It turns out our first post on the subject was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to historical misconceptions. Here are 8 more myths we are here to bust…
1. Back In The Day, Everyone Was Short.
We had this myth well and truly debunked for us after spending the day in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Upon remarking how small the beds were, one of the house guides at Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust informed us that in fact people were of normal size. The reason why the beds were so short is because people used to sleep sitting up! They believed that by laying down in the position of the dead, the grim reaper would attempt to take their soul through their mouth!
Did you know: Mary Queen of Scots was actually 6” 1…before she lost her head!
The saying big shoes, big socks doesn’t quite ring true here… Well, (Shakespeares House, Stratford Upon Avon)
2. Men Fought Long Duels With Swords.
No. Think about it. Imagine wielding a huge metal sword, whilst wearing full body armour including chainmail and a helmet. And then attempting to engage in a long, drawn out hand-to-hand melee a la Hollywood Blockbuster. It wouldn’t work, would it. In fact, hand-to-hand combat only lasted a couple of seconds before one opponent skewered another, moving onto the next man.
From a woman’s point of view, this is kinda sexy… but totally unpractical!
3. George Washington Didn’t Have Wooden Teeth.
George Washington did not have wooden teeth…for one, just imagine the splinters! His dentures were in fact made of gold, hippopotamus ivory, lead, and human and animal teeth. The most plausible theory for the ‘wooden’ effect on ol’ Washington’s teeth, was staining, most likely from the consumption of Port. Apparently, some say he made his own repairs to his dentures, so no wonder they looked so bad!
George should have given his dentures a wash!
4. Protect Thine Honour With A Chastity Belt.
Contrary to popular belief, chastity belts were not invented during medieval times to prevent us gals from having naughty romps with men-folk. Nay, they are a load of poppycock. Actually, chastity belts were bought for teenagers during the 19th and early 20th centuries in order to prevent masturbation. Apparently, masturbation lead to insanity…which again, is poppycock!
OH.MY.GOD.CAN.YOU.IMAGINE. (approx. 16th C)
5. Helmets And Shields Were Made From Metal.
Well…they were, BUT, not entirely. Shields were actually made from wood, and then coated with metal to further strengthen the surface. Why though? Well, wood spreads the impact of a blow. It buffers the vibrations, whereas metal would amplify the impact, and literally shatter the bones in your arm. Similarly, with a metal helmet, the blow from a sword would render you deaf and probably cave your skull in! But with a bit of padding…no worries!
Helmet padding: A medieval Knights essential survival kit
6. A Vomitorium Is Not For Barfing.
If you are ever knocking around the Coliseum in Rome, do not be tempted to chuck your guts up in the Vomitorium. It is not a room used for purging your body of that kebab you had last night, it is fact an architectural feature through which crowds would have entered and exited the stadium.
A vomitorium at the Roman amphitheatre in Trier
7. Genghis Khan Was A Lean, Mean, Killing Machine.
Unfairly rendered a barbarian, Genghis was actually way ahead of his time. He preferred to elect his Generals based on loyalty rather than on bloodlines, and he allowed religious freedom in the cities he conquered. And, he was afraid of blood too. So much so, that he widely left citizens unharmed so long as they submitted to Mongol rule, and only broke the backs of traitors if he had too.
Scared of a little blood: Taizu, better known as Genghis Khan. 14th Century.
8. Queen Elizabeth Had To Get Her Feet Wet.
It is widely said that Sir Walter Raleigh laid his cloak over a puddle to keep Queen Elizabeth I’s feet dry. However, the historian Thomas Fuller probably embellished a little on this one. Raleigh was the Queen’s favourite for a while, until he had it away with Bess Throckmorton, leaving them both in disgrace. Oh, and in true Tudor style, he had his head chopped off in the end…
I wonder if Elizabeth admired him for his small neck…