Royalty 'dined on human flesh'
Published 20/05/2011 | 13:28
British royalty dined on human flesh, according to a new book on medicinal cannibalism.
The well-off and well educated in Britain and Europe swallowed parts of the human body, including its flesh, blood and bones, as medicine right up until the end of the 18th century, it claimed.
Even as they denounced the barbaric cannibals of the New World, they applied, drank, or wore powdered Egyptian mummy, human fat, flesh, bone, blood, brains and skin.
And moss taken from the skulls of dead soldiers was even used as a cure for nosebleeds, writes Durham University academic Richard Sugg.
The author, from the university's department of English Studies, argues that the Europeans were the real cannibals.
He said: "The human body has been widely used as a therapeutic agent with the most popular treatments involving flesh, bone or blood. Cannibalism was found not only in the New World, as often believed, but also in Europe.
"One thing we are rarely taught at school yet is evidenced in literary and historic texts of the time is this: James I refused corpse medicine; Charles II made his own corpse medicine; and Charles I was made into corpse medicine.
"Along with Charles II, eminent users or prescribers included Francis I, Elizabeth I's surgeon John Banister, Elizabeth Grey, countess of Kent, Robert Boyle, Thomas Willis, William III, and Queen Mary."
Dr Sugg's research will be featured in a forthcoming Channel 4 documentary with Tony Robinson in which they reconstruct versions of older cannibalistic medicines with the help of pigs' brains, blood and skull.
The book, called Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires, will be published on June 29 by Routledge and charts the largely forgotten history of European corpse medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians.