One of the things that has always drawn me to history is a curiosity about how people did things without the benefit of modern conveniences. What did they do about lack of air conditioning? Lack of plumbing? How did they brush their teeth? What did women do when having their periods? These questions have always fascinated me and while I was writing Only Scandal Will Do, I had to address some of these questions. Early on in the novel my heroine does something that we all take to be a matter of course: she takes a bath. Then I thought, “Would she?”
Believe it or not, bathing has not always been the “fashionable” thing to do. It apparently has gone in and out of fashion. Ancient history tells us that the Romans were keen on bathing and, surprisingly, the medieval community was as well, using communal bathing sites most often. The enlightened Renaissance, however, not so much. They opted to clean their undergarments rather than themselves. An absolutely wonderful video that details all these doings, Bathroom–History of the Home, can be found on youtube. Hosted by a historian, it’s an eye opening look at bathing through the ages.
But back to 1761. Would Lady Katarina have taken a bath after her adventures and if so, how would it be accomplished? Apparently, by the eighteenth century, cleanliness, at least for the rich, became acceptable again. According to Keeping It Clean—Georgian and Regency Bathing Customs by Joanna Bourne, tub baths could be found in most upper class or noble houses. The tubs were made of metal or wood, often lined with linen cloths for comfort. Tubs could be found in many different shapes, including the traditional oval, round, and a “sofa bath” which looks like a lounge chair.
Bathing was quite a production. It may have taken place in a designated “bath” room, but more often a tub was transported into the noble’s bedroom. Running water of the time was usually run upstairs by footmen carrying cans of hot and cold water. The lady would be attended by her maid and in the 18th century would have actually had soap to use. Towels would have been made of linen (not thick and plush terry). As a result of the labor intensive nature of bathing during this period, it was not normally an every day occurrence (though Beau Brummel, at the end of the century, was reputed to bathe daily). The most common form of bathing each day was with a basin, where you hit the high and low spots with soap and water.
Lady Katarina’s bath, in Scandal, was certainly a special occasion—she’d been abducted, seduced, and interrogated and needed some creature comforts before finding out if her brother would live or not. A soothing bath was just the ticket and thankfully available to her.
Historical research is an integral part of writing historical romance, though it is often arduous. Finding conflicting information occurs with alarming frequency. Do you believe historical accuracy is necessary for romance writers? To what degree? Thanks for coming by and commenting. The winner of today’s giveaway will receive a signed, print copy of my other historical work, Heart of Deception.