Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The REAL lifestyles of the rich and famous

Currently, I am reading a wonderful book, The Biography of Versailles, which gives accounts of the life of the estate, the workings of protocol, the advance of courtiers in a ridiculously detailed and tiered system. The Court, or the collection of nobles serving the King (Louis XIV, in this case), included delightful assignments like bringing the King's shirt to him in the morning when he was to get out of bed and get dressed. Another lucky noble might bring him his walking stick or ceremonial sword. But some had the sad task of delivering and then emptying the royal chamber pot (and that was an honor, if you can believe it). Even a man was "employed" to hold a candle while the King god each night. My! And, the King did not take off his wig until the bed drapes were closed, so that he wouldn't ruin his majestic image. Talk about vanity!

On staff was a gardener, an architect, a maître d'hôtel who arranged accommodations for the visiting nobles, cooks, food tasters, dog handlers for the hunting dogs, two stables and stable staff (one for coaches; one for hunting), chapel attendant. The list goes on and on.

It's fascinating to image the lifestyle. Of course, today we have celebrities who think they're royalty, but this was the real deal.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

One Man's Garbage

I was recently reading an article about a Victorian-era find of garbage, and what it revealed. It was mentioned that "rooting around in personal trash  dumps allows license to excavate a narrative about a specific family. You can work out what sort of illnesses they had, what sorts of luxuries they enjoyed. You can match the objects to the people."
How true that it! So I decided to look into the 18th Century garbage can, as it were. Following Industrialization and urban growth, the buildup of waste in the cities and its management became more and more difficult to tend to. Streets, for instance in London, became choked with filth, with poor clearance regulations. Calls for the establishment of waste removal began in 1751 for the health and well-being of the citizens. It was proposed by Corbyn Morris that city cleaning would be put into one public management system, the waste conveyed to the Thames River.
The first occurrence of an organized system appeared, with waste collection established around the "dust yards", the "dust" being coal ash, which had a market value for brick-making and soil improver. Dust-contractors recovered  100% of the residual wastes remaining after readily saleable items and materials had been removed by the informal sector in the streets ('rag-and-bone men'). Kind of a recycle of product.
But cities were filled with horses and their waste material. Raw sewage ran through the streets. People threw waste out their windows from chamber pots, and fruits, vegetables, spoiled meats were left out in the street to rot. What a different picture, when we love to romanticize about a sweet little muse on a London square! Butcher stalls in the marketplace featured the "lovely" sight of entrails scattered on the pavement.
I read once account stating, "In 18th-century London, water was delivered to the city's residents through hollowed-out tree trunks running beneath the streets. Wealthier customers could buy spring water from private companies, but most residents used the sluggish, murky water of the Thames. Like many European rivers, the Thames was both the source of the city's drinking water and the repository of its discharge. It was also crowded with boats and barges, since it served as the city's main thoroughfare for commercial shipping. No attempt was made to filter the water or protect it from pollution until the middle of the 19th-century." No wonder a huge gin craze swept over London!
The sewers in London were designed to carry rainwater rather than sewage, and the pipes were poorly constructed at that!
Basically, it's not easy to find trash left behind considering the urban landscape, but at Fort Williams in Lochaber, Scotland, in 2007 a treasure trove of domestic waste was found, which included fragments of wine bottles, pottery, clay pipes and buttons! The pipes were generally long in shape, and allowed a cooler smoke, but broke more easily so they were often just thrown away after use. There are many to be found, equivalent to smoking a cigarette and tossing away the butt wherever. Nothing's changed here.