Learning with collections: Royalist physicians in the English Civil War

Samantha Gartner is a museum studies student at the University of Leicester completing a work placement at the RCP. In this week's blog entry, she describes her work with a fellow student on a display about the English Civil War to complement the RCP's 2016 exhibition, 'To fetch out the fire': reviving London, 1666.

Portrait of William Harvey (1578-1657), c.1650
Portrait of William Harvey (1578-1657), c.1650

We decided to focus our Civil War display cases on several RCP fellows and how the war affected them, based on whether the doctors were Parliamentarians or Royalists. My research is about three doctors who were Royalists: William Harvey (1578–1657), Theodore de Mayerne (1573–1655) and Charles Scarburgh (1614–1693). All three of these men were physicians to the royal family before, during or after the Civil War.

To help me tell the story of these three doctors I looked at several items in the library, archive and museum collections here at the RCP. What I find makes learning through these collections so much fun is that even if you are unable to find what you may need at first, you always find something interesting. This means that although my first pass through the archives to find a way to tell William Harvey’s story was unsuccessful, I found a wonderful document regarding Harvey’s estate at Burwash, in Kent. This parchment, with Harvey’s signature and two seals, concerns a 1-year contract for a piece of marshland, known as Newes, that Harvey eventually left to the RCP.

Portrait of Sir Theodore Turquet de Mayerne (1573-1655) engraved by W. Elder, 1690
Portrait of Sir Theodore Turquet de Mayerne (1573-1655) engraved by W. Elder, 1690

I had better luck in finding a record book of Theodore de Mayerne’s in which he noted multiple medical notes and consultations. The text is written in French and Latin. Though I am unable to read either of these languages, bits and pieces of it have been translated. Several famous people of the time are mentioned within the record book. They include William Harvey, Queen Anne (1665–1714), Henrietta Maria (1609–1669), wife of King Charles I, and Marie de Medici (1573–1642), second wife of Henry IV of France.

These were just two interesting items that I came across in my work to tell stories about physicians from the RCP during the Civil War. I have enjoyed the opportunity to make my way through parts of the collection here; I cannot wait to see what I discover next.

Samantha Gartner, University of Leicester placement student

Samantha Gartner ,
University of Leicester placement student

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