Monday, December 21, 2015

Ew, That Smell - Can't You Smell That Smell?

The smell of fresh Tudor in the morning . . . 
It may not have been as bad as all that; Tudor England had standards for personal hygiene.
When Henry VIII first voiced his 'misliking' for Anne of Cleves, his quickly jettisoned fourth wife, he said she had evil airs about her.
"Why did my new husband the king not touch me? Was it my B.O.?" - What Anne of Cleves never said.
The 'evil airs about her' must have been pungent indeed as they were competing with the tang of urine-sprayed straw and rushes underfoot, the whiff of rotting skin emanating from the king's own ulcerated leg wound, and the pong from the armpits of courtiers fresh off the tennis court or tilt yard.
That bad? Indeed.
Standards for personal cleanliness in sixteenth-century England were more of the 'change your undies and your underduds as often as possible, a quick dash of water with some cleaning agent is just exactly like a bath except not at all and try to rinse the mouth of ale-breath and onions. 
Changing undies was mandatory.
Not everyone could afford snowy-white underwear linens, but everyone's (discolored) underwear linens could at the very least be CLEAN.
Tub baths had the problem of hauling water inherent to them; hauling water from whichever supply was grueling, back-breaking (or back-strengthening) work, and work was something most people back then had enough of already, thank you very much.

What was used to clean the teeth varied depended on social class.
Poor people sometimes used soot, which they wiped on their choppers with a rag.

People with more money used herbs: cloves in particular, but any aromatic herb would do.
Chewing on the end of a stick until it frayed made it a dandy toothbrush substitute. 

Given the lack of daily submersion, or at the very least, a shower, as well as a Tudor-era enthusiasm for cheating on spouses, it makes me wonder: did people get so used to the smell of pong that they didn't even notice when their wife/husband smelt of someone else?
"And you SMELL!"
Certainly Henry VIII (he of the olfactory sensitivity around Anne of Cleves) was aware that his own large and rotting from the inside out body gave off evil airs of its own.
In his last few years, the smell of his never-healed leg ulcer was said to smell from three rooms away.
Must've been the fish, your Majesty. . .  apologies. . .
His son, Prince Edward had a daily wash, his rooms were cleaned daily, anybody showing any signs whatsoever of sickness were NOT allowed anywhere near the son who came so late in the king's life.
Henry VIII either had an instinctive grasp of cleanliness being not only next to Godliness, but also a plague deterrent, or he'd been advised by someone who knew.
Fortunately for the future Edward VI, the King insisted on keeping his legitimate son and heir's quarters clean - it is almost certain that the baby's mother died as a direct result of dirty hands on someone attending her after she'd delivered. 
Henry VIII's most famous child, the entirely fabulous Elizabeth I, was likewise concerned with cleanliness around her royal person.
The floors under her royal feet were cleaned and strewn with fresh herbs waaaaaaayyyyyy more often than had been done for her predecessors on the throne.
She bathed; she didn't suffer the stink of those in close proximity gladly, and she famously greeted a courtier who, seven years previous let one rip$_35.JPG
while making his bow to the queen and who then fled court out of mortification, "My lord! I had quite forgotten the fart!" 
Way to make him feel better, your majesty. 
And kudos for your awesome memory! 
Shame about the farter.

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