Did Richard II invent the en-suite….?


Richard II is (always laughingly) described as having invented the handkerchief. That he was a ridiculous fop is always the implication. Yet we don’t think twice now about using handkerchiefs…the previous disgusting habit of wiping one’s nose on one’s sleeve is long-gone, thank goodness.

Yet I’ve now learned another of Richard’s so-called peculiarities. When he had the palace of Sheen destroyed because his beloved Anne of Bohemia died there, he made changes when it was rebuilt. It’s well-known that he had a bathhouse with large bronze taps for hot and cold water, but is it so well known that he ordered every room to have a fireplace and a personal latrine? Medieval en-suites? Lordy above, how many modern houses boast en-suites for every bedroom? Not many. But we’d sure like them all to be.

So was Richard II a preposterous dilettante? Or a man who instinctively preferred to be clean and pre-empted the modern age accordingly? When it comes to en-suite bedrooms, he was way ahead of us, even now in 2021! Good for him. No wonder he’s one of my favourite monarchs.

I found the above information (and much more) in Richard II and the Invention of the Pocket Handkerchief by George B Stow, which is available at JSTOR.



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