What 16th Century Women Did to Become Blonde

“Take a pound of finely pulverized beech-wood shavings, half a pound of

box-wood shavings, four ounces of fresh liquorice, a similar amount of very

yellow, dried lime peel, four ounces each of swallow wort and yellow poppy

seeds, two ounces of the leaves and flowers of glaucus, a herb which grows

in Syria and is akin to a poppy, half an ounce of saffron and half a pound

of paste made from finely ground wheat flour. Put everything into a lye made

with sieved wood ashes, bring it partly to the boil and then strain the

whole mixture. Now take a large earthenware pot and bore ten or twelve holes

in the bottom. Next take equal parts of vine ash and sieved wood ash, shake

them into a large wooden vessel or mortar, whichever you think better,

moisten them with the said lye, thoroughly pulverize the mixture, taking

almost a whole day to do this. Make sure that it becomes a bit stiff. Next

pound rye and wheat straw in with it until the straw has absorbed the

greater part of the lye. Shake these pounded ashes into the said earthenware

pot and push an ear of rye into each small hole. Put the straw and ashes in

the bottom so that the pot is filled, though still leaving sufficient space

for the remainder of the lye to be poured over the mixture. Towards evening

set up another earthenware pot and let the lye run into it through the holes

with the ears of rye. When you want to use the lotion, take the liquid which

ran out, smear your hair with it and let it dry. Within three or four days

the hair will look as yellow as if it were golden ducats. However, before

you use it wash your head with a good lye, because if it were greasy and

dirty it would not take the colour so well.”

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1 Comment

Filed under Anne and Gender, Life in 16th century England

One response to “What 16th Century Women Did to Become Blonde

  1. Taking all the facts into account (I have read many books on the Tudors and love studying it), I am still in love with Natalie Dormer and her portrayal of Anne on “The Tudors.” She made the character multi-dimensional and complex, not a vixen or simply evil. By the time her execution comes I am weeping every time. I feel that those who criticize “The Tudors” have likely only made it through the first season, as beyond that the series becomes a much deeper, darker, richer, and historically faithful piece of drama. Writer Michael Hirst lifts whole lines of dialogue – and frequently – from the history books. At the end of the day, it is drama, but I feel it transcends its own medium because of the skill and faithfulness with which it was made. Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn is a large part of that quality.

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