I used to be obsessed with the Medieval and Renaissance periods of our world history. I thought everything was heroic knights saving princesses with cone-shaped hats.
But the older I got, the more I realized the Renaissance was actually kind of a horrible, awful, grisly time to be alive (if you survived to the average lifespan at the time of 35). And while I’ve got a soft spot for Renaissance fairs, like any person, it wasn’t all court jesters, royalty and jousting.
So I feel it’s my duty to relay some horrifying aspects of life about the time period, at least according to contemporary, first-world standards. My duty to rain on the Renaissance parade, as it were. And 2000 years from now, I expect someone else to take up the banner and discuss how completely frightening life in 2015 must have been with our antiquated technology and lack of knowledge about the world.
Needless to say, medical care wasn’t particularly advanced during this time period. In fact, your local barber was not only responsible for trimming your tangled locks, he also would pull teeth, give enemas and perform minor surgery. And the surgery itself — man that was no cake walk. There was no anesthetic, all the surgical tools looked like they belong in a garden shed, and really, nobody knew anything worthwhile about the body. Bloodletting was a common cure-all at the time because it was believed most illnesses were caused by excess fluid in the body. So why not just stick some leeches on ya? Or perhaps cut a vein and let that infection flow right out? And here I am scared of the doctor in the 21st century.
2. Beauty routines
Foundation at the time was a mixture of white lead and vinegar to achieve smooth paleness. Obviously, smearing lead onto your face was problematic and often led to a gray, shriveled appearance after years of use. But if you got blemishes or dry skin from the lead, no worries. Just do a mercury facial peel to slough all that nastiness right off. And if freckles are the problem, just rub a generous daily helping of sulphur on the face to minimize their appearance. So while people might complain about the cost of makeup and beauty products these days — at least they aren’t killing us.
Creepy crawlies were just a part of life. Lice, fleas and bed bugs made themselves at home in straw mattresses and feather pillows. Even royalty were plagued by these pests. I mean, imagine if you’ve managed to escape disease, torture, horrible medical care for that time you got shot by an arrow, and you’ve realized lead isn’t a good thing to put on your face. You’re minding your own business, living well, doing your Renaissance thing. Maybe practicing your jousting or lacing up a corset. And you STILL have to deal with bugs nesting in your body, hair and clothing. I mean, seriously, life is just cruel.
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