Royalty dined on human flesh, claims academic
Published 21/05/2011 | 05:00
Durham University Author Dr Richard Sugg in front of Durham Cathedral's main door.
British royalty dined on human flesh, a new book on medicinal cannibalism reveals.
And the skulls of Irishmen were a particular delicacy, according to Durham University academic Dr Richard Sugg.
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 is 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.
Moss taken from the skulls of dead soldiers was even used as a cure for nosebleeds, Dr Sugg writes.
The author, who is from the university's department of English Studies, argues that the Europeans were the real cannibals. "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.
"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."
He writes: "Well into the time of Dr Johnson you could still see entire human skulls gazing out at you from London chemists' shops.
"Britain took most of these skulls from the battlefields of Ireland. In the time of George II they were such a significant trade commodity that there was an import duty on them of one shilling per head."