Thomas Witherley

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Sir Thomas Witherley MD (1618–1694) was Physician in Ordinary to King Charles II, Second Physician to King James II, and President of the Royal College of Physicians from 1684 to 1687.

Sir is a formal English honorific address for men, derived from Sire in the High Middle Ages. Traditionally, as governed by law and custom, Sir is used for men titled knights i.e. of orders of chivalry, and later also to baronets, and other offices. As the female equivalent for knighthood is damehood, the suo jure female equivalent term is typically Dame. The wife of a knight or baronet tends to be addressed Lady, although a few exceptions and interchanges of these uses exist.

A Doctor of Medicine is a medical degree, the meaning of which varies between different jurisdictions. In the United States, Canada and other countries, the MD denotes a professional graduate degree awarded upon graduation from medical school. In the United Kingdom, Ireland and other countries, the MD is a research doctorate, higher doctorate, honorary doctorate or applied clinical degree restricted to those who already hold a professional degree in medicine; in those countries, the equivalent professional degree is typically titled Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS).

Charles II of England King of England, Ireland and Scotland

Charles II was king of England, Scotland and Ireland. He was king of Scotland from 1649 until his deposition in 1651, and king of England, Scotland and Ireland from the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 until his death.

He was present at the birth of James Francis Edward Stuart in 1688.

James Francis Edward Stuart British prince

James Francis Edward Stuart, nicknamed The Old Pretender, was the son of King James II and VII of England, Scotland and Ireland, and his second wife, Mary of Modena. He was Prince of Wales from July 1688, until just months after his birth, his Catholic father was deposed and exiled in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. James II's Protestant elder daughter, Mary II, and her husband, William III, became co-monarchs and the Bill of Rights 1689 and Act of Settlement 1701 excluded Catholics from the British throne.


Witherley was born at Burlingham St Peter, Norfolk, on 21 August 1618. His mother was the sister of Sir Edmund Reve, Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. [1]

Norfolk County of England

Norfolk is a county in East Anglia in England. It borders Lincolnshire to the northwest, Cambridgeshire to the west and southwest, and Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern boundaries are the North Sea and, to the north-west, The Wash. The county town is Norwich. With an area of 2,074 square miles (5,370 km2) and a population of 859,400, Norfolk is a largely rural county with a population density of 401 per square mile. Of the county's population, 40% live in four major built up areas: Norwich (213,000), Great Yarmouth (63,000), King's Lynn (46,000) and Thetford (25,000).

Court of Common Pleas (England) common law court in the English legal system

The Court of Common Pleas, or Common Bench, was a common law court in the English legal system that covered "common pleas"; actions between subject and subject, which did not concern the king. Created in the late 12th to early 13th century after splitting from the Exchequer of Pleas, the Common Pleas served as one of the central English courts for around 600 years. Authorised by Magna Carta to sit in a fixed location, the Common Pleas sat in Westminster Hall for its entire existence, joined by the Exchequer of Pleas and Court of King's Bench.

In 1640, on his uncle's recommendation, Witherley was appointed Master of Sir John Gresham's Grammar School at Holt in his native county. [1] In October 1642, it was reported to the Fishmongers' Company, the school's trustees, that there had been a long outbreak of smallpox in Holt and that the school had had "noe schollers since Midsomer last yett the schoolmaster hath attended..." However, in May 1643 the Fishmongers heard that Witherley had been "betaking himselfe to the studie and profession of phisick" when he asked for a six-month leave of absence to enable him to take a medical degree in the Netherlands. This request appears to have been refused, as Witherley did not depart until after he had resigned his position as Master of the school in September 1644. [1]

Greshams School school

Gresham’s School is an independent coeducational boarding school in Holt in Norfolk, England. Gresham's School is one of the top 30 International Baccalaureate schools in England.

Holt, Norfolk town in Norfolk, UK

Holt is a market town, civil parish and electoral ward in the English county of Norfolk. The town is 22.8 miles (36.7 km) north of the city of Norwich, 9.5 miles (15.3 km) west of Cromer and 35 miles (56 km) east of King's Lynn. The town is on the route of the A148 King's Lynn to Cromer road. The nearest railway station is in the town of Sheringham where access to the national rail network can be made via the Bittern Line to Norwich. Holt also has a railway station on the preserved North Norfolk Railway, the 'Poppy Line', of which it is the south-western terminus. The nearest airport is Norwich. The town has a population of 3,550, rising and including the ward to 3,810 at the 2011 census. Holt is within the area covered by North Norfolk District Council.

Worshipful Company of Fishmongers London livery company

The Worshipful Company of Fishmongers is one of the 110 Livery Companies of the City of London, being an incorporated guild of sellers of fish and seafood in the City. The Company ranks fourth in the order of precedence of City Livery Companies, thereby making it one of the Great Twelve City Livery Companies.

Witherley took the degree of Doctor of Medicine at the University of Cambridge in 1655 [2] and in December 1664 was elected an Honorary Fellow of the College of Physicians. By 1677 he had been appointed Physician in Ordinary to King Charles II, and on 7 April of that year he became a Fellow of the College. On 21 January 1678/79 he became an Elect, was Censor of the College (by now renamed the Royal College of Physicians) in 1683 and President from 1684 to 1687. [3]

University of Cambridge University in Cambridge, England, United Kingdom

The University of Cambridge is a collegiate public research university in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Founded in 1209 and granted a Royal Charter by King Henry III in 1231, Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's fourth-oldest surviving university. The university grew out of an association of scholars who left the University of Oxford after a dispute with the townspeople. The two 'ancient universities' share many common features and are often referred to jointly as 'Oxbridge'. The history and influence of the University of Cambridge has made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

A fellow is a member of a group of learned people which works together in pursuing mutual knowledge or practice. There are many different kinds of fellowships which are awarded for different reasons in academia and industry. These often indicate an different level of scholarship.

Royal College of Physicians professional body of doctors of general medicine and its subspecialties in the UK

The Royal College of Physicians is a British professional body dedicated to improving the practice of medicine, chiefly through the accreditation of physicians by examination. Founded in 1518, it set the first international standard in the classification of diseases, and its library contains medical texts of great historical interest.

In 1688, at the time of the birth of James Francis Edward Stuart, son and heir of King James II, when the new prince was widely believed to have been smuggled into the Queen's bedchamber in a bed-pan, Witherley was Second Physician to the King and gave evidence that he had been present at the birth. He deposed that he "saw Mrs Labadie bring the child from the midwife, and carry him into the next room... and saw the child before he was cleaned..." [4] A strong royalist, he was later accused by the Whig historian Burnett of being complicit in a plot by King James to turn a changeling into Prince of Wales so that there could be a Roman Catholic heir to the throne. [1]

James II of England 17th-century King of England and Ireland, and of Scotland (as James VII)

James II and VII was King of England and Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685 until he was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The last Roman Catholic monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland, his reign is now remembered primarily for struggles over religious tolerance. However, it also involved the principles of absolutism and divine right of kings and his deposition ended a century of political and civil strife by confirming the primacy of Parliament over the Crown.

Cavalier royalist supporter during and following the English Civil War

The term Cavalier was first used by Roundheads as a term of abuse for the wealthier Royalist supporters of King Charles I and his son Charles II of England during the English Civil War, the Interregnum, and the Restoration. It was later adopted by the Royalists themselves. Although it referred originally to political and social attitudes and behaviour, of which clothing was a very small part, it has subsequently become strongly identified with the fashionable clothing of the court at the time. Prince Rupert, commander of much of Charles I's cavalry, is often considered to be an archetypal Cavalier.

Whig history is an approach to historiography that presents the past as an inevitable progression towards ever greater liberty and enlightenment, culminating in modern forms of liberal democracy and constitutional monarchy.

Witherley died on 23 March 1693/94. [3]


  1. 1 2 3 4 S. G. G. Benson, Martin Crossley Evans, I Will Plant Me a Tree: an Illustrated History of Gresham's School (London: James & James, 2002), pp. 132-133
  2. "Witherley, Thomas (WTRY634T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. 1 2 Sir Thomas Witherley at, accessed 27 November 2011
  4. James Boswell, ed., Scots magazine, vol. 29, p. 687

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