The royal party is jumpin.’
The gents are fine and gallant in tailored doublets over ruffled tunics, hose, and colorfully slashed breeches.The ladies are resplendent in vibrant, cleavage-boosting gowns – nobles in satin, brocade, damask..royals in sable, ermine, cloth of gold and purple silk.
Your hair is powdered and fluffy, your outfit recently cleaned, you even bathed your full body with herb or rose-scented water for the occasion.
The court is packed. Everyone who is anyone is in attendance: royals, noblemen and women, a bevy of great minds representing the arts, science and philosophy.
Music and laughter echo throughout the castle, and you feast on bronto-slabs of beef, veal, goat, mutton and suckling pig. You carelessly imbibe godale, mead, and every type of wine – Cyprian, Rhine, Malmsy, Grenache, and of course, nectar. You step, leap, twirl, dip around the enormous, marble dance floor of this royal court.
Everything is gravy.
Until your bladder threatens to explode.
You must poo-pee.
At court, places to poo-pee were not necessarily designated. There were ‘close stools’ or ‘garderobes’ – boxes covered in rich material with a hole in the center – provided in various corners of castles.
However these overflowed quickly due to the sheer volume of poo-pee flowing from the thousands of courtiers and guests always present in castles.
Much more common than the use of fancy but funky garderobes, was the habit of relieving oneself against walls, in dark corners, in fireplaces, and on carpets that would soak up urine without leaving obvious puddles on bare ground.
The stench routinely became so unbearable that the King would pack up and go “on progress”- leave the castle every few weeks to live for awhile in another of his many castles, or visit various subjects throughout the kingdom, staying for weeks at a time.
These journeys signaled court cleaners to scour and scrub the stinky castle from top to bottom in the King’s absence, making it “sweet” again for his return.
King Henry VIII, in his obsession with cleanliness – which was considered odd amongst other royals who bathed their bodies fully an average of 5 times per year – went on progress nearly 30 times a year to escape the nasty smells.
He even had pipes installed which ran from the bottom of garderobes out into the Thames river. He hired “gong scourers” – little boys (or anyone small enough) to crawl through the pipes and push out clogged poo.
Gong scourers were not only young, they died young from the many filth-related illnesses they suffered as part of their job. Living to the ripe old age of 27 was considered a long life for a poo pusher.
Let’s just take a moment to picture the daily life of a poo pusher.
[writer has left the bldg. propelled by uncontrollable urge to bathe. and vomit.]
The privy chamber, which included the King’s bedroom and toilet, was the most influential and desired place to be in the royal household. Men of the court sought out positions in the privy chamber for the sheer dignity and honour of working so closely with the King.
Even if that closeness entailed their face next to his royal ass.
In the early 1500’s, a most important and sought-after position was created: Groom of the Stool. The first duty of the Groom of the Stool was to keep velvet cloth or soft linen on his person to wipe the King’s consecrated crack after a bowel movement.
Let me clarify: the Groom of the Stool had to do the wiping, not the King. A King would never be expected to sully his hands in such a manner.
Because the King’s health was of utmost importance to the realm, the Groom of the Stool also had to inspect the consistency of the royal poo, and report on it.
Get your royal poo-report here!
Seriously, I don’t even wanna know how that was accomplished.
Stool Groomie was an envied position to hold. It was the equivalent to being on staff at the White House as personal assistant to the President, for it granted the Groom intimate access to the King – which meant stenches, I mean stretches of uninterrupted time with the monarch.
Hence, Stool Groomie was feared, envied, and ridiculously wealthy from all the bribes and gifts offered up in exchange for putting a bug in the King’s ear.
Oh, I would definitely be afraid of this dude.
Afraid he’d touch me.
Over time, scary, wealthy Stool Groomie became manager of the entire privy chamber, as well as keeper of the privy purse – which was all the royal household money!
Talk about dirty money.
Another perk of royal bootie-wiping was the bequeathing of all the King’s chamber pots after he died.
No, not filled.
They would have cleaned them out first. I mean, they must have. Right??
Actually, royal poo-pee was pretty sanctified so maybe they left it in the pots to enhance the value of the gift itself.
When King Henry the VIII died, his Groom of the Stool, William Brereton, was awarded six poo-pee pots!
But here’s something that’ll really squeeze your cheeks. The word ‘garderobe’ comes from the way the King’s royal robes were protected from moths. Hold your breath, ’cause this reeks…
The King’s robes were hung over the stinky garderobe because it was believed that the stench would ‘guard’ the royal robes from moths.
Can you imagine how many people it kept away??
Check out this nasty-fascinating video (fast forward to 2:20) that demonstrates the royal poo-pee process, and takes you down into poo-pusher hell.
Reverse your vomit roll..it’s the wrong hole!
It was a nasty past-y!
Would you vie for the job of Stool Groomie?
Do the perks outweigh the poo?
Read all of Sylver’s Medieval Monday Poo-Pee Posts!