16 – Society of Apothecaries

Trade in drugs and spices was lucrative in the Middle Ages. In the British Isles, it was monopolized by the Guild of Grocers, which had jurisdiction over the apothecaries. After years of effort, the apothecaries found allies among court physicians. King James I, flanked by two “Beefeaters” wore heavily padded attire because of fear of stabbing. Upon persuasion by the philosopher-politician, Francis Bacon, the King granted a charter in 1617 which formed a separate company known as the “Master, Wardens and Society of the Art and Mystery of the Apothecaries of the City of London” over vigorous protests of the grocers. This was the first organization of pharmacists in the Anglo-Saxon world.

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