible.

Instead, there are several other infections or inflammatory conditions that may have led to his demise, including long term complications of acute dysentery, malaria, brucellosis – caused by eating unpasteurised dairy products and raw meat – or inflammatory bowel disease.

Whatever the elusive cause, this was indeed "a disease that changed the course of English history", Dr Anderson concludes.

Anderson, J. R. et al. Footnotes and end pieces: The death of the Black Prince: a case of disease in 1376 that changed the course of English history. *BMJ Military Health* 21 December 2022 doi: 10.1136/military-2022-002282


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