Queen Elizabeth I’s quest for enduring beauty ultimately led to a tragic and untimely demise. Her reign, spanning 45 years, was marked by prosperity and power, but behind the façade of regal composure lay a complex and tumultuous story.
In the late 16th century, fair skin was revered as a mark of nobility, and Elizabeth, in her relentless pursuit of maintaining her youthful appearance, resorted to perilous beauty regimens. To hide the scars left by smallpox, she concealed her skin beneath layers of a dangerous concoction known as Venetian Ceruse, a blend of white lead and vinegar. The toxic lead in this makeup, as we now know, can lead to an array of health problems, including anemia and even death.
Elizabeth didn’t stop there; she used a mixture of eggshells, alum, and mercury to remove the thick layer of makeup, further jeopardizing her health. Mercury exposure can result in memory loss and mental instability, potentially contributing to her declining mental health.
By the late 1590s, Elizabeth’s health began to deteriorate, marked by rotting teeth, pus-filled glands, and swelling in her hands. Her vanity, her relentless pursuit of maintaining her image, only accelerated her decline. The toxic makeup, albeit combined with other health issues, may have finally hastened her death in 1603.
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Top image: Queen Elizabeth I may have poisoned herself to death. Source: Daryakomarova / Adobe Stock.