|Here is Gillian as host for the Costume Pagent at the HNS Conference.|
The Tudor Housewife's Remedies for Pregnancy and Motherhood
|Bess of Hardwick|
During the lifetime of Bess of Hardwick, the subject of my novel Venus in Winter, housewives at all levels of society commonly kept herb gardens and made medicines for their households. Sarah Longe, Her Receipt Book, which was published in about 1610, included not only recipes for food, but also for herbal remedies.
In those days before birth control, women frequently spent a large part of their adult lives pregnant or nursing, so naturally there were many remedies related to these conditions.
During the ten years of her third marriage, Bess of Hardwick bore eight children. Here are a few recipes that she might have used.
For Sore Nipples
Take house-leeke, marigold leaves, plantine Ribwort, Ledwell parsley, Beesewax, of each a like quantity. Boyle them in fresh butter unwashed, while it is enough, then stirre it, and keep it for your use.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines house-leeke as the plant sempervivum tectorum, a succulent herb with pink flowers and thick stem and leaves. Ribwort is the narrow-leaved plantain plantage lanceolata, or ribgrass. Of course the beeswax and butter would have created a greasy base for this soothing herbal ointment.
For a Vomitt
Take Crocus, Merhelosuse, and put a drame into a pint of sacke, and so keepe, and the night before you give it, shake the glass, and so give six sponefulls of the wine to one that is old, and 3 to a Child, or by weight an Ounce, and to a Child half an Ounce.
Crocus is a flower, one species of which yields saffron. I can't discover what Merhelosuse is, but it probably is a flower or herb. Sacke refers to dry (seco) white wine that in Tudor and Elizabethan times was imported from Spain or the Canary Islands.
A Remedy for Such as Are Subject to Miscarry
Take a quart or two of strong Aile, and a pound of Currence, an ounce of Nutmegg's, and prick them full of holes, and take pith of 2 oxen, and one handfull of Nipp, & a handfull of Pimpernell, one handful of Clary, and boyle them together, till a point be boyled away. Brush the Currence and the Pith of the Oxen, and put them in againe, and boyle it againe, and then drinke it morning, and Evening warmed.
"Currence" surely means currants, which are similar to raisins. Pith is the "spinal marrow or core," which perhaps was intended to provide strength or stamina. Nipp is catmint or catnip. Clary is a sweet liquor consisting of a mixture of wine, clarified honey, and various spices such as pepper and ginger. This sweet and spicy drink would probably make a lovely warm bedtime drink, though moden medicine would probably look askance at ale and wine as ingredients good for pregnant women.
|Images of a birth - Sixteenth Century|
An Excellent Plaster to Keep a Woman from Miscarrying
Take of the choicest Mastick 4 drames, gum Elemie halfe an Ounce, Burgandie pitch 3 drames, Benjamin, and Dragons blade, of each 2 drames; melt all these, and straine them, and add to them 2 draimes of the Trochises, called Alepta Muscata, one drame of Venice Turpintine a little boyled, 3 drames of the plaster of red lead made of Oile of Quinces, half an Ounce of Bees-wax, one drame and a halfe of Indian Balsome, 2 scruples of Oile of Spike, make all these into one plaster, and spread thereof upon your leather, one for the region of your back, and another for the lower Region of the belly.
Mastic is a gum or resin from the bark of pistacia lentiscus and some other trees. Gum elemi is a resinous plant product from bursera simaruba, which grows in the Bahamas, and must have been expensive. Burgundy pitch is the resinous juice of the spruce fir, which grows chiefly near Neufchatel, which was once a Burgundian territory. Benjamin is gum benzoin, another imported resinous substance. Dragons blade may be dragonsblood, another gum or resin. Trochisks are medicated tablets or disks. I can't find a definition of alepta muscata, but it might relate to the muscat, the grape from which muscatel is made. Oil of spike is an essential oil from lavendula spica, or lavender. The recipe would have produced a very thick and aromatic substance, which might at least have smelled and felt like it was doing some good!
Gillian Bagwell's novel Venus in Winter, based on the first forty years of the formidable four-times Tudor dynast Bess of Hardwick, was released on July 2.
To find links to Gillian's other posts related to the book, please follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or visit her website.
About Venus in Winter
The author of The September Queen explores Tudor England with the tale of Bess of Hardwick—the formidable four-time widowed Tudor dynast who became one of the most powerful women in the history of England.
On her twelfth birthday, Bess of Hardwick receives the news that she is to be a waiting gentlewoman in the household of Lady Zouche. Armed with nothing but her razor-sharp wit and fetching looks, Bess is terrified of leaving home. But as her family has neither the money nor the connections to find her a good husband, she must go to facilitate her rise in society.
When Bess arrives at the glamorous court of King Henry VIII, she is thrust into a treacherous world of politics and intrigue, a world she must quickly learn to navigate. The gruesome fates of Henry’s wives convince Bess that marrying is a dangerous business. Even so, she finds the courage to wed not once, but four times. Bess outlives one husband, then another, securing her status as a woman of property. But it is when she is widowed a third time that she is left with a large fortune and even larger decisions—discovering that, for a woman of substance, the power and the possibilities are endless . . .
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About the Author
Gillian Bagwell grew up in Berkeley, California, and began her professional life as an actress, studying at the University of California Berkeley and the Drama Studio London at Berkeley before relocating to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television. She moved into directing and producing theatre, founding The Pasadena Shakespeare Company, where she served as artistic director for nine years, producing thirty-seven critically acclaimed productions.
She united her life-long love of books, British history, and theatre in writing her first novel, The Darling Strumpet, based on the life of Nell Gwynn. Her second novel, The September Queen, is the first fictional account of the perilous and romantic odyssey of Jane Lane, an ordinary English girl who risked her life to help the young Charles II escape after the disastrous Battle of Worcester in 1651 by disguising him as her servant. Gillian recently returned to Berkeley and is at work on her third novel, about the formidable four-times widowed Tudor dynast Bess of Hardwick. Visit Gillian's website, gillianbagwell.com, for further information about her books and upcoming events, and links to her blogs, articles, and videos of sites in Nell Gwynn's London.
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