those unhappy Habsburgs

Ferdinand I, (1793-1875) like many royals, was the son of first cousins. His father, Emperor Francis, had a prodigious sexual appetite and married four times. He was known as the “wife killer” as it was rumoured he rogered his first three wives to death with his awesome libido.

Ferdinand found here

Poor Ferdinand was born with a hydrocephalic head and suffered from epilepsy. His tongue was too large for his mouth, making it almost impossible for him to speak coherently though he was once recorded as saying “I am the Emperor and I want dumplings”.

Felt dumpling found here

The Emperor’s idea of a good time was to wedge his backside in a wastepaper basket and roll around the floor in it.

Charles (Carlos) II (1661-1700) of Spain was the product of a marriage between Empress Maria Anna and Emperor Ferdinand III. Maria Anna happened to be her husband’s niece as well as his wife so she was both Charles’ mother and first cousin. 

Maria Anna found here

He was born physically and mentally disabled, and disfigured. Possibly through affliction with mandibular prognathism, he was unable to chew. His tongue was so large that his speech could barely be understood, and he frequently drooled.

Charles II found here

A sickly four year old when he succeeded his father, he reigned for 35 years. When he came to the throne he was still being breastfed by relays of fourteen wet nurses. His first wife spoke of his premature ejaculation, while his second spouse complained about his impotency. The French ambassador even managed to get a pair of Charles’ drawers examined by surgeons for traces of sperm, but the doctors could not agree about their findings.

image found here

Over the years Charles grew steadily worse. He was lame, epileptic and bald at the age of 35. His hair had fallen out, his teeth were nearly gone and his eyesight was failing. In 1698 he had three fits and became deaf. The doctors put freshly-killed pigeons on his head to prevent dizziness and applied the steaming entrails of mammals to his stomach to keep him warm, but he died nevertheless.

image found here

Charles’ successor was Philip V who was unfeasibly oversexed even by the royal standards of the day. He was a religious maniac yet a complete slave to his libido. His minister even said of him “all he needs in life is a couch and a woman“. His first mental breakdown occurred in 1717. He refused to see anyone except his wife, and only saw her because he required sexual intercourse. Philip then kept Marie Louise at his side day and night to such an extent that their bodily functions were made to synchronise.

woman and couch found here

However, four pregnancies, sleepless nights and icy rooms proved too much for Marie Louise. Doctors filed past the dying Queen and examined her from a distance, because etiquette forbade them to touch her. Philip V was not a considerate husband; until the last minute he wanted to enjoy those delights, which he would not know again for a long time. He had to be torn from her deathbed.

Marie Louise found here

Philip’s day was well ordered. He imposed an eccentric timetable on the court, which remained unchanged for most of his reign. The King went to bed about 8 o’clock in the morning, rising at midday to have a light meal. At 1 o’clock he dressed and went to mass, then received visitors, and spent the evening looking out of the window, playing with his clocks, or being read to, until it was time for a musical or theatrical entertainment. Sometime after midnight he called in his ministers to transact business, until 5 o’clock in the morning, when supper was taken with the windows closed.

(world’s most expensive?) clock found here

By 1727 his mental state had deteriorated so badly that his second wife effectively took over the rule of Spain. He refused to change his clothes and wandered the palace in filthy stinking rags, biting his arms and hands while screaming and singing. He suffered from delusions, believing that he could not walk because his feet were of different size. For a while, he believed he had turned into a frog. He spent entire days lying in bed in his own excrement, refusing to have his hair or toenails cut or his beard shaved. Pen and paper were kept out of his reach, because an impulsive abdication was feared. This unhappy life was finally brought to an end by a stroke on July 9th, 1746.

read about the transparent frog here

a snuff coloured beaver

Not long after tobacco was introduced to Europe, snuff taking was developed.

making snuff

A huge snuff user was the Emperor of France, Napoleon I (1769-1821). It was estimated that he would use three kilograms of tobacco monthly. He did it often during the day, as in his time, there was not yet a way of consuming enough tobacco to last a whole day. It was a year before his death that the snuff double barrel pistol was invented . The amunition chamber was filled with tobacco and the barrels were placed under the nose, the trigger was pulled, and the shot delivered enough tobacco to the nose to last for an entire day.

snuff bottles

Not everyone was taken with the pistol up the nose method and different social classes used different ways to inhale.

The French historian Henri d’Allemagne aptly describes this:

“To take snuff, people of noble birth were meant to tap on the lid, take a few grains with the tip of their slender fingers, to make a slight gesture and to inhale the powder with ecstasy.

On the contrary, the countryman digged his thumb and forefinger inside the snuff box in order to take out a large pinch of tobacco, putting it on the back of his left hand and snorted it in a noisy way while rubbing his nose.”

Record of a Sneeze

In 1904 Margaret Thompson demonstrated her love for snuff by including these instructions in her will

“I Margaret Thompson being of sound mind etc. do desire that when my soul is departed from this wicked world, my body and effects may be disposed of in the manner following: I desire that all my handkerchiefs that I may have unwashed at the time of my decease, after they have been got together by my old and trusty servant Sara Stewart, to be put by her, and by her alone, at the bottom of my coffin, which I desire may be made large enough for the purpose, together with such quantity of the best Scotch snuff as will cover my Deceased body.

But I strictly charge that no man may be suffered to approach my body till the coffin is closed, and as it is necessary to carry me to my burial which I order in the following manner: Six men to be my bearers who are known to be the greatest snuff takers in the parish of St. James, Westminster.

Instead of mourning, each to wear a snuff coloured beaver hat which I desire to be bought for the purpose and given to them. Six maidens of my old acquaintance to bear my pall, each to wear a proper hood, and to carry a box filled with the best Scotch snuff to take as their refreshment as they go along.

modifications of the beaver hat

I desire my old and faithful servant, Sarah Stewart, to walk before the corpse and to distribute every twenty yards a large handful of Scotch snuff to the ground and upon the crowd who may possibly follow me to my burial place on which condition I bequeathe her £20. And I also desire that at least two bushels of said snuff may be distributed at the door of my house in Boyle Street.”

No snuff was required at King George V’s funeral cortege

Published in: on June 5, 2010 at 8:21 am  Comments (34)  
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