People often have romantic notions about the kings and queens of yore. We think about turreted castles and fluttering pennants and knights in shining armor, but not about the uglier, nitty gritty details of what life was really like in those days — before modern dentistry, and the invention of air conditioning, and countless other developments that contribute every day to making our lives much better than they have ever been before.
Indoor plumbing obviously is one of those developments. Which raises the question: how did kings deal with that essential aspect of the human existence?
Historians note that England’s King Henry VIII — he of the six wives — actually had a courtier called the Groom of the Stool to take care of that element of the King’s daily routine. The GOTS apparently was a high-ranking (if not coveted) position that involves taking careful notes about the monarch’s bowel movements and maintaining the “Stool Room.” The Stool Room was a private privy where the King used a padded chair “covered in sheepskin, black velvet, and ribbons” positioned above a pewter chamber pot to take care of business.
Other members of the Court had their own private rooms with their own chamber pots, but the masses weren’t quite so lucky. The article linked above indicates that servants working at the King’s palace tended to answer the call of nature in whatever happened to be nearby. Fireplaces and the stone walls of the castle were popular targets, giving the castle a distinct aroma by the end of a long day. And visitors and the staff also used a huge, open-air facility called the “Great House of Easement” that had 28 seats and no stalls or interior walls. The facility and its tank were cleaned by a group of boys called the Gong Scourers who were appointed by the King.
Still entertaining romantic notions those days of olde?