Queen Elizabeth I was a great historical figure, but like all great historical figures she tends to be a little bit sanitized. Forget interpretations from the likes of Cate Blanchett and Helen Mirren: the real Elizabeth was cruder, dirtier, meaner and a whole lot uglier. Plus, she was living in a cruel and violent time, which made for cruel and violent laws. Here are 20 facts about her that, if found in the average textbook, would have brightened up many a dull history lesson.
20. The makeup she wore could have helped kill her
Aristocratic Tudor ladies liked to wear a face-whitening powder called Venetian ceruse, and Elizabeth I used it constantly. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to her at the time, the lead-containing cosmetic was very poisonous. Indeed, historians have speculated that it may have hastened her death.
19. She took a bath just once a month
A Venetian ambassador once allegedly said of Elizabeth, “She bathes once a month, whether she needs it or not.” This sounds remarkable to us, but Tudors believed that submerging one’s self in water was dangerous, and so they rarely did it. Indeed, Elizabeth’s once-monthly bath would have been seen as an extravagance.