Monday, July 11, 2011

Queen Caroline takes a bath

Monday, July 11, 2011
Loretta reports:

Susan & I have posted extensively about bathing. In our Annals of Bathing, We’ve looked at historical hygiene from various angles. (If you missed that investigation, you can get caught up by checking out Episodes One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and  Six.)  In the process of answering our readers’ questions, we learned that finding extant  pre-Victorian bathrooms is tricky—mainly because so many of the houses were modernized.

Luckily for us, Hampton Court Palace (I last blogged about it here) fell out of royal favor after the death of King George II’s (1682-1760) consort, Queen Caroline (1683-1737).

She, it seems was the life of the party, a cultivated, socially adept woman who amply compensated for her spouse’s unsparkling, reclusive personality.  After she died, the grieving king lost interest in Hampton Court Palace.  His successor, King George III, hated it.  Since the second George was the last British monarch to live here, it didn't undergo much in the way of transformation.  It's had a few restorations, but the rooms are much as they were then, with many of the same furnishings in their original places.

This means that, among other things, we can see a not-modern bathroom—if one takes a peek through the doors at the back of the Queen’s Dressing Room.

Queen Caroline liked to bathe—and here’s evidence that for her, this meant full-body bathing—to an extent that wasn't usual at the time in England and was considered rather strange.  The wooden bathtub is a replica.  (Note the linens lining it.)  The marble thing at the back is a cistern for cold water. 

Photos courtesy me.


Pauline said...

I can't help but puzzle at the linens, as you point out, and the fact that people frequently bathed wearing what basically amounted to underwear.

That said, thank you for adding to the understanding that our ancestors were not unclean bears... for the most part.

Anonymous said...

Aren't the linen sheets used as a lining in the tub? To protect the Royal Bottom from splinters?

LorettaChase said...

Linens definitely were used as a lining—against both wooden and metal tubs—and more linens might have been draped over the royal person to keep her warm. The one fireplace wouldn't necessarily generate a lot of heat in the room, (thus the braziers shown in my previous HCP blog). And it seems that, while men bathed naked, in or out of doors, women —at least those of the privileged classes—wore a covering, like a shift, when bathing.

Anonymous said...

Well, now I am thoroughly confused about the bathing habit of Queen Caroline:

LorettaChase said...

Anonymous--different King George, different Caroline altogether. Today's blog was about King George II's wife. The earlier one was about King George IV's wife, two generations later. A stunning contrast in bathing habits, indeed, between the earlier queen and the later one!

Keri@AWH said...

I love the marble cistern, it's so beautiful. This series is so interesting! & really makes me grateful for long hot showers ;D

ayon saha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket