5 Interesting Things you didn't know about Elizabethans or Tudors by Victoria Lamb
Tobacco was banned at some playhouses towards the end of Elizabeth I's reign, and mostly for the reason we ban it today in public places. It must have been very unpleasant to sit next to some old man puffing on a clay pipe for hours in the cramped seating of a Tudor theatre gallery. Younger men sometimes fought each other for a seat on the stage itself, so they could smoke there, exchanging ribald comments with the players and ruining the play. With no police to speak of, interfering with such loutish behaviour was rare.
To preserve distinction between social ranks, Henry VIII passed a law to prevent people below a certain rank or income from wearing fur and other costly materials. Even lowly rabbit fur could not legally be worn by those worth less than £20 a year. Only high-ranking nobles could wear the best furs, such as leopard and ermine. When a whole pelt was worn, the animal's eyes were often replaced by lavish jewels, to reflect the wealth and status of its wearer.
By Shakespeare's time, there were several thousand black people in London, many of them freed from slave ships captured during the war against Spain. After a famous test case, most were no longer considered slaves at this point. Many ended up in service, or working as musicians and entertainers for noble English families or at court - as Lucy Morgan does in His Dark Lady. Unfortunately, their numbers grew so large in the capital, Elizabeth I tried to pass a law to return them 'to Barbary', even though many were now baptised as Christians and settled in England. Not surprisingly, her plans proved impossible to implement and were dropped.
Wealthy Tudors were partial to the occasional game of billiards, though the rules would have been quite different to those played today. French nobles are noted for having played the game as early as the late fifteenth century, and in England the Duke of Norfolk is said to have owned a table in 1588, with 'three billyard sticks and eleven balls of yvery.' After Mary, Queen of Scots, was executed in 1587, her body was wrapped in the baize from her confiscated billiards table.
It is a common misconception that Tudor folk never washed. Many nobles liked to bathe, usually in a wooden tub before the fire, though Henry VIII had his own dedicated bathrooms at Hampton Court and Whitehall, featuring the latest in Tudor plumbing. Even ordinary Tudors began to wash more frequently at this time, and soap-making became a common chore among housewives. The coarser sort was for laundry, with scented soaps guarding against certain ailments. But wealthier households would have bought imported Castille Soap, made from olive oil and delicate enough for the skin.
His Dark Lady - Victoria Lamb
Publisher: Bantam Press
London, 1583. When young, aspiring playwright William Shakespeare encounters Lucy Morgan, one of Queen Elizabeth I's ladies-in-waiting, the two fall passionately in love. He declares Lucy the inspiration for his work, but what secret is Will hiding from his muse? Meanwhile, Lucy has her own secret - and one that could destroy her world if exposed.
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