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Gold medal commemorating the recovery of Queen Elizabeth I from smallpox, 1572

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This gold medal commemorates Queen Elizabeth I of England’s recovery from smallpox, which she had contracted in October 1562, although the medal dates from 1572. Smallpox was a major killer in the 1500s and could cause blindness and scarring in those who survived. Elizabeth painted her face white to cover up unsightly scars caused by smallpox.

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Glossary: medal

Small pieces of metal, usually gold, silver, or bronze, bearing a relief design on one or both sides and having a commemorative purpose; not used as a medium of exchange. Medals may also be created to commemorate individuals or events or even as works of artistic expression in their own right.

Glossary: commemorative

Use for items produced, issued, or worn to commemorate a person, event, or occasion. For structures erected to preserve the memory of persons or events, use "memorials."

Glossary: smallpox

Smallpox is an infectious virus unique to humans. It results in a characteristic skin rash and fluid-filled blisters. After successful vaccination campaigns throughout the 1800s and 1900s, the World Health Organisation certified the eradication of smallpox in 1979. Smallpox is the only human infectious disease to have been completely wiped out.