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Disgusting hygeine of medieval European royals

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Author Topic: Disgusting hygeine of medieval European royals  (Read 45268 times)
Heba E. Husseyn
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« on: April 10, 2011, 01:36:45 pm »

You may have an idea how many medieval royals looked like.  Have you ever thought how they smelt?   Which royals hardly ever bathed?  Here’s a whiff into some royal tubs.

Despite the opulence of the palaces of France until the 18th century showing all those paintings, grandeur and romance, they lacked indoor plumbing and most palace dwellers smelled pretty bad.  It was not uncommon to find human excrement in the elegant carpeted stairways of the great palaces and castles.  Sometimes piles could be found in hallways and corridors.  Bathing was a rarity. 
Marie Antionette, last queen of France
Though she's surrounded with fantasty tales in many history books, the truth is very different.  Marie Antoinette bathed infrequently, seldom changed clothes, and was around palace people who cared even less for hygiene.   Marie Antoinette's once a month baths were supposed to be a 'glamorous' ritual.  The water in the bathtub was scented and filled with sweet pine nuts, blanched sweet almonds, marsh mallow root, lilly bulbs and a candy paste of rare plants.   As expected, she  probably smelled fresh with some floral undertones for the first couple of days.  But such elaborate baths with natural ingredients could not be made available frequently.  Thus, the body would gradually start stinking from the third or the fourth day, and a fortnight later she would smelling quite bad. 
Queen Elizabeth I
She's said to have taken a bath once a month “whether she needed it or not" even though she had access to sunken bath.  Writes show me the science: 'During the Elizabethan era, women wore a kind of makeup called “Venetian Ceruse,” which was a skin whitener made of lead. Queen Elizabeth I would renew her Ceruse every morning upon waking, without washing off the previous days’ application. Either a medieval hygiene practice or just plain lazy.'
Anne of Cleves
The Germans had long shocked the rest of Europe by not washing their hands before eating and bathing infrequently. Henry VIII’s forth wife, Anne of Cleves was no different. Before she was presented to Henry, her advisors worked hard to get the stinky German princess to take a refreshing bath.  Not that Henry VIII himself was any role model of cleanliness!

King Henry VIII
He bathed at Hampton Court (one of his palaces in England) with actual heated water pumped in from a stove in the adjoining room. To ease the pain in his sore leg, he soaked it in a mixture of herbs, musk and civet .  Civet is a small carnivorous cat that supposedly gives off a very distinctive musk. Not sure what cat musk smells like but it definitely isn't pleasant.  Henry also went to bed with a piece of fur so that fleas and lice would jump on it and not on his royal skin. This begs the question, wouldn't the fleas be confused if you smelled like a dead cat?  Furthermore, how could fleas and lice be found in a place like the "royal bedchamber" unless the royal himself cared little for hygiene?
Hair was even dirtier than the body
The elaborate hairstyles of the aristocratic ladies, queens and princesses looked elegant.  But there was a catch.  Behind that elegance they often carried lice in those huge hairdos. The combs and picks seen in pictures sticking out were used to stab and scratch at the lice.  Washing the hair was even more infrequent than washing the body, particularly among women.  Hardly anyone washed their hair until the 19th Century.  Hair was maintained by excessive use of hair powders and perfumed ointments to groom the hair.  One can imagine the gooey mess it must have been.  Show me the science mentions lice infested "wigs were shaped with animal fats, making them both disgusting and very likely to catch fire if exposed to candle flame."

King James VI
Oftentimes, people would go for many days without changing their clothes.  King James VI of Scotland wore the same clothes for months at a stretch.
Peter the Czar of Russia
This man was supposed to be widely travelled, educated and cultured .. but probably in his own way.  Good and proper hygiene was a practice he never understood nor followed.  He found nothing wrong with urinating on the glittering palace walls. He washed occasionally using natural mineral spring bath.  Regular bathing never became his habit.

Charity sometimes began in the tub
While suffering from a "distressing malady" Countess Platen Hanover bathed in milk and then generously donated the contaminated milk to the poor.  Totally disgusting!

Kings of England had a personal butt-wiper 
Quoting Show me the science:  "If you got extremely lucky, the King of England would appoint you as “Groom of the King’s Close Stool.” Your job was to carry around his portable toilet box and clean him afterwards. It was a coveted position, believe it or not.  The Groom of the Stool was privy to the king’s confidence and would often learn many court secrets. The Groom of the Stool eventually rose to a position of considerable influence, participating in policymaking at the highest levels. There was no stigma associated with his menial duties."
Queen Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain
Ferdinand and Isabella didn’t help in the quest toward cleanliness either.  This may sound too crazy to believe, but in Spain the Christian doctrine saw bathing to be a corrupt practice that could only lead to "nakedness."  It was considered a form of "hedonism" and something "unreligous."  Religious Christians often walked from England or France to Jerusalem as a ritual without washing or changing their clothes.  After the conquest of Granada by the Christians, the Muslims of Spain not only had to give up their religion to survive the Inquisition, they also had to give up bathing.  Isabella and Ferdinand ordered the Muslim baths to be destroyed and bathing was strictly forbidden. When Columbus mentioned about the daily bathing habits of the natives of the Bahamas and the Caribeans, Isabella was horrified and commanded her new subjects to stop this "blasphemous bathing" practice at once. Isabella boasted that she herself had only bathed twice in her life and every historian takes her word for it.
Phillip II and his Daughter Isabella
Continuing along with the Spanish love for dirt, Phillip II banned the remaining bath houses in 1576. His daughter Isabella became a "national martyr to germs" when she vowed in 1601 that she would not change her undergarments until the siege of Ostend ended. Unfortunately, the siege lasted over three years!   That’s an awfully long time to be wearing the same underwear!!  After three years, her white shift had turned a "lovely" shade of brown.
Henry IV
Henry’s first wife, Marguerite de Valois complained bitterly about Henry’s lack of bathing worsened by his constant desire to eat large amounts of raw garlic.  Cleaning the teeth in medieval Europe was another infrequent practice.  Since most of them were frequent drinkers and eaters of half raw foods, bad breath was a common problem too.

King and his tub
One king that always gets accused of being dirty (in more ways than one) is Louis XIV.  Numerous books contain the rumor that Louis XIV bathed “only three or two times in his life”. The ruling theory of the time was that simply changing your linen would soak up sweat and dirt. The rich wore tightly woven fabrics like linen and taffeta because it was believed to keep the crawlies away from skin.  Loose garments were believed to be far less effective in staying clean.  The king’s morning ritual consisted of his hands and face being wiped down with spirits and then his sweat-drenched linen was changed (Louis reportedly sweat a lot). His courtiers then sent him on his way to go to mass, his council meeting, hunt, chase the ladies and work up some more sweat. His linen was then changed a couple of more times throughout the course of the day.  But no bathing!

Europe's 'bath phobia'
The Crusaders were reportedly impressed by the idea of Turkish baths and brought it to Europe. Turkish public baths were well-known venues for daily washing and considered a must by the Turks.  In medieval Europe people had a strange mentality.  With diseases like plague and other communicable illnesses being rampant from the 14th to 18th centuries, and from kings down to the  peasants, all  were fearful of dipping their body in water thinking that it made their bodies vulnerable to germs.  Thus, they avoided water in favor of linen, which could be changed regularly.  Fear of immersing the body in water continued into the 20th century.  And of course, the long cold winters of the West with no central heating made bathing a lot more cumbersome, even frightening.  People feared they would catch the cold and die.  Children belonging to well-to-do aristocratic homes screaming with horror while being taken for their first warm bath was no uncommon sight.  Americans (writes author Katherine Ashenburg), were as filthy as their European cousins before the Civil War, but the Union's success in controlling disease through hygiene convinced its citizens that cleanliness was progressive and patriotic.
Total immersion bathing as we know it, did not come into use in Europe until the 19th Century.  It was simply too much work to heat the water, fill the tub, and then empty it.  But  occasionally in inns, a visitor would order a bath drawn which was considered quite a luxury. People generally took what we would call today a sponge bath every day, using basins and pitchers that are still around with plants in them.  People also carried pomanders to sniff in case they ran into bad odors.
Also, bed linens and cotton garments were frequently washed, however cotton garments were rarely worn by the royals and aristocrats.   But satins, velvets, and wools were never washed. So one can imagine the stench.

James VI just wouldn't want to change for days at a stretch.

European culture of carrying flowers has a strange history.  Writes show me the science "People smelled so bad that you had to carry around flowers.  People carried around little fragrant bouquets of flowers to mask the stench of everyday life.  Nosegays were used when smell became unbearable.  Because hygiene was so atrocious, people would carry small bouquets of flowers called “nosegays” to mask the stink when things got too pungent.  The term nosegay comes from an archaic meaning of “gay,” meaning “ornament.” Nosegays were often worn like a necklace."

The Groom of the Stool - this was the only 'equipment' he needed for his job.  All kings of England had a personal butt-wiper.  Quoting show me the science "In medieval England, the man who attended to the king’s personal hygiene was considered a man of high esteem. The King had a person whose sole job was to carry his toilet. If you got extremely lucky, the King of England would appoint you as “Groom of the King’s Close Stool.” Your job was to carry around his portable toilet box and clean him afterwards. It was a coveted position, believe it or not.
The Groom of the Stool was privy to the king’s confidence and would often learn many court secrets. The Groom of the Stool eventually rose to a position of considerable influence, participating in policymaking at the highest levels. There was no stigma associated with his menial duties.


Lizzie I - woman with the messiest skin

Bath days were big occasions  Cheesy  The king, prince, queen or princess taking a bath would be surrounded by servants and maids helping through the bath process.

Henry VIII, the bath hater, with one of the unfortunate ladies who had to bear being his wife

Appalling hygiene standard

Absolutely incredible!!  Throwing "royal" poop on the road and alleys.  18th century British painter David Roberts once complained about his visit to Egypt that as he walked through a bazar, someone threw an orange peel that fell on his shoulder.  Would he know how many poor Brits bathed in royal shit while walking through Old Edinburgh's alleys?

Information compiled from Raucous Royals and various other outlets.  With the comeback of the imperialist era, RR has scrapped much of the interesting info from its blog.  In an era of revival of empires and imperialist rules, more than a decade after 9/11, royals are once again getting popular with much help from media hype.  Even Marie Antoinette is being painted as a 'victim' in her biographies by modern authors.  She has suddenly changed into a very sympathetic person and never told the French middle class to "eat cakes." 
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TEAM MUSLIM VILLA The Avid Reader | Mom of 3 cute rascals
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« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2011, 08:50:08 pm »

  ... eeh!  terrrrrible!!  >Sad  I can hardly believe this.   They were barbarians with money, silk and satin.  that's it.
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« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2011, 10:14:42 pm »

I had read this article this afternoon.  lol .. it's a uniquely interesting topic, a truth that much needed to be exposed.  Thanks for this thrilling compilation sister Heba  Cheesy  In addition to all this, the Caucasian race, particularly all these folks back then, didn't even wash themselves with water after using the toilet .. most likely they didn't even use dry wipes thoroughly as there were no toilet rolls then.  Maybe just used a piece cloth - a scrap or two .... ikes!  Undecided  really bad.

lol ,, sister Rose, enjoy your dinner tonight with these sweet memories of the "royal palace hygeine"   teethsmile
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Heba E. Husseyn
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« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2013, 10:59:09 am »

The rumor about one of Henry VIII's wife, Ann Boleyn, is that she had six fingers in her right hand.  Many historians, based on various evidences, say she had six fingers.  A writer by the name of Nicolas Sanders wrote 50 years after her death: "Anne Boleyn was rather tall of stature, with black hair, and an oval face of a sallow complexion, as if troubled with jaundice. It is said she had a projecting tooth under the upper lip, and on her right hand six fingers. There was a large wen under her chin, and therefore to hide its ugliness she wore a high dress covering her throat..."    Grin hilarious!    This is supposed to be her most influential description, but modern "royal" butt lickers claim that the polemicist who wrote it was a propagandist and hated Anne Boleyn as he was a devout Catholic and it was because of Boleyn that Henry VIII broke the law of the Catholic church by divorcing his former wife to marry this woman.  Anyhow, she is known as the queen of England with six fingers  Grin
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« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2013, 12:37:18 pm »

Ahaahaha haaahaa   LaaughingAway  this is super hilarious!  The fact that it's a fact doesn't make it less funny.  Though one wouldn't like to read it while eating lunch or dinner  Grin Grin    I appreciate the exposure. Much the opposite of how Hollywood shows these critters.  The exaggerated lies about these filth pots is still more at present.  With a comeback of imperialistic values, it's comical to watch Hollywood actors with botox fillers and all sorts of plastic surgery makeovers to look like fairy tale characters playing the role of the tudor/saxe gotha/windsor women famous for their ugliness.

They were apparently jealous of the clean habits of Muslims who ruled Spain.  The following excerpt in particular is hysterical: "After the conquest of Granada by the Christians, the Muslims not only had to give up their religion to survive the Inquisition, they also had to give up bathing."   Cheesy
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