The Royal Art of Poison

The Royal Art of Poison

Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul

Book - 2018 | First edition.
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One of Washington Independent Review of Books' 50 Favorite Books of 2018 * A Buzzfeed Best Book of 2018

"Morbidly witty." --Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times

"A heady mix of erudite history and delicious gossip." --Aja Raden, author of Stoned

Hugely entertaining, a work of pop history that traces the use of poison as a political--and cosmetic--tool in the royal courts of Western Europe from the Middle Ages to the Kremlin today

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 were unknowingly poisoning themselves daily with their cosmetics, medications, and filthy living conditions. Women wore makeup made with mercury and lead. Men rubbed turds on their bald spots. Physicians prescribed mercury enemas, arsenic skin cream, drinks of lead filings, and potions of human fat and skull, fresh from the executioner. The most gorgeous palaces were little better than filthy latrines. Gazing at gorgeous portraits of centuries past, wedon't see what lies beneath the royal robes and the stench of unwashed bodies; the lice feasting on private parts; and worms nesting in the intestines.

In The Royal Art of Poison , Eleanor Herman combines her unique access to royal archives with cutting-edge forensic discoveries to tell the true story of Europe's glittering palaces: one of medical bafflement, poisonous cosmetics, ever-present excrement, festering natural illness, and, sometimes, murder.

Publisher: New York : St. Martin's Press, 2018.
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9781250140869
1250140862
Branch Call Number: 364.1523 HERMAN
Characteristics: xiii, 286 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : portraits ; 24 cm

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SnoIsleLib_EmilyZ Oct 30, 2018

A fabulous, fascinating guide to the weird world of historical celebrity poisonings that will make you think twice about pursuing time travel. The details of drawn out deaths, poisons used, poisoners, and paranoid preventative steps taken to avoid being poisoned are creepy and captivating.


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brat_sampson
Dec 08, 2018

A pretty quick and fun read, blends some cool new forensics with historical accounts.

I have to warn you it's so absolutely disguisting you might wonder at some point if there was ever a time in the renaissance where people weren't puking up worms or having their teeth fall out at all!!!

SnoIsleLib_EmilyZ Oct 30, 2018

A fabulous, fascinating guide to the weird world of historical celebrity poisonings that will make you think twice about pursuing time travel. The details of drawn out deaths, poisons used, poisoners, and paranoid preventative steps taken to avoid being poisoned are creepy and captivating.

SkokieStaff_Steven Sep 12, 2018

Some titles over promise and some under promise. Eleanor Herman’s “The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul” under promises. While the book does indeed include many stories of real or apparent royal poisonings, it offers much more than that. It opens with a survey of poisons in general and a discussion of the ways in which people in the past inadvertently poisoned themselves through poor sanitation and misguided cosmetic or medical procedures. These chapters, not for the squeamish, are frequently laugh-out-loud funny as Herman sees the risible in the revolting. She follows this by examining specific cases in which people associated with royalty might have been intentionally poisoned. Here she stretches the word “royal” very thin to include people like Caravaggio or Mozart who have only a tenuous connection to royal courts. Herman is so entertaining that few readers will begrudge her inclusiveness that eventually extends to Vladimir Putin’s modern revival of the art of political poisoning.

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