"lead;鉛"→"white lead(or ceruse);鉛白"や"red lead; 鉛丹"
"chalk A up to B;AをBのせいにする"
"Make-Up Art Cosmetics"の略です。
Once upon a time, Snow White's skin
was considered the chic, sexy look of the Elizabethan English
Queen Elizabeth I's signature ghostly makeup
typified the 16th century ideal for women,
her porcelain skin representing nobility
and earthly perfection.
But to achieve that perfection, Elizabeth
covered her face with makeup composed largely of lead.
She also rubbed mercury on her lips,
and probably used a mercury-based makeup remover
that ate away at her flesh.
Today, we're talking about Elizabeth I--
the makeup that may have led to her death.
But before we get started, just a reminder
to subscribe to the Weird History Channel,
and let us know what historical figure you'd like us to cover.
Now, let's get moving.
The queen beckons us.
During the Virgin Queen's era, the highest standard
for female beauty was smooth, blindingly white skin.
To achieve this look, Elizabeth wore Venetian ceruse,
a cosmetic made from white lead and vinegar.
She patted her face and neck with the substance,
transforming her poxy skin--
more on that later--
into an eerie porcelain canvas that probably
smelled like sour wine.
That's certainly one way to maintain your virginity.
Thanks to 400 years of science, we now
know that applying led to the face on a daily basis
causes very serious, and often irreversible
problems like hair loss and skin deterioration--
and death by lead poisoning, which in the 16th century,
was pretty damn final.
It may well have been for Queen Elizabeth,
but lead wasn't the only poison in her pigments.
Let's look at the other suspect.
Snow White's mom wished for more than a tiny ghost baby.
She also wanted her to have lips as red
as blood on winter roses.
Made from cinnabar, a toxic mineral containing mercury,
the RL queen's lip stain gave her
the signature red mouth that leaps out
at you and all those creepy paintings.
So we have two horrific poisons working in tandem
through skin absorption over long periods of time.
On the surface, the lead face slowly
corroded the queen's skin.
In response, Elizabeth wore thicker and thicker layers
of makeup, reportedly layering makeup an inch
thick toward the end of her life.
Symptoms of mercury poisoning include memory loss,
irritability, and depression, conditions Elizabeth
reportedly experienced towards the end of her life.
Now, we're getting warmer.
In the Elizabethan era, nobles didn't clean off their makeup
Heck, most modern women have been guilty of that at least
a couple times.
After her maids carefully applied lead and mercury makeup
to the royal face, Elizabeth herself wore it for at least
Forget about pore blockage, the lead soaked into her skin,
causing it to turn gray and wrinkled.
When Elizabeth finally had her makeup removed,
historians suggest she might have
used a gross concoction containing eggshells, alum,
you guessed it-- more mercury.
Some claimed the mercury makeup remover left their skin soft,
but that was only because it was literally skinning
them alive one layer at a time.
As a teen, Queen Elizabeth didn't wear quite so much lead
face-- not simply because she was a child,
but because she hadn't caught smallpox yet.
On October 10th, 1562, she was struck with a high fever
and displayed all the hallmarks of the pox.
Courtiers worried and worried that Elizabeth
would die within the week, but the young royal survived.
Unfortunately, the disease left her with permanent scars
in her terrible 20s, when life is either
a bed of roses or a garbage fire.
And scars don't stack the odds against the latter.
Smallpox scars were a common problem at the time,
hence the willingness of women to wear vinegary lead face.
Elizabeth's close friend, Mary Sidney,
got stuck with them too.
As Henry Sidney, Mary's husband, wrote,
"the scars, to her resolute discomfort,
ever since have done and do remain on her face."
Trying to survive in an atmosphere
of constant bitchiness, Elizabeth
did everything possible to cover up such blemishes
and keep that virginity on lockdown, anything
to avoid a husband who updates people on his wife's pockmarks.
There haven't been many female rulers in English history--
let's face it, in any history--
a fact with which Elizabeth was all too familiar.
She knew all eyes were on her, and that any scarring
on her face would mark her not as a survivor,
but a pariah in those eyes.
In 1586, a 50s-ish Elizabeth commented
on the weight of these expectations
while addressing parliament, "We princes, I tell you,
are set on stages in the sight and view of all
the world duly observed.
The eyes of many behold our actions,
a spot is soon spied in our garments,
a blemish noted quickly in our doings."
In a ballsy act of pre-Instagram filtering,
Elizabeth flat out forbade unflattering portraits
Painters were given an opportunity
to get really, really creative.
They had to make her look young and supple and white, even
as she entered her autumn years, which in this case,
is a little too good at describing
what happens to human skin after decades of lead makeup.
Here's the trick-- the artists had
to make the portrait recognizable as Queen Elizabeth
without showing any of the scars, sagging, and perhaps
even molten skin beneath that inch-thick mask of white.
Enter the famous Darnley portrait, painted in 1575.
It became a godsend of a model for later portrayals,
as grateful artists reused its depiction of Elizabeth's face
and paintings for decades.
Elizabeth's battle against the ravages of time
was fierce and lasted literally all her life.
One of her wiser tricks was to wear a wig.
Lord knows what lunacy would have been used
to dye grays away back then.
For a long time, it was basically
like Shatner's toupee--
it existed, but was never officially confirmed--
until 1599, when the Earl of Essex blew that secret out
of the water and immortalized it,
expressing his shock upon beholding his elderly
Queen's mostly bald paté, with only a thin ring of hair
hanging about the ears.
We can't unsee that now.
In the last months of her life, Elizabeth
refused to let doctors examine her.
The queen had fallen into a deep melancholy,
according to a member of the court.
Still, Elizabeth refused to rest.
She believed that if she lay down, she would never get up.
So Elizabeth stood for 15 hours straight,
with her lady spreading pillows around the queen for when
she inevitably collapsed.
On March 24th, 1603, Elizabeth passed away.
Possible causes of death include cancer or pneumonia,
but Elizabeth's use of lead and mercury-based makeup
for decades in increasingly liberal doses certainly
at least contributed to her declining health.
After a lifetime of lead and mercury poisoning,
Elizabeth's body was toxic.
Elizabeth Southwell, one of the queen's ladies in waiting,
claimed that Elizabeth's body burst in her coffin at her wake
due to the abundance of noxious vapors.
Although Southwell's account has often
been dismissed as Jesuit propaganda of all things,
exploding coffins aren't unheard of, even today.
The phenomenon is called exploding casket syndrome,
and it's what happens when a corpse is
sealed a bit too well.
The coffin acts as a pressure cooker
for all the gases and fluids produced by a decomposing body
well, there's a reason this got chalked up to bad religion.
Here's another horrible thing.
While Elizabeth certainly suffered
the effects of lead and mercury poisoning,
she may have actually died from blood poisoning.
Just a week before she passed in 1603,
Elizabeth's doctors recommended a risky procedure.
For 45 years since the day she was crowned,
Elizabeth wore a coronation ring.
The ring began cutting into Elizabeth's well-poisoned skin,
and presumably, kept on cutting.
Doctors warned her that the ring had to be surgically removed,
and a week later, she died--
and then exploded, depending on who you ask.
Evidence of people using lead for makeup
dates back to at least the 5th century BCE.
During the time of the Roman Empire,
women powdered their faces with lead.
By the 16th century, the concoction
was known as Venetian ceruse, or the spirits of Saturn--
Queen Elizabeth's favorite cosmetic.
I personally prefer a Mac.
Unfortunately for her and every other ceruse fan in history,
it wasn't classified as a poison until 1634, less than 40 years
after her death--
which it had at least one hand in, if not both.
People knew what caused hair loss and skin damage,
but it took a long time for us to figure out
that we were literally killing ourselves
in the name of beauty.
In many ways, we still are.
Like it or not, pain and death for beauty
is a very old and well-entrenched tradition,
and it's not done with us.
So what do you think about Queen Elizabeth's makeup tutorial?
Let us know in the comments, and while you're at it,