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Was it Richard in need of a bath….?


Sometimes one comes across fascinating nuggets of information, and I have just happened upon the following:-

“This barbour shall haue every satyrday at night if it please the Kinge to cleanse his head, legges or feet, and fort his shaving, two loves, one picher wine. And the ussher of chambre ought to testyfye if this is necessaryly dispended or not.” 

So, unless I am misinterpreting this, the king should be washed once a week, whether he needed it or not!

The book in which I found this is titled “Medieval Man” by Frederick Harrison (who was canon, chancellor and librarian of York Minster), published 1947. It is a fascinating little volume, packed with all sorts of information about mediaeval life and beliefs, and chapters on education, meals, stars, chronology, strange ideas (!), medicine, great households, play-acting, boy bishops, geography and maps, and history.

I suppose we should be thankful the above king was cornered once a week, for it could have been a lot worse. Once a month? Once a year? Now then, which king do you think the quoted passage refers to? Richard? Henry VII? Henry VI? No, it’s Edward IV!



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9 thoughts on “Was it Richard in need of a bath….?

  1. Ruth Goodman, in HOW TO BE A TUDOR, describes keeping clean by a combination of rubbing oneself with a sturdy linen cloth and changing one’s body linen. Water and Not Changing One’s Underwear didn’t work nearly so well — people began moving away from her. But it’s possible to manage quite well with only an occasional bath, and not required to drown oneself in perfume, the other myth. There’s a record somewhere of one courtier advising another that Queen Elizabeth I enjoyed being given fine gloves, but didn’t like them strongly scented.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hoodedman1 on said:

    Yes, I read about Edward’s fairly regular baths some time ago. I am guessing Richard’s routine might well have been similar. Back at an earlier time, King John also bathed once a week.
    We might cringe a bit today where most bathe every day, but remember…up till about the mid 1900’s many people still only bathed and washed their hair once a week.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. bloodofcherries on said:

    Medieval people were cleaner than is often assumed. Makes sense that the king shouldn’t lag behind

    Liked by 1 person

  4. mairemartello on said:

    It was not unusual before the early 20th century for people to only bathe once a week – Saturday. If you read The Little Prairie books, they heated water for washing hands and faces every morning. In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, it shows the heroine also bathing on Saturday. But they always kept clean with pitchers of water and soap. Water was not plentiful and bathrooms inadequate.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. viscountessw on said:

    When I was first married in 1967, it was still a tradition that Monday was washing (i.e. laundry) day. Not much help if it poured down that day.


  6. halfwit36 on said:

    I read an old Vogue magazine from the late 1930s, advising college girls to shampoo their hair once every two weeks. Presumably they bathed more often than that, but these were students at Vassar, Smith, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My grandmother raised my father and his sisters this way. They had baths on Saturday night with the oldest (girl) going first, my father second, and his youngest sister last. In the same bathwater, thanks much. I don’t know if my grandmother and grandfather shared their water….

    Bathe Saturday, so you’re clean for church on Sunday. And yes, she did the wash on Monday. With a wringer-washer (meaning, the hard-rubber ringer was on top of the washer). She wrung out each garment individually by turning a crank and rolling the cloth between two rollers. Drying was on a line with wooden clothespins that had no metal, of course.

    We’re so spoiled today. Of course, a French friend commented once that Americans all smelled like sour milk to her. Maybe I should stop here.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. viscountessw on said:

    I grew up in my grandparents’ terraced house in a South Wales valley, and still remember being washed into a metal bath in front of the kitchen fire, It was wonderful! And my bedroom had been my uncle’s before me. It had no electric light, so I had a candle. And, strangely, the bed had the deepest, fluffiest duvet I have even known. And this in the days when everyone had sheets, blankets and eiderdowns. Great memories.

    I also remember my grandfather coming home from the colliery covered in coal dust….


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