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Harmful substances in Elizabeth I’s cosmetics

The life of the ‘Virgin Queen’, before she became one of the greatest kings in English history, is depicted in ‘Becoming Elizabeth’

Today, 12, debuted on StarzPlay, the ‘Becoming Elizabeth’ series, which shows the life of the Queen Elizabeth I. (Acting Alicia von Ritberg) In his youth – before becoming one of the most important kings in the history of the United Kingdom.

The nickname “Virgin Queen” is due to the fact that she was never married to his daughter Henry VIII And Ann Bolen – who was executed on the king’s orders – came to power in 1558 after only his two honest brothers, Maria And EdwardHe died leaving no heir.

The last of the Tudor dynasties to occupy the British throne, he died on March 24, 1603 at the age of 69. His reign was marked by relative tolerance on religious issues, as he avoided systematic persecution by adopting the “video at tacio” (“I watch and say nothing”) motto.

In addition to overcoming the conspiracy that threatened his life, the king was able to save England from the Spanish conquerors. The Elizabethan period also contributed to the flourishing of English drama, which led William Shakespeare And Christopher Marlowe; And Sir’s expedition Francis Drake.

After all, the one thing that always caught the Emperor’s attention was another, related to his appearance: his completely white makeup. But that seems to be snow-white skin Elizabeth I. – At that time the English aristocracy had idols — which was synonymous with arbitrariness or vanity.

Behind the makeup

The story begins on October 10, 1562, according to The Mirror. At that time, the Queen of England contracted a high fever, which was later discovered to be a serious case of smallpox.

Fortunately, his royal majesty survived the illness, which was not very common at the time. But its prevention Elizabeth I. Came at a price: permanent scars spread all over his face.

1588 Portrait of Elizabeth I commemorating the defeat of the indomitable Armada / Credit: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

These marks not only changed his physical appearance, but also made him vulnerable to constant criticism and judgment. An example of this he gave a speech to the British Parliament in 1586:

We princes, I say to you, have set the stage for proper observation of the whole world; Many eyes see our work, soon a stain appears on our clothes; A stain can also be noticed in our activities. “

Elizabeth Was aware of the importance of maintaining a youthful appearance. Anti-Protestant propaganda portrayed her as an old queen, her body defiled and incapable of holding the throne. Elizabeth He created his image using a combination of ‘smoke and mirror’ and ‘ink’, which we now call cosmetics, “he explained. Sue PritchardRoyal Museum Greenwich Senior Art Curator, Car Echo

Toxicity of beauty

To cover your imperfections and disguise your stains, Elizabeth I. A cosmetic consisting of a mixture of white lead and vinegar has been used in Venetian Cerus. Some he usually applies to his face and neck.

However, little did I know that lead is a substance that can cause hair loss, skin deterioration and even death from poisoning due to its prolonged use. The makeup, which could hide the king’s imperfections, was responsible for making them worse.

“All the women in the court had a pale face, it was a sigh of nobility, and they did not work in the sun to make a living. Different compounds were used to beautify the face, including white lead and white paste of vinegar. Was colored with, a solid mixture of lead carbonate and lead hydroxide and cochineal, ”the curator points out.

With that, a vicious cycle began, The Mirror describes. As her skin deteriorated, her royal majesty used more cosmetics to disguise her imperfections. The British newspaper reported that towards the end of his life, the king covered his face with about an inch (2.5 cm) of makeup.

To make matters worse, the English queen applied facial makeup once a week, but never removed the residue – which allowed lead to penetrate her skin completely.

Elizabeth I in 1620, the time of the first revival of interest in her kingdom / Credit: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Next, Elizabeth I. He began to use another method to disguise his imperfections, just as harmful: a mixture of egg shells, fitari and mercury. Gradually, the side effects of the cosmetic blend include memory loss, boredom, and depression, symptoms that the queen actually experienced towards the end of her life.

Mercury was also present with her attractive red lipstick. For all this, the industrial historian said Roy Strong He coined the term “The Mask of Youth” in the 1970s to describe the Queen’s appearance Elizabeth I. In portraits in the last years of his reign.

The death of the virgin queen

The end of suffering Elizabeth I. This happened in 1603, when he was probably suffering from a respiratory infection. However, according to the British car, it is also being speculated that he may have cancer or even pneumonia.

Another fact has been revealed that the king went through a state of “deep grief” towards the end of his life when he felt the death of many close friends.

Finally, it would not be an exaggeration to mention that increasing levels of lead and mercury may also contribute to his complex illness, which contributes to his deteriorating health and subsequent death.

The portrait of Armada is the proof of that desire Elizabeth To keep his ‘youth mask’ and as a sign of his continued loyalty, his royal ladies imitated his queen. The decision to do so had devastating consequences for their health, but in the end they felt it was ‘worth it’. Sue Pritchard.


+ Learn more about Elizabeth I through the great work available on Amazon:

Elizabeth I: A biography, by Lisa Hilton (2016) – https://amzn.to/380aB5O

Elizabeth I – by a kingdom night, by Margaret George (2012) – https://amzn.to/31rY2xT

From Royal Elizabeth, Andrew Marr (2013) – https://amzn.to/2OwlAfI

From Elizabeth I (English version) Ann Somerset (2003) – https://amzn.to/2v31hj3

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