ABOUT THE BOOK:
The story of poison is the story of power. For centuries, royal families have feared the gut-roiling, vomit-inducing agony of a little something added to their food or wine by an enemy. To avoid
poison, they depended on tasters, unicorn horns, and antidotes tested on condemned prisoners. Servants licked the royal family’s spoons, tried on their underpants and tested their chamber pots.
Ironically, royals terrified of poison
In The Royal Art of Poison, Eleanor Herman combines her unique access to
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The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul by Eleanor Herman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul by Eleanor Herman is a 2018 St. Martin’s Press publication.
This book is so interesting and is so well researched I can’t help but recommend it, especially for history lovers. However, mystery and true crime readers might also find this book fascinating, because the author relies on past and current forensics to prove if well publicized accusations of ‘death by poisoning’ rumors were true or false.
However, before you begin reading this book, if you have a weak stomach, proceed with caution. It’s a wonder civilization ever survived to this point considering the filth people lived in, even those who were powerful and wealthy. The subject matter is often truly disgusting. So, consider yourself warned.
Poisonings were greatly feared amongst the aristocrats, and perhaps with good reason. However, despite all the great pains they took to avoid being murdered, they were often unwittingly poisoning themselves, either by ingesting prescribed remedies from ill-informed physicians or applying cosmetics with high contents of mercury, lead, or arsenic to their skin.
Often a suspicious death, believed to have been hastened by poison turned out to be from a physical ailment which mimicked the symptoms of poisoning. It was interesting to see which people were murdered and which were poisoned by their own hand, and which ones died of an entirely different malady altogether.
Cleanliness and sterilization were scoffed at. Anyone suggesting there might be a connection between the filthy conditions of the streets, the water, or air and various illnesses or untimely deaths were laughing stocks, maybe even considered insane.
The forensics are fascinating, and the wealth of knowledge and the obvious amount of effort and work done here is impressive. The author, however, does not merely present the facts and lay out her verdict via modern day studies, and exhumations, but she also injects humor and wry sarcasm so that the book occasionally carries a lighter tone, which also works to prevent the book from being overly dry.
Some myths are debunked, some proven, while some things remain a mystery, but one thing is certain, this book has doused any fantasies I may have entertained about traveling back in time. The very thought now makes me shudder!
Overall, this is a very informative book, which will leave one feeling eternally grateful for the modern conveniences and the scientific and medical advances we enjoy today.
*However, you may want to check the ingredients in your face cream, since it is entirely possible it contains traces of urine- although they claim it is now synthetic. 😲😲
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Eleanor Herman is the New York Times best-selling author of Sex with Kings and Sex with the Queen, non-fiction works on the love lives of European royals through the centuries