Not long ago a chance remark overheard in a BBC Radio 4 history program sent me to the computer to check a detail on the reign of King James I of England (James VI of Scotland), the first monarch of the Stuart dynasty and the only son of Mary Queen of Scots. Try as I might, I couldn't remember his exact dates, nor the circumstances of his death either, even though I had once studied the period in detail at school.
I soon discovered that James I had died at the age of 59 in 1625. The surprise was that one contributory factor in his demise was described as 'tertian ague'. This was a wholly unfamiliar term, what on earth could it be ? An ague I knew was a type of shivering fit associated with a fever, it comes from the Latin 'acuta febris' - (acute fever). I recalled reading of Sir Walter Raleigh defiantly puffing his pipe on Tower Hill and saying "It is the hour of the day when my ague comes upon me..."
So, a fever fit that appeared with clockwork regularity...
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