• Looking good at the Castle

    There’s a myth that eveybody in the middle ages ran around looking rough, with uncombed hair, black teeth, bad complexions, and smelling rather bad.  Nothing could be further from the truth if contemporary records are anything to go by.  Beauty tips abound.

    Take hair for instance.  This applies to men and women:  mix dried rose petals, cloves, nutmeg and galangal with rose water and rinse through the hair.  Leave to dry.  Should smell re-e-a-ally good.

    For a smooth, touchable skin melt beeswax, almond oil, rose oil and frankincense in a dish over a flame.  Allow to cool.  Massage into face and body.  It also eases aches and pains after jousting.

    For bright eyes mix one part of wych hazel with four parts water.  Use as eye lotion.  Is said to improve eyesight too so you’ll see those pointed swords coming and it’ll give you an edge down at the butts.

    To lighten dark hair to look like a Florentine blonde soak hair in a bowl of fresh urine.  OK so that does sound wiffy but if you rinse the hair with the rose petal concoction afterwards you should still have plenty of allure.

    Teeth should be brushed using a hazel twig with mashed up fennel and lovage.  And, if you can get it, salt.

    For pleasant breath chew a leaf of mint or parsley.

    To make lips looks red and kissable rub them with beetroot.

    To round off your beauty treatment go to one of the town baths (the stews) and have a bran soak to make your skin  feel like best Cathay silk.

    After all that, don your best poulaines and a clean houplande and go to the feast at your nearest castle where you’ll be the belle or beau of the ball.



  • St Valentine’s Day

    Another of the things we can thank Richard II for is St Valentine’s Day.  He didn’t invent it, of course, but he and his beloved Anne made it a popular celebration in medieval England.  They spent time on a pleasure island in the Thames called Little Eyot where they could dance, and sing and listen to poets like Chaucer and Gower with their friends.  On the island they were well away from Richard’s snarling uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, the Duke of Gloucester, and his unwashed war-lord companions.

    It must have been beautiful on the island, sweet Thames flowing by, garlands of flares along the beach, decorated boats, fireworks, the best musicians in Europe, feasting and fun and everyone wearing the most gorgeous clothes that fashion could devise.

    Brutal Woodstock hated Richard and his friends so much that in 1388 when Richard was just turned twenty-one, he had the king’s friends who didn’t escape into exile, beheaded on Tower HIll, or hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.

    His ally, Bolingbroke, Richard’s cousin, who wrested the crown from Richard years later, must have had a sick sense of humour.  He chose St Valentine ‘s Day to have Richard murdered at Pontefract Castle.  Some Valentine.

  • It’s those tedious Tudors again

    Enough of this obsession with the tedious Tudors.  Yesterday I even heard Henry VIII described as ‘a hands-on gardener.’  Please!  I can just see him kneeling in the mud doing a spot of weeding.  Why is it the Tudors make people’s brains fly out and their eyes fill with pound signs?

    If you  want family betrayals, choose the Plantagenets.  If you want unfettered ambition, choose the Plantagents.  If you want blood and beheadings, choose the Plantagents.

    Let’s put the Tudors back on the shelf.  There’s all history to explore.